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Punishment Is Inevitable


Then the L ord said to me: Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go! 2And when they say to you, “Where shall we go?” you shall say to them: Thus says the L ord:

Those destined for pestilence, to pestilence,

and those destined for the sword, to the sword;

those destined for famine, to famine,

and those destined for captivity, to captivity.

3 And I will appoint over them four kinds of destroyers, says the L ord: the sword to kill, the dogs to drag away, and the birds of the air and the wild animals of the earth to devour and destroy. 4I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what King Manasseh son of Hezekiah of Judah did in Jerusalem.



Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem,

or who will bemoan you?

Who will turn aside

to ask about your welfare?


You have rejected me, says the L ord,

you are going backward;

so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you—

I am weary of relenting.


I have winnowed them with a winnowing fork

in the gates of the land;

I have bereaved them, I have destroyed my people;

they did not turn from their ways.


Their widows became more numerous

than the sand of the seas;

I have brought against the mothers of youths

a destroyer at noonday;

I have made anguish and terror

fall upon her suddenly.


She who bore seven has languished;

she has swooned away;

her sun went down while it was yet day;

she has been shamed and disgraced.

And the rest of them I will give to the sword

before their enemies,

says the L ord.


Jeremiah Complains Again and Is Reassured

10 Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. 11The L ord said: Surely I have intervened in your life for good, surely I have imposed enemies on you in a time of trouble and in a time of distress. 12Can iron and bronze break iron from the north?

13 Your wealth and your treasures I will give as plunder, without price, for all your sins, throughout all your territory. 14I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.


O L ord, you know;

remember me and visit me,

and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.

In your forbearance do not take me away;

know that on your account I suffer insult.


Your words were found, and I ate them,

and your words became to me a joy

and the delight of my heart;

for I am called by your name,

O L ord, God of hosts.


I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,

nor did I rejoice;

under the weight of your hand I sat alone,

for you had filled me with indignation.


Why is my pain unceasing,

my wound incurable,

refusing to be healed?

Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,

like waters that fail.



Therefore thus says the L ord:

If you turn back, I will take you back,

and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,

not you who will turn to them.


And I will make you to this people

a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

to save you and deliver you,

says the L ord.


I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

The Prophet, when he saw that his labor availed nothing, or was not so fruitful as he wished, no doubt felt somewhat like a man, and shewed his own weakness. It must however be observed, that he was so restrained by the secret power of the Holy Spirit, that he did not break forth intemperately, as is the case with many; but, he kept the right end so in view, that his sorrows had ever a regard to his object, even to render his labor useful to the people. A clear example of which is seen in these words.

But he addresses his mother, as though he counted his own life a curse; what does this mean? “Why,” he says, “hast thou begotten me, my mother? Woe to me, that I have been born a man of strife and of contention!” We learn from these words, that the Prophet was not so composed and calm in his mind, but that he felt angry when he saw that he effected less than he wished; and yet it is evident from the context, that all this was expressed for the benefit of the public, even that the Jews might know, that their hardness of heart in despising God’s devoted servant, yea, in maliciously opposing him, would not turn out to their benefit. This is the purport of the whole.

He calls himself a man of strife, not only because he was constrained to contend with the people, for this he had in common with all prophets. God does not send them to flatter or to please the world; they must therefore contend with the world, for no one is brought to a right state, so as to undertake the yoke of God winingly and submissively, until he is proved guilty. Hence men will never obey God, they will never submit to his word, until they know that they are in a manner condemned; and for this reason have I said, that this evil is common to all prophets, — that they have to contend with the world. But Jeremiah calls himself a man of strife and contention, because he was slanderously spoken of throughout Judea, as one who through his moroseness drove the whole people to contentions and strifes. This then is to be referred to the false judgments formed by the people; for there was hardly any one who did not say that he was a turbulent man, and that if he was removed, there would have been tranquinity in the city and throughout the whole land. The same objection is at this day made by the enemies of the truth and godliness; they say, that we needlessly create disturbances, and that if we were quiet, there would be the most delightful peace throughout the whole world, and that dissensions and strifes arise only from us, that we are the fans by which the whole world is kindled into contentions. It was then for this reason that Jeremiah complained that he was born a man of strife and contention; not that he was contentious — not that that he gave any occasion to the people to speak so slanderously of him; for the subject here is not respecting the character of the Prophet, as he knew that his courage was approved by God; but as he saw that he was urged and charged with these false accusations, he calls himself a man of strife and a man of contention; the last word is from דן, den, which means to contend.

But as to the exclamation respecting his mother, I have already reminded you that it was an evidence of an intemperate feeling; for had he spoken in a composed state of mind, what had he to do with his mother, so as to make her an associate in the evil he complains of? He indeed seems to ascribe a part of the blame to his mother, because she had given him birth. Now this appears unreasonable. But it may at the same time be easily gathered, that the Prophet was not led away by so great a vehemence, except for the sake of promoting the public good, and that it was for this end that he uttered his complaint; for it was not his purpose to condemn his mother, though at the first view it appears so; but though she was innocent, he still shews that he was unjustly loaded with such calumnies, as that he was a man of strife and contention; as though he had said, “Enquire of my mother, who hath begotten me, whether I was contentious from the womb? has my mother been the cause why ye say that I am a turbulent man and the author of strifes? Doubtless nothing can be imputed to my mother; and I am as innocent as she is.” We now then see that the Prophet indirectly condemns the wickedness of the people, because they calumniated him, as though he moved tumults and strifes through the whole land; and this he more fully confirms by the words which follow: —

I have not given on usury, nor have they borrowed of me on usury; 138138     Not one of the versions, except the Vulgate, mentions “usury,” and Parkhurst says that the verb does not include the idea. Then the rendering ought to be,
   I have not lent, nor have they lent to me.

   There had been no money transactions between them, which are commonly the causes of disputes and contentions. — Ed.
yet every one curses me He shews here that it was not for a private reason that he was hated by the whole people and loaded with calumnies: for whence come hatreds, and strifes, and complaints, and quarrels, and contentions among men, except through unfair dealing in their intercourse with one another? When, therefore, every one is bent on his own private advantage, he in bears anything to be taken from him. It is indeed a rare thing in the world, that they who carry on business with one another are really friends, and that they wholly approve of each other’s conduct; for, as I have already said, covetousness so prevails, that justice and equity disappear among most men. Hence the Prophet says, that he had not lent on usury Under one kind he includes all transactions of life, as though he had said, Je n’ay point traffique, I have had no contention about money affairs, for I have neither lent nor borrowed money, so that I have had no contention with the people on a private concern, nor have they quarrelled with me as though I had injured them or defrauded them, as though they had suffered any loss on my account: yet they all curse me.” 139139     Literally it is —
   The whole of it (the land) is reviling (or cursing) me.

   As there is something anomalous in the form of the participle, Blayney proposes an emendation, and thinks the right reading to be כלהם קללונו, “All of them curse me.” The versions and the Targum favor this reading, which is also adopted by the commonly too venturous Houbigant, and approved by Horsley, one equally venturous and bold. By dropping the ו, as in many copies, the anomoly is removed. — Ed

We see that the Prophet here testifies that he had not incurred the displeasure of the people through his own fault, or on account of any private concern, but because he had faithfully discharged his duty to God and to his ChurJeremiah He then brings against the people a most awful accusation, that they carried on war, not with a mortal man, but rather with God himself. We now understand what the Prophet had in view.

But all faithful teachers are here reminded, that if they perform their office strenuously and wisely, they will surely be loaded with many calumnies, and be called tumultuous, or morose, or disturbers of the peace. They ought then to be fortified against such stumbling — blocks, so that they may persevere in the course of their calling. They ought at the same time to take heed lest they create enemies through any private concerns. For when the pastors of the Church abstain from every public business, yet when they contend, as they ought with the world, all immediately cry out that they are contentious and turbulent; but if the other be added, if they quarrel with this or that man about worldly things, then it cannot be but that the word of God will be evil spoken of through their fault. Hence great care ought to be taken that those who sustain the office of public teaching should not engage in worldly business, and be thus exposed to the necessity of contending about worldly things: they have enough to do, and more than enough, in the warfare in which the Lord has engaged them.

Now when the Prophet says that they all cursed him, it was a sad instance of impiety; for he speaks not of heathens but of the seed of Abraham. There was no Church then in the world but at Jerusalem, and yet the Prophet was regarded there as contentious and a man of strife. It ought not then to appear strange to us, that not only professed enemies of Christ load us with reproaches, but that they also curse us who deem themselves to be members of the ChurJeremiah It now follows —

God at the beginning of this verse no doubt intimates that he would be propitious to his servant, and grant him what he asked. We then conclude that the Prophet’s prayer was heard; and hence also becomes manifest what I have stated, that the Prophet was not so led away by the force of grief, but that he chiefly regarded the benefit of the people. God then was so propitious to his request, that he said that it would be well with his remnant, that what remained would be blessed.

Interpreters differ as to the second clause: some apply what is said to the people, I will make the enemy to meet thee in the time of evil, and in the time of trouble: and so they take this view, that God at the beginning of the verse answers the Prophet, and intimates that his request was accepted, so that there would be a better and happier end than what then appeared; and they think that God then turns his discourse to the people, “With regard to you, I will make the enemy to meet you in the day of affliction.” But this explanation seems forced. I prefer to regard the whole verse as addressed to the Prophet. God promises first that his remnant would be prosperous; and by remnant he means the remaining time or the end of life, as though he had said, “I will at length have pity on thee, so that the things which cause thee the greatest grief shall turn into joy: thine end then shall be more prosperous than thou thinkest.” Then the words which follow confirm the previous sentence: for the Prophet might have objected and said, “Then either the people shall be delivered from all trouble, or I shall not escape a part of the calamity.” To this God replies and says, “Thou and others nmst suffer many things, but I will make the enemy to meet thee, that is, I will make the enemy to be propitious to thee, and even of his own accord to anticipate thee.

Interpreters differ still farther respecting the verb הפגעתי epegoti; some regard it in a transitive sense, “To meet thee will I make the enemy;” others render the sentence thus, “I will meet the enemy for thee,” or, “I will cause the enemy to ask for thee.” The verb, פגע pego, means sometimes to meet, either in a good or bad sense; as when one goes as an enemy against another, he is said to meet him; or, when one offers help and shews kindness to another, he is said to meet him. But the word has another meaning, and signifies sometimes to ask, and so some take it here, “I will cause the enemy to ask for thee.” But this is far — fetched: God did not send messengers to pacify the Babylonians towards his servant Jeremiah. I prefer to render the words thus, “I will meet the enemy for thee,” or, “I will cause the enemy to meet thee;” that is, “I will pacify him by my secret influence, so that he will of himself spare thee and treat thee kindly.” And we know that it so happened; for Jeremiah was loosed from his chains and was allowed his liberty, so that he was permitted to go wherever he wished. As then the enemies treated him with so nmch kindness, it appears evident that what God had before promised was fulfined.

As to the main thing intended, there is no ambiguity in the words: God promised that the latter end of Jeremiah would be happy, and that though he was to suffer somewhat in the common calamity of the whole people, yet the enemy would treat him kindly, so that his condition would be better and more desirable than that of others. 140140     This verse, and the three which follow, have caused considerable variety of opinion. Some, like Calvin, Grotius, Henry, and Scott, apply this to the Prophet and the rest to the people; but others, as Blayney, consider the whole as addressed to the people. But what appears the most probable is, that the Prophet is addressed, and in the 11th and 12th (Jeremiah 15:11-12) verses personally, and then as identified with the people in verses the 13th and 14th (Jeremiah 15:13-14). There is no change of person, and this makes it difficult to regard two parties as addressed.
   This verse, the 11th, is in the past tense and not in the future, and may be thus rendered, —

   Jehovah said, — Has not thy ministry been for good? Have I not interposed for thee in the time of evil, And in the time of distress, with the enemy?

   There are various readings for the word I render “ministry,” which Parkhurst thinks comes from שרת, to serve. Very few readings favor the word which means a remnant,” and of the versions the Vulgate alone. The reading mostly countenanced (19 MSS.) is שרותיך, derived from שרה, to loose, or to let go, “Have I not happily let thee go?” In this case לטוב must be rendered adverbially, happily, or fully. Blayney’s version is, —

   Have I not brought thee off advantageously?

   But the most natural meaning is what Parkhurst proposes, which is approved by Horsley, only he renders the sentence in the past tense, “Is not thy ministry for good?” while the only verb in the verse is in the past tense, and so ought this clause to be. — Ed.

But why did Jeremiah make this public? why did he give this description? why did he commit it to writing? even that the Jews might understand that they who harassed him, when he had done them no injury, dealt unjustly with him. They had indeed been excited by him, but it was through what his office required, for he could not deny obedience to God. Jeremiah then made public what God only knew before, that he might produce an impression on them, provided any hope of repentance yet remained. And for the same reason also was the promise of God added; for the Jews ought to have been terrified, when they saw that such an end was promised by God to the Prophet; for what must have happened to them, except the curse of God to the utter-most? We hence see, that in the complaint of the Prophet, and in the answer given by God, the salvation of the people was regarded; for the complaint contains a most severe reproof and the answer of God threatens a most dreadful judgment to the rebellious people. It follows —

This verse also has been taken in different ways by interpreters: some take the word iron, when repeated in a different case, “Will iron break iron?” but others think the subject wanting in the clause, and consider people to be understood, “Will the Jews break the iron, even the iron from the north, and not only the iron but the brass also, or, the the brass mixed with iron?” There is in reality no difference, but in words only. If we read, “Will the iron break the iron from the north?” the meaning will be, “Though there be great hardness in you, can it yet break that which is in the Assyrians? but ye are not equal to them: make your strength as great as you please, still the Chaldeans will be harder to break you; for if ye are iron, they are brass or steel, and so it will not be possible for you to sustain their violent attacks.”

As the meaning of the Prophet is sufficiently evident, I will not insist on words, though the rendering I most approve is this, “Will iron break the iron (the repetition is emphatical) from the north and the brass?”

We here also see that the design of the holy man was, to divest the Jews of that false confidence in which they boasted: for how was it, that they were so refractory, except that they did not dread any misfortune? As then they were secure, predictions had but little weight with them. Hence the Prophet, in order to beat down this ferocity, says, that there would be greater hardness in the Chaldeans, for they would be like iron, yea, and steel also. 141141     If we consider what is said to the Prophet in Jeremiah 1:18, and in the twentieth verse of this chapter (Jeremiah 15:20), we shall see the meaning of this verse: he was no doubt the iron and the brass: and the opinion of Blayney is probable, that the “enemy” in the previous verse (which is a poetical singular for the plural enemies) is the nominative case to the verb “break.” God, having before refered to what he had done for the Prophet, now says, —
   Can he break the iron, The iron from the north and the brass?

   God had made him an “iron pillar, and a wall of brass:” and he asks now, was it possible for his enemies to destroy him whom God had thus made. The hardest iron came from the north of Judea. The future tense is to be read here potentially. — Ed.
It follows —

But, there is a difference among interpreters as to the word גבול gebul. I indeed allow that it means a border: but Jeremiah, as I think, when he intended to state things that are different, made use of different forms of speech; but as the construction is the same, I see not how the word can mean the borders of the land. I hence think that it is to be taken here metaphorically for counsels; as though he had said, “On account of all thy wicked deeds and on account of all thy ends, that is, of all thy counsels, I will make thy wealth and thy treasures a plunder.” For true is that saying of the heathen poet,

There is something where thou goest and to which thou levellest thy bow. 142142     Est aliquid quo tendis et in quod dirigis arcum. — Per. Sat. iii. 60.

When we undertake any buiness, we have some end in view. Then the Prophet calls their adulteries, frauds, rapines, violencies and murders, wicked deeds; but he calls their counsels, borders, such counsels as they craftily took, by which they manifested their depravity and baseness.

Then, in the first place, he declares that God would be a just avenger against their wicked deeds, and against all the ends which the Jews had proposed to themselves; and at the same time he points out and mentions the kind of punishment they were to have, — that the Lord would give for a plunder all their wealth and treasures, and that without exchanging; some read, “without price,” and consider the meaning to be, — that the Jews would be so worthless, that no one would buy them: but this is too refined. I doubt not but that the Prophet intimates, that whatever the Jews possessed would become a prey to their enemies, so that it would be taken away from them without any price or bartering; as though he had said, “Your enemies will freely plunder all that you have without any permission from you, and will regard as their own, even by the right of victory, whatever ye think you have so laid up as never to be taken away.” 143143     This verse and the following are said by Horsley to be “very obscure:” and there seems to be no way of understanding them, except we regard the Prophet as classed with the people; and the conclusion of verse fourteenth (Jeremiah 15:14) favors the idea, “On you, עליכם, it shall burn.” The Prophet himself did not wholly escape the evils which came on the people. Then this verse and the following I would render thus, —
   13. Thy wealth and thy treasures for spoil will I give, Not for a price, but for all thy sins, Even in all thy borders;

   14. And I will make thine enemies to pass To a land thou knowest not; For a fire has been kindled in my wrath, On you it shall burn.

   The “enemy” before is now “enemies.” The verb “make to pass,” has various readings, owing evidently to the similarity of two letters. The versions, except the Vulgate, have “I will make thee to serve thine enemies;” but the received text is the most suitable to the passage. Blayney’s rendering is, —

   I will cause them to pass with thine enemies —

   By “them” he understands “thy wealth and thy treasures;” but this sort of construction can hardly be admitted; and it seems incrongruous. — Ed.
He afterwards adds —

He pursues the same subject. He had said, that they would be exposed as a prey to their enemies, so that all their wealth would be plundered with impunity: he now adds, I will deliver you to the enemy, that is, I will give you into the hands of your enemies, that they may remove you ejsewhere. He afterwards mentions a circumstance, which must have rendered exile much worse; for when any one changes his place and is not led to a distance, the evil is more tolerable; but when any one is carried beyond the sea, or into distant lands, there is a much greater cause for sorrow, as there is no hope of return to one’s own country. Then despair increases the grief. Add to this, that not to hear of one’s native Iand, as though we were in another world, is also a bitter trial.

The Prophet then adds, Because fire has been kindled in my wrath, and against you it shall burn He means that God would be implacable until they were consumed; for his wrath had been kindled on account of their perverse wickedness.

Now all these things were foretold to them, that they might know that God would execute a just vengeance by making the Chaldeans their conquerors: for they might have thought that this happened by chance, according to what has been said by heathen writers, that the events of war are uncertain, that Mars is indifferent (Cicero in Epist) Thus they ascribe to chance whatever happens through God’s providence. That the Jews then might know that they were chastised by God’s hand and by his just vengeance, it was necessary that this should have been declared to them: and therefore he speaks now of the Chaldeans and then of God himself, whose agents the Chaldeans were, for they were guided by his hand. He said before, “Will iron break the iron from the north?” This we, have explained of the Chaldeans: but now he turns to God himself, the author of the calamity brought on the Jews: for the Chaldeans could have done nothing, except through his guidance and direction.

Hence he says, I will cause them to pass over to the enemy, even to a land which they know not And the reason which follows ought to have availed to check all their complaints. We indeed know how clamorous the Jews were, for they often accused God of cruelty, as it appears from many passages. The Prophet then, in order to restrain them, says, that the fire of God’s wrath had been kindled, and that it could not be extinguished, but would burn on them, that is, would entirely consume them. At the same time he condemns their obstinacy, for they allowed no place to God’s mercy, though often warned. They might indeed have pacified him, had they repented. Hence the Prophet here condemns their sottishhess; for they increased their judgment by a continued progress in their evil ways. He afterwards adds —

The Prophet again turns to God, to shew that he had to do with the deaf. This breaking off in the Prophet’s discourse has much more force than if he had pursued regularly his subject. Had he spoken calmly and in uniform order to the people, his address would have been less forcible, than by speaking to them as it were angrily and by severely reproving them, and then immediately by turning from them and addressing God as though bidding adieu to men. Of this we have spoken elsewhere, but it is well to remind you of what we have before noticed. We now perceive the design of the Prophet, in thus abruptly turning from the people to God, and then again from God to the people, even because he indignantly bore the loss of his labor, when the ears of almost all were closed, and when they had become so hardened that they had no fear of God, nor any regard for his teaching. As then the Prophet indignantly bore so great a wickedness, he could not but speak in a hasty manner.

According to this strain, he now says, Thou knowest, Jehovah; remember me, and visit me, and avenge me of mine enemies The Prophet, however, seems here to have been more angry than he ought to have been, for revenge is a passion unbecoming the children of God. How was it, then, that the Prophet was so indignant against the people that he desired revenge? We have said elsewhere that the prophets, though freed from every carnal feeling, might yet have justly prayed for vengeance on the reprobate. We must distinguish between private and public feelings, and also between the passions of the flesh, which keep within no limits, and the zeal of the Spirit. It is certain that the Prophet had no regard to himself when he thus spoke; but he dismissed every regard for himself, and had regard only to the cause of God: for inconsiderate zeal often creeps in, so that we wish all to be condemned of whom we do not approve; and such was the excessive zeal of the disciples, when they said,

“Lord, bid fire to descend from heaven to consume them, as was done by Elias.”
(Luke 9:54)

But it is necessary not only to be moved by a pious zeal, but also to be guided by a right judgment: and this second requisite was possessed by the Prophet; for he did not let loose the reins to his own zeal, but subjected himself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Since, then, these two things were united, — a right zeal, to the exclusion of any private feeling, — and the spirit of wisdom and a right judgment, it was lawful to ask for vengeance on the reprobate, as the Prophet does.

There is further no doubt but that he pitied the people; but he was in a manner freed from the influence of human feelings, and had put off whatever might have disturbed him and led him away from moderation. Though, then, the Prophet was thus emancipated and freed from every kind of perturbation, there is yet no doubt but that he prayed for final judgment on the reprobate; and yet, if there were any healable, he doubtless wished them to be saved, and also prayed anxiously for them.

In short, whenever the prophets were carried away by such a fervor as this, we must understand that they were fined by the Spirit of Christ; and we must know that, when they were thus fined, their whole zeal was directed against the reprobate, while they were at the same time endeavoring to gather together all that could be saved: and the same was the case with David; when he fervently implored destruction on his enemies, he no doubt sustained the person of Christ, as he was fined by his Spirit. (Psalm 35:4-6) Hence he turned and levelled all his vehemence against the reprobate; but, when there was any hope of salvation, David also, in the spirit of kindness, prayed for the restoration of those who seemed to have already perished. Now, then, when the Prophet says, “Thou knowest, Jehovah; remember me, and visit, me, and avenge me of my persecutors,” he doubtless does not mean all his persecutors, but those who had been given up and devoted to destruction, and whom he himself knew to be reprobates. 144144     There are distinctions here made not allowed by the passage. To pray for vengeance on enemies was in accordance with the covenant made with Abraham, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee,” Genesis 12:3. See also Genesis 27:29; Numbers 24:9. As they were the enemies of God’s servant for delivering his word, they were the enemies of God himself; and they had already been wholly repudiated by God, and given up to judgment. — Ed.

He afterwards shews what he meant by these words — remember me, and visit me; for he says, Take me not away by deferring So they render the passage, “Whilst thou bearest with the impiety of this people, and for a time suspendest thy vengeance, let not thy wrath take me away.” The word ארך arek, means to defer, to protract, and also to prolong, to extend, and to continue. Hence this meaning is not unsuitable, “Take me not away in the protraction of thy wrath;” that is, “By protracting thy wrath, not only for one day, but for a long time, take me not away, involve me not in the same destruction with the reprobate.” David also prayed for the same thing,

“When thou destroyest the wicked, involve me not with them.” (Psalm 26:9)

The sum of the whole is, that the Prophet asks a favor for himself, that God would make a difference between him and the reprobate while he was protracting his wrath; that is, while he was not only taking vengeance on the impiety of the people for a short time, but also while he was adding calamities to calamities, and accumulating evils on evils, and while thus his fire burned for a long time, until the whole land was consumed: and this is the meaning which I prefer, though all the interpreters agree in another. 145145     The versions favor another view. The Septuagint omit the verb, and connect “long-suffering” with the previous clause, “Defend me from me persecutors, not in thy long-suffering;” that is, without delay, as the Targum literally expresses it. The Vulgate is, “Do not in thy patience take me;” the Syriac, “Do not according to thy long-suffering bring me out;” the Arabic, “Without delay;” it omits the verb, and connects the words with the former sentence like the Septuagint. The words may be thus literally rendered, —
   Not in (or, according to) thy long-suffering receive me;

   that is, under they care and protection: he deprecated delay. This is the purport of all the versions, and also of the Targum.

   Venema divides the clause, —

   Let there be no lengthening of thy wrath; receive me;
Know that for thee I have borne reproach.

   Blayney’s version is hardly intelligible, —

   Within the length of thine anger comprehend me not.

   The meaning of which he says is, “Lengthen not thy resentment as to comprehend me within its limits.”

   Probably the rendering of Cocceius is the best, —

   Do not through thy long-suffering take me away;

   that is, “Do not bear long with my persecutors, and thus allow them to destroy me.”

   The verb here used seems simply to take; but it signifies sometimes to take away, and sometimes to take into favor, to take under protection. The most intelligent rendering seems to be as follows: —

   15. Thou knowest, Jehova; Remember me, and visit me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors; Through thy long-suffering towards them take me not away; Know that I have for thee borne reproach.

   “Take me not away” means “Suffer me not to be taken away.” He feared for his life if the vengeance he denounced on the people was not soon executed. See Jeremiah 15:18. — Ed.

It must further be noticed that the Prophet, in this prayer, did not so much consult his own advantage as the good of the people, — that they might at length dread the dreadful judgment which was at hand. We have already stated how supine a security prevailed throughout Judea; and they also hoped, that if any calamity happened it would be for a short time, so that, having endured it, they might again live in pleasure and quietness. Hence the Prophet speaks of the protraction of God’s wrath, in order that they might know, as I have already said, that the fire which had been kindled could not be extinguished until they all perished.

The Prophet had said in the last verse that he was loaded with reproach on God’s account; for in his intercourse with his own people he did not incur their hatred for any private affair, but for his faithfulness in the discharge of his duty: hence arose their reproaches and slanders. He now confirms the same thing in other words, and at the same time explains what might have appeared obscure on account of the brief statement which he had made. This verse, then, is explanatory; for the Prophet shews what he meant by saying that he was burdened with reproaches and calumnies on account of God’s name.

Found, he says, by me have been thy words, and I did eat them, and they turned to me for joy of heart Hence then it was that he was hated by the whole people, because he labored to obey from the heart and in sincerity the command of God, and to perform the office committed to him. But by saying that words had been found, he refers to his calling, as though he had said that he had not sought them as ambitious men are wont to do. We indeed see, with regard to many, that they busy themselves about many things, while they might be at ease and be troublesome to none; but a foolish ambition impels them to seek offices for themselves, and thus they excite against themselves the hatred of many. The Prophet therefore testifies here, that he did not ambitiously seek his office, but that it had been conferred on him from above. We may also take the word in another sense — that the Prophet felt assured that God had sent him; for the word, to find, is often thus taken in Scripture; that is, when anything is perceived and known it is said to be found. But the former view is what I approve, for it is more simple. Then the Prophet says that he was called and made a Prophet, when he expected no such thing; for when he in no way intruded himself, God met him, and in a manner anticipated him: and this we have seen in the first chapter; for he said, for the sake of excusing himself,

“Ah! Lord, I cannot speak.” (Jeremiah 1:8)

We hence see that the Prophet sought to decline the office rather than to desire it as a vocation of honor. So he now rightly declares that God’s words had been found by him, that is, that they had been gratuitously bestowed on him, according to what the Lord says by Isaiah,

“I have been found by them who sought me not, and I have manifested myself to them who asked not for me.” (Isaiah 65:1; Romans 10:20)

This indeed is to be applied to all; but as to the meaning of the term, to find, we see how suitable it is. the Prophet then did not hunt for this honor, nor did he desire any such thing, but the favor of God anticipated him.

He afterwards adds, I did eat them He here testifies that he from the heart, and with a sincere feeling, submitted to God’s command. We indeed know that many prattle about heavenly mysteries, and have the words of God on their tongues; but the Prophet says that he had eaten the words of God; that is, that he brought forth nothing from the tip of his tongue, as the proverb is, but spoke from the bottom of his heart, while engaged in the work of his calling. Well known and sufficiently common in Scripture is the metaphor of eating. When we are said to eat Christ, (Matthew 26:26) the reference no doubt is to the union we have with him, because we are one body and one spirit. So also we are said to eat the word of God, not when we only taste and immediately spew it out again, as fastidious men do, but when we receive inwardly and digest what the Lord sets before us. For celestial truth is compared to food, and we know by the experience of faith how fit the comparison is. Since then celestial truth is good to feed spiritually our souls, we are justly said to eat it when we do not reject it, but greedily receive it, and so really chew and digest it that it becomes our nourishment. This then is what is meant by the Prophet; for he did not act a fable on the stage when teaching the people, but performed in real earnest the office committed to him, not like an actor, is the case is with many who boast themselves to be ministers of the word, but he was a faithful and true minister of God. He then says, that the word of God had been to him the joy and gladness of his heart; that is, that he delighted in that word, like David, who compares it to honey. (Psalm 19:11; Psalm 119:103) The same manner of speaking is used by Ezekiel,(Ezekiel 2:8 and Ezekiel 3:1-3;) for the Prophet is there bidden to eat the volume presented to him; and then he says that it was to him like honey in sweetness, for he embraced the truth with ardent desire, and made privately such a proficiency in the school of God, that his labors became afterwards publicly useful. We hence see how similar was the case with Jeremiah and Ezekiel; for they not only recited, as is commonly done by those who seek to please the ear, what they had been taught, but they became the disciples of the holy Spirit before they became teachers to the people. 146146     The received text has “thy words.” Calvin has followed the Keri and the ancient versions, as well as our version; but “words” being mentioned in the previous line, the same thing being meant. It is more proper to use “words” here, —
   And thy words were to me for exultation, And (or, even) for the joy of my heart.

   It is no objection that the verb, which precedes in Hebrew the noun “words,” is in the singular number; it is the idiom of the language, which is exactly the same in Welsh. “Exultation” is the visible effect; “the joy of the heart” is the inward feeling, the hidden cause. It is common in Scripture to mention the effect first, and to go back to the cause. — Ed.

It may however be asked, how could the word of God be so sweet and pleasant to the Prophet, when yet it was so full of bitterness; for we have seen elsewhere that many tears were shed by the holy man, and he had expressed a wish that his eyes would flow, as though they were fountains of water. How then could these things agree — the grief and sorrow which the holy man felt for God’s judgments, and the joy and gladness which he now mentions? We have said elsewhere that these two feelings, though apparently repugnant, were connected together in the Prophets; they as men deplored and mourned for the ruin of the people, and yet, through the power of the Spirit, they performed their office, and approved of the just vengeance of God. Thus then the word of God became joy to the Prophet, not that he was not touched by a deep feeling for the destruction of the people, but that he rose above all human feelings, so as fully to approve of God’s judgments. Hosea says the same thing —

“Right are the ways of the Lord; the just will walk in them, but the ungodly will stumble and fall.” (Hosea 14:9)

The Prophet indeed speaks thus, not of the word itself, but of its execution; but yet the design is the same; for the Prophet Hosea checks the wantonness of the people, because they complained that God was too rigid and severe. Right, he says, are the ways of the Lord; the just will walk in them, that is, they will consent to God, and acknowledge that he acts rightly, even when he punishes for sins; but the ungodly will stumble, according to what the Lord says in another place —

“Are my ways perverse and not rather yours?”
(Ezekiel 18:25)

For they said that the Lord’s ways were crooked, because they, being soft and delicate, could not endure those severe rebukes, which their own wickedness forced from the holy Prophets. God answers them, and says, that his ways were not crooked, nor thorny, nor tortuous, but that the fault was in the people themselves.

We now then understand the real meaning of this passage. The Prophet knew that nothing was better than to receive whatever proceeded from God; and he testifies that he found sweetness in God’s word.

He afterwards adds, Because on me is called thy name, O Jehovah, God of hosts This mode of speaking occurs often in Scripture, but in a different sense. The name of God is indeed called indiscriminately on all, who are deemed his people. As it was formerly given to the whole seed of Abraham, so it is at this day conferred on all who are consecrated to his name by holy baptism, and who boast themselves to be Christians and the sons of the Church; and this belongs even to the Papists. We are called by his name, because he has favored us with his peculiar grace, for the purity of true and lawful worship exists among us; errors have been removed and his simple truth remains; yet many hypocrites are mixed with the elect of God, so that in a true and well ordered church, the reprobate are called by the name of God; but the elect alone are truly called by his name, as Paul says,

“Let every one who calls on the name of the Lord depart from iniquity,”
(2 Timothy 2:19)

There is in this case a mutual connection; for to call on the name of the Lord, and to have his name called on any one, amounts to the same thing. We hence see that the name of God is only truly and really called on those, who not only boast that they are the faithful, but who have been also regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

But the Prophet here refers to his office when he says, that the name of God was called on him; for he had been chosen to his office of teaching; he was not only dignified with the title, but was really approved by God. We now then perceive in what sense he says that God’s name was called on him, even because God had laid his hand on him and resolved to employ him in the work of teaching the people. But there are many mercenaries in the Church, and though they do not openly corrupt or adulterate the truth of God, they yet, as Paul says, preach it for gain, (2 Corinthians 2:17) It must be observed, that God’s name was called on Jeremiah, because he was known to God as being true and faithful; and he had not only proved himself to be so to men, but he had been chosen by God to be his faithful messenger. 147147     The connection of this clasue is variously understood. It cannot be considered as a reason for the previous clause. Gataker, Grotius, and others render כי, that, — “that thy name was called upon me,” regarding it as the cause of his joy, that he was called God’s prophet. Venema renders it when, which seems more suitable. But on viewing the whole passage, we may justly consider this as a reason for the prayer he offers in the previous verse, so that the latter part of that and the beginning of this verse are parenthetic. I would give this version, —
   15. Thou knowest, Jehonah; Remember me and visit me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors; Through thy long suffering towards them take me not away; (Know that I have been for thee borne reproach;

   16. Found have been thy words and I did eat them; And thy words were to me for exultation, Even for the joy of my heart;) Because called on me has been thy name, Jehovah thou God of hosts.

   — Ed.

There is emphasis in the words, O Jehovah, the God of hosts; for the Prophet no doubt refers here to the glory of God, that he might with an elevated mind look down, as it were, on so many adversaries, who proudly despised him, as it was difficult to carry on war with the whole people. This then was the reason why he spoke of God’s glory in terms so magnificent, by saying, O Jehovah, the God of hosts It follows: —

Here the Prophet more fully declares, that he was hated by the whole people because he pleased God. He indeed inveighs against the impiety of those who then bore rule; he does not here so much reprove the common people as the chief men, who exercised authority and administered justice; for when he speaks of the assembly of the ungodly, he no doubt refers to wicked rulers, as the word סוד, sud, which means a secret, means also a council. And David (or whosoever was the author of the sixty-ninth Psalm) says, not that he was a sport to the vulgar, but that he was derided by those who sat in the gate, (Psalm 69:12) which means, that he was reproachfully treated by wicked judges, who possessed the chief authority. So also in this place, Jeremiah says, that he did not sit in the council of mockers It is not the same word as in the first Psalm; and סוד, sud, is sometimes taken in a good sense, but here in a bad sense; for Jeremiah speaks of the profane despisers of God, who ridiculed everything that was announced in the name of God. 148148     Gataker, and after him Blayney, consider the word, rendered “mockers” by Calvin and our version, as meaning “those who make merry;” and the word is so rendered in our version in Jeremiah 30:19, and Jeremiah 31:4. The Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Targum, favor this rendering; the Syriac and the Arabic, have “mockers.” Then the next line is, —
   Nor did I exult on account of thy hand.

   So all the versions connect the words. The “hand” means, as Blayney says, the impulse of the prophetic spirit. See 1 Kings 18:46; Ezekiel 1:3. He did not inconsiderately rejoice on account of his office, because he was made a prophet. — Ed.

Now it was necessary for the holy man thus to exasperate these impious men, for they were in favor, credit, and authority with the people; and we know that they who were in power do in a manner dazzle the eyes of the vulgar with their splendor. As they then thus deceived the simple, the Prophet removed the mask, and exclaimed, that he did not sit in their council nor exulted with them. In denying that he was connected with them, he intimates what their conduct and manners were. He therefore shews, that whatever their dignity might be, they were still the impious despisers of God, and were only mockers. The same is the case with us at this day, we are under the necessity directly to expose those masked rulers, who are inflated with their own power and fascinate the people; for buffoons in tippling-houses and taverns do not so wantonly mock God as those courtiers, who, while consulting respecting the state of the whole earth, and deciding on the affairs of all kingdoms, seem as though they themselves possessed all the power of God; and we also know that they are profane mockers. Hardly any piety or reverence for God is to be found in the courts of princes; nay, especially at their councils, the devil reigns, as it were, without control. We are therefore constrained often to speak very strongly against such unprincipled men, who falsely assume the name of God, and by this pretense deceive the common people. By this necessity was Jeremiah constrained to declare, that he had not been in the assembly of such men.

He then adds, On account of thine hand (from the presence of thine hand) I sat apart, because with indignation hast thou filled me Here Jeremiah confesses that he had departed from the people; but he did so, because he could not have otherwise obeyed God. Some consider hand to mean prophecy, and others, a stroke; and so it is often taken metaphorically; but I am disposed to take it for command, “On account of thy hand;” that is, because I attended to what thou hast commanded, nor had I any other object but to obey thee. Hence, On account of thine hand, because I regarded thee and wished wholly to submit to thy will, I sat apart

This passage is especially deserving of notice; for the Prophet was at Jerusalem among the priests, and was one of them, as we found at the beginning of this book. Though then he was a priest, he was constrained to separate himself and to renounce all connection with his colleagues and brethren. As then this was the case with the holy Prophet, why do the Papists try to frighten us by objecting to us our separation, as though it were a most heinous crime? they call us apostates, because we have departed from their assemblies; truly if Jeremiah was an apostate, we need not be ashamed to follow his example, since he was approved by God, though he separated from the whole people, and also from the ungodly priests. Let us at this day openly and boldly confess that we have separated. There is then a separation between us, and one indeed irreconcilable; and accursed were we, if we sought an union with the Papists. We are therefore constrained plainly and openly to repudiate them, and to move heaven and earth rather than to agree with them. We see that there is a rule here prescribed to us by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Jeremiah. To refute then the ealumnies of those who object to us our separation, this very passage is sufficient.

“I sat apart,” and true it, was so; but no one can say this at this day; for the Lord has gathered to himself many teachers and many disciples. They then who now profess the gospel do not sit apart as Jeremiah. But though all had forsakert him, he yet hesitated not to separate himself from all. But were it necessary for every one of us to become separated and to live apart, were God to scatter each of us through all the regions of the world, so that no one were to strengthen and encourage another, yet we should still stand firm, under the conviction that we sat apart on account of God’s hand. Let the Papists then complain as they please, that we are proud, and that we disturb the peace of the whole world, provided we have this answer to give, — That we sit apart on account of God’s hand, because we seek to obey God and to follow his call: we can therefore boldly and safely despise and scorn all the reproaches with which they falsely load us.

He afterwards adds, For thou hast filled me with idignation 149149     “Because all the prophecies thou hast given me are minatory.” — Grotius.
   The meaning may be, “Thou hast filled me with indignant messages.” — Ed.
He confirms what he said in the last verse, — that he had eaten the word of God, that he had not been slightly moved, but had been inflamed with zeal for God: for we cannot really execute the commission given to us unless we be fined with indignation, that is, unless zeal for God burns inwardly, for the prophetic office requires such a fervor. He then adds —

Before we proceed, we shall shortly refer to the meaning of the passage. Jeremiah has before shewn that he possessed an heroic courage in despising all the splendor of the world, and in regarding as nothing those proud men who boasted that they were the rulers of the Church: but he now confesses his infirmity; and there is no doubt but that he was often agitated by different thoughts and feelings; and this necessarily happens to us, because the flesh always fights against the spirit. For though the Prophet announced nothing human when he declared the truth of God, yet he was not wholly exempt from sorrow and fear and other feelings of the flesh. For we must always distinguish, when we speak of the prophets and the apostles, between the truth, which was pure, free from every imperfection, and their own persons, as they commonly say, or themselves. Nor were, they so perfectly renewed but that some remnant of the flesh still continued in them. So then Jeremiah was in himself disturbed with anxiety and fear, and affected with weariness, and wished to shake off the burden which he felt so heavy on his shoulders. He was then subject to these feelings, that is, as to himself; yet his doctrine was free from every defect, for the Holy Spirit guided his mind, his thoughts, and his tongue, so that there was in it nothing human. The Prophet then has hitherto testified that he was called from above, and that he had cordially undertaken the office deputed to him by God, and had faithfully obeyed him: but now he comes to himself, and confesses that he was agitated by many thoughts, which betokened the infirmity of the flesh, and were not free from blame. This then is the meaning.

He says, Why is my grief strong, or hard? He intimates that his grief could not be eased by any soothing remedy. He alludes to ulcers, which by their hardness repel all emollients. And for the same purpose he adds, And my wound weak, as some render it, for it is from אנש anesh, to be feeble; and hence is אנוש anush, which means man; and it expresses his weakness, as אדם adam, shews his origin, and איש aish, intimates his strength and courage. Others render the words, “and my wound full of pain;” and others, “strong,” as he had before called his grief strong. He afterwards thus explains what he meant by the terms he used, It refuses to be healed There is no doubt, as I have already intimated, but that the Prophet here honestly expresses the perturbations of his own mind, and shews that he in a manner vacinated; the wickedness of the people was so great, that he could not so perseveringly execute his office as he ought to have done. 150150     It is better to retain throughout the figurative language, —
   Why has my sore become perpetual, And my stroke incurable, refusing to be healed?

   He mentions “sore” first, the effect; then the “stroke” which casued it. He refers doubtless to the state of his mind: therefor “the sore” and “the stroke” were the sorrow and the grief which he experienced. — Ed.

He adds, Thou wilt be to me as the deception of inconstant waters I wonder why some render the words, “Thou wilt be to me deceptive as inconstant waters.” The word may indeed be an adjective, but it is doubtless to be rendered as a substantive, “Thou wilt be to me as the deception,” and then, “of unfaithful waters.” that is, of such as flow not continually: for faithful or constant waters are those which never fail; as the Latins call a fountain inexhaustible whose spring never dries; so the Hebrews call a fountain faithful or constant which never fails either in summer or in drought. On the contrary, they call waters unfaithful which become dry, as when a well, which has no perennial veins, is made dry by great heat; and such also is often the case with large streams. 151151     The Septuagint and the Vulgate strangely refer to this stroke or the wound in the previous clause, “It has become like the deception of inconstant water:” but the gender of the infinitive added to the verb will not admit of this rendering. It is literally as follows, —
   Becoming thou hast become like a deceiveer, Like waters which are not constant.

   The word אכזכ is not substantive, but an adjective, formed like אכזר, violent. The quotation from Chardin, made by Blayney, respecting an illusion in the deserts of Arabia, occasioned by the sun’s rays on the sand, by which a vast lake appears, is here out of place, as unfaithful or inconstant waters, not unreal, is what is expressed. Calvin’s view is no doubt correct. — Ed

We now see the import of this comparison: but the words are apparently very singular; for the Prophet expostulates with God as though he had been deceived by him, “Thou wilt be to me,” he says, “as a vain hope, and as deceptive waters, which fail during great heat, when they are mostly wanted.” If we take the words as they appear to mean, they seem to border on blasphemy; for God had not without reason testified before, that he is the Fountain of living water; and he had condemned the Jews for having dug for themselves broken cisterns, and for having forsaken him, the Fountain of living water. Such, no doubt, had He been found by all who trusted in him. What then does Jeremiah mean here by saying, that God was to him as a vain hope, and as waters which continue not to flow? The Prophet, no doubt, referred to others rather than to himself; for his faith had never been shaken nor removed from his heart. He then knew that he could never be deceived; for relying on God’s word he greatly magnified his calling, not only before the world, but also with regard to himself: and his glorytug, which we have already seen, did not proceed except from the inward feeling of his heart. The Prophet then was ever fully confident, because he relied on God, that he could not be made ashamed; but here, as I have said, he had regard to others. And we have already seen similar passages, and the like expressions will hereafter follow.

There is no doubt but that it was often exultingly alleged that the Prophet was a deceiver: “Let him go on and set before us the words of his God; it has already appeared that his boasting is vain in saying that he has hitherto spoken as a prophet.” Since then the ungodly thus harassed the Prophet, he might have justly complained that God was not to him like perennial springs, because they all thought that he was deceived. And we must always bear in mind what I said yesterday, — that the Prophet does not speak here for his own sake, but raffler that he might reprove the impiety of the people. It therefore follows —

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