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Jeremiah’s Celibacy and Message


The word of the L ord came to me: 2You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. 3For thus says the L ord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bear them and the fathers who beget them in this land: 4They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried; they shall become like dung on the surface of the ground. They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall become food for the birds of the air and for the wild animals of the earth.

5 For thus says the L ord: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament, or bemoan them; for I have taken away my peace from this people, says the L ord, my steadfast love and mercy. 6Both great and small shall die in this land; they shall not be buried, and no one shall lament for them; there shall be no gashing, no shaving of the head for them. 7No one shall break bread for the mourner, to offer comfort for the dead; nor shall anyone give them the cup of consolation to drink for their fathers or their mothers. 8You shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink. 9For thus says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to banish from this place, in your days and before your eyes, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.

10 And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, “Why has the L ord pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the L ord our God?” 11then you shall say to them: It is because your ancestors have forsaken me, says the L ord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law; 12and because you have behaved worse than your ancestors, for here you are, every one of you, following your stubborn evil will, refusing to listen to me. 13Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your ancestors have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.

God Will Restore Israel

14 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the L ord, when it shall no longer be said, “As the L ord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,” 15but “As the L ord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them.” For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their ancestors.

16 I am now sending for many fishermen, says the L ord, and they shall catch them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. 17For my eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from my presence, nor is their iniquity concealed from my sight. 18And I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations.



O L ord, my strength and my stronghold,

my refuge in the day of trouble,

to you shall the nations come

from the ends of the earth and say:

Our ancestors have inherited nothing but lies,

worthless things in which there is no profit.


Can mortals make for themselves gods?

Such are no gods!


21 “Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the L ord.”


What the Prophet has said hitherto might appear contrary to the promises of God, and wholly subversive of the covenant which he had made with Abraham. God had chosen to himself one people from the whole world, now when this people were trodden under foot what could the most perfect of the faithful suppose but that that covenant was rendered void, since God had resolved to destroy the Jews and to obliterate their name? This was then a most grievous trial, and sufficient, to shake the strongest minds. The Prophet therefore now returns to the subject, and obviates this temptation; and seeing men in despair he turns to God, and speaks of the calling of the Gentiles, which was sufficient wholly to remove that stumbling — block, which I have mentioned respecting the apostasy and ruin of the chosen people. We now perceive the Prophet’s meaning.

When any one reads the whole chapter, he may think that Jeremiah abruptly turns to address God; but what I have stated ought to be borne in mind, for his purpose was to fortify himself and the faithful against the thought I have mentioned, which would have otherwise shaken the faith of them all. And he shews what is best to be done in a troubled and dark state of things, for Satan hunts for nothing more than to involve us in various and intricate disputes, and he is an acute disputant, yea, and a sophist; we are also very ready to receive what he may suggest, and thus it happens that the thoughts which we either attain ourselves or too readily receive when offered by the artifice of Satan, often overwhelm us. There is then no better remedy than to break off such disputes and to turn our eyes and all our thoughts to God. This the Prophet did when he said, O Jehovah, to thee shall the Gentiles come

We now see that Jeremiah sets the conversion of the Gentiles in opposition to the destruction which he had before denounced; for the truth of God and his mercy were so connected with the salvation of the chosen people, that their destruction seemed to obliterate them. Therefore the Prophet sets forth in opposition to this the conversion of the Gentiles, as though he had said, “Though the race of Abraham perishes, yet God’s covenant fails not, nor is there any diminution of his grace, for he will convert all the Gentiles to himself.” If any one objects and says, that though the Gentiles be converted, yet the covenant of God could not have been valid and perpetual, except the posterity of Abraham were heirs of that grace which God had promised to him. To this there is a ready answer, for when God turned the Gentiles to himself he was mindful of his promise, so as to gather a Church to himself both from the Jews and the Gentiles, as we also know that Christ came to proclaim peace to those afar off and to them who were nigh, according to what Paul teaches. (Ephesians 2:17) Jeremiah then includes in the calling of the Gentiles what is said elsewhere,

“A remnant according to the election of grace.”
(Romans 9:5)

It is an argument from the greater to the less; “God will not retain a few men only, but will gather to himself those who now seem dispersed through the whole world; much more then shall all those of the race of Abraham, who are chosen by God, be saved; and though the great body of the people perish, yet the Lord, who knows his own people, will not suffer them to perish even in the worst state of things.”

But as the struggle was difficult, he calls God his strength, and fortress, and refuge. He says עזי ומעזי ozi vemozi, ma force et forteresse, for the two words come from the same root, and we cannot in Latin thus fitly translate them. He then calls God his strength and his fortress, but both words are derived from a verb which means to be strong. He then adds, my refuge in the day of affliction We here see that God according to circumstances is adorned with names, such as are fit to give us confidence, and as it were to arm us for the purpose of sustaining all the assaults of temptations, for there was not sufficient force and power in that plain declaration, “O Jehovah, the Gentiles shall come to thee,” but as the Prophet was reduced to the greatest straits, and, as I have said, his faith nmst have been greatly tried, he calls God his strength, his fortress, and his refuge in the day of affliction; as though he had said, “Now is the time when I find how necessary is thy protection, thy strength, thy power; for though my present miseries, and the approaching ruin dishearten me, yet thou wilt be to me a refuge.”

But he says, that the Gentiles would come from the ends of the earth 167167     Though the word rendered here “Gentiles” may be often so translated, yet it does not necessarily mean the heathens. It signifies a people associated together; and it may mean here the Jewish people in their dispersion, formed into companies or tribes, as Grotius thinks; and a due consideration of the context will lead us to this opinion. They are spoken of in Jeremiah 16:15 as “brought from all the lands” whither God had driven them; and as the idolatry of their fathers is continually mentioned in connection with their own, the confession in this verse seems appropriate to them; and the last verse, Jeremiah 16:21, clearly refers to the people of Israel. There is nothing in the whole passage (except it be this clause) that has any reference to the conversion of the heathens. I am aware that commentators take the same view of this clause with Calvin, yet I fully believe that the “nations” here were the Jews, scattered here and there, as distinct portions of the community, in various parts of the heathen world. The prophet, after having received an assurance of a restoration, makes a thankful acknowledgment to God, and tells us what would be the confession of the returned exiles, which includes the next verse. Then God assures him in the last verse, that such would be the effect of exile as to make them ever afterwards to acknowledge his power and his majesty, which has been remarkably fulfilled; for the Jews have never been guilty — of idolatry since their return from Babylon. — Ed. A contrast is to be observed here also; for the Jews at first worshipped God, as it were in an obscure corner; but he says, “When that land shall cast out its inhabitants, all nations shall come, not only from neighboring countries, but also from the extremities of the earth.” He adds, that the Gentiles would say, surely falsehood leave our fathers possessed; it was vanity, there was nothing profitable in them To possess, here means the same as to inherit; for we know that one’s own inheritance is valuable to him; and men are as it were fixed in their farms and fields. As then the Gentiles, before they were enlightened, thought their chief happiness to be in their superstitions, the Prophet says here, by way of concession, that they possessed falsehood, as though it was said, “Our fathers thought themselves blessed and happy when they worshipped idols and their own inventions.” It was therefore their heritage, that is, they thought nothing better or more to be desired than to embrace their idols and their errors; but it was falsehood, he says, that is, when they thought that they had a glorious inheritance it was only a foolish imagination; it was, in short, vanity, and there was nothing useful or profitable in them. This confession proves the conversion of the Gentiles by external evidences. When we offend God, not only secretly, but also by bad examples, repentance requires confession. Hence the Prophet shews a change in the Gentiles, for they would of themselves acknowledge that their fathers had been deceived by superstitions; for while they thought that they were acting rightly, they were only under the influence of inusions and fascinations.

But it is not to be doubted but that the Prophet here indirectly condemns the Jews, because they had not departed from the sins of their fathers, though they had been often admonished. The Gentiles then shall come, and the ignorance of their fathers shall not prevent them from confessing that they and their fathers were guilty before God. Since then the hinderance which from deliberate wickedness held fast the Jews, would not prevail with the Gentiles, it appeared evident how great was the contumacy of the people, who could not be persuaded to forsake the bad examples of their fathers. We now understand what the Prophet means, and for what purpose he introduced this prayer. It follows —

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