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The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2to whom the word of the L ord came in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3It came also in the days of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.

Jeremiah’s Call and Commission

4 Now the word of the L ord came to me saying,


“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord G od! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7But the L ord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;

for you shall go to all to whom I send you,

and you shall speak whatever I command you.


Do not be afraid of them,

for I am with you to deliver you,

says the L ord.”

9 Then the L ord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the L ord said to me,

“Now I have put my words in your mouth.


See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,

to pluck up and to pull down,

to destroy and to overthrow,

to build and to plant.”

11 The word of the L ord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” 12Then the L ord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” 13The word of the L ord came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, tilted away from the north.”

14 Then the L ord said to me: Out of the north disaster shall break out on all the inhabitants of the land. 15For now I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, says the L ord; and they shall come and all of them shall set their thrones at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its surrounding walls and against all the cities of Judah. 16And I will utter my judgments against them, for all their wickedness in forsaking me; they have made offerings to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands. 17But you, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. 18And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. 19They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the L ord, to deliver you.

I Have said that the time, when Jeremiah began to discharge his office of a Prophet in God’s Church, is not stated here without reason, and that it was when the state of the people was extremely corrupt, the whole of Religion having become vitiated, because the Book of the Law was lost: for nowhere else can be found the rule according to which God is to be worshipped; nor can right knowledge be obtained from any other source. It was then, at the time when impiety had by a long custom prevailed among the Jews, that Jeremiah suddenly came forth. There was then laid on his shoulders the heaviest burden; for many enemies must have risen to oppose him, when he attempted to bring back the people to the pure doctrine of the law, which the greater part were then treading under their feet.

He calls himself the son of Hilkiah The Rabbins think that this Hilkiah was the priest by whom the Book of Moses was found five years after: but this seems not to me probable. The conjecture also of Jerome is very frivolous, who concludes that the Prophet was a boy when he began to prophesy, because he calls himself נער (nor,) a child, a little farther on, as though he did not use the word metaphorically. 66     The word does not properly mean a “child,“ as in our version, or puer,as rendered by Calvin, but a youth, or rather a young man. Abraham’s trained servants were thus called, Genesis 14:24, and his servant who dressed the calf for the angels, Genesis 18:7, and his “young men” who accompanied him to Mount Moriah, Genesis 22:5. Joshua had this name given him, when he was attending Moses at the tabernacle, Exodus 33:11. It is rendered “(νεωτερος)-a youth or a young man,“ by the Septuagint The most probable thing is, that he was, not as Adam Clarke supposes, about 14, but a young man verging on maturity. The length of time during which he prophesied, would lead us to conclude that he was young when he was appointed to his office.
   There are two remarkable resemblances between Jeremiah and Moses. They both made an excuse for declining the office to which God called them, and made a similar excuse. The other resemblance is what Lightfoot has noticed, that Moses was a teacher of the people for forty years before they entered the land of Canaan, and that Jeremiah was their teacher for forty years before they were banished from it and driven into exile. — Ed.
At what age he was called to the prophetic office, we do not know; it is, however, probable that he was of mature age, for it was a work of high authority; and further, had he been a youth, doubtless such a miracle would not have been passed over in silence, that is, that he was made a prophet before the age of maturity.

With regard to his father, it is nothing strange that the Rabbins have regarded him as the high priest; for we know that they are always prone to vain boastings. Ambition possessed them, and hence they have said that Jeremiah was the son of the high priest, in order to add to the splendor of his character. But what does the Prophet himself say? He declares indeed that he was the son of Hilkiah, but does not say that this was the high priest; on the contrary he adds, that he was from the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin Now we know that this was a mean village, not far from Jerusalem; and Jeremiah says, that it was in the tribe of Benjamin. Its nearness to Jerusalem may be gathered from the words of Isaiah, who says that small Anathoth was terrified. (Isaiah 10:30) He threatened Jerusalem by saying that the enemy was near.

“What,” he says, “is your security? Ye can hear the noise of your enemies and the groans of your brethren from your very gates; for Anathoth is not far from you, being only three miles distant.”

Since then Jeremiah only says, that he came from Anathoth, why should we suppose him to be the sort of the high priest? And frivolous is what the Chaldee paraphraser adds here, that Hilkiah had possessions in the town of Anathoth, as though it was allowed the priests to possess land: God allowed them only what was necessary to feed their flocks. We may then take it as certain, and what the Prophet indeed expressly declares, that he came from the village of Anathoth. 77     The reasons alleged against Jeremiah being the son of the high priest are by no means conclusive: indeed, all the circumstances being considered, the probability is in favor of that supposition. The family of the high priest resided no doubt at Anathoth; what is said in 1 Kings 2:26, respecting Abiathar, is a proof of this. That the high priest resided at Jerusalem during the term of his office forms no objection; nor is the genealogy of the high priests as given in 1 Chronicles 6:1-17, any objection; for though in verse 13, Azariah is said to be the son of Hilkiah, yet Jeremiah might have been one of his younger sons. Most commentators agree indeed with Calvin, -Gataker, Henry, Scott, Blayney, etc.; but they adduce no satisfactory reasons, sufficient to invalidate the opinion of the Rabbins and the intimation contained in the Targum: and this opinion is what the translators of the Geneva Bible have adopted. — Ed.

He further says, that he was of the priestly order. Hence the prophetic office was more suitable to him than to many of the other prophets, such as Amos and Isaiah. God took Isaiah from the court, as he was of the royal family, and made him a prophet. Amos was in a different situation: he was taken from the shepherds, for he was a shepherd. Since God appointed such prophets over his Church, he no doubt thus intended to cast a reflection on the idleness and sloth of the priests. For, though all the priests were not prophets, yet they ought to have been taken from that order; for the priestly order was as it were the nursery of the prophets. But when gross want of knowledge and ignorance prevailed among them, God chose his prophets from the other tribes, and thus exposed and condemned the priests. They ought, indeed, to have been the messengers of the God of hosts, so as to keep the law in their lips, that the people might seek it from their mouth, according to what is said by Malachi. (Malachi 2:7) But as they were dumb dogs, God transferred the honor of the prophetic office to others; but Jeremiah, as I have already stated, was a prophet as well as a priest.

He begins in the second verse to speak of his calling. 88     The second verse begins with אשר which Calvin renders “nempeeven,“ and takes it in an exegetic sense: but this is not its meaning. Our version is no doubt correct, “to whom;” though there is no preposition before it, it is yet found before the personal pronoun “to him,“ that comes afterwards. It is an idiom of the language, and the very same exists in Welsh, in which the version is literally the same with the Hebrew a relative pronoun without a preposition followed by a personal pronoun with a preposition profixed to it. It would be literally in English, “whom the word of Jehovah came to him.” The Welsh also retains the peculiarity of the Hebrew, in having prepositions prefixed to pronouns and attached to them, though this is not the case generally with nouns,
   Yr hwn y daeth gair Jehova atto.

   The verb too, as in the Hebrew, precedes its nominative; “came” is before “the word of Jehovah.” It is rather singular that the Septuagint have rendered this relative by “ὡσ — as,” which shews that the Hebrew idiom was not understood by them. — Ed.
It would have, indeed, been to little purpose, had he said that he came forth and brought a message; but he explains, in the second verse, that he brought nothing but what had been delivered to him by God, as though he had said, that he faithfully declared what God had commanded him. For we know that the whole authority belongs entirely to God, with regard to the doctrine of religion, and that it is not in the power of men to blend this or that, and to make the faithful subject to themselves. As God, then, is the only true teacher of the Church, whosoever demands to be heard, must prove that he is God’s minister. This is, then, what Jeremiah is now carefully doing, for he says that the word of Jehovah was given to him.

He had before said, the words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah; but any one of the people might have objected and said, “Why dost thou intrude thyself, as though any one is to be heard? for God claims this right to himself alone.” Hence Jeremiah, by way of correction, subjoins, that the words were his, but that he was not the author of them, but the minister only. He says, then, that he only executed what God had commanded, for he had been the disciple of God himself, before he undertook the office of a teacher.

As to the beginning of his time and its termination, it has been briefly shewn, why he says that he had been chosen a prophet in the thirteenth year of Josiah, and that he discharged his office till the eleventh year of Zedekiah.

Now that Josiah is called the son of Amon, it is doubtful whether Josiah was properly his son. Amon began to reign in his twenty-second year, and reigned only two years. Josiah succeeded him in the eighth year of his age. If we number the years precisely, Josiah must have been born when Amon was in his sixteenth year; but it does not appear likely, that Amon was a father when he was sixteen years of age, for in this case he must have begotten a son in his fifteenth year; as the birth must have taken place nine months after. Then Josiah must have been begotten in the fifteenth year of Amon’s age. It is hence a probable conclusion, that he was a son by law and not by nature, according to what is afterwards said of Zedekiah, that he was Josiah’s son, because he was his successor, while he was, as many think, his nephew, a brother’s son. But it was a common thing to call the successors of kings their sons, who were their sons by law, and not, as I have said, by nature. It now follows-

Here Jeremiah explains more fully what he had already mentioned that he had been called from above, for otherwise he would have presumptuously obtruded himself: for no one, as the Apostle says, takes this honor to himself; but the call of God alone raises up prophets and teachers to their dignity {see Hebrews 5:4}. Hence, that Jeremiah might secure attention, he declares that he had been called to the prophetic office, and that by the clear voice of God. For this purpose, he says, that this word was given him, Before I formed thee in the womb 99     More strictly, “in the inside,” or belly, בטן. The specific term for womb is in the next sentence, רחם. — Ed I knew thee He introduces God as the speaker, that what he declares might be more emphatical, that it might be of more weight and more forcible: for, if he had said simply in his own person, that he had been made a prophet by God’s voice, it would not have so much moved the hearers; but when he brings forward God as the speaker, there is necessarily more weight and force in what is said.

I pass by here what might be more largely said on what is necessary in one’s call, so that he may be attended to by God’s people; for no one, by his own and private right, can claim this privilege of speaking, as I have already said, inasmuch as this is what belongs to God alone. But I have elsewhere spoken at large on the prophetic call; it is therefore enough now to point at such things as these as it were by the finger: and particular discussions must be sought elsewhere; for were I to dwell at large on every subject, my work would be endless. I will, therefore, according to my usual practice, give a brief exposition of this Prophet.

Jeremiah then says, that he had been called by God, for this end, that he might on this account gain a hearing from the people. God declares that he knew Jeremiah before he formed him in the womb. This is not said specially of the Prophet, as though other men are unknown to God, but it is to be understood of the prophetic office, as though he had said, “Before I formed thee in the womb, I destined thee for this work, even that thou mayest undertake the burden of a teacher among the people.” And the second part is a repetition, when he says, Before thou camest forth from the womb I sanctified thee Sanctification is the same as the knowledge of God: and thus we perceive that knowledge is not mere prescience, but that predestination, by which God chooses every single individual according to his own will, and at the same time appoints and also sanctifies him; for no one, as Paul declares, (2 Corinthians 2:16,) is according to his own nature fitted for the work. Since then this fitness is the gratuitous gift of God, it is nothing strange that God declares that he had sanctified Jeremiah, as though he had said, “I formed thee man in the womb, and at the same time appointed thee for this particular work; and as it was not in thy power to bring with thee a qualification for the prophetic office, I formed thee not only a man, but a prophet.” This is the import of the passage.

But they refine too much, who think that the Prophet was sanctified from the womb as John the Baptist was, for the words mean no such thing; but only that is testified of Jeremiah, which Paul also affirms respecting himself in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians, that he was known by God before he was born. Jeremiah then was not actually sanctified in the womb, but set apart according to God’s predestination and hidden purpose; that is, God chose him then to be a Prophet. It may be asked, whether he was not chosen before the creation of the world? To this it may be readily answered, that he was indeed foreknown by God before the world was made; but Scripture accommodates itself to the measure of our capacities, when it speaks of the generation of any one: it is then the same as though God had said of Jeremiah, that he was formed man for this end that in due time he might come forth a Prophet.

And no doubt the following clause is added exegetically, A prophet for the nations I made thee His sanctification, then, as I have said, was not real, but intimated that he was appointed a Prophet before he was born.

It however seems strange that he was given a Prophet to the nations God designed him to be the minister of his Church; for he neither went to the Ninevites, as Jonah did, (Jonah 3:3,) nor traveled into other countries, but spent his labors only among the tribe of Judah; why then is it said that he was given as a Prophet to the nations? To this I answer, that though God appointed him especially for his Church, yet his teaching belonged to other nations, as we shall presently see, and very evidently, as we proceed; for he prophesied concerning the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Moabites; in short, he included all the nations who were nigh and known to the Jews. This was indeed as it were accidental: but though he was given as a Prophet especially to his own people, yet his authority extended to heathen nations. No doubt nations are mentioned, including many, in order that the power and dignity of his teaching might appear more evident. It follows-

After having spoken of his call, the Prophet adds, that he at first refused his office, and he states this for two reasons; first, that he might clear himself from every suspicion of rashness, for we know how much ambition prevails among men, according to what James intimates, that many wish to be teachers, (James 3:1) and there is hardly one who is not anxious to be listened to. Since, then, most men too readily assume the office of teaching, and many boldly intrude into it, Jeremiah, in order to avoid the very suspicion of rashness, informs us that he was constrained to take the office. Secondly, he says that he refused the office, that he might gain more esteem, and render his disciples more attentive. But why did he refuse to obey God, when called to the prophetic function? Because its difficulty frightened him: and yet this very reason ought to rouse readers to a greater attention, as it no doubt awakened hearers when Jeremiah spoke to them.

If any one asks, whether Jeremiah acted rightly in refusing what God enjoined? the answer is, that God pardoned his servant, for it was not his design to reject his call, or to exempt himself from obedience, or to shake off the yoke, because he regarded his own leisure, or his own fame, or any similar considerations: Jeremiah looked on nothing of this kind; but when he thought of himself, he felt, that he was wholly unequal to undertake an office so arduous. Hence the excuse that is added is that of modesty. We then see that God forgave his timidity, for it proceeded, as we have just said, from a right feeling; and we know that from good principles vices often arise. But it was yet a laudable thing in Jeremiah, that he thought himself not sufficiently qualified to undertake the prophetic office, and that he wished to be excused, and that another should be chosen endued with more courage and with better qualifications. I shall proceed with what remains tomorrow.

Now follows the answer given to him, Say not, I am a child; for thou shalt go, etc. God not only predicts here what the Prophet was to do, but declares also what he designed him to do, and what he required from him, as though he had said, “It is thy duty to obey, because I have the right to command: thou must, therefore, go wheresoever I shall send thee, and thou must also proclaim whatsoever I shall command thee.” By these words God reminds him that he was his servant, and that there was no reason why a sense of his own weakness should make him afraid; for it ought to have been enough for him simply to obey his command.

And it is especially necessary to know this doctrine: for as we ought to undertake nothing without considering what our strength is, so when God enjoins anything, we ought, immediately to obey his word as it were with closed eyes. Prudence is justly praised by writers; and it is what ought to be attended to by all generally; they ought to consider what the shoulders can bear, and cannot bear. For whence is it that many have so much audacity and boldness, except that they hurry on through extreme self — confidence? Hence, in all undertakings, this should be the first thing, that every one should weigh well his own strength, and take in hand what comports with the measure of his capacity. Then no one would foolishly obtrude himself, and arrogate to himself more than what is right. But when God calls us, we ought to obey, however deficient we may in all things be: and this is what we learn from what God says here, Say not, I am a child; that is, “though thou, indeed, thinkest thyself destitute of every qualification, though thou art conscious of thine own weakness, yet thou shalt go, thou must go wheresoever I shall send thee.” God, then, requires this honor to be simply conceded to him, that men should obey his commands, though the qualification necessary to execute them be wanting. It afterwards follows —

We may learn from this verse that Jeremiah, when he observed the heavy and hard conflicts he had to undertake, was greatly disturbed; for he had not courage enough firmly and boldly to assail enemies so many and so violent. He indeed saw, that he had to do with a degenerated people, who had almost all departed from the law of God: and since they had for many years shaken off the yoke, and were petulantly exulting in their freedom, it was difficult to bring them back to obedience, and to a right course of life. It hence appears that the Prophet was restrained by this difficulty, so as not to venture to undertake the prophetic office. But God applied a suitable remedy to his fear; for what does he say? Fear not their face It appears, then, that when Jeremiah said that he was a child, he had in view, as I have already hinted, the difficulty of the undertaking; he could hardly bear to carry on contests so severe with that rebellious people, who had now become hardened in their wickedness. We hence see how he refused, in an indirect manner, the burden laid on him, for he ventured, not openly and ingenuously, and in plain words, to confess how the matter was; but God, who penetrates into the hearts of men, and knows all their hidden feelings and motives, heals his timidity by saying, Fear not their face. 1111     The proper rendering is, “Fear not before them,” or, on their account: סמני is invariably a preposition, before, from before, because of, on account of, for, by, through; Deuteronomy 2:21; Exodus 14:19; Deuteronomy 7:19; Jeremiah 6:13; and it is often, though not always, so rendered in our version. The very same phrase is found in Joshua 11:6, and rendered, “Be not afraid, because of them;” and also in this book, Jeremiah 41:18, “They were afraid of them.” It may, indeed, be rendered, “Fear them not,” or, “Be not afraid of them.” To introduce “face” or “faces” is by no means right. Gataker’s rendering is, “Fear not before them;” and Blayney’s, “Be not thou afraid because of them.” — Ed

Now this passage shews that corruptions had so prevailed among the chosen people, that no servant of God could peaceably perform his office. When prophets and teachers have to do with a teachable people, they have no need to fight: but when there is no fear of God, and no regard for him, yea, when men are led away by the violence of their lusts, no godly teacher can exercise his duty without being prepared for war. This, then, is what God intimates, when he bids his Prophet to be courageous; for he saw that there would be as many enemies as professed themselves to be the children of Abraham.

The reason, also, for boldness and confidence, that is added, ought to be noticed, For I am with thee to deliver thee By these words God reminds the Prophet, that there would be sufficient protection in his power, so that he had no need to dread the fury of his own nation. It was, indeed, at first, a formidable undertaking, when Jeremiah saw that he had to carry on war, not with a few men, but with the whole people; but God sets himself in opposition to all men, and says, I am with thee, 1212     “Earthly kings and sovereigns,” observes Gataker on this verse, “are not wont to go with those whom they send on embassage; God goeth along with those whom he sends, and is by his powerful protection, at all times and in all places, present with them.” — Ed. fear not. We hence see that due honor is then conceded to God, when being content with his defense we disregard the fury of men, and hesitate not to contend with all the ungodly, yea, though they may rise up in a mass against us: and were their forces and power the strongest, we ought yet to feel assured that the defense of God alone is sufficient to protect us. This is the full meaning of the passage. It now follows-

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