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23. Lying Prophets

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord. 2Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord. 3And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.

5Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE Lord OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. 7Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 8But, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.

9Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness. 10For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right. 11For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord. 12Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the Lord. 13And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. 14I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. 15Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. 16Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. 17They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. 18For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? 19Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. 20The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. 21I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. 22But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. 23 Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? 24Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord. 25I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. 26How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; 27Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. 28The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. 29 Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? 30Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. 31Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. 32Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.

33And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the Lord? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the Lord. 34And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the Lord, I will even punish that man and his house. 35Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the Lord answered? and, What hath the Lord spoken? 36And the burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more: for every man’s word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the Lord of hosts our God. 37Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the Lord answered thee? and, What hath the Lord spoken? 38But since ye say, The burden of the Lord; therefore thus saith the Lord; Because ye say this word, The burden of the Lord, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the Lord; 39Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: 40And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.

He adds here that it ought not to appear strange that the prophets were silent when they ought to have loudly cried out, because they were guilty themselves: and whence can freedom of speech come except from a good conscience? Hypocrites, who indulge themselves, are indeed often severe against others, and even more than necessary; but no one can dare honestly to cry out against wickedness, but he who is innocent. For he who condemns others seems to make a law for himself, according to what a heathen writer has said, (Cicero in Salustium.) Then the Prophet here shews to us why the prophets were not only idle, but were even like stocks and stones; for in speaking against wickedness, it was necessary for them in the first place to amend themselves; for their lives were wholly dissolute. As then they were of all the most wicked, they could not boldly cry out against others; and hence the Prophet condemns them, because their own impiety prevented them to perform their own duty.

It is, indeed, possible for one to live soberly, honestly, and justly, and yet to connive at the wickedness of others; but the Prophet here condemns the prophets and priests on two accounts, — for being mute, and for not undertaking God’s cause when they saw the land polluted with all kinds of defilements; and he then shews the fountain of this evil, that is, the cause why they were idle and wholly indifferent, and that was, because they dared not say a word against those crimes of which they were themselves guilty, yea, with which they were more loaded than even the common people. We now perceive the Prophet’s object in saying that both the priests and the prophets had acted impiously; 9090     This verb is used three times in Jeremiah 3:1, 2, and 9, and in every instance in the sense of defiling the land with adultery, and in the two last verses, with spiritual adultery — idolatry. It is rendered here passively by the Sept. and the Vulg., “have become defiled;” but it is most commonly used in a transitive sense; and so Jun. and Trem. render it here, and consider it, the land, as understood after it; and this is most consistent with the context, —
   For both prophet and priest have defiled it: Also in my house have I found Their wickedness, saith Jehovah.

   The “house” of God is here put in contrast with the land or the country; and in Jeremiah 23:15, it is expressly said that from Jerusalem pollution had gone forth throughout all the land. Idolatry is evidently what is meant throughout this passage, from verse 9 to 15 (Jeremiah 23:9-15). Calvin as to this verb has followed the Syriac version. — Ed.
it was to shew, that their contempt of God, for which they were notorious, and also their wickedness, had taken away from them all power and freedom in acting.

It is added, Even in my house have I found their wickedness He enhances what he had said of their impiety; for they were not only infamous and wicked in common life, as to the duties of the Second Table; but they also corrupted the whole service of God, and the true Prophets were derided by them. For what was found to be the priests’ wickedness in the Temple, except that they practiced a sort of merchandise under the cover of the priesthood? and then the prophets vitiated and adulterated God’s worship; and what was religion to them but the means of filthy lucre or gain? When, therefore, the prophets thus trod under foot the service of God, corrupted and perverted the Law to make gain or to acquire power, their impiety was not only seen in the habits of daily life, but also in the very Temple of God, that is, with regard to the sacerdotal office.

Now, since this is true as to what took place under the Law, there is no wonder that such a base example is to be seen in the present day. And hence also is discovered the folly of the Papists, who think that they ingeniously evade every objection as to the crimes of the Pope and his filthy clergy, by saying that the Pope indeed may be wicked, as almost all of them have been, and that the same thing may be said of their mitred bishops; but that the Pope, as a Pope, cannot err, and that the bishops, as bishops, that is, in their government and office, are ruled by the Holy Spirit, because they represent the Church. But are they better than these ancient priests, whom God himself had expressly appointed, and to whom he commanded obedience to be rendered by the whole people? But the Prophet not only says here that they were wicked, that they acted impiously and wickedly towards their neighbors, that they committed plunders and robberies, that they were given to violence and rapacity, that they abandoned themselves to adultery and to every other crime; but he says also, that their wickedness was found in the very Temple, that is, in the very sacred office itself; for not only was their life wicked, but they also impiously and perfidiously corrupted the doctrine of God and subverted his worship.


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