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Jeremiah Buys a Field During the Siege


The word that came to Jeremiah from the L ord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, “Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the L ord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 4King Zedekiah of Judah shall not escape out of the hands of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye; 5and he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I attend to him, says the L ord; though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed?”

6 Jeremiah said, The word of the L ord came to me: 7Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” 8Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the L ord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the L ord.

9 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. 13In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14Thus says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15For thus says the L ord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Jeremiah Prays for Understanding

16 After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the L ord, saying: 17Ah Lord G od! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. 18You show steadfast love to the thousandth generation, but repay the guilt of parents into the laps of their children after them, O great and mighty God whose name is the L ord of hosts, 19great in counsel and mighty in deed; whose eyes are open to all the ways of mortals, rewarding all according to their ways and according to the fruit of their doings. 20You showed signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all humankind, and have made yourself a name that continues to this very day. 21You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror; 22and you gave them this land, which you swore to their ancestors to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23and they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or follow your law; of all you commanded them to do, they did nothing. Therefore you have made all these disasters come upon them. 24See, the siege ramps have been cast up against the city to take it, and the city, faced with sword, famine, and pestilence, has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you spoke has happened, as you yourself can see. 25Yet you, O Lord G od, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”—though the city has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans.

God’s Assurance of the People’s Return

26 The word of the L ord came to Jeremiah: 27See, I am the L ord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me? 28Therefore, thus says the L ord: I am going to give this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he shall take it. 29The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city shall come, set it on fire, and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs offerings have been made to Baal and libations have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30For the people of Israel and the people of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; the people of Israel have done nothing but provoke me to anger by the work of their hands, says the L ord. 31This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built until this day, so that I will remove it from my sight 32because of all the evil of the people of Israel and the people of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the citizens of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33They have turned their backs to me, not their faces; though I have taught them persistently, they would not listen and accept correction. 34They set up their abominations in the house that bears my name, and defiled it. 35They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter my mind that they should do this abomination, causing Judah to sin.

36 Now therefore thus says the L ord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, “It is being given into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence”: 37See, I am going to gather them from all the lands to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation; I will bring them back to this place, and I will settle them in safety. 38They shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for all time, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to draw back from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, so that they may not turn from me. 41I will rejoice in doing good to them, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

42 For thus says the L ord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good fortune that I now promise them. 43Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, It is a desolation, without human beings or animals; it has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans. 44Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, of the hill country, of the Shephelah, and of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, says the L ord.

Ah, Lord Jehovah! he says; behold, thou hast made heaven and earth. Were any one not to attend to the circumstances of the passage, he might think that the Prophet is here rambling, and does not connect his sentences, so that his prayer seems incoherent. But as I have already said, that as the Prophet knew that men take too much liberty when they speak of God’s works, he bridled himself in due time, before he came to his subject. He then made this sort of introduction, “O Lord, it does not behove me to contend with thee, nor is it right in me to require thee to give me a reason for thy doings, for thou hast made heaven and earth by thy great power and extended arm.” There is here then an implied contrast between God and mortal man; “For who am I to dare to summon thee to a contest! for thy power is justly to be dreaded by us; when we raise up our eyes to heaven, when we look on the earth, there is nothing which ought not to fill us with admiration of thy power, for its immensity appears above and below.” We hence see that the Prophet extols in high terms the power of God, in order that he might keep himself in a meek and humble state of mind, and not dare to clamor against God, nor presumptuously rush forward to pronounce a judgment on his works. Behold, he says; he sets before his eyes the wonderful workmanship of the world, in which the immeasurable power of God shines forth most conspicuously.

He then adds, Nor is there any thing hid from thee This clause admits of two meanings; for פלא, pala, means wonderful, and also hidden. Now the greater part of interpreters give this explanation, — that nothing is hid from God, because all things are before his eyes, for his knowledge penetrates to the deepest depths. It may then be a commendation of God’s knowledge, as an eulogy on his power has previously been given; and this meaning is not unsuitable.

I do not, however, reject the other meaning, given by Jerome, that there is nothing difficult to God, or wonderful, because all things are subject to his will. Thus the Prophet might say, continuing the same thought, that the power of God, which shines forth to our view in the heavens and in the earth, may at the same time be observed in the permanent government of the world; for he who has created the heavens and the earth can do all things, so that nothing is wonderful to him, that is, nothing is difficult for his power as soon as he has decreed this or that. The main object of the Prophet is, however, still the same. 6464     The Targ. and the versions, except the Vulg., give the first sense; but the latter is no doubt the true meaning, as the word never means properly to be hidden. The phrase here literally is, “Not harder (or more marvellous) than thou shall anything be,” that is, not harder than what thou canst do. Exactly the same phrase occurs in Genesis 18:14. The word, in a similar clause, in Deuteronomy 30:11, is rendered “hidden;” but the clause literally is, “It is not harder than thou,” that is, than what thou canst attain, or do, as the context proves, see Jeremiah 32:14. — Ed.

He now adds, Thou shewest mercy to thousands, and repayest the iniquity of the fathers to the bosom of their children Here the Prophet acknowledges God’s judgments to be right, though the reason for them escapes human minds. Both these things were necessary, that is, that Jeremiah should set before himself the awful power of God, and that he should also regard God’s judgments as right, though men often think otherwise. For God has hidden reasons for his judgments; and so it happens, that various thoughts disturb us, and every one is disposed to set himself up against God. Hence the Prophet, after having spoken of the immeasurable power of God, now declares also that he is a just judge of the world; and he again restrains himself by another bridle, lest he should pronounce a judgment on God’s works according to his own perceptions.

Thou, he says, shewest mercy to thousands This is taken from the Law of Moses, (Exodus 20:6) for the Prophets often borrowed their chief sentences from Moses, of whom they were the interpreters. Since God then under the Law declared that he is merciful to thousand generations, though it appears unnaccountable to us, yet nothing remains for us to do, but to learn reverently to receive what we cannot comprehend. The Prophet then here confesses that the method which God adopts as to his mercy is hid from the human mind. But the latter clause seems, however, less reasonable, — that God should repay the iniquity of fathers to their children Shortly before we saw that this was set forth as an impious blasphemy, (Jeremiah 31:29) when they said that their fathers had eaten sour grapes, and that their children’s teeth were set on edge; for it is always true that the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:2, 20; Deuteronomy 24:16) But if God repays the iniquity of fathers to their children, he punishes the innocent, and transfers to children what he ought to have rendered to their fathers. But the Prophet, regarding it a wicked thing to contradict what God had spoken by Moses, adores here this mystery, and thus brings himself to humility and meekness, so that he might not break forth into extremes when speaking of the hidden works of God.

We must at the same time briefly observe, that the innocent are not punished when God includes children with their fathers, and casts the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children, for he does not refer to the innocent and the righteous, but to the wicked. Some, when they saw that this truth militated against the common feelings of mankind, have laid hold of an evasion, that is, that God by a temporal punishment renders to children what their fathers had deserved. But God speaks without exception, that he repays to the bosom of children the reward due to their fathers. But how ought this to be understood? It is a part of this punishment, that God withholds from them his Spirit. When, therefore, his purpose is to punish the vices of fathers in their posterity, he withholds from their posterity the light and grace of his Spirit. It cannot then be but that they will ever accumulate evils on evils, and thus they are entangled in the guilt of their fathers. God then proceeds by degrees in the work of punishing sins; for when it is his purpose to forgive the son the punishment which he together with his father has deserved, he draws him to himself by his Spirit, so that he is freed from punishment; but if his purpose is to execute vengeance on sons and grandsons, he withholds from them, as I have already said, the gift of the Spirit, so that they do nothing but provoke his wrath more and more, and thus they become involved in the same guilt with their fathers; hence fathers and children receive in common the same punishment.

This indeed seems not at the first view to be just and right; but let us remember that God’s judgments are hid from us, and for this reason, — that we may cultivate meekness and humility and learn to be soberly wise, and so confess God to be a just judge as to know that our minds cannot penetrate into this deep abyss. But still the solution given seems plain enough, that is, that God never punishes the innocent. For when he visits the sins of fathers on their children, a part of that punishment is, as I have already stated, that he withholds from the children the light of his Spirit; being blind, they ever run headlong to their own ruin, and thus by the continual commission of new sins they provoke God’s vengeance against themselves. When therefore God renders to them the reward due to their fathers, he punishes them at the same time for what they themselves have deserved; nor have they any reason to complain, because they have been guilty in common with their fathers: there is, therefore, nothing strange that they share with them in their punishment. But it, however, depends on the hidden mercy of God, that. he favors some with pardon, and thus delivers them from ruin, while he forsakes others; and as they are wicked, they deserve all the punishment he inflicts on them: Thou, then, repayest into the bosom of their sons after them, that is, after their death.

He afterwards exclaims, God, strong and mighty! Jehovah of hosts is his name He again declares the greatness of God’s power, that he might restrain himself, and not rashly undertake any new inquiry, as the ease is with curious men, who indulge themselves in speculations, and thus summon God as it were to an account, as though there could be appointed a tribunal before which he might be found guilty. As then the insolence and arrogance of human nature are so great, the Prophet here sets barriers around himself, so that he might keep within the bounds of humility and soberness.

He afterwards changes the person, which is a proof of vehemence and ardor; for it is, as we have seen, a prayer. He does not now address God directly, but says, Jehovah of hosts is his name, speaking in the third person. 6565     The change of person seems to begin at the 18th verse (Jeremiah 32:18), and includes the first clause in the 19th, —
   18. He who sheweth mercy to thousands, And who returns the iniquity of fathers To the bosom of their children after them, Is God, the great, the powerful; Jehovah is his name, —

   19. Great in counsel and mighty in his doings: Who — thine eyes are open On the ways of the sons of men, To give to each according to his ways, And according to the fruit of his doings;

   20. Who, etc., etc.

   “God, the great,” etc., is connected with shewing mercy and requiting iniquity. His greatness is in counsel or wisdom, and his power or might is manifested in his doings. The ה after doings is the Chaldee for ו Then his omniscience is referred to, as necessary for carrying to effect his purposes and directing his doings. Here he returns to the second person, and the “who” is idiomatic, and the Welsh is exactly the same, Yr hwn y mae dy lygaid, etc.; and the “Who” is continued in the Jeremiah 32:20. In saying that each is to have “according to his ways,” he intimates what Calvin says, that the children like the fathers are guilty. — Ed
Had he continued in the same strain, he would have said, “Thou art God, strong and mighty,” etc., but he says, “Jehovah of hosts is his name.” We then see that the Prophet as it were turns aside; and this change of person, as I have stated, proceeded from the vehemence and ardor of his mind. And it often happens to the faithful, that they break off their direct address when they pray, while they contemplate God’s works, as displaying, now his power, then his goodness, or his wisdom. The faithful then do not always pray in a continued strain; but as feeling guides them, they now address God, then they turn aside and blend apostrophes. It follows, —

He goes on with the same subject, for he expresses his wonder and admiration as to God’s judgments. he first declares that God is great in counsel and great in work By counsel, he understands the wisdom of God, which not only surpasses all our thoughts, but also absorbs them. And then he mentions the execution of his counsel, which affords evidences of that wisdom which appears to us. By the works of God we learn how great and how unequalled is his wisdom: for that in itself cannot be comprehended, nay, men could not have the least knowledge of it, except it were rendered conspicuous by works. The works of God then through their excellency are evidences of his immeasurable wisdom. For this reason and in this sense the Prophet calls God great in counsel and great in work

He adds, that his eyes are open on all the ways of men By these words he intimates that he is the judge of the whole world, and that whatever men may consult, speak, or do, must come to a reckoning. The meaning is, that the providence of God so extends to all parts of the world, that the works of men cannot possibly be hid from him, and that no one can escape his hand; for after having spoken of God’s eyes, he adds, that he may render to every one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings

The Prophet then does not speak here of any idle speculation such as ungodly men entertain; for they confess that all things are seen by God, but imagine that he is satisfied with having only this bare knowledge; and thus they deprive him of the dignity and office of a judge. But the Prophet here shews what the end of God’s providence is, why God has his eyes open, even that he may at last produce at his tribunal all the sayings and doings of men, yea, their thoughts also. We are further taught by these words that our life cannot be rightly formed, unless we bear in mind the presence of God, so as to know that his eyes are on us, and that there is nothing hid from him: for whence is there so much liberty in sinning, except that men grow wanton like fugitives? as when a rebellious son withdraws himself from the eyes of his father, he can then abandon himself wholly to sin, for he is freed from all fear and shame. So our thoughtlessness is like a flight, for we think that we are far removed from God. This then, as I have said, ought always to be remembered, that the eyes of God are open on all our ways, and for this end, — that he may render to every one according to his ways, and that every one may gather the fruit of his own doings.

Though, then, God for a time may connive at what we do, and may not manifestly shew that he is the judge of men, there is no reason that indifference should creep over us, as though we could escape from his hand; but let us know that all our doings and sayings are now noticed by him, that he may hereafter shew that he is not an idle observer, as some ungodly men dream, but that he is an eye-witness of all things, that he may at last appear as our judge.

This passage is turned by Papists for the support of merits by works; but it is a frivolous attempt; for when Scripture declares that it shall be rendered to every one according to his works, it does not exclude the gratuitous mercy of God; and when God renders a reward to the faithful, it depends on gratuitous pardon, because he forgives them whatever would otherwise vitiate their good works: and to speak more exactly, God does not render to the faithful according to their works, except as he gratuitously pardons them and forgives whatever they have done amiss. Reward then depends on the free mercy of God only. As to the wicked, it is no wonder that a just reward is said to be rendered to them;for we know that they are worthy of eternal perdition, and that God is a righteous judge when he punishes their sins. It follows, —

The Prophet here especially commemorates the singular kindness of God, by which he had testified his paternal favor towards his Church. He then says, that signs and wonders had been done by him in the land of Egypt, that: is, for the sake of his people. For why were so many miracles done, except to prove the care he had for his chosen people, and thus to confirm his covenant? We hence see that God’s favor towards the children of Abraham is here set forth, that is, when he refers to the signs and wonders

which had been done in the land of Egypt. And he adds, and in Israel He extols not only God’s power in miracles, but especially the mercy with which he favored his chosen people. He says also, to this day Not that God performed miracles in every age, but he means that they were worthy of being perpetually remembered, and throughout all ages. Then this refers to the remembrance and celebration of God’s power, when the Prophet says, to this day God, indeed, performed miracles at a certain time, but he performed them that they might be remembered in all ages, and that posterity might acknowledge how wonderfully God had dwelt with their fathers. 6666     This is commonly the meaning given to this verse. It may be rendered as follows, —
   20. Who hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, To before signs and wonders to this day Both to Israel and to mankind; And hast made to thyself a name, Such as it is at this day.

   They were “signs” or evidences of God’s power, and in their character “wonders,” that is, supernatural. — Ed.

As then the power which he manifested in Egypt was worthy of being remembered, miracles are said to have been done to this day; and they are said to have been done in Israel, because it was God’s purpose to prove the certainty of his faithfulness when he redeemed his people as he had promised.

He afterwards adds, and among men The Prophet goes on still further. After he had spoken of the redemption of the people, he intimates that wherever he turned himself, he observed and admired the evidences of God’s power, as though he had said, “O Lord, thou hast indeed given peculiar testimonies as to thy wonderful power and goodness; the redemption of thy people was a singular work, and ought to be commemorated through all ages; but wherever we turn ourselves, there is no corner in the whole world where some miracles do not appear, which ought to lead us to celebrate thy praises.” We hence see that the Prophet proceeds from what is particular to what is general: after having considered God’s power and goodness in the redemption of his people, he extended his thoughts to all parts of the world, and contemplated God’s miracles everywhere. And this is what often occurs in Scripture; after having been reminded of some particular instance of divine power or grace, we are carried away so that we make a transition to what is general. And he adds, and thou hast made thee, or acquired to thyself, a name according to this day; that is, thou hast made thy name to be perpetual, as its glory still at this day shines forth before our eyes. Then the Prophet means that God had so wonderfully manifested his power, that the knowledge of it would be perpetual, and could never be buried by the ingratitude of men.

Jeremiah comes now nearer to the point in hand; for, after having spoken of the unequalled power of God, he now extols his righteous judgment in inflicting punishment on an ungodly and wicked people. For this end he refers to the favor of redemption, and he then adds that the land had been given to Israel which had been promised to their fathers. He afterwards states that this favor had been conferred on the ungrateful, for they immediately shook off the yoke and despised God their redeemer, together with his Law.

He then says, that the people had been brought up from the land of Egypt with signs and wonders This is an amplification, for God had in an unusual manner made it sufficiently evident that without his favor the people could not have been delivered from Egypt. For had it not been for the manifest display of God’s power in miracles and wonders, the Israelites might have appropriated to themselves the favor of God, or to some worldly instrumentality; but God’s favor appeared so resplendent in signs and wonders, that the liberation of the people could not have been ascribed either to fortune, or to the efforts of men, or to any other means. And for the same purpose he mentions the strong hand and the extended arm. He intimates by these words, that the people had been so delivered, that the hand of God, yea, his extended arm, openly appeared, that is, his power, as we have explained elsewhere, was manifested far and wide.

He refers at last to great terror: such was the haughtiness of their enemies, that they would have never suffered the people to depart, had they not been filled with great terror. As then the Egyptians had been by terror subdued, Jeremiah amplifies by this circumstance the favor of redemption, as though he had said, that God’s favor was not obscure, because the Israelites might have known by these extraordinary evidences that they were delivered by a divine power. For so great was the power, the valor, and cruelty of their enemies, that no hope of a free departure could have been entertained, had not God put forth his hand from heaven. It afterwards follows, —

Here the fruitfulness of the land is commended, so that the ingratitude of the people for their redemption might appear less excusable. God had already bound them, as it were, more than enough to himself, but when the wealth and fruitfulness of the land were added, the bounty of God was doubled, which, by a stronger and more sacred chain, bound the people to obedience. But when they buried, as it were, both their benefits, their impiety was extreme, and so much baser was their ingratitude. We hence see why the Prophet said that the land was given to the people.

He at the same time mentions the reason, even because it had been promised to their fathers. It is not, however, right to suppose that the fathers had any merits, as Jerome says, who ignorantly perverts this passage; for he says, that nothing was due to the people on the ground of merit; but that the fathers were yet worthy on account of their great virtues. But we know that God’s covenant was from the beginning gratuitous. The Prophet then means here, that the land was not given as a reward rendered to the people for their works, but that it was given them because it had been gratuitously promised. And he mentions the oath, because God, regarding the infirmity of Abraham and the fathers, confirmed by an oath his own promise. But as I have spoken elsewhere more at large on this subject, I touch on it but slightly now. However, whenever there is mention made of an oath, let us know that reproof is indirectly given to the inconstancy of men, who always vacillate, and can never recumb on God’s promise, except they are helped by this confirmation.

However this may be, the Prophet here reminds us that God confirmed the pledge which he had given to the fathers when the people entered into the land, because they could not have obtained it by their valor, or by any other means. In short, Jeremiah calls the attention of the people to God’s gratuitous covenant, that they might understand that they became possessors of the land by no other right than this, — that God of his own free will had promised to Abraham and his seed that he would give them that land. He speaks, as I have just said, of the fruitfulness of the land, because it was God’s design to allure the people in every way, that they might continue in his service. And when the people, thus bountifully dealt with, did not acknowledge God’s favor, their extreme and base stupidity was fully proved. What the Prophet then means is, that the land was most fruitful, in which the people had all abundance, and that yet they despised God the giver of so much bounty, according to what immediately follows —

The Prophet in this verse confesses that. God’s vengeance was just, when the people were cast out of the land and driven into exile, because they, after having entered into the land, did not obey the voice of God. The very sight of the land ought to have made the people obedient to God; for they could not have eaten a crumb of bread, without being always reminded whence their food came, even because God had expelled the Gentiles from that land. When, therefore, they were filled with all kinds of good things, and at the same time despised God, no excuse could have been pretended; for if they made ignorance their pretense, the very land itself was before their eyes, which recalled them to the fear of God. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet joins those two things together, that the Israelites entered into the land, and that they disobeyed the voice of God

Now, by this clause he intimates that they had not fallen through ignorance, because God had sufficiently made known his will. God had indeed spoken, but it was to the deaf. The Prophet then here shews that there was no other cause for the sin of the people, but that they obstinately refused to attend to the voice of God.

Then he adds for the same purpose, that they had not walked in his Law The Law is often compared to a way; for except God prescribes to us what his will is, and regulates all the actions of our life according to a certain rule, we should be perpetually going astray. God’s Law, then, is justly said to be like a way, according to what Moses also speaks,

“This is the way, walk ye in it.”
(Deuteronomy 5:33; see also Isaiah 30:21)

Then Jeremiah, after having shewn that the people had been taught, mentions this, — that the way had been made known to them, so that they went astray knowingly and wilfully; for they could not have turned aside either to the right hand or to the left without being called back by the doctrine of the Law.

He says, in the third place, What thou hast commanded them to do they did not He explains here the same thing more clearly and without any figurative expression, even that they had been unwilling to obey God, while yet they sufficiently understood what was right; for the Law suffered them not to go astray, and God had included in it everything necessary to be known. The Prophet then shews that they had not turned aside except through perverseness, because they knew what God required. As a certain Lacedaemonian said, that the Athenians knew what was right, but were unwilling to do it; so the Prophet in this place distinguishes the open impiety and contempt of the people from ignorance and inadvertence, and does not mean that the people did not satisfy all the precepts of the Law.

And this passage also Jerome explains very absurdly; for he says that the Israelites did not stand to their promises, because they had said that they would do whatever God commanded. But the Prophet here does not condemn them as to one thing only, as though he had said that there had been some defect, but he says that they had been wholly disobedient, for they had not despised only one precept of the Law, but had as it were designedly cast aside the whole Law, and obeyed none of God’s commandments. Then this negative sets forth the defection of the people as to the whole law, and as to every precept of it.

And this passage is worthy of special notice, because the Prophet advisedly repeats the same thing, — that the people had not walked in the Law, — that they had not obeyed the voice of God, that they had done nothing of what had been commanded; 6767     There is this difference between these three things: the “voice” was that of God by his prophets, — the “law” was the ten commandments, — and “all which” had been “commanded” were the statutes and ordinances, the civil and ceremonial appointments. To “hearken to his voice,” rather than to obey it, is what is meant: so far from obeying it, they would not hear the Prophets. This had been throughout their sin. — Ed. for a heavier condemnation and vengeance await those who have been faithfully taught what pleases God and what is right, and yet follow their own will, and are carried away by the passions and lusts of the flesh. In a word, Jeremiah points out the highest pitch of impiety, that is, when people clearly and familiarly know what the will of God is, and yet disregard it and shake off the yoke, and thus shew manifestly a contempt for the whole Law.

It follows, Therefore thou hast made to come on them all this evil The Prophet here testifies that whatever had happened to the people, was not by chance, but that a reward was rendered to their sins. Men in some measure acknowledge God’s judgments, but this acknowledgment presently vanishes. Wisely then does the Prophet here shew that God’s vengeance is evident in adversities, and that the people thus received the reward which they had deserved. It now follows, —

Here then at length the Prophet discovers his own perplexity. We have already stated the reason why he made so long an introduction before he came to the main thing: it was necessary for him to put on as it were a bridle; for except we restrain our thoughts, we shall become petulant against God, and there will be no moderation. The Prophet then, that he might not peevishly expostulate with God, set before himself his immeasurable power, and then he added that nothing happens except through his righteous vengeance. He now however asks, how it was, that he was bidden to buy the field when the city and the whole country were delivered up into their enemies. He then mentions here this inconsistency, and confesses that his mind was embarrassed, for he could not discover why God had bidden him to buy the field, and yet had determined to drive the people into exile and to scatter them into remote lands. But we have said that the Prophet was fully persuaded of God’s truth; and hence it was that he was so willing and ready to obey; for he made no delay in buying the field; and he afterwards laid up with Baruch the writings of the purchase. But after having performed all this, he brought a complaint against God; and as the thing appeared unreasonable, he desired this knot to be untied.

He then says, Behold the mounts, or, the warlike engines, for the word may mean either. The word סללות sallut, often means mounts; but as mention is made here of a siege, the Prophet seems to refer, as we have said in the sixth chapter, to warlike engines or battering rams. And there were engines to beat down walls; great stones or a number of stones were also cast. I am therefore inclined to the opinion of those who consider that they were either engines to shoot stones and darts, or battering rams. Behold, then, he says, there are moved to the city battering rams to take it, and the city is delivered up to the Chaldeans It was, it seems, the tenth year of Zedekiah, and at the beginning of the eleventh month the city was taken. But the Prophet is the best interpreter of his own words, and what he means may be easily gathered from the context, for he says that the city was taken by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; as though he had said, that though the enemies had not as yet entered into the city, yet it was all over with it, that there was no hope remaining, because it was not only assailed by arms and a powerful force, but it had also enemies within, which pressed hard on it, even famine and the pestilence As then a great number had already been consumed by pestilence and famine, the Prophet says, that though, the enemies should cease to assail it, and make no forcible entrance into it, yet it was all over with it, because the pestilence and famine had so prevailed, that there was no hope of deliverance. By these words he intimates an extremity of despair; and hence also arose the thought which tormented the mind of the Prophet, that it appeared wholly unreasonable that God should bid him to buy the field when the city had been already delivered up into the power of enemies.

He adds, and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it He confirms what he had just said, even that the destruction of the city did not otherwise happen than through God’s judgment. And he confirms it, because whatever then happened, had already been testified during the time of the Prophet himself. And it hence appeared, that the city was not distressed through chance, because God had foretold nothing by his servants but what he had decreed and resolved to do. Then the ruin of Jerusalem was the work of God, of which he had foretold by his servants. For these two things ought to be joined together — the mouth of God and the hand of God. Nor is it lawful to imagine such a thing as some fanatics do, that God sees from heaven whatever is done on earth, and yet continues in an idle state. But he decrees what is right, and then when it is necessary, he testifies it by his servants the Prophets. However, the mouth of God ought not to be separated from his hand. The Prophet then shews that the destruction of the city was the righteous judgment of God, because the Prophets had previously spoken of it.

The words, thou seest it, refer to the preceding sentence, or to that which immediately follows, even because it seemed inconsistent or unreasonable that the Prophet should buy the field as God commanded, and yet that God knew that the land was possessed by enemies, and that the people were to be driven into exile. Since then God had resolved to cast out the people from the land, how was it that he had bidden his servant to buy the field? Had all this been unknown to God, the inconsistency would not have been so evident But when God perfectly knew that what he had so often proclaimed as to the exile by his Prophets could not be changed, what could be his purpose in bidding the field to be bought and the purchase to be confirmed by witnesses, when yet the city was delivered up to enemies? Jeremiah, after having mentioned the substance of his prayer, now adds the answer he received from God, in which is seen the fruit of his prayer, even that he had been taught what had regard to the deliverance and return of the people, in order that the faithful might entertain hope, and also that they, relying on the promise, might cheerfully bear their exile until the prefixed time came. The words are these, —

We have already said that the verb פלא pela, admits of two meanings; it means to be hid and to be wonderful, and hence by a metaphor it means what is difficult and impossible. Many take it to mean here, that nothing escapes the observation of God. But as I have said in the last lecture, I am more inclined to refer it to God’s power, even that all things are in the hand and at the pleasure of God, so that there is no difficulty in his way. For whence comes to men so much anxiety, except that they are stopped by obstacles? but God can surmount all obstacles without any labor. That our minds then may not be perplexed, rightly is set before us the power of God.

And this meaning is most suitable to this passage: for Jeremiah, when that which seemed inconsistent occurred to him, was constrained to cast his anxiety as it were into the bosom of God. Then God, in order to relieve him, says that nothing is difficult to him, because he is the God of all flesh. Though by the words all flesh, the Scripture often means all kinds of animals, yet oftener the human race only. I do not, however, refinedly explain this passage, as though God did set the Gentiles in opposition to the Jews, and thus denied that he would be any longer the God of Abraham’s children, because he had repudiated them on account of their sins; but he says that he is in an especial manner the king of the whole earth, and rules over the whole human race. As God then, he says, is the God of all flesh, can anything be impssible to him?

The import of the answer is, that though God would bring to an end the seventy years of exile, yet there was no reason for hypocrites to gather encouragement, for this promise did not belong to them. God then speaks here, in the first place, of his vengeance, in order to fill the despisers of his Law with dread, and to intimate that they were excluded from the favor of redemption, he afterwards adds, that he would at length be merciful to the exiles; but this favor is confined to the elect and faithful alone.

The two parts of the answer ought then to be noticed, for God seems here to set in opposition one to another two contrary things. But as I have said, in the former clause, he has in view the hypocrites, who applied to themselves, without faith and repentance, what the Prophet had testified of restoration. God then sets forth here his extreme severity, and then he mitigates that rigor; but he then turns his discourse to the elect, because they alone were capable of receiving his favor.

Let us now come to the words, I will deliver this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of King Nebuchadnezar, and he will take it this purpose was, that what Jeremiah himself had predicted by his command, should remain unalterable, that the city could not be delivered. For it might have disturbed the mind of the Prophet were the Jews shortly after to be delivered, and were the siege of the city to be raised: he might, in that case, have been exposed to ridicule, together with his prophecies, and rashness might have been objected to him, because he had dared to announce in God’s name what we before noticed. For this reason and purpose God declares that nothing could be changed, for the Chaldeans were to take the city; and thus he bids the Prophet to retain a quiet mind, and not to disturb himself, as though it was his intention to expose his prophecies to ridicule; for God’s sacred name would thus have been subjected to many reproaches. Had Jeremiah been proved guilty of falsehood, what would have been the consequence, but that the Jews would have insolently triumphed over God? God then declares again that the city was given over to destruction.

And therefore he adds, enter in shall the Chaldeans who assail the city; for he does not say that they would come, but he confirms in other words what he had said; Break then into the city shall the Chaldeans, though it was closed up and fortified; and shall set on fire this city It was not without purpose that he mentioned the word city so often; for as it was the sanctuary of God, and the royal seat, the Jews thought that it was impregnable, and that the sun could be sooner cast down from heaven than that; enemies could take possession of it: in order then to subvert this false confidence, God often mentioned the word city. He at last adds, that the Chaldeans would burn it, as though he had said, that whatever Jeremiah had predicted would certainly be fulfilled, not only respecting the attack on the city, but also its destruction, so that not a stone would be left on a stone, but that there would be a dreadful desolation until the time of its restoration. The rest to-morrow.

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