a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

4. Unfaithful Israel

If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove. 2And thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.

3For thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. 4Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. 5Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities. 6Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. 7The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant. 8For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the Lord is not turned back from us. 9And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the Lord, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder. 10Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall have peace; whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul. 11At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse, 12 Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them. 13Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled. 14O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? 15For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim. 16Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah. 17As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the Lord. 18Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart.

19My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trump, the alarm of war. 20Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment. 21How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? 22For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. 23I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. 24I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. 25I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. 26I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger. 27For thus hath the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end. 28For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it. 29The whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; they shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks: every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein. 30And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life. 31For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers.

The Prophet again teaches us, that the cause of these evils arose from the people themselves, and was to be found in them, so that they could not transfer it to anybody else. Hence he says, My people are foolish. He speaks here in the person of God; for it immediately follows, Me have they not known: this could not have been said by Jeremiah. God then complains here of the folly of his people; whom he so calls, not by way of honor, but that he might double their reproach; for nothing could have been more disgraceful than that the people, whom God had chosen as his peculiar inheritance, should be thus demented: for why had God chosen the seed of Abraham as his adopted children, but that they might be as lamps, carrying through the world the light of salvation?

“What people in the world, “says Moses, “are so noble, who have gods so near them?” He says also, “This is thy knowledge and wisdom.” (Deuteronomy 4:6, 7.)

God then shews here that it was a monstrous thing, which all should regard with abhorrence, that his people should be foolish; as though he had said, “Can it be that a people whom I have chosen for myself, and with whom I have deposited the covenant of eternal salvation, whom I have instructed by my word — that this people should so madly ruin themselves?”

The people, then, are foolish, because they have not known me. He here expresses what was the cause of the foolishness or blindness of the people, even because they did not know God; for the knowledge of him is true wisdom. Now God thus shews that the madness of the people was inexcusable. How so? because he had made himself so familiarly known to them, that the Israelites had no occasion to ask, as Moses says, Who shall ascend into heaven, or who shall descend into the deep? for the word was set before them. (Deuteronomy 30:12-14.) As, then, God had so kindly manifested himself to the Jews, he justly complains that he was not known by them.

There are then here two things to be noticed; first, the kind of madness that is here mentioned, — the people did not know God. And we hence learn that then only are we wise when we fear God, and that we are always mad and senseless when we regard him not. This is one thing. Secondly, we must know that no excuse of ignorance or mistake was allowed to that people, for God had made himself known to them. And this may be applied to us: God will justly upbraid us at the last day, that we have been foolish and mad, if we are without the knowledge of him; for we have the means, as I have said, of knowing him; and there is no excuse that we can plead for our ignorance, since God has not spoken to us in an obscure manner. God in these words accused the Jews of ingratitude, and of deliberate wickedness, because they knew him not. But since God has at this day made himself more fully known to us, it is, as I have said, a heavier condemnation to us, and our punishment will thus be doubled, if we know not God, who is so kind to us, and deals with us so graciously.

Then he adds, that they were foolish children, and not intelligent. The antithesis in Hebrew is more emphatical than in Greek and Latin; for to say, “He is foolish, and not wise, “would be in Greek and Latin frigid, as the last clause would be weaker than the former. But in Hebrew it is different; for in this way is conveyed the idea, that they were so foolish that not even the least portion of a sound mind remained in them. Even those who are foolish and senseless do yet retain some knowledge, however small it may be: hence they say, that the foolish often speak what is suitable. But the Prophet means another thing, — that the Jews were not only senseless and stupid, but that they were so destitute of all knowledge, that they were like stones or brute animals, and that they had not a particle of sound mind or of rational knowledge remaining in them. 118118     The specific meaning of the terms used in this verse is not given in our version, nor by Calvin, nor by Blayney. The following, as I apprehend, is a literal version, —
   For stupid are my people, Me they do not know; Foolish children are they, And undiscerning are they; Wise are they to do evil, But how to do good they know not.

   “Stupid,” אויל, is one grossly ignorant, so as to be without knowledge, and not capable of knowing how to do good, or what is the good to be done. The last line explains the two first. Then “foolish,” סכלים, are the perverse, or the perverted, who are foolish through a perverted mind, who are said in the next line to be undiscerning, and who, as in the line which follows, had wisdom enough to do evil. They were stupidly ignorant, and perversely foolish. They were ignorant as to good, and wise as to evil; but this their wisdom was folly. — Ed
The rest we shall defer to another time.

VIEWNAME is study