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The Utter Corruption of God’s People


Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,

look around and take note!

Search its squares and see

if you can find one person

who acts justly

and seeks truth—

so that I may pardon Jerusalem.


Although they say, “As the L ord lives,”

yet they swear falsely.


O L ord, do your eyes not look for truth?

You have struck them,

but they felt no anguish;

you have consumed them,

but they refused to take correction.

They have made their faces harder than rock;

they have refused to turn back.



Then I said, “These are only the poor,

they have no sense;

for they do not know the way of the L ord,

the law of their God.


Let me go to the rich

and speak to them;

surely they know the way of the L ord,

the law of their God.”

But they all alike had broken the yoke,

they had burst the bonds.



Therefore a lion from the forest shall kill them,

a wolf from the desert shall destroy them.

A leopard is watching against their cities;

everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces—

because their transgressions are many,

their apostasies are great.



How can I pardon you?

Your children have forsaken me,

and have sworn by those who are no gods.

When I fed them to the full,

they committed adultery

and trooped to the houses of prostitutes.


They were well-fed lusty stallions,

each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.


Shall I not punish them for these things?

says the L ord;

and shall I not bring retribution

on a nation such as this?



Go up through her vine-rows and destroy,

but do not make a full end;

strip away her branches,

for they are not the L ord’s.


For the house of Israel and the house of Judah

have been utterly faithless to me,

says the L ord.


They have spoken falsely of the L ord,

and have said, “He will do nothing.

No evil will come upon us,

and we shall not see sword or famine.”


The prophets are nothing but wind,

for the word is not in them.

Thus shall it be done to them!



Therefore thus says the L ord, the God of hosts:

Because they have spoken this word,

I am now making my words in your mouth a fire,

and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them.


I am going to bring upon you

a nation from far away, O house of Israel,

says the L ord.

It is an enduring nation,

it is an ancient nation,

a nation whose language you do not know,

nor can you understand what they say.


Their quiver is like an open tomb;

all of them are mighty warriors.


They shall eat up your harvest and your food;

they shall eat up your sons and your daughters;

they shall eat up your flocks and your herds;

they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees;

they shall destroy with the sword

your fortified cities in which you trust.


18 But even in those days, says the L ord, I will not make a full end of you. 19And when your people say, “Why has the L ord our God done all these things to us?” you shall say to them, “As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve strangers in a land that is not yours.”



Declare this in the house of Jacob,

proclaim it in Judah:


Hear this, O foolish and senseless people,

who have eyes, but do not see,

who have ears, but do not hear.


Do you not fear me? says the L ord;

Do you not tremble before me?

I placed the sand as a boundary for the sea,

a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;

though the waves toss, they cannot prevail,

though they roar, they cannot pass over it.


But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;

they have turned aside and gone away.


They do not say in their hearts,

“Let us fear the L ord our God,

who gives the rain in its season,

the autumn rain and the spring rain,

and keeps for us

the weeks appointed for the harvest.”


Your iniquities have turned these away,

and your sins have deprived you of good.


For scoundrels are found among my people;

they take over the goods of others.

Like fowlers they set a trap;

they catch human beings.


Like a cage full of birds,

their houses are full of treachery;

therefore they have become great and rich,


they have grown fat and sleek.

They know no limits in deeds of wickedness;

they do not judge with justice

the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper,

and they do not defend the rights of the needy.


Shall I not punish them for these things?

says the L ord,

and shall I not bring retribution

on a nation such as this?



An appalling and horrible thing

has happened in the land:


the prophets prophesy falsely,

and the priests rule as the prophets direct;

my people love to have it so,

but what will you do when the end comes?


In this verse, as in those which follow, God shews that he was not too rigid or too severe in denouncing utter ruin on his people, because their wickedness was wholly incurable, and no other mode of treating them could be found. We, indeed, know that it is often testified in Scripture, that God is patient and waits until sinners repent. Since then God everywhere extols his kindness, and promises to be merciful even to the worst if they repent, and since he of his own accord anticipates sinners, it may appear strange that he rises with so much severity against his own Church. But we know how refractory the ungodly are; and hence they hesitate not to expostulate with God, and willfully accuse him, as though he treated them with cruelty. It is then for this reason, that God now shews that he was not, as it were, at liberty to forgive the people; “Even if I would, “he says, “I could not.” He speaks, indeed, after the manner of men; but in this way, as I have said, he shews that he tried all expedients, before he had recourse to extreme severity, but that there was no remedy, on account of the desperate wickedness of the people. And this is what the words fully express.

Go round, 128128     Our version is, “Run ye to and fro,” which has been taken from the Septuagint-περιδρύμετε; but this is a more correct rendering. The Vulgate is “circuite — go round;” the Syriac is the same. “Streets” were the narrow ones, the lanes; and what Calvin renders “the cross-ways,“ and our version “broad places,“ were the wide streets, or the squares. In the former the poor people lived, and in the latter the great people, the chief men of the city. The examination was to extend to all the inhabitants. First, it takes place as to the poor in the lanes, and afterwards among the higher orders in the wide streets. The whole verse might be thus rendered, —
   1. Go ye round through the narrow streets of Jerusalem, And see, I pray, and know; Yea, seek in the broad streets; If ye can find a man, if there be any, Who doeth justice, who seeks faithfulness, Then will I spare it.

   The ו after אםmay be often rendered “Then;” and this passage requires it to be so rendered. “That I may pardon her” is Blayney’s version; but this hardly corresponds with the former part; “If,” and “that,” form no connection. — Ed
he says, through the streets of Jerusalem, and see, I pray, and know; inquire through all the cross-ways Jeremiah might have said in one sentence, “If one man be found in the city, I am ready to forgive: “but God here permits the whole world to inquire diligently and carefully what was the state of the holy city, which ever gloried in that title. But he now, as also in the next verse, speaks of Jerusalem. He had spoken also of the neighboring cities; but as the holiness of the whole land seemed then to have its seat and habitation at Jerusalem, God here addresses that city, which as yet retained some appearance of sanctity, and excelled other cities. He then says, Inquire, see, know, look, whether there is a man, etc. He allows here all men to form a judgment, as though he had said, “Let all be present, since the Jews seek to create an ill-will towards me, and complain of too much rigor, as though I treated them unhumanly; let all who wish come as judges, let them inquire, ask, make a thorough search; and when it shall be found out that there is not in it even one just man, what else can be done, but that the city must be destroyed? for what can be done to the abandoned and irreclaimable, except I execute my judgment on them?”

We now understand the Prophet’s object; for he intended here to shut the mouths of the Jews, and to expose their slanders, that they might not clamor against God or blame his judgment, as though it exceeded the limits of moderation: and he shews also, that though God was disposed to pardon, there was yet no place for pardon, and that his mercy was excluded by their untamable obstinacy, since there was not one man in Jerusalem who had any regard for uprightness.

Here, however, a question may be started, Why does Jeremiah say that no good man could be found, since he himself was at Jerusalem, and his friend Baruch, and some others, an account of whom we shall hereafter find? There were then in the city some true servants of God, and some as yet remained who had true religion, though the number was small. It appears then that the language is hyperbolical.

But we must observe, that the Prophet here speaks of the people to the exclusion of the faithful. That this may appear more evident, we must remember a passage in the eighth chapter of Isaiah,

“Seal the law and bind the testimony for my disciples,”
(Isaiah 8:16;)

where it appears that God saw that he sent his Prophet in vain, and that his labors were spent in vain among a people wholly irreclaimable. Hence he says, “Bind the testimony and seal the law among the disciples.” We see that God gathered as it were together the few in whom remained any seed of true religion, yea, in whose hearts any religion was found. They were not then numbered with the people. So now Jeremiah did not consider Baruch and a few others as forming a part of that reprobate people; and he speaks, as it has been stated, of the community in general; for there were some separated from the rest, not only by the secret counsel of God, but according to the judgment that had been pronounced. He hence truly declares, that there was not one just man.

We ought also to consider with whom he was then contending. On the one side were the king and his counselors, who, inflated with the promises, which they perverted, did not think it possible that the throne of David would fall.

“This is my rest for ever — As long as the sun and moon shall be, they shall be my witnesses in heaven, that thy seed shall never fail.” (Psalm 132:14; Psalm 89:37, 38.)

With such words were they armed. But as hypocrites falsely claim God’s promises, so these unprincipled men boasted that God was on their side. Jeremiah had also to fight with another party, as we shall hereafter see, that is, with a host of false prophets; for there was a greater number of them, as is ever to be found in the world. The whole priestly order was corrupt, and openly carrying on war with God; and the people were nothing better. Jeremiah then had to contend with the king and his counselors, with the false prophets, with the ungodly priests, and with the wicked people. So he says, that there was not one man among them who engaged himself in appeasing God’s wrath.

To seek judgment is the same thing as to labor for uprightness: for the word משפט, meshephet means rectitude, or equity, or the rule of acting justly. He says then, that there was no one who practiced what was just; that there was no one who sought the truth Truth, as in a verse that follows, is to be taken for integrity, honesty; as though he had said, that all were given to falsehoods and frauds and crafts. It was therefore impossible that God should have been propitious to the city; for the relative ה after ל, being of the feminine gender, cannot be otherwise applied than to Jerusalem. God then says, that he would be merciful to it, if there could be found a just man among the king’s counselors, or among the priests, or among the prophets: but they had all united together in opposition to everything just and right. It follows —

Jeremiah 5:2

2. And though they say, The Lord liveth; surely they swear falsely.

2. Etsi, vivit Jehova, dixerint, ob id in vanum (vel, fallaciter) jurabunt.


This is added by way of anticipation; for the Jews, as it is well known, thought that they had a cover for all their vices, inasmuch as they had God’s name continually in their mouths. Since then they professed to worship the God of Abraham, they thought that this pretext was sufficient to cover all their wickedness. The Prophet obviates this objection, and shews that this disguise was of no avail, because in thus using God’s name, they profaned it: and he goes still further; for he shews that the Jews, not only in common practice, were wholly destitute of the fear of God, but that when anything of a religious kind appeared among them, it was sacrilegious; and this is far worse than when God’s name is forgotten, and wretched men allow themselves a full license in sinning, as though they could not conceal their wickedness: for when they openly provoke God, and as it were dishonor him to his face, how detestable and how monstrous is their impiety! This then is what Jeremiah sets forth, Though they say, Live does Jehovah, yet in this they swear falsely

We now perceive the Prophet’s meaning: In the first place, he takes away from hypocrites their vain confidence in thinking that God would be propitious to them, provided they avowed his name, without considering how precious God’s name is, but regarding it as nothing to swear carelessly by his name: but the Prophet not only condemns the hypocrisy of the Jews, but, as I have said, he enhances their wickedness; for they hesitated not to profane God’s sacred name, and to carry on, as it were, an open war with him, by abusing his name in swearing.

By mentioning, Live does Jehovah, he refers to the words which the godly also use when they make an oath; for when they appeal to the living God, it is the same thing as though they stood before his tribunal; and at the same time said, that they knew that though God may defer his vengeance, yet an account must be given, because he ever lives. Thus the godly acknowledge that there is nothing gained by delay, in case God suspends his vengeance, if they swear falsely. But the Prophet, as I have already said, applies this to hypocrites, who seemed to ascribe great honor to God, for nothing is more specious than their words: gall indeed was in their heart, while honey was on their lips. Hence the Prophet derides this false pretense, and says, “Even when they swear most solemnly as to the words used, and shew a high concern for religion, nevertheless they swear falsely.” Some render לכן, lacen, surely, or certainly; but the meaning will be plainer, if we render it “nevertheless.” 129129     There are many MSS. which have אכן, “surely, “but לכןmay also be so rendered; yet, as “nevertheless” is its meaning, in Jeremiah 16:14, and other places, it may be so taken here. The Septuagint must have read לא כן, and the sentence is a question, “Do they not thus swear falsely?” But the early versions favor the present reading; and it gives a suitable meaning, —
   And though “Live does Jehovah, “they say, Nevertheless falsely do they swear.

   The verbs are in the future tense, but used to express present acts, as is the case often in Hebrew, and also very commonly in Welsh. The words in the latter language might be expressed exactly as in the former, and be understood as speaking of what is present, —

   Ac er “Byw yw Jehova” a ddywedant,
Etto yn gelwyddog y tyngant

   — Ed.
It follows —

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