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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?


God shews here why he had said that the people were foolish and without understanding. It was indeed a monstrous stupidity, not to fear at the presence of God, since even inanimate elements obey his bidding: and he takes the sea especially as an example; for there is nothing more terrific than a tempestuous sea. It appears as if it would overwhelm the whole world, when its waves swell with so much violence. No one can in this case do otherwise than tremble. But the sea itself, which makes the stoutest to tremble, quietly obeys God; for however furious may be its tossings, they are yet under restraint. Now, if any inquires how this is, it must be confessed to be a miracle which cannot be accounted for; for the sea, we know, as other elements, is spherical. As the earth is round, so also is the element of water, as well as the air and fire. Since then the form of this element is spherical, we must know that it is not lower than the earth: but it being lighter than the earth shews that it stands above it. How then comes it that the sea does not overflow the whole earth? for it is a liquid, and cannot stand in one place, except retained by some secret power of God. It hence follows, that the sea is confined to its own place, because of God’s appointment, according to what is said by Moses,

“Let the dry land,” said God, “appear,” (Genesis 1:9:)

for he intimates that the earth was covered with water, and no part of it appeared, until God formed the sea. Now the word of God, though it is not heard by us, nor resounds in the air, is yet heard by the sea; for the sea is confined within its own limits. Were the sea tranquil, it would still be a wonderful work of God, as he has given the earth to be the habitation of men: but when it is moved, as I have said, by a tempest, and heaven and earth seem to blend together, there is no one, being nigh such a sight, who does not feel dread. Hence then the power of God, and his dread might, appear more evident when he calms the turbulent sea.

We now see the scope of the Prophet’s words: He shews that the Jews were monsters, and unworthy not only to be counted men, but even to be classed with brute animals; for there was more sense and understanding in the tempestuous and raging sea than in men, who seemed endued with reason and understanding. This is the design of the comparison.

But as it was a heavy complaint, the Prophet asks a question, Will ye not fear me? As though God had said, “What do you mean? How is it that I am not feared by you? The sea obeys me, and its fury is checked by my secret bidding; for I have once for all commanded the sea to remain within its own limits, and though it may be violently agitated by storms and tempests, it does not yet exceed my orders. Will not you men, endowed with reason, fear me? will you not tremble at my presence?” And he says, that he had set the sand to be the boundary of the sea: and this is much more expressive than if he had said that he had set boundaries to the sea; for the sand is movable and driven by a small breath of wind, and the sand is also penetrable. Were there rocks along all the shores of the sea, it would not be so wonderful. Had God then restrained the violence of the sea by firm and strong mounds, the keeping of it within its limits might be ascribed to nature; but what firmness is there in sand? for a little water thrown on it will soon penetrate through it. How then is it, that the sea, when tossed by violent storms, does not remove the sand, which is so easily shifted? We hence see that this word is not in vain introduced. And there is a similar passage in Job 38:11, where God, speaking of his infinite power, says among other things,

“Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further:”

for doubtless no storm arises, except when it pleases God. He might indeed keep the sea in the same quiet state; but he does not do so: on the contrary, he gives it as it were loose reins, but he says, “Hitherto shall it come.” When therefore high mountains seem to threaten all mortals, and the earth seems nigh an overthrow, then suddenly the impetuous waves are repressed and become calm.

And he adds, A perpetual ordinance It is indeed true that the sea sometimes overflows its limits; for many cities, we know, have been swallowed up by a flood; but still it is rightly said, that it is a perpetual ordinance or decree, that God confines the sea within its own limits. For whenever the sea overflows a small portion of land, we hence learn what it might do without that restraint, mentioned here by Jeremiah and in the book of Job. We hence learn, that there is nothing to hinder the sea from overflowing the whole earth, but the command of God which it obeys. In the mean time the perpetuity of which the Prophet speaks remains generally the same: for though many storms arise every year, yet the fury of the sea is still quieted, but not otherwise than by the command of God. True then is this — that the sea has prescribed limits, over which its waves are not permitted to pass. And hence he says, Move themselves and not prevail shall its waves; and again, Resound, or tumultuate shall they, and shall not pass over 150150     The reference seems to be to the decree or ordinance, and not to the boundary: therefore “transgress” is the most suitable word. I would render the verse thus, —
   22. Should you not fear me? saith Jehovah; Ought you not at my presence to tremble? Who have set the sand a boundary to the sea. — An ordinance perpetual, and it transgresses it not; Though toss themselves and prevail not, and roar do its waves, Yet it does not transgress it.

   The future tense in Hebrew may be often rendered subjunctively or potentially, and especially in questions. The non-transgressor is the sea — the non-transgressor of the decree, notwithstanding the tumult of its waves. “An ordinance perpetual” is rendered “πρόσταγμα αἰώνιον — an everlasting command,” by the Septuagint, — “praeceptum sempiternum — a sempiternal precept,“ by the Vulgate and the Targum, — and “lege perpetua — by a perpetual law,“ by the Syriac. A perpetual ordinance is the version of Blayney.Ed.

We now apprehend the design of this verse: God complains, that there was so much madness and stupidity in the people, that they did not obey him as much as the sea, even the stormy sea. He then condemns here the Jews, as though they were monsters; for nothing can be more contrary to nature than for the tempestuous sea to have more understanding than man, created in God’s image and endued with reason. He then adds —

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