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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?


Some give a strained exposition of the beginning of the verse, or rather pervert it, as though the Prophet had said, that God would not turn his eyes from what was right, because he would rigidly execute his vengeance on his people. But Jeremiah goes on here with the same subject, for there is no importance to be attached to the division of the verses. They who have divided them have often unknowingly perverted the meaning. The divisions then are not to be heeded, only the number is to be retained as a help to the memory; but as to the context, they often are a hindrance to readers; for it is preposterous to blend things which are separate, and to divide what is connected. This remark has just now occurred to me, and it is necessary, as this place calls for it; for the Prophet, after having said that the Jews were perfidious and guilty of duplicity, and destitute of all integrity, immediately adds, But the eyes of God regard fidelity; as though he had said, that they in vain pretended to avow God’s name, and made a shew of religion by ceremonies and by an outward display; for God searches the heart, and cares nothing for those external masks by which men’s eyes are captivated.

The Prophet very significantly turns his discourse to God, to shew that he was wearied in addressing the people, for he saw that he prevailed nothing with the obstinate; for had there been any teachable spirit in the Jews, he would no doubt have exhorted them to practice integrity. He might have said, “They are mistaken who swear falsely in God’s name, and persuade themselves that he will be their Father; for his eyes regard fidelity and uprightness of heart.” This would have been a regular way of proceeding, and this mode of teaching would have been most suitable: but Jeremiah abruptly breaks off his address, and leaves his own people; “O God, “he says, “thy eyes look on fidelity;” as though he had said, “What more can I have to do with this wretched people? I address words to rocks and stones: therefore I bid you adieu, and shall have no more to do with you; I will now turn to God.” We now see how much more forcible and striking is this turning from the people to God, than if the Prophet continued his address to the Jews, and sought to instruct them: for he now shews that he was broken down with weariness; for he saw that his labor was useless, and that all whom he had addressed were altogether refractory: nor did he, at the same time, intend to speak these words at random, and to no purpose; nay, his object was more sharply to touch those who were stupid, by letting them know that he left off addressing them, because he had no hope respecting them.

But what I have said elsewhere ought to be borne in mind, — that the Prophets did not write all that they preached, but collected the substance of what they had delivered to the people; and this collection now forms the prophetic books. There is therefore no doubt but that Jeremiah had spoken at large on repentance, — that he had exposed the sins of hypocrites, — that he had denuded the fallacious pretences of the people, — and that he had severely reproved their obstinacy. But after having done all these things, he found it necessary to desist from pursuing his course, for he saw that no fruit could be hoped from his labors and his preaching. Now, when the Jews knew this, they ought to have been deeply affected; and this ought to be the case with us now, when we see that God’s Spirit is provoked by our perverseness; and as this is a dreadful thing, it is what ought more than anything else to touch our hearts. Consider what it is: God daily invites us most kindly to himself; but when he sees that our hearts and heads are so extremely hard, he leaves us, because we grieve his Spirit, as it is said by Isaiah. (Isaiah 63:10.) It was not, then, an usual or common mode of teaching which the Prophet adopted; but it was calculated to have more effect than plain instruction; for he shews that the wickedness of the people could no longer be endured.

Jehovah, he says, thine eyes, are they not on the truth? In this address to God there is an implied contrast between God and men. The most wicked, we know, flatter themselves while they can retain the good opinion and applause of the world; and as long as they continue in honor, they slumber in their vices. This foolish confidence is what the Prophet evidently exposes; for he intimates that the eyes of God are different from those of mortals: men can see a very little way, hardly three fingers before them; but God penetrates into the inmost and the most hidden recesses of the heart: and the Prophet speaks thus of God’s eyes, in order to shew how worthless are the opinions of men, who regard only a splendid outward appearance. By truth, the Prophet means, as in the first verse, integrity of heart. Hence without reason do they philosophize here, who seek to prove from this passage that we are made acceptable to God by faith only; for the Prophet does not speak of the faith by which we embrace free reconciliation with God, and become members of Christ. The meaning indeed is in no way obscure, which is this — that God cares not for that external splendor by which men are captivated, according to what is said in 1 Samuel 16:7,

“Man sees what appears outwardly; but God looks on the heart.”

There the Holy Spirit expresses the same thing by “heart” as he does here by fidelity or “truth.” For Samuel shews that David’s father was mistaken, because he brought forward his sons who excelled in their outward appearance: “Man sees, “he says, “what appears outwardly; but God looks on the heart.”

We now understand the true meaning of the Prophet, — that though hypocrites flatter themselves, and the whole world encourage them by their adulations, all this will not avail them; for they must at last come before the tribunal of God, and that before God truth only will be approved and honored.

He afterwards adds, Thou hast smitten them, and they have not grieved The Prophet reproves here the hardness of the people; for they had been smitten, but they repented not. Experience, as they say, is the teacher of fools; and it is an old proverb, that fools, when corrected, become wise. Both poets and historians have uttered such sayings. Since, then, the Jews had such a perverse disposition, that even scourges did not lead them to repentance, it was an evidence of extreme wickedness. And thus the Prophet here confirms what he had said before, that God would be merciful to them, if one just man could be found in the city: he confirms that declaration when he says, “Thou hast smitten them, but they have not grieved.” The Jews, no doubt, groaned under their scourges; yea, they howled and poured forth grievous complaints: for we know how petulantly they spoke evil of God. They then had grieved; but grief here is to be taken in a special sense, according to what Paul says of repentance, that its beginning is grief or sorrow. (2 Corinthians 7:9, 10.) In this sense it is that the Prophet says here, that they who had disturbed minds grieved not, for they did not feel that they had to do with God. He then means by this word what another Prophet means, when he says, that they did not regard the hand of him who smote them. (Isaiah 9:13.) For he does not say that they were so senseless as not to feel the strokes; but that the hand of God was not seen by them; and yet this is the principal thing in our sorrow. For if we blindly and violently cry out in our troubles, and cry, Wo, a hundred times, what is it all? our lamentations are only those of brute animals: but when we regard the hand of him who smites us, our grief then is of the right kind. Jeremiah says, that the Jews did not grieve in this manner, for they did not perceive that they were justly chastened by God’s hand.

He afterwards enlarges on the subject, Thou hast consumed them he says, and they refused to receive correction By saying that they had been consumed, he proves them guilty of extreme perverseness; for when God lightly chides us, it is no great wonder if, through our tardiness and sloth, we are not immediately roused; but when God doubles his strokes, yea, when he not only smites us with his rods, but draws his sword to consume us entirely; yea, when he thus deals with us, and executes his vengeance by terrible judgments, if then we are still torpid in our sins, and feel not how dreadful it is to endure his judgments, must we not be indeed wholly blinded by the devil? This is then the stupor which the Prophet now deplores in the Jews; for not only were they without a right feeling of grief when God smote them, but when they were even consumed, they did not receive or admit correction. And in this second clause he shews what we have already said, — that the grief he speaks of is not to be taken for any sort of grief, but of that which regards God’s judgment, and proves that we fear him.

He adds, They have hardened their faces as a rock, and lastly, they have refused to return The Prophet means, that the Jews were not only refractory, but that they were also without any shame. If, indeed, they had given every evidence of being ashamed, it would have been still useless, except there was, as we have said, an integrity of heart. But it often happens, that even the worst, though inwardly full of impiety and of contempt towards God, and of perverseness, do yet retain some measure of shame. In order to shew that the Jews had arrived to extreme impiety, the Prophet says, that they had hardened their faces, that is, that they were wholly without shame; for they had cast away everything like reason, and made no difference between right and wrong, between honesty and baseness. As, then, they had put off every human feeling, he says that nothing remained to be done, but that God, as he had previously declared, should execute on them extreme vengeance. And he repeats what he had said, — that they refused to turn He means, that they sinned and went astray, not through mistake or want of knowledge, but that they disregarded their own safety through willful and deliberate wickedness, and that they knowingly and avowedly rejected God, so that they would not endure either his teaching or his corrections. 130130     The literal rendering of this verse is as follows, —
   Jehovah! thine eyes, are they not on faithfulness? Smitten them hast thou, but they have not grieved; Thou hast consumed them, — they have refused to receive correction; Harder have they made their faces than a rock; They have refused to return.

   The “truth” here, and in the first verse, is regarded by Calvin and most commentators, as faithfulness towards men. But a right view of the context will shew that it refers to fidelity towards God. Of what does the preceding verse speak? Of unfaithfulness towards God — swearing falsely in his name; that is, making a false and hypocritical profession of him; and in this verse they are described as refusing to return to him. In the fifth and sixth verses they are represented as having “broken the yoke,“ and as having apostatized from him; and in the seventh their going after other gods is expressly mentioned.

   The word “judgment” has been taken in the same way, but not, in my view, agreeably to the context. To do judgment, is to do what is just and right; and “the way of Jehovah,“ and “the judgment of God,“ in the next verse, are the same, and hence put in apposition; the word “nor,“ in our version, being improperly introduced. The way of the Lord is the way he has prescribed in his word; and it is called his judgment, because it is what he has determined and ordained, or what is just and right. God had not only revealed his law, but had also appointed and ordained it for the people of Israel. His law is called a way, because it points out the course which we are to take; and it is his judgment, because it is what God has determined, fixed, and appointed. Hence in the fifth verse they are said to have broken the yoke and burst the bonds. The yoke was the law, and the bonds were those of loyalty and obedience; or they were the bonds of justice, such as were justly ordained and imposed on them. — Ed.

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