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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.

Jeremiah proceeds here with the same subject, and still introduces God as the speaker, that what is said might produce a greater effect. For this, he says, the land shall mourn. The mourning of the land is to be taken for its desolation; but he refers to what he had said before. He does not speak of the inhabitants of the land; for they who thus explain the passage, diminish much the force of the expression; for the Prophet here ascribes terror and sorrow to the very elements, which is much more striking than if he said, that all men would be in sorrow and grief. The same also must be thought of the heavens. Indeed, the latter clause proves that he does not speak of the inhabitants, but of the land itself, which, though without reason, seems yet to dread God’s vengeance. And thus the Prophet upbraids men with their insensibility; for when God appeared as judge from heaven, they were not touched with any fear. Mourn then shall the land, and covered shall be the heaven with darkness; that is, though men remain stupid, yet both heaven and earth shall feel how dreadful God’s judgment will be.

He afterwards adds, Because I have spoken. Some consider אשר, asher, what, to be understood between this sentence and the following verb: “Because I have spoken what I have purposed, and I have not repented.” But the concise phrase is not unsuitable: God first intimates, that he had pronounced the sentence, which would remain firm and unchangeable; as though he had said, “I have once for all declared by my servants what I will do.” For the prophets, we know, were the heralds of God’s vengeance: and as their doctrine was often despised, so at this day also the world obstinately rejects it; and as it often now derides all threatenings, so it happened then. But Jeremiah introduces here God as the speaker, as though he had said, “My servants have been despised by you; but they have said nothing but what I have commanded them: I am therefore the author of that sentence by which you ought to have been moved and roused.” In this sense it is that God testifies that he had spoken; for he transfers to himself what the Jews thought proceeded from the prophets, and hence supposed that they were at liberty to regard as nothing what the prophets pronounced against them: “I myself am He,” says God, “who has spoken.” So that we must understand a contrast here between God and the prophets; as though he had said, that the Jews in vain slumbered in their sins, because they thought they had to do only with mortals, since God himself had commanded his servants to denounce the ruin that was despised.

But that they might not think that God had thus spoken to cause a false alarm, (for hypocrites flatter themselves with this pretense, that God does not speak seriously, but that he frightens them with bugbears, as children are wont to be,) he says, that he had purposed. He had said before that he had spoken, that is, by his prophets; but what he means now by this word is, that the predictions which he had made known as to their destruction proceeded from his own secret counsel: “This,” he says, “has been decreed by me.”

He then adds, It has not repented me, and I will not turn from it. He briefly shews, that the Jews were now given up to death, that they might not think that God could be pacified as long as they followed their vices; for God had decreed to destroy them; and he had not only declared this by his prophets, but had also resolved within himself to do so. By the term repent, is to be understood a change; for God cannot, strictly speaking, repent, as nothing is hid from him; but he speaks, as I have lately stated, after a human manner: and every ambiguity is removed by the next phrase, when he says, I will not turn from it, that is, “I will not retract my sentence.” 122122     The latter part is very concise, —
   Because I have said, I have purposed, And have not repented, And I will not turn from it.

   The turning refers to what he had said, and repentance to the purpose. Blayney followed the Septuagint, and changed the order of the words, and thus destroyed the right connection of the passage, and the common parallelism of the language. We may also notice this passage as an instance of what is often found both in the Old Testament, and also in the New, — that when two or more things are consecutively stated, the most obvious, the most apparent, is mentioned first, and then the most hidden, or what is in order previous. Purpose is first in order, but speaking is first mentioned. — Ed.
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