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8. Sin and Punishment

At that time, saith the Lord, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves: 2And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth. 3And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the Lord of hosts.

4Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return? 5Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. 6I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. 7Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord. 8How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain. 9The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them? 10Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. 11For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. 12Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.

13I will surely consume them, saith the Lord: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them. 14Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there: for the Lord our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the Lord. 15We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble! 16The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein. 17For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord.

18 When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me. 19Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? 20The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. 21For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?

GOD here threatens punishment, because he found that he effected nothing, and that he had to do with an obstinate people, having before tried whether they were reclaimable. Having seen that exhortations were of no avail, he now comes to extreme severity, I will give, he says, their wives to strangers. He sets forth, by a particular instance, the evils which usually accompany wars: and nothing is more distressing than when the wife is snatched away from her husband; for if husbands had their option, they would prefer instant death than to bear such a disgrace. Jeremiah then shews that the most atrocious thing that happens to conquered nations was nigh the Jews, — that their men would be deprived of their wives. He afterwards says the same thing of their fields; God declares that he would give the fields to their possessors. By this mode of speaking he intimates, that they would be deprived of their fields, not for a short time, but perpetually.

There is, indeed, a contrast here implied: for it sometimes happens, that enemies prevail and plunder everything; but yet they take no long possession of the fields, for a change succeeds: but when he calls enemies possessors, he means that there would be such a calamity, that the Jews would for a long time, even for their life, be banished from their country, and would lose their possessions. They thought that the land was so given to them, that it could never be taken from them: and doubtless the Lord would have never expelled them, had they not defiled it with their pollutions; but as they had polluted it by their sins, they deserved to be banished from it. So the Prophet shews that their confidence was absurd, in thinking that they would be the perpetual inheritors of that land: “Succeed you, “he says, “shall others, who shall possess it as it were by an hereditary right.” We now perceive the Prophet’s meaning.

He afterwards mentions the reason why God had resolved to deal so severely with them, For they are, he says, from the least to the greatest given up to avarice 224224     It would be more suitable to render “for” because, as it is explanatory of לכן, “for this,“ or, for this reason, at the beginning of the verse. This illative, and others too, are often used anticipatively, —
   For this reason, give will I Their wives to strangers, their fields to inheritors; Because from the least even to the greatest, Ever one covets gain; From the prophet even to the priest, Every one practices deception.

   — Ed.
He means that no equity prevailed among the people; for under one kind of sin he includes all frauds and plunders, and every kind of injustice. He then says, that every one was addicted to his own gain, so that they practiced mutual wrongs without any regard to what was right and just.

He then enlarges on the subject and says, that all, from the prophet to the priest, acted deceitfully There is here also a part mentioned for the whole. But Jeremiah in various ways sets forth the wrongs by which men harassed one another. Nor does he exclude violence when he speaks of fraud; but it is the same as though he said, that they, being forgetful of what was right, practiced fraud of every kind. It was, indeed, a dreadful thing, that there remained no rectitude or justice in the prophets and the priests, who ought to have carried light for others, and to have shewn to them the right way, as God had constituted them to be the leaders of the people. Since, then, even these acted deceitfully, there must have been among the common people the most disgraceful injustice. Hence the Prophet shews by these words, that God could not be charged with too much rigor, as though he treated the people cruelly; for there was such a mass of wickedness, that it could no longer be borne. It follows —

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