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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?

Whoever will impartially consider the discourse of the Prophet must see that this is the real meaning; for, in the second of these verses, he says, Why is this people of Jerusalem, etc.; he now first speaks, as it clearly appears, of the people. It then follows that the former verse ought not to be applied to the people; but it contains only a general statement. In short, Jeremiah condemns here the madness of the people, because they followed not the example of those who have either fallen or deviated from the way by mistake. For it is what is naturally implanted in all, that they do not willingly perish in their misfortunes. He then who falls immediately strives to rise again; and he who leaves the right way, tries if possible to return to it again. This then is what the most foolish will do; why then, says Jeremiah, do not this people imitate such an example? He therefore shews by this comparison, that their conduct was monstrous; for they obstinately adhered to their vices, and never thought that there was a hope of reconciliation if they from the heart returned unto God. And he emphatically mentions Jerusalem; for had such obstinacy prevailed among the Chaldeans or the Egyptians, it would indeed have been inexcusable; but not so strange as among a people to whom the law had been given, and to whom God had plainly revealed the way of salvation. When, therefore, this people so hardened themselves as to reject all warnings, was it not monstrous? 218218     Most agree in this view,-Gataker, Venema, Henry, Lowth, Blayney, and Scott. All the versions favor this view, giving two different meanings to שוב, repeated in the last clause, except the Syriac, which gives this version, “Though they ought to repent, they yet do not repent.” — Ed

Then he says, that they were rebellious with a pertinacious rebellion; that is, that they forsook God not only through levity or want of thought, or some sudden impulse, but so pertinaciously, that the prophets spent their labor in vain in teaching and exhorting them. Hence he calls it a strong rebellion, though the word may be taken here as in other places in the sense of perpetual And he assigns the cause, because they laid hold on deception, that is, they adhered fast to deception. But the Prophet means by deception, not that by which a neighbor is deceived or circumvented, but hypocrisy, by which men so blind themselves, that they are unwilling either to attend to God’s word, or to open their eyes to see the light. When, therefore, men through willful obstinacy bury themselves in darkness, they may be said to lay fast hold on deception 219219     The idea of revolt or apostasy is given by the ancient versions to the verb used at the beginning of the verse, and also to the noun which follows, and not that of rebellion, as by Calvin. The same meaning is given by Gataker, Venema, and Blayney; and they consider that Jerusalem is in apposition with “this people,“ in this manner, — Why has this people, Jerusalem, Revolted with perpetual revolt? As it has been already observed, the verb שוב, with all its derivations, means strictly to turn, but is used in the sense of turning to or from, that is, of returning or of departing. The context is our guide. It can hardly be supposed to have these two meanings in the same passage. All agree in giving it the idea of returning, at the end of the fourth verse, and at the end of this verse, the fifth; and in the three other instances in which it occurs here, they give it the idea of turning away or departing. I am disposed to think that it has the first meaning throughout the passage. I would render these two verses thus, —
   4. Thou shalt also say to them, Thus saith Jehovah, — Do men fall and not rise again? Does any one return and not return? —

   5. Why, — often have this people returned, Jerusalem is returning continually! — They hold fast deceit, they have refused to return.

   The hypocrisy of the people is the subject: they pretended to return, but did not really return; they were deceitful. It is a sort of a dialogue. The beginning of the next verse is an answer to the end of this, —

   6. I hearkened and heard, “No:“ thus they say: Yet no man has repented of his evil, — Saying, What have I done? Every one returns to his own course, Like a horse rushing into battle.

   The charge of refusing to return was negatived. — Ed.

David says, in Psalm 32:2, that the man is blessed in whose spirit there is no guile: he entertains no guile, as we commonly do. Now, to entertain guile is to possess a deceitful heart. He had before said that they are blessed whose sins are forgiven and to whom iniquity is not imputed: he adds by way of explanation, provided there be no guile in the spirit; and why? Because wicked men seem to themselves to be blessed, for they perceive not their own misery, because they are enveloped in their own coverings: and this is the guile of which David speaks. According to the same meaning, our Prophet says, that those laid fast hold on deception, who were so involved in darkness or so blinded by their lusts, as to seek to deceive God; but they deceive themselves. This then is the cause why those whom God corrects and chastises feel no penitence; for they are willfully blind, they close their eyes and deafen their ears, and seek to be deceived by the devil; they attend not to the holy warnings given them for their salvation. If then, we wish to be healed of our vices, let us ever begin in this way, — let us carefully examine our thoughts and our motives, and not please ourselves nor deceive ourselves by empty flatteries, but strive to shake off whatever is reprehensible and vicious. The very beginning of true repentance is to renounce all deceptions and fallacies and to seek the light, which can alone discover to us our evils. It afterwards follows —

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