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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?

Here again Jeremiah condemns the shameful insensibility of the people, — that they had less wisdom than birds, not endued with reason and understanding. He then says, that the Jews were more foolish than cranes, swallows, and storks. He no doubt deeply wounded the feelings of the people by so severe a reproof; but it was necessary thus sharply to reprehend the despisers of God; for it appears evident by these words, that they were become exceedingly hardened in their vices. No wonder, then, that the Prophet declares that they were more silly than cranes and swallows. Isaiah also exposes the same sort of madness, when he says that the ox knew his own master, and the ass his master’s crib, but that God was not known by his people. (Isaiah 1:3.) Now Isaiah made the Jews worse than oxen and asses, because these brute animals possess something like memory, so that they keep to their own manger and crib. So now Jeremiah, speaking of storks, etc., says, —

Behold, the stork knows the time in which it ought to migrate from one country to another; and the same is observed by swallows and cranes 220220     It is curious the variety as to the names of birds in this verse, as given in the ancient versions: Vulgate; kite — turtle — swallow — stork; Septuagint, stork — turtle — swallow — sparrows; Syriac, stork — turtle — crane — swallow; Arabic, crane — turtle — swallow — birds; and the Targum is, stork — turtle — crane — swallow. The names in our versions seem to be the most correct, and are adopted by Venema and Blayney, stork — turtle — crane — swallow; the same with the Syriac and the TargumEd. For at stated times they seek a warmer climate; that is, they leave a cold country, that they may escape the severity of winter; and they afterwards know the time in which they are to return. As, then, the birds of the air observe their seasons, how is it that my people do not consider the judgment of God? By mentioning the heavens, he no doubt alludes to the constant flying of birds, the birds having hardly any rest, for they continually rove through the air. Since, then, there is so much wisdom in birds, which yet the air wafts here and there, how comes it, that a people, who dwell quietly at home, who can leisurely meditate on God’s law — how comes it that this people understand nothing? We hence see that there is an import in the word heavens which has not been noticed. Readers may yet have their doubts; for it is nothing strange that birds in the heavens should have a clearer view, as they come nearer the sun and the element of fire: but different seems to have been the Prophet’s object; which was to shew, that though birds labor as it were continually, they yet contrive to know the suitable time for going and returning. Hence, then, is exaggerated more fully the insensibility of that people, who, while sitting leisurely at home, did not consider what God did set before them.

The particle גם, gam, even, is emphatical; Even the stork, he says. What means this, that birds, though not possessed of understanding, do yet know their time? But my people, etc. By saying “my people, “the Prophet no doubt intended more clearly to set forth their wickedness. For, as I have before said, such blindness in heathens would not have been so strange; but as they were the holy and peculiar people of God, it was far more shameful and monstrous that they knew not his judgment.

Christ uses other words in condemning the Pharisees for not attending to the time of their visitation; for he says, “Ye are wont to conclude what will be the state of the heavens in the morning; for if the sky be red in the evening, ye say, It will be fine to — morrow; and ye know the signs of future and approaching rain: ye possess, he says, judgment sufficiently acute in external things, which conduce to the benefit of the present life; yet ye know not the time of your visitation, and still ye seek signs: but were ye attentive, God would shew to you in a way clear enough, and as it were by the finger, that the time of deliverance which ye pretend to expect is now nigh at hand.” But the Prophet reproves the Jews in a severer strain, when he says that there was more fatuity and madness in them than in birds. They know not, he says, the judgment of Jehovah, though it had been shewn to them many times, and for a long season.

But some one might have objected and said, “No wonder if we perceive not God’s judgment, for his judgments are a great deep; and since these exceed what we can comprehend, there is no reason to find fault with us.” But the Prophet speaks not here of hidden judgments, which elude the comprehension of men, but of punishments, of which they had been so often warned. Since, then, they were so blind as not to see what was clear and evident, the Prophet justly says that they were more foolish than cranes, and the other birds which he mentions. It follows —

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