Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 20: Jeremiah and Lamentations, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.
1. In tempore illo, dicit Jehova, ero in Deum cunctis cognationibus Israel; et ipsi mihi in populum.
2. Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.
2. Sic dicit Jehova, Invenit gratiam in deserto populus qui evaserant a gladio, proficiscendo donec quietem daret ipsi Israeli (vel profectus est Israel, donec se ad quietem conferret)
I omit here any remarks on the first verse; for it was explained in connection, with the 22d verse of the last chapter (Jer 30:22). The verb הלוך eluk, in the second verse, is in the infinitive mood, but it is to be taken as a preterite, and in this interpreters agree. But some apply it to God, that he is a leader to his people, until he brings them to rest; and as the verb, להרגיעו, laeregiou, to rest him, so to speak, is in Hiphil, it seems that this ought to be ascribed to God. But we may take the words more simply, “until he betakes himself to rest;” added afterwards is the word “Israel;” and thus we may render the pronoun “himself,” and not “him,” — until then he betook himself to rest 21
Let us now come to the truth which the Prophet handles: he reminds the people, no doubt, of the ancient benefits of God, in order that the miserable exiles might entertain hope, and not doubt but that God would be their deliverer, though they were drowned, as it were, in Chaldea, and overwhelmed with a deluge of evils. This is the reason why he mentions the desert, and why Jeremiah also adds, that they who were then preserved had escaped from the sword For the people, though they dwelt in a pleasant and fertile country, were in a manner in a desert, when compared with their own country. As then the Israelites had been driven far away into foreign lands, all the regions where they then inhabited are compared to a desert. A similar mode of speaking is adopted by Isaiah when he says,
“A voice crying in the desert, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight paths in the wilderness.” (Isa 40:3)
What did he understand then by desert? even the most fertile regions, Chaldea, Assyria, and other neighboring countries. But with regard to the people, he thus calls these countries, because their exile was always sorrowful and miserable. So then in this place the Prophet, in order to animate the exiles with hope, says, that though they had been sent away to unknown regions, yet distance, or anything else which might seem opposed to their liberation, could not prevent God to restore them; for he formerly liberated their fathers when they were in Egypt.; Now as the Jews might again object and say, that they were few in number, and also that they were ever exposed to the sword, as they dwelt among conquerors the most cruel, he says, that their fathers were not preserved otherwise than by a miracle; they had been snatched, as it were, from the midst of death.
We now perceive the design of the Prophet; and we may include in a few words the substance of what he says, — That there was no reason to fear, that God would not, in due time, deliver his people; for it was well known, that when he became formerly the liberator of his people, his power was rendered illustrious in various ways, nay, that it was inconceivably great, since for forty years he nourished his people in the desert, and also that their coming out was as though the dead arose from their graves, for the Egyptians might have easily killed the whole people; so that they were taken as it were from death, when they were led into the land which had been promised to Abraham. There was therefore no doubt but that God would again, in a wonderful way, deliver them, and manifest the same power in liberating them as was formerly exhibited towards their fathers.
A profitable doctrine may hence be gathered: Whenever despair presents itself to our eyes, or whenever our miseries tempt us to despair, let the benefits of God come to our minds, not only those which we ourselves have experienced, but also those which he has in all ages conferred on his Church, according to what David also says, who had this one consolation in his grief, when pressed down with extreme evils and almost overwhelmed with despair,
“I remember the days of old.” (Ps 143:5)
So that he not only called to mind the benefits of God which he himself had experienced, but also what he had heard of from his fathers, and what he had read of in the books of Moses. In the same manner the Prophet here reminds us of God’s benefits, when we seem to be forsaken by him; for this one thought is capable of alleviating and comforting us. This is the import of the whole. It now follows —
3. The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
3. Ab antiquo Jehova apparuit mihi; atqui dilectione perpetua dilexi re; ideo protraham (vel, protraxi, vel, extendi) ad to clementiam.
The last part is commonly rendered, “I have therefore drawn thee in mercy;” but the sense is frigid and unsuitable. I therefore doubt not but that he, on the contrary, means, that the mercy of God would not be evanescent, but would follow the people from year to year in all ages. At the beginning of the verse the Prophet introduces the Jews as making a clamor, as the unbelieving are wont to do, who, while they reject the favor of God, yet wish to appear to do so with some reason. Then, in the first place, is narrated the blasphemy of the people. These impious and diabolical words were no doubt everywhere heard at that time, “He! God has appeared to us, but it was a long while ago:” as profane men say at this day, when we bring forward examples of God’s favor from the Law or from the Prophets, or from the Gospel, He! c’est du temps jadis. Thus, they facetiously deride whatever God has at any time testified in his word, as though it were obsolete, because it is ancient. It is the same when we announce any terrors according to ancient examples, “He! it happened formerly, but a long time ago.” They then always return to that impious common saying, Le temps jadis. And the same thing Jeremiah meant to express here, At a remote time Jehovah appeared to us; that is, “Thou indeed speakest in high terms of the redemption by which the fathers were liberated, but what is that to us? why dost not thou rather shew us plainly what God intends to do? and why dost thou not bring forward some ground for present joy? why dost thou not really prove that God is propitious to us? but thou speakest of the ancient deliverance, while that narrative is now as it were obsolete.”
We hence see, that men have been always from the beginning ungrateful to God; for as far as they could, they buried the kind acts of God; nor by this only was their impiety discovered, but because they treated with scorn all ancient histories, which have yet been preserved for us, in order that our salvation might be promoted.
“Whatsoever is written,” says Paul, “has been written for our instruction, that through the patience and the consolation of the Scripture we might have hope.” (Ro 15:4)
He there shews that we are to learn patience from the examples contained in the Scripture, and that we have there a ground for strong consolation, so that we may cherish hope until God delivers us from all miseries. But what say the profane?” He, thou tellest us what has been written, but this is remote from us, and through length of time has vanished away: what is antiquity to us?” But though the Jews used this sacrilegious language, let us yet learn to embrace whatever is set before us in Scripture, while God invites us to hope for mercy, and at the same time exhorts us to patience; nor let this blasphemy ever fall from our mouths; nay, let not this thought ever creep into our hearts, “God appeared a long while ago.” Let us then abominate the ingratitude of those who would have God to be always present, and yet pay no regard to his ancient benefits.
Hence the Prophet answers, But, etc.: the copulative ו is here an adversative, as though he had said, Nay, or Yea, for it may also be taken for גם, gam, “Yea, I have loved thee with perpetual love.” Then God answers the ungodly, and shews, that he having become once the liberator of his people, did not undertake this office through a momentary impulse, but because he had so promised to Abraham, and had adopted the people. Since then God’s covenant was perpetual, he thus refutes here the impious calumny, that God acted bountifully only for a moment towards his people, and had regard only once for their miseries, so as to help them. Yea, he says, I have loved thee with perpetual love God then here shews, that the redemption, by which he had exhibited a remarkable proof of his mercy, was founded on the gratuitous adoption which was not for one year, but perpetual in its duration. We thus see that he reproves the detestable blasphemy of the people, and intimates that adoption was the cause of their redemption.
And this passage ought to be carefully noticed: for these false imaginations come immediately to our minds, when we read or hear how God had in various ways and degrees been merciful towards his people, “He! that happened formerly, but we know not whether God’s purpose remains the same; he, indeed, conferred this favor on his ancient people, but we know not whether the same can or will be extended to us.” Thus the devil, by his craft, suggests to us these false imaginations, which impede the flow of God’s favor, that it may not come to us. So the grace of God is stopped in its course, when we thus separate ourselves from the fathers, and from all his servants towards whom he has been so merciful. It is, therefore, a doctrine especially useful, when the Prophet shews, that whatever blessings God has at any time conferred on his ancient people, they ought to be ascribed to his gratuitous covenant, and that that covenant is eternal: and hence there is no doubt but that God is at this day prepared to secure the salvation of all the godly; for he remains ever the same, and never changes; and he would also have his fidelity and constancy to shine forth in the covenant which he has made with his Church. Since, then, the covenant of God is inviolable and cannot fail, even were heaven and earth brought into confusion, we ought to feel assured that God will ever be a deliverer to us: how so? because his covenant remains the same; and, therefore, his power to deliver us will remain the same. This is the use we ought to make of this clause.
A confirmation afterwards follows, Therefore have I prolonged towards thee my mercy I have already said, that this clause is otherwise rendered and explained. But nothing can be more diluted when we read thus, “I have drawn thee in mercy.” What has this to do with the perpetuity or the continued course and progress of love? But the other meaning is very suitable, that God would prolong his mercy to Israel. There is understood only one letter, but this does not interfere with the sense; and such forms of speech are elsewhere often found, he then says, that as he had embraced Israel with perpetual love, he had, therefore, drawn out or extended his mercy; for from the time he delivered his people from the tyranny of Pharaoh, and fed them forty years in the desert, he had bestowed on them many benefits. For with what victories favored he them? and then how often had he pitied them? God then ceased not from continuing his mercy to them from the time he had stretched forth his hand to them. And according to this view it is very appropriately said, that he had prolonged his mercy; for not only for one day or one year did he shew himself propitious to the Israelites, but he had exhibited himself the same for four hundred, five hundred, six hundred years. And thus also is best confuted that impiety and blasphemy of the people, that God had formerly appeared to them; “Nay,” he says, “except thou suppressest most wickedly my benefits, thou must perceive that the benefits I conferred on thy fathers have been long extended to thee, and have been perpetual and manifold.” 22
We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet. Were any to prefer turning the preterite to the future, I would not object, “Therefore will I prolong (or extend) towards thee my mercy.” This sense would be suitable. But when the words are taken as they are, we see why the Prophet adds, that God’s mercy had been prolonged, that is, that he might condemn the ingratitude of the Jews, because they did not rightly consider the benefits which had been bestowed on them for so many ages. It follows —
4. Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.
4. Adhuc aedificabo to, et aedificaberis, puella Israel: adhuc ornaberis tympanis tuis, et exibis in choros ludentium.
Jeremiah, in this verse, proceeds with the same subject, — that though there would be the long time of seventy years, yet God would become the liberator of his Church. Length of time might have extinguished the faith of the people, as it is too commonly the case: for when nothing appears to us but the naked word, and when God repeats the same promises from day to day, we think it of no moment; and then when some evil has been prevailing, we think that all ways have been already closed up, so that God cannot bring a remedy; we thus measure his power by our own standard: and as he comes late to help us, because he suffers men to be long afflicted with disease or other evils, so we imagine that God will never come, when he suspends and delays his favor longer than we wish.
Hence the Prophet says here, I will yet build thee, and built shalt thou be, virgin of Israel; and then, thou shalt yet be adorned with thy tabrets Joy is here set in opposition to the grief with which the people were to be oppressed in exile, and in part had been already oppressed, for many had been driven into exile. But Jeremiah expresses their joy and gladness by a figurative mode of speaking, by tabrets and dances of those who play For when the Prophets announce the vengeance of God, they are wont to say, “cease shall all joy among you; ye shall not play any more with the harp or with musical instruments.” So also in this place Jeremiah says, that they would return to the tabrets and dances, when God restored them to their own country. We ought not at the same time to turn this testimony of the Prophet to excuse profane lasciviousness, by which profane men pervert the benefits of God, for they preserve no moderation in their joy, but abandon themselves, and thus become wanton against God. And it is the tendency of all dances and sounds of tabrets, to besot profane men. The Prophet then did not intend to allow this sort of licentiousness to the people: for we must ever bear in mind what he said yesterday, that the voice of praise would go forth with joy. By tabrets and dances, he then means holy joy, connected with praises to God, and with the sacrifice of thanksgiving. 23 It afterwards follows —
5. Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things.
5. Adhuc plantabis rites in montibus Samariae: plantabunt plantatores (hoc est, plantabunt vinitores) et profanabunt (id est, conferent ad usum communem)
The verb חלל, chelal, means to profane, but it means also to apply to common use. The expression is taken from the Law; for it was not lawful to eat of the fruit of the vine until after the fourth year; for its uncircumcision as it were remained in the vine, so that its fruit was unclean. Then its first-fruits were offered to God; afterwards every one enjoyed his vintage. (Le 19:23-25) But at the same time Jeremiah had respect to the curses which we read of elsewhere,
“Thou shalt plant a vineyard, and others shall eat its fruit.” (De 28:30)
What did he then mean by these words? even that the country would, for a time, be so deserted, that there would be no vines on the richest and the most fertile mountains. The mountains of Samaria were rich in vines; and when vines on these were cut down, there was a dreadful desolation. When, therefore, the Prophet says, they shall yet plant a vineyard, he intimates that the land would be desolate for a time; so also when he says, I will yet build thee, he reminds the Jews, that they were to bear with resignation the judgment of God, while they could see nothing but desolation through the whole land.
This, then, is what the word yet intimates: but when he promised that there would be vines again on the mountains of Samaria, he adds, that they who planted them would enjoy the fruit. Here, then, is an additional blessing: it would have availed them nothing to plant or set vines, except this blessing of God was added; for it is a very grievous thing to be deprived of a possession which we have cultivated, and on which we have spent much labor. He then who has diligently planted vines, and he who has cultivated his land, if driven into exile, feels deeply wounded in his mind, when he sees that his vines and his land are in the possession of strangers. Hence the Prophet here intimates that God’s favor would be certain, because he would not only give leisure to the Jews, when they returned, to plant vines, but would also cause them to enjoy the fruit in peace and quietness. They shall then profane, 24 that is, apply to their own use, in the fifth year, the fruit produced by the vines, as though he had said, “They shall dwell, without disturbance, in their own inheritance, when once they shall have returned to it.”
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast once testified that thou art to us a Father through thine only-begotten Son, we may not only taste of that promise, but be also wholly satisfied with it, and remain in it constantly, until having gone through all evils, we may at length attain to the full manifestation of it, when thou gatherest us into that blessed rest, which is the fruit of thy eternal adoption, through the same Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Eighteenth
6. For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God.
6. Quia erit dies, quo clamabunt (sed subaudiendum est relativum) custodes in monte Ephraim, Surgite et ascendamus Sion ad Jehovam Deum nostrum.
The Prophet here amplifies the kindness of God, because he would not only restore the tribe of Judah, but also the ten tribes, who had previously been led into exile. He then promises here a full and complete restoration of the Church. The Prophets do not always speak in the same manner of the liberation of the people; sometimes they confine what they say to the tribe of Judah, as though the rest were in a hopeless state, but often they extend their prophecies to the whole body of the people. So in this place Jeremiah includes, together with the tribe of Judah, the ten tribes, and the half tribe of Benjamin, for some of the tribe of Benjamin had remained and had never revolted from the family of David. But they usually call the kingdom of Israel the ten tribes, and denote the kingdom of Judah by the name of that one tribe: thus the tribe of Benjamin, divided into two parts, is not mentioned.
The meaning, then, of the Prophet is, that when God redeemed his people, not only Judah would return, but also the Israelites, of whom there was hardly a hope, because they had been in exile for a long time; and as they had rejected the pure and legitimate worship of God, they might have been thought to have been excluded from the Church, for by their own perfidy they had shut out themselves, so that they were unworthy of so honorable a distinction. So the Prophet here declares that God’s favor would surpass the wickedness and perverseness of the people of Israel.
Hence he says that the day would come in which watch-men would cry on the mountain of Ephraim, etc. By Ephraim, as it is well known, are often to be understood the ten tribes, and that on account of Jeroboam, who first reigned over them. But we ought ever to remember, that under one tribe, in this case, are included all the ten tribes. When, therefore, the Prophet speaks of watchmen on Mount Ephraim, he means all the watchmen, placed on their watchtowers, through the whole kingdom of Israel. But the contrast ought to be noticed, for Jeroboam had closed up every passage by which the Israelites might ascend to Jerusalem; for he feared lest they should there hear of God’s covenant which he had made with David and his posterity. He was in at ease with himself, because he had obtained the kingdom by sinister means. God had, indeed, by his Prophet commanded him to be anointed a king; but it does not hence follow, that as to himself he had obtained the kingdom justly. It is true that God intended to punish Rehoboam and also the people; but he who had been the author of the revolt was perfidious in seeking to establish a kingdom for his posterity; he forbade any one to ascend to Jerusalem, and therefore he built altars in Dan and Bethel. (1Ki 12:29-31) On this account the Prophet Hosea complains that they besieged the ways like thieves, and that many who ascended to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God were slain; and some were plundered and sent home. (Ho 6:9) The contrast then is worthy of being noticed, when the Prophet says,
“Yet cry shall watchmen on Mount Ephraim, Arise, let us ascend to Zion to our God.”
For though in appearance they forsook only the posterity of David, they yet at the same time renounced the true and pure worship of God; and the religion which they followed under Jeroboam was spurious; for they ought to have offered sacrifices to God only in one place, for it is often found in the Law,
“Thou shalt come to the place which the Lord thy God shall choose.” (De 12:26)
But they having despised the place which God had appointed for himself, built altars elsewhere. Then their worship was nothing but superstition; and though they multiplied sacrifices, they did nothing but provoke God’s wrath; for it is not lawful for us to devise anything beyond what is prescribed in the Law.
The Prophet therefore says, Cry shall watchmen, Arise, let us ascend into Zion; that is, there will not be such a division among the people as there was formerly. For a few only worshipped God in the Temple which had beell built by his command, and the rest gave themselves up to numberless superstitions; but now they shall again unite in one body. In short, Jeremiah here teaches us, that all the children of Abraham would return to a fraternal agreement, and that there would be a bond between them, a unity of faith, for they would together unite in offering sacrifices, and no one would invent a god for himself. 25
Now this passage is especially useful; for we may hence learn what is the right state of the Church; it is when all agree in one faith. But we must, at the same time, see what is the foundation of this faith. The Papists indeed boast of this union, but yet they pass by what ought to hold the first place, that is, that all must have regard to the only true God, according to what they are taught by his word. Hence the Prophet here mentions Mount Sion, which had been chosen by God, that he might shew that no unity pleases God, unless men obey his word from the least to the greatest, and not follow their own imaginations, but embrace what he teaches and prescribes in his Law. This is the import of this passage. The Israelites shall then call him their God, from whom they had before wickedly departed. It follows —
7. For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.
7. Quid sic dicit Jehova, Exultate propter Jacob in laetitia (vel cum Jacob, nam ל potest utroque modo accipi) et jubilate in capite gentium; promulgate, laudate, et dicite, Serva Jehova populum suum, reliquias Israel.
The Prophet confirms the contents of the verse we have explained; and it was necessary to make this addition, because what he had said was almost incredible. He therefore enlarged upon it. Thus saith Jehovah; this preface he made, as I have often reminded you, that his doctrine might have more weight. Jeremiah, indeed, adduced nothing but what he had learnt from God, and by the revelation of his Spirit; but it was needful sometimes expressly to testify this on account of his hearers.
He now bids them to exult with joy, and to shout for joy It must be observed that this prophecy was announced, when the utter destruction of the people, of the city, and temple, was not far distant; but it was the Prophet’s object to comfort, so to speak, the dead in their graves, so that they might patiently wait for their promised deliverance, and that they might feel assured that it was not more difficult for God to raise the dead than to heal the sick. Therefore the prophecy had its use when the Jews were driven into exile and miserably scattered, so as to have no hope of deliverance. But that his doctrine might more effectually enter into their hearts, he exhorts them to rejoice, to shout for joy, and to sing; and not only them, but also strangers. For though it will presently appear that their joy was not in common with the unbelieving, the Prophet yet seems to address his words on purpose to aliens, that the Jews themselves might become ashamed for not embracing the promise offered to them. For what doth the Prophet say? “Ye alien nations, shout for joy, for Jacob.” What should Jacob himself do in the meantime? We now then see the design of the Prophet’s vehemence in bidding all to rejoice for the redemption of the people, even that this prophecy might not only bring some comfort to the miserable exiles, but that they might also know, that whilst in the midst of death, they would live before God, provided they did not despair.
In short, he not only intended to mitigate their sorrow, but also to fill them with spiritual joy, that they might not cease to entertain hope and to take courage, and not only patiently, but cheerfully to bear their calamities, because God promised to be propitious to them. This is the reason why he bids them to exult with joy, and to shout for joy
He adds, among the chief of the nations This may be understood as though the Prophet had said, that the nations would be so contemptible, that the children of God would not be disposed to insult them; but I understand the words in a simpler way, — that the Prophet bids them to exult at the head of nations, as though he had said, “openly, so that your joy may be observed by all.” For though the Jews entertained the hope of a return, yet they hardly dared to give any sign of their confidence, because they might have thus exasperated the minds of their enemies. They were, therefore, under the necessity of being wholly silent, and, as it were, without life. Now the Prophet sets this manifest joy in opposition to that fear which constrained the Jews to be almost wholly mute, so that they dared not by gesture nor by words, to make known what they had learned from the holy servants of God. In short, the Prophet intimates that the liberation of the Jews would be so glorious, that they would dread no danger in proclaiming openly the kindness of God. This seems to be denoted by the head of the nations
He then adds, Proclaim ye, praise and say, Save, etc. This refers properly to the faithful; for we know that God is not really invoked by the unbelieving. Faith alone opens a door of access to us, and there cannot be any right praying except what proceeds from faith. The Prophet then addresses here the children of God, when he says, “Proclaim ye, praise and say,” etc. And though all the ungodly were by evident experience convinced of the wonderful power of God, yet there was not among them any herald of God’s grace. It is then enjoined on the faithful, as their own proper office, to celebrate the favor of God. And to this is added thanksgiving, as though the Prophet had said that God’s grace cannot be rightly proclaimed unless his goodness be acknowledged, and the sacrifice of praise be offered to him. We hence learn that we are to be so animated by his promises to trust in God as not to grow torpid. For many cheer themselves up when they hear some joyful news, but this joy produces in them security. Thus it comes that faith is choked, and does not produce its proper fruits; for the chief work of faith is prayer to God. Now, they who are secure because they think of no danger, do not flee to God, and thus omit that work of religion in which they ought mainly to exercise themselves. Hence the Prophet reminds the faithful here that they are so to praise God as not to neglect prayer.
The meaning is, that when God promises that he will be propitious to us, he gives us a sufficient reason for joy. We ought then to be satisfied with the naked word of God, when he declares that he will be a Father to us, and when he promises that our salvation will be the object of his care. But yet, as I have already said, joy ought not to render us secure, so as to make faith idle, but it ought rather to stimulate us to prayer. True and spiritual joy we then have, derived from God’s word, when we are diligent in prayer; and coldness and security are no tokens of faith, but of insensibility; and the promises of God produce no real effects in us, as it must needs be, unless our minds are kindled into a desire for prayer, yea, into a fervor in prayer. This then is the reason why the Prophet, after having bidden the faithful to praise and exalt the favor of God, adds this prayer — “Say ye, Save thou, Jehovah, thy people.” It then behoved them so to rejoice as to feel solicitous for the restoration of the Church. And it behoves us, also, at this time, whenever God shines on us with the testimony of his favor, so to rejoice as not to omit that primary exercise of faith, even prayer.
He further adds, the remnant of Israel, because it was necessary that what Isaiah had predicted should be fulfilled,
“Though thy people were as sand of the sea, a remnant only shall be delivered.”
Though, then, the Prophet has been speaking generally of all the posterity of Abraham, and included the ten tribes, yet here he qualifies that statement by mentioning the remnant or residue of Israel, and this in order that the faithful might not despond on seeing hardly one in ten or in fifty returning from exile; for we know that in comparison of their great number, a few only returned from exile. He has then mentioned here “the remnant of Israel,” that the faithful at a future time might not be shaken in their hope, though God did not immediately restore the whole Church; and it was also necessary to deprive the hypocrites of that vain confidence with which they were filled; for they were wont to seize on everything which God promised by his servants. Hence Jeremiah excluded them, that they might know that this promise did not belong to them, according to what Paul, while handling this subject, shews to us at large. (Ro 9:27; Rom. 11:5, 7) And he is a correct interpreter of this passage and of similar ones, when he says that God was never so bound to the people of Israel, but that he could freely do what he pleased, so that a remnant only should he saved. And he calls them the “remnant of grace,” because they are in no other way saved than through the free and gratuitous goodness of God.
And this doctrine may also be justly applied to our time. For we are by no means to expect that God will so restore his Church in the world, that all shall be renewed by his Spirit, and unite in true religion; but he gathers his Church on all sides, and yet in such a way, that his gratuitous mercy ever appears, because there shall be remnants only. It follows, —
8. Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.
8. Ecce reducens ipsos e terra Aquilonis: et congregabo eos ex lateribus terrae; in ipsis erunt caecus et claudus, praegnans et puerpera simul, coetus magnus revertentur huc.
The Prophet again confirms the same truth, but with amplification. For this oracle is not only prefaced as having proceeded from God, but that the address might be more forcible, he introduces God himself as the speaker, Behold me restoring them from, the land of the north; for Babylon, as it is well known, was northward from Judea. And whenever the Prophets speak of the deliverance of the people, they ever name the north; as, also, when they threaten the people, they say that an army or a calamity was to come from the north. They had before been delivered from the south, for such was the situation of Egypt. The Prophet now intimates that God was furnished with power to liberate them again from the land of the north.
Then he says, and I will collect them from the sides of the earth: by sides, he means the extremities or the corners, so to speak, of the earth; as though he had said, that their dispersion would not prevent God from collecting his people.
Nearly the same promise was announced by Moses, though in other words, —
“Though thou wert dispersed through the four quarters of the world, I will yet from thence collect thee.”
God there means that distance of places would be no obstacle to him, but that as soon as the fit time arrived, he would again collect his Church from its dispersion. We hence see what the Prophet understands by the sides of the earth. And he intended to obviate a doubt which might have depressed the minds of the people on seeing the body torn and deformed: “Eh! how can it be, that we can again come together?” In order then to remove this doubt, the Prophet says that God would come to collect his people again, not only from one corner, but also from the extreme regions of the earth.
He then adopts another mode of speaking, in order to shew that no impediment would be so strong as to exceed God’s power, when his purpose was to deliver his people: The blind, he says, and the lame, the pregnant, and the one in travail, shall come The blind cannot move a step without stumbling or falling; then the blind are by no means fit to undertake a journey, for there is no way which they can see as open for them; and the lame, when there is a way for them, cannot make any progress. But God promises that such would be their deliverance, that both the lame and the blind would participate of it. He then mentions the pregnant and women in childbed The pregnant, owing to the burden she carries, cannot undertake a long journey, and she that is recently confined, can hardly dare to leave her bed, being so debilitated by parturition; but God promises that the pregnant and the lately confined shall return with the rest; as though he had said, that there was no fear but that God would restore his Church, because his power was superior to all the impediments of the world, so that he could confirm the feeble, guide the blind, sustain the lame, and strengthen the pregnant and those lying in childbed.
Now, though the Prophet addressed this discourse to the ancient people, it yet contains a doctrine perpetually useful. We hence gather, that they act preposterously who estimate God’s favor according to present appearances. But this is a mistake almost inbred in us by nature, and engrosses all our thoughts and feelings. Hence arises want of confidence in God, and hence it also happens, that all God’s promises become frigid to us, or at least lose their just value. For when God promises anything, we look around us and inquire how it can be fulfilled; and if our minds cannot comprehend the way and manner, we reject what has proceeded from the mouth of God. Let us then attend to this prophetic doctrine; and when God seems to promise what surpasses our faith, nay, what appears to us by no means possible, let this doctrine come to our minds, and let it serve as a corrective to check our false thoughts, lest we, having our minds preoccupied by a false and preposterous opinion, should do wrong to the power of God. If, then, the deliverance which God promises seems incredible, as to our perceptions, let us remember that it is in his power to make the blind to see, the lame to walk, the pregnant and those lying in childbed, to undertake a journey; for he can by his power surmount all obstacles, so that we shall find our faith victorious, provided we learn to rely on God’s promises, and firmly rest on them. We now understand what use we ought to make of this prophecy. It follows afterwards —
9. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born.
9. Cum fletu venient, et in precationibus (vel, miserationibus) addiscam cos; deducam ad fluvios aquarum, in viam rectam, ubi non impingent (non impingent in ea, ad verbum, sed בה debet resolvi in relativum) quoniam ero Israeli in Patrem, et Ephraim primogenitus meus ipse.
The Prophet still pursues the same subject; but he adds, that though they went with weeping into exile, yet that would be no impediment, that God should not restore them again to their own country: for I take the beginning of this verse, in weeping shall they come, in an adversative sense. Some explain weeping as the effect of joy; for joy as well as grief sometimes brings tears. Some then think the meaning of the Prophet to be, that so great would be the joy on their return, that tears would flow from their eyes. But I, on the contrary, think, that the Prophet means what was afterwards repeated in one of the Psalms,
“Going forth they went forth and wept; but coming they shall come with exultation, carrying their sheaves.” (Ps 126:6)
For the Prophet compares the exile of the people to sowing; for except the seed cast on the earth dies, it remains dry and barren, and does not germinate: the death then of the seed is the cause of production. So also it was necessary for the people to be by exile thus cast on the ground, that their calamity might be a kind of death to them. But he says that the Jews when cast forth as a seed, that is, when driven into exile to be put to death by the chastening rod of God, “had come with weeping;” but that afterwards they returned with joy as in harvest, that is, when liberty to return was granted them. So also the Prophet here speaks, as I think, in an adversative sense, of the Jews; the particle though is to be understood.
It afterwards follows, With prayers, or mercies, will I lead them The word תחנונים, techenunim, which is found mostly in the plural number, means prayers; and I know not whether this sense is suitable here. In Zechariah, the word being connected with grace, it cannot be otherwise explained than of mercy, (Zec 7:9) and I am inclined to adopt this meaning here, even that the weeping of the people would be no hinderance, that God should not at last shew mercy to them, and turn their weeping and tears into laughter and joy. But if any one prefers to render the word, prayers, the sense would not be improper; that is, that when they began suppliantly to confess their sins, and to flee to God’s mercy, there would then come the time of joy. But weeping then must be applied to blind grief, for the Jews were not as yet subdued so as to submit to God, to be humbled and to repent. Hence weeping is to be taken in a bad sense, even for grief, mixed with perverseness, when they murmured against God; and the Prophet must have taken prayers as tokens of repentance, that is, when the Jews, having been truly convinced of their sins by many and continual evils, would begin to flee to God’s mercy. But he seems rather to set God’s mercies in opposition to the sorrow in which the Jews were involved when God hid his favor from them. 26
He adds, I will lead them to fountains of waters, according to what is said in the book of Psalms, that they would find fountains and wells on their journey. (Ps 84:6) For the Jews had to travel through deserts and sterile sands; so they thought that they lived in another world while they were in Chaldea: they remembered how vast was the solitude through which they had passed. Hence then was their despair, so that they refused every comfort when the Prophets exhorted them to entertain good hope. God therefore promises to be their leader on their journey, so that they should not want water in the lonely and barren desert. And we see that the Prophet, by the various figures he uses, means one and the same thing, even that whatever obstacles may meet us, to prevent us from tasting of God’s goodness, and to embrace the promises of salvation, they will all vanish away, if we bear in mind the infinite power of God. I will then lead them by fountains of water
Then he says, through a straight way, in which they shall not stumble, according to what is said in Isa 40:3,
“A voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight the paths of our God; let every valley be raised and mountain be made low, so that rough places may become plain, and the crooked (or tortuous) become straight ways.”
We thus see how these prophecies harmonize, and ought to be regarded as teaching the same thing, — that God surmounts all obstacles when it is his purpose to save his Church; for how much soever all the elements may unite against the salvation of the godly, God can by one breath dissipate them all, and cast down the loftiest mountains that may be in his way, and give rivers in deserts and dry lands; and thus he can constrain to obey him whatever may seem opposed to the salvation of his Church.
He afterwards adds, for I shall be a Father to Israel, Ephraim my first-born he, or shall be; for הוא, eua, as it is well known, is taken in the place of a verb. Here Jeremiah points out the cause, and as it were the fountain of the deliverance of which he has been hitherto speaking, even because God would become reconciled to his people. He intimates also the cause of the exile and of all the evils that had been and would be, because they had provoked God by their sins. God had indeed adopted them as his people in the person of Abraham; but the Prophet intimates an interruption when he says, I will be, though the covenant of God had never been annulled. He was then ever the Father of the Church, but the benefit of adoption did not appear; as to outward appearance the people seemed as rejected, as it has been said in other places: and on this subject Hosea also speaks in these words,
“I will say to her who obtained not mercy, Thou shalt obtain mercy; I will say to the not beloved, Thou art a beloved people.” (Ho 2:23)
For nothing could have been said of the Jews when expelled from their inheritance, but that they were wholly alienated from God. He was therefore no Father to them at that time, that is, he did not appear to be so, although he did prove himself to be a Father really and effectually. He then began to be a Father when the people returned into their own country, because God’s favor then shone forth, which for a time had been as it were extinct. 27
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast so often been pleased to receive into favor thine ancient people, though extremely provoked by their perverse wickedness, — O grant, that mercy may also at this day be shewn to us, and that though we wholly deserve to perish eternally, thou mayest yet stretch forth thine hand to us and grant to us a testimony of thy favor, so that we may be able with a cheerful mind to call on thee as our Father, and ever to entertain hope of thy mercy, until we shall be gathered into that kingdom, where we shall perfectly render to thee the sacrifice of praise, and rejoice in the fruition of that eternal life, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Nineteenth
We explained yesterday how God began to be a Father to Israel when he restored him from exile. Adoption, with regard to God, remained indeed the same, as it has been stated; but as to the judgment of men, it was abolished. He then began anew so to collect his people, that they might really know him as their Father.
He afterwards adds, that Ephraim would be his first-born Ephraim is no doubt taken here for the whole people; nor does the Prophet here make any distinction between the two kingdoms, but includes even the tribe of Judah in the name Ephraim, as it is done in many other places. But yet it is proper to observe, that Ephraim is sometimes taken for all the posterity of Abraham, sometimes for the kingdom of Israel, and sometimes for that tribe itself. When the kingdom of Judah is distinguished from the kingdom of Israel, then Ephraim includes only the ten tribes; but in this place the Prophet did not intend to mark the difference between the tribe of Judah and the ten tribes, because it would have in this case been very strange to call Ephraim the first-born; for we know that Ephraim had been rejected from a regard to David, as it is said in the Psalms,
“And God refused the tribe of Joseph, and rejected the tabernacles of Ephraim; he chose the tribe of Judah whom he loved.”
(Ps. 78:67, 68)
There a comparison is made between the kingdom of Judah which God had erected, having added a promise, and the kingdom of Jeroboam, which was, as it were, spurious; for the revolt from the family of David had torn the body of the Church, so that it became as it were mutilated. For this reason it is said that Ephraim was rejected, that is, because God regarded David alone and his posterity with paternal favor; and of his whole family it was said,
“He shall call me, ‘My Father;’ and I will say to him
‘Thou art my Son.’” (Ps 89:26)
In this place then, the Prophet speaks generally of the people, as though he had said that it was only a temporary division when the ten tribes had formed for themselves a kingdom of their own, but that they would become one people, so that Ephraim would differ in nothing any more from Judah. To the same purpose is what is said by Hosea,
“When Israel was a child I loved him,
and from Egypt have I called my Son.” (Ho 11:1)
There the Prophet calls the people Israel; he does not, however, denote the ten tribes only, but he placed in the first rank David and his posterity. Indeed, the Prophets, when prophesying of the restoration of the Church, direct their eyes to the first unity which God had fixed among the people, for it was then only the true state of things, when the twelve tribes preserved a fraternal union. We now then perceive why the Prophet says that Ephraim was God’s first-born.
But it may be asked here, “With respect to whom is he thus called? for it follows that there were other sons of God, if Ephraim was the first-born among them.” But this conclusion is not well-founded; for Mary is said to have brought forth her first-born son, who was yet her only son, (Mt 1:25) and Christ is called elsewhere the first-begotten with: reference to all the faithful,
“that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” (Ro 8:29)
But Mary had brought forth her only son. Hence the word, “first-born,” does not prove that others follow, the second and the third in their order; but we may say that Ephraim was called the first-born of God with reference to the Gentiles, who at length became partakers of free adoption: for we also are the children of Abraham, because we have been planted by faith among the elect people; yet this solution seems to me more refined than solid. I then give this simple interpretation, that Ephraim was called the first-born because he was preferred to all the Gentiles; God was pleased to choose them as his people. This then was the peculiar privilege of the seed of Abraham; for though the human race was one and the same, yet it pleased God to choose and adopt Abraham and his posterity. It now follows, —
10. Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.
10. Audite sermonem Jehovae, gentes, et annuntiate in insulis e longinquo, et dicite, Qui dispersit Israel congregabit eum, et custodiet tanquam pastor gregem suum.
The Prophet dwells at large on the redemption which was in the opinion of all incredible, especially as so many years had already elapsed; for it was the full extent of human life when the people had been buried, as it were, in their graves for seventy years. Then the length of time alone was sufficient to cut off every hope. No wonder then that our Prophet sets forth in a lofty strain the return of the people.
Hence he exclaims, Hear, ye nations, the word of Jehovah And then, as by God’s command, he sends forth heralds here and there to proclaim the favor granted: Go ye, he says, and announce it in remote islands Now, by these words he intimates that the liberation of the people would be a remarkable demonstration of God’s power, which was to be made known through all nations. Had not this been said, the hope of the people must have failed through its own weakness, and been reduced, as it were, to nothing. But when they heard. Jeremiah’s prophecy respecting this extraordinary favor of God, it was no common consolation to them; that is, that God would become such a deliverer to them that he would exercise his power in such a way as to become evident even to remote nations, yea, the report of which would penetrate into the farthest regions. By islands the Prophets mean countries beyond the sea; thus by the Jews, Italy, Spain, Greece, France, were called Islands. Then the Prophet here by remote islands, means all the regions of the world distant from Judea, and especially those beyond the sea.
He afterwards says, he who has dispersed Israel will gather him This sentence confirms the hope of liberation; for God could easily redeem his people, since their exile was a punishment inflicted by his own hand. Had the Chaldeans obtained the victory over them by their own prowess, they might have cast away all hope as to their deliverance. God then exhorts the people here to entertain hope, because he could heal those wounds which he himself had inflicted; as though he had said, “I am he who drove you into exile, am I not able to bring you back? Had you been led away by the power of your enemies, you might be now without any hope of deliverance; but as nothing happened but through my righteous judgment, mercy can bring a remedy for all your evils.” Then God shews that their liberation could be easily effected, since the Chaldeans gained nothing by their own power, but as far as he permitted them when chastising his people. He then reasons from contraries, that since he had dispersed, he could also gather them. For had the Israelites been dispersed at the will and pleasure of men, their deliverance might have seemed to be beyond the power of God; but as he had chastised them, he could, as I have just said, heal the wounds inflicted by his own hand.
A useful doctrine may be hence deduced: the Prophet invites the people to repentance by reminding them that God had dispersed them; for had not the miserable people known this and been fully persuaded of it, they would not have fled to God’s mercy, nor have regarded him, nor entertained hope of deliverance. It was, therefore, necessary that repentance should in due order precede, that the people might embrace the deliverance offered to them. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that it was God who had dispersed Israel. He indeed reasons, as I have said, from contraries; but the sentence, no doubt, contains the exhortation which I have now stated, that the people might know that they suffered a just punishment; for it was not by chance, nor by the will of men, but by God’s righteous judgment, that they had been driven into exile.
It follows, and he will guard them as a shepherd his flock The Prophet here shews that God’s favor would not be momentary, but that their liberation would be the beginning of a deliverance continued to the end; and to know this is most necessary; for what would it avail us to be once delivered by God? Were it so, our salvation would soon fail. But when we hear that we are delivered by God from the tyranny of our enemies for this end, that he may continue towards us his favor, that he may become our perpetual guardian and shepherd, this is a solid ground of confidence. This then is the reason why the Prophet, after having spoken of the deliverance of his people, at the same time adds, that God would be their shepherd, that he would perpetually guard and preserve his people. It follows, —
11. For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.
11. Quia redimet Jehova Jacob et redimet e manu (est quidem aliud verbum, sed idem significat, פדה נאל redemit e manu) potentis (vel, robusti) prae ipso.
He goes on with the same subject. He had said before that it would not be a difficult or an arduous work for God to deliver his people; he now says, Jehovah will redeem his people, and will redeem them from the hand of one more powerful than themselves Jeremiah again obviates the doubt which might have dejected the minds of the godly; for this thought ever recurred to them, “How can God redeem us? he might indeed have cheeked the Chaldeans, but now they rule over the whole East; this monarchy is like a gulf in which the whole world is swallowed up: since then God has thus exalted the Chaldean power, we are wholly without hope.” They might then have despaired when they compared this evil with all the remedies that might occur to them. But the Prophet here confirms what he had just stated, that God would be more powerful than the Chaldeans and all other enemies; as though he had said,
“Though your enemies are strong, and ye are like sheep in the jaws of wolves, yet nothing can hinder God from redeeming you.” 28
To the same purpose is what God says often by his Prophets,
“Ye have been sold for nothing, and redeemed shall
ye be without price,” (Isa 52:3)
as though he had said, “I am not bound to pay anything to the Chaldeans, for I did not sell you to them as by a contract, but I sold you on account of your sins; as to them, they have given me no price: let nothing, therefore, terrify you as though they could oppose your deliverance against my will.” How so? “Because they have no right to detain you; therefore, if ye only accept my favor, the strength of your enemies, which appears so formidable, shall not hinder your redemption.” This is the reason why he says that the Chaldeans were stronger or more powerful than the Israelites.
This truth is also of no little use to us at this day; for when we consider how great is the strength of our enemies, despair must overwhelm our minds; but this promise comes to our aid — God testifies that he will in such a way be the Deliverer of his people, that the power of men shall not prevent nor delay his work. It follows, —
12. Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.
12. Et venient et laudabunt in excelso Zion, et confluent ad beneficentiam Jehovae, ad triticum et ad vinum et ad oleum, et ad gregem pecudum (ad verbum, filios ovium) et armenti (vel, pecoris; distinguit oves et arietes a bobus et vaccis) et erit anima eorum quasi hortus irriguus, et non adjicient ad dolendum (vel, lugendum) amplius.
He says that they would come to sing praises on the height of Zion; by which words Jeremiah promises the restoration of the Temple, for otherwise the return of the Jews to their own country would have been of no great importance; nay, it would have been better for them to have remained in Chaldea, if they only regarded quietness, wealth, and pleasures; for we know how great was the fertility and pleasantness of Chaldea. Then as to the benefits of an earthly and fading life, dwelling there would have been more advantageous to the Jews; but their return to their own country was to be looked for chiefly that they might be separated from heathens, and might rightly worship God, and so dwell in the promised inheritance, as to be strangers in the world, having respect to their celestial rest.
What then has been hitherto said of the people’s return would have been unimportant, had not this promise been added respecting the restoration of God’s worship. At the same time he exhorts the Israelites to gratitude by shewing to them the end for which they were to be made free, even that they might sing praises on the height of Zion. We, indeed, know that the Temple was built on the top of that hill. But the Prophet mentions the height or high place, because gratitude was freely expressed when the Jews returned to their own country; for while they lived in exile they were like persons mute. It is hence said in the Psalms,
“How shall we sing a song to God in a foreign land?”
And they might have been still fearful after their return, had not a full liberty been granted them. This then is the benefit which the Prophet refers to when he says, that they would celebrate this favor on the high place of Sion, not in an obscure corner, but so that their voice might be heard far and wide.
He adds, and they shall flow together to the goodness of Jehovah, to the wheat, vine, and oil 29 This mode of speaking, common among the Prophets, ought to be specially noticed. They describe the kingdom of Christ in a way suitable to the comprehension of a rude people, and hence they set before them external images; for when Christ’s kingdom is the subject, mention is made of gold, of silver, of every kind of wealth, and also of great splendor and of great power, for we know that what is beyond and above the world cannot be immediately comprehended by the human mind. We are here inclosed, as it were, in prisons — I speak not of our bodies; but while we sojourn on earth, we cannot raise our minds upwards so as to penetrate as far as the celestial glory of God. As, then, the kingdom of Christ is spiritual and celestial, it cannot be comprehended by buman minds, except he raises up our thoughts, as he does, by degrees. This, then, is the reason why the Prophets have set forth the kingdom of Christ by comparing it to earthly kingdoms. We also know that there was a peculiarity in the Old Testament, when God covered with shadows what was afterwards clearly revealed in the Gospel; in Christ the heavens are opened to us. Hence this form of stating the truth would now be not only superfluous to us, but even injurious, as it would draw us back from the enjoyment of heavenly things. For we ought to distinguish between our state and that of the ancient people. Paul reminds us that they were children under a schoolmaster, being under the Law; but that we are grown up, and that, therefore, the bondage under which the Fathers lived, has come to an end through the coming of Christ. (Ga 3:23-25)
Though David was endued with a singular gift of the Spirit, yet he confined himself within his own limits; for he knew that God intended so to rule at that time his Church, as that the manner of teaching should be suitable to children. But now, after we have grown up in Christ, the figures and external images have ceased; for though godliness has promises respecting the present as well as the future life, as Paul testifies, (1Ti 4:8) we ought yet to rise above that doctrine which is elementary. Hence when the Prophets promise wine, and oil, and wheat to the faithful, their object is to raise up their minds by degrees and gradually to higher things, according to the condition and comprehension of childhood.
And this ought to be carefully noticed; for many profane men, when they read such sentences, think that the people were addicted only to present gratifications, and that all the Jews were slaves to their appetites, and were fed by God like swine or oxen. But such an opinion is to be altogether abhorred; for they who entertain it not only wrong the Fathers most grievously, whose hope was the same as ours, as thy ever looked forward to an eternal inheritance, being strangers, as the Apostle tells us, in this world, (Heb 11:13) but they also disunite the body of the Church, and extinguish the grace of God, which was granted formerly through many ages, though it was only at the coming of Christ that God commenced to proclaim to men his eternal salvation. But we must bear in mind that the holy Fathers were not so brutish in their minds, that they confined their thoughts to this world; for they knew that they had been adopted by God, that they might at last enjoy a celestial life; and hence they called themselves sojourners. Jacob, who had long dwelt in the land of Canaan, says that his whole life had been a continual pilgrimage. (Ge 47:9) And the Apostle wisely notices this, when he says that they were acknowledged by God as his children, because they were strangers in this world. (Heb 11:13) Then the holy fathers had the same hope as we now receive from the Gospel, as they had also the same Christ. But the difference is, that God then set forth his grace under visible figures, and it was, therefore, more obscure, but that now, figures and types had ceased, and Christ has come forth and appeared to us more clearly. I have therefore said, that this doctrine ought to be wisely applied to our use, lest we seek to be fed and crammed when God invites us to the participation of his grace. But we ought to know, that of all men, we are the most miserable, if our hope is confined to this world; and yet, at that time this way of teaching was very necessary, for the return of the people, as it has been stated, required it.
Now, then, let us know that by saying, they shall flow together to the goodness of Jehovah, to wine, oil, and wheat, something better and more excellent than food and sufficiency is promised, and that what is spiritual is conveyed under these figures, that the people might, by degrees, ascend to the spiritual kingdom of Christ, which was as yet involved in shadows and obscurity.
He afterwards adds, their soul shall be as a watered garden He intimates that their abundance would be perpetual. When a fruitful year happens, fruits then, indeed, abound, and the quantity of wine and wheat is more than the demand; but after a fertile year sterility follows, which absorbs the previous abundance; and so it often happens, because men through their ingratitude, as it were, drive away God’s blessing, so that it does not flow to them in a continuous course; but God promises here that the souls of the people would be as watered gardens, because they were not to be satisfied only for a short time, but were at no time to be exposed to want, or famine, or to any deficiency.
He says further, they shall again mourn no more He confirms the same thing by using various forms of expression; but what he substantially means is, that when God’s people were made free, God’s blessing would be continued to them, so that the faithful would not be subject to the common miseries of men. 30 For we know what our condition is in this world, for every hour, nay, almost every moment, our joy is turned into sorrow, and our laughter into tears. But God promises here that he would be so propitious to his Church, that it would have a perpetual cause for rejoicing. Now, how this comes to pass we do not easily comprehend; for though God in Christ has plainly unfolded to us the treasures of celestial life, yet we always creep on the earth. Hence it comes that we do not attain what is contained in these sentences which speak of the true and real happiness of the godly. However, we ought, in the main, to regard our joy as perpetual; for whatever evils may happen to us, yet God shines on us by his grace, and thus all things turn out for our good, and are aids to our salvation, as Paul tells us in Ro 8:28. And thus we cease not to glory in distresses and afflictions, as he also teaches us in the fifth chapter; and we dare to triumph over cold and heat, over nakedness and all other evils, and even over death itself.
But we must bear in mind that Christ’s kingdom only begins in us here, and in the rest of the world; it is, then, no wonder that we taste so little of the benefits which the Prophets extol in such high terms. When, therefore, a temptation of this kind creeps in, when God treats us more sharply then we desire, “What does this mean? Wert thou one of God’s children, would he not deal with thee indulgently as he has promised? Where is that abundance of wheat, wine, and oil, for thou art often in want? Thou always livest in penury, nor does there appear to be anything better for thee to-morrow, as thou art now robbed and art come to a barren country,” — now when such a temptation as this creeps in, such as may draw thee to despair, let this doctrine come to thy mind, “Is the kingdom of God made perfect in thee?” Now if not one of us has hardly entered into God’s kingdom, there is no wonder that we are not partakers of all the good things which God has promised to his people; for if Christ’s kingdom is weak and feeble in us, it is nothing but right that we should live, as it were, in that penury which tempts us to distrust God; the same is the way with the whole world. There is, then, no reason to wonder that God does not fulfill what he has promised under Christ’s kingdom, when men are not capable of receiving so great a kindness; for it is written,
“Open thy mouth and I will fill it.” (Ps 81:10)
But we are straitened in ourselves; hence it is, that hardly the smallest drops of God’s bounty come to us. It afterwards follows, —
13. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.
13. Tunc laetabitur virgo (aut puella) in choro et adolescentes (vel, electi; sed signi,ficat proprie adolescentes) et senes pariter; et convertam luctum eorum in gaudium, et consolabor eos et exhilarabo a suo dolore.
This is a confirmation of the former verse; for he says that joy would be in common to young women and young men, and also to the old. He had spoken of the perpetuity of joy; but he now extends this joy to both sexes, women and men, and to all ages. Of the dance we have spoken elsewhere, — that wantonness in which the world indulges in its hilarity, was not permitted; as to profane men, there is no moderation in their joy. The Prophets followed the common mode of speaking; and, indeed, the Israelites had their dances while celebrating the praises of God; but it was a chaste and modest joy, yea, and a sacred joy, for it was a mode of worshipping God. Yet the Prophet speaks according to the common practices of the people, as in many other places, when he says that young women and young men would rejoice in the dance
He then adds, I will turn their mourning to joy, I will console them and exhilarate them from their grief 31 Here the Prophet averts the thoughts of the Israelites from the evils they then had, lest their grief should so darken their minds as to prevent them to taste of God’s goodness promised them. That the feeling, then, of present evils might not hinder them to come to God and receive his favor, he speaks of their grief and mourning, and intimates that the change would be easily made by God’s hand, when it pleased him to deliver his people and restore them to their former state, so that their complete happiness would take place under the reign of Christ.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are still in our state of pilgrimage, and as thou makest us partakers of thy goodness, according as thou knowest to be necessary for us, — O grant, that we, being ever reminded by thy benefits, may aspire to higher things, and may, through all the temptations with which we must contend, advance towards the goal set before us, looking for that perfect felicity in heaven, of which a few sparks only now shine before our eyes, and thus carry on a warfare under the banner of thy Son, so as not to doubt but that a triumph is prepared for us in that blessed life which has been obtained by his blood. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Twentieth
14. And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD.
14. Et satiabo animam sacerdotum pinguedine, et populus meus beneficentia mea salvabitur, dicit Jehova.
This verse is connected with the former; for what the Prophet had said generally of the whole people, he now distinctly declares respecting the priests, for they were, as it were, the heart of the people; and by this order God gave a lively representation of his favor. This is the reason why the Scripture, in setting forth God’s blessing to his chosen people, speaks especially of the priests, as it appears from many places. Then the Prophet intimates that God would be bountiful indiscriminately to all the Israelites, but that his peculiar favor would be conspicuous towards the priests, for the condition of the people would not be complete without the priesthood, for the priesthood was, as it were, the soul. They would have lived like the heathens, had not God prescribed how he was to be called upon and worshipped. And having mentioned the priests, he does not confine himself to them, but the favor of God is extended to the whole people. It is not then only of the priests that the Prophet speaks, but he declares that the people would be made blessed through God’s bounty, and yet that his peculiar kindness would be manifested towards the Levitical priests, according to what we read in the Psalms: a special blessing is promised to the priests, accompanied with felicity to the godly; and David, when felicitating himself on having so many of God’s blessings, by which he was distinguished, does indeed mention the provisions of his table and abundance of all other things, yet he immediately adds,
“I will dwell in the house of the Lord.” (Ps 23:6)
By this conclusion, he intimates, that he esteemed as nothing what profane men desire, except he enjoyed as the first thing the worship of God; for this is the main part of our happiness. For wherefore do we live, except we learn, while we partake of blessings from God’s hand, that he is our Father, and that we are stimulated by his bounty to worship him, and except we surrender ourselves wholly to his word?
We now, then, perceive the Prophet’s object in saying, that the priests would be satiated with fatness
As the word דשן, deshin, fatness, denotes abundance of all things; so satiate intimates the great extent of God’s bounty. Some render it “inebriate,” but improperly; and it would be inappropriate to say, “I will inebriate with fatness.” But רוה rue, means to irrigate and also to satiate: hence the Prophet said, in what we considered yesterday, that the soul of the faithful would be like a watered garden; it is there רוה, rue. So also now God means, that he would be so bountiful towards his people, that nothing would be wanting to the full affluence of all good things. And he again says the same thing with regard to the whole people, My people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith Jehovah We hence see that nothing is promised to the priests, except in connection with the whole Church. It follows —
15. Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
15. Sic dicit Jehova, Vox in excelso audita est, lamentatio, fietus amaritudinum, Rachel plorans super filiis suis noluit (renuit, vel, non admisit) ad consolandum (hoc est, non admisit consolationum super filiis suis) quia non ipsi, (hoc est, quia non sunt)
16. Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.
16. Sic dicit Jehova, Prohibe vocem tuam a fletu et oculos tuos a lachrymis, quia erit merces operi tuo, dicit Jehova, et revertentur e terra hostis.
Here, in the first place, the Prophet describes the desolation of the land, when deprived of all its inhabitants; and, in the second place, he adds a comfort, — that God would restore the captives from exile, that the land might again be inhabited. But there is here what they call a personification, that is, an imaginary person introduced: for the Prophet raises up Rachel from the grave, and represents her as lamenting. She had been long dead, and her body had been reduced to ashes; but the discourse has more force when lamentation is ascribed to a dead woman than if the Prophet had said, that the land would present a sad and a mournful appearance, because it would be waste and desolate; for rhetoricians mention personification among the highest excellencies, and Cicero, when treating of the highest ornament of an oration, says, that nothing touches an audience so much as when the dead are raised up from below. The Prophet, then, though not taught in the school of rhetoricians, thus adorned his discourse through the impulse ot God’s Spirit, that he might more effectually penetrate into the hearts of the people.
And this personification introduces a scene, for it brings before us the Jews and the other Israelites; nor does it only represent to them the calamity that was at hand, and what had already in part happened, but it also sets before their eyes the vengeance of God which had taken place in the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, when first four tribes were driven into exile, and afterwards the whole kingdom was destroyed, and it also sets forth what the Jews little thought of and did not fear, even the extreme calamity and ruin of the kingdom of Judah, and of the holy city.
Hence he says, Thus saith Jehovah, A voice on the height is heard, even lamentation, the weeping of bitterness, he introduces God as the speaker; for the Jews, though they had seen the dreadful scattering of their brethren, were yet remaining secure; and hence another Prophet complains, that no one laid to heart the calamity of Joseph. (Am 6:6) They saw that the whole land was almost consumed by God’s vengeance, as though a fire had raged everywhere; and yet they followed their own gratifications, as Isaiah also accuses them. (Isa 22) This is the reason why God is made to speak here: he had to do with men altogether torpid and heedless. That the Prophet then might awaken them from their torpor, he introduces God as making the announcement, A voice then is heard, — whose voice? of Rachel.
Interpreters think that Rachel is mentioned, because she was buried in Bethlehem: but as to Joseph, that is, his posterity, this region had come by lot, it seems to me probable that the Prophet here refers not to the grave of Rachel, but to her offspring; for that part which they who descended from her son Benjamin had obtained, was laid waste; hence he introduces Rachel as the mother of that part of the country; and it is well known that under the tribe of Ephraim is included the other ten tribes: but the reference to her burial is without meaning. Rachel, then, weeping for her children, refused consolation, because they were not; 32 that is, she could not receive consolation, for a reason was wanting, as her posterity were destroyed, and were become extinct in the land.
This passage is quoted by Matthew, (Mt 2:18) where he gives an account of the infants under two years old, who had been slain by the command of Herod: then he says, that this prophecy was fulfilled, even that Rachel again wept for her children. But the explanation of this is attended with no difficulty; for Matthew meant no other thing than that the same thing happened at the coming of Christ as had taken place before, when the whole country was reduced to desolation; for it was the Evangelist’s object to remove an offense arising from novelty, as we know that men’s minds feel a dread when anything new, unexpected, and never heard of before happens. Hence, the Evangelists often direct their attention to this point, so that what happened in the time of Christ might not terrify or disturb the minds of men as a thing new and unexpected, inasmuch as the fathers formerly had experienced the same. To no purpose then do interpreters torture themselves by explaining this passage allegorically; for Matthew did not intend to lessen the authority of ancient history, for he knew in what sense this had been formerly said; but his only object was to remind the Jews that there was no cause for them to be greatly astonished at that slaughter, for that region had formerly been laid waste and bereaved of all its inhabitants, as though a mother, having had a large family, were to lose all her children. 33
We now then see how Matthew accommodated to his own purpose this passage. He retains the proper name, “Ramah,” and there was a place so called; but the appellative is preferable here, “A voice is heard on the height,” as we had yesterday, “on the height of Zion.” Then a high place is what Jeremiah has mentioned here, because lamentation was to be heard through all parts of the country, for a voice sent forth from a high place sounds afar off. 34 Now, also, we perceive the meaning of this sentence, — that the country possessed by the sons of Benjamin had been reduced to desolation, so that the mother, as one bereaved of her children, pined away in her lamentation, as nothing could afford her comfort, because her whole offspring had been cut off.
Now follows a promise which moderates the grievousness of the calamity. And the two verses ought to be read as opposite the one to the other, “Though Rachel, weeping for her children, has no ground for consolation for a time, yet God will console her.” And thus the Prophet, in the former verse, exhorts the Jews to repentance, but in the latter to hope: for it was necessary that the Jews should be forewarned of their dreadful calamity, that they might acknowledge God’s judgment; and it was also necessary for them to have their minds inspired with hope. Now, then, the Prophet bids them to be comforted; for Rachel, having long bewailed her children without any consolation, would at length obtain God’s mercy. God then would console Rachel after her long lamentation.
Refrain, he says, thy voice from weeping The word is בכה beke: as he had mentioned this word before in the second place, “lamentation, the weeping of bitterness,” so he now repeats the same here, “Refrain thy voice from weeping,” that is, cease to complain and to bewail the death of thy children, and thine eyes from tears The meaning is, that the lamentation of Rachel would not be perpetual. We have said that a dead woman is introduced, but that this is done for the sake of solemnity and effect, so that the Jews, having the matter set as it were before their eyes, might be more touched and moved. But if we wish to understand the meaning of the Prophet without a figure it is this, — that the lamentation would not be perpetual, because the exiles would return, and that the land that had fallen to the lot of the children of Benjamin and of Joseph would again be inhabited.
And he says, for reward shall be to thy work He means that the sorrow of Rachel would at length happily come to an end, so as to produce some benefit. While the faithful, according to Isaiah, were complaining that they were oppressed with grief without hope, they said, “We have been in travail, and brought forth wind:” by these words they meant that they had experienced the heaviest troubles; and then they added, “without fruit,” as though a woman were in travail and suffered the greatest pain and anguish, and brought forth no living, but a dead child, which is sometimes the case. Now a woman who gives birth to a living child rejoices, as Christ says, because a man is born, (Joh 16:21) but when a woman after long pains brings forth a dead lump or something monstrous, it is an increase of sorrow. So the Prophet says, that the labor of Rachel, that is, of her country, would not be without fruit: there shall then be a reward to thy work The Scripture uses the same way of speaking in 2Ch 15:7, where the Prophet Azariah speaks to the King Asa,
“Act manfully, and let not your hands be weakened, for there shall be a reward to your work.”
Then by work is to be understood trouble or sorrow, and by reward a joyful and prosperous issue. The meaning is, that though the whole country mourned miserably for a time, being deserted and bereaved of its inhabitants, yet the issue would be joyful, for the Lord would restore the exiles, so that the land would be like a mother having a numerous family, and delighting in her children, or in her offspring.
Now, were any one to apply this to satisfactions, he would be doing what is very absurd, as the Papists do, who say that by the punishment which we suffer we are redeemed from eternal death, and that then the vengeance of God is pacified, and satisfaction is made to his justice. But when the Prophet declares that there would be reward to the work, he does not commend the fruits of the punishment by which God chastised his people, as though they were, as they say, satisfactions; but he simply reminds them that their troubles and sorrows would not be useless, for a happier issue than the Jews hoped for would take place. But it is God’s gratuitous gift that there is a reward to our work, that is, when the miseries and calamities which he inflicts on us are made aids to our salvation. For doubtless whatever evils we suffer, they are tokens of God’s wrath; poverty, cold, famine, sterility, disease, and all other evils, are so many curses inflicted by God. When, therefore, there is a reward to our troubles and sorrows, that is, when they produce some benefit or fruit, it is as though God turned darkness into light; for naturally, as I have said, all these punishments are curses. But God promises that he will bless us, so that all these punishments shall turn out for our good and salvation, as Paul tells us in Ro 8:28.
Then he adds, they shall return from the land of the enemy By these words he refers to the restoration of the people, so that Rachel would again see her posterity inheriting the promised land. But there is no reason refinedly to dispute here, whether Rachel rejoiced at the return of her offspring, or whether that calamity was lamented by her; for the Prophet’s object was not to shew whether or not the dead are conscious of our affairs; but he speaks figuratively in order to render what he said more striking and forcible. It follows, —
17. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.
17. Et erit spes novissimo tuo, dicit Jehova; et redibunt filii ad terminum suum (hoc est, in regionum suam)
He indeed explains in a few words, but with sufficient plainness, what he had said. We must always bear in mind the order which I have pointed out, — that he first placed before the Jews their calamity, that they might humble themselves before God; and then he gave them the hope of return, that they might feel assured that God would be propitious to them. He now includes both in these few words, there shall be hope in thine end; for they embrace the two clauses, — that the whole country would lament for a time, and then that their tears would be turned to laughter and their sorrow to joy: for had the happiness of the people flowed in one unbroken stream, the word, “end,” would not have been suitable; for it refers to what terminates. There is then to be understood a contrast between the end and the beginning. In short, Jeremiah teaches here, that the grievous time, during which God would afflict his people, was to be borne patiently. But after having bidden them to continue in a state of suspense, he sets before them a happy issue.
Now this passage contains a useful doctrine, — that we are not to measure God’s favor by present appearances, but learn to keep our minds and thoughts in suspense, while the Lord seems to be angry with us, and only disheartening terrors meet us, so that we may cherish in our hearts the hope which the Prophet exhorts us to entertain, and distinguish between our present state and the end. And on this account it is that the Apostle, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, while exhorting the faithful to patience, says that the rod is always at the time grievous to children, but that correction appears useful, when the end is regarded. (Heb 12:11) So when we perceive that God is displeased with us, we cannot but feel a dread, and we desire at the same time to escape from his chastening hand; but, as I have just said, we ought to direct our thoughts to the end or the issue, according to what we are taught here: there shall then be hope in thine end 35
But a question may be here moved, Was there no hope for the intermediate time, while God was punishing the Jews? the answer is obvious, — the Prophet takes hope here for hope accomplished. If any one calls it actual hope or hope effected, I do not object. But he doubtless intimates that all the calamities which the Jews would have to endure would at last end in their deliverance, and would be for their good. We thus see that hope here, as we have said, is to be taken for hope accomplished. And the Prophet explains himself, they shall return to their own border Here by stating a part for the whole he mentions border for the whole country, as though he had said, “Ye are now far off from your country, but you shall again return to that land which has been marked out by certain limits, even by Euphrates, Egypt, the sea and Arabia;” for these were the four borders. It afterwards follows, —
18. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.
18. Audiendo audivi Ephraim transmigrantem, (vel, cum transmigravit, vel, lamentantem, ut alii vertunt; dicemus postea de voce) Castigasti me, et castigatus sum tanquam vitulus non edotus; converte me et convertar, quia tu Jehova Deus meus.
The Prophet here speaks more distinctly of a blessed issue, and shews that the punishment by which God had already chastised the people, and by which he was prepared to chastise the tribe of Judah, was wholly necessary, which he would give them as a medicine. For as long as we have set before us the wrath of God, we necessarily, as it has been already said, try to avoid it, because we wish well to ourselves, and endeavor to remove to a distance, as much as we can, whatever is adverse to us: hence the punishment which God inflicts is never pleasant to us, our sorrow in evils and adversities is never mitigated, nor do we quietly submit to God, unless we direct our minds to the fruit which distresses and chastisements bring forth. We now then perceive the object of the Prophet: the Jews always murmured and said, “Why does not God spare and forgive us? why does he not deal more gently with us?” The Prophet therefore shews, that God had a regard to the wellbeing of his people in chastising them; for had he indulged them in their sins, their pride and perverseness would have increased.
The intention then of these words is this, and it is for this end the Prophet speaks, — that the Jews might know that all their punishment, which would have been otherwise bitter and grievous, was a sort of medicine, by which their spiritual diseases were to be healed.
He therefore says, Hearing I have heard Ephraim, after having transmigrated, etc. The participle מתנודד, metnudad, is in Hithpael, and comes from נוד, nud, or from נדד nedad. Some render it, “transmigrating,” and others, “lamenting.” But נוד, nud, means to move, to wander, to migrate from one place to another; it means also to complain, to tell of adversities, though it is often applied to those whose object is to solace the miserable and the mournful. If any one prefers the rendering, “I have heard Ephraim lamenting,” I do not object, for there is a sufficient probability in its favor. But it may also be derived from נוד, nud, as well as from נדד nedad; the most suitable sense would then be, “after having moved into exile,” or literally, “after having transmigrated,” that is, after God had driven Ephraim, even the ten tribes, into exile. 36
After Ephraim then had thus transmigrated, or had been driven into exile, he then began to say, Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastened, for I was an untamed bullock: Turn thou me and I shall be turned; for thou, Jehovah, art my God. 37 The Prophet, no doubt, as I said before, meant here to check the murmurs which prevailed among the Jews, who said, that God was too rigid and severe, he shews not only that they were worthy of the very grievous punishment they were suffering, but also that it was a testimony of God’s favor, that he thus intended to cleanse them from their sins; for they would have a hundred times grown putrid in their wickedness, had not God thus reduced them to a sound mind. He at the same time sets forth Ephraim as an example, that the Jews might resignedly follow their brethren, and not discontentedly bear their exile, seeing that it had already been profitable to their brethren. When therefore they perceived that their punishment was useful to the Israelites, and brought forth good fruit, they ought to have submitted themselves willingly to God, and not to have murmured against him for punishing them for their sins, but to have borne their exile as a paternal correction.
Then he says, “I have heard Ephraim,” — at what time? This circumstance ought to be especially noticed, it was after he had transmigrated. When they were quiet in the land, they were, as it follows, like untameable steers. The Prophets also use this mode of speaking, when they describe the Israelites before their dispersion; they call them fat and well fed oxen: affluence produced luxury, and luxury pride. Thus, then, they kicked, as it were, against God, according to what is said by Moses,
“My people having grown fat kicked.”
As they were such, it was necessary that they should be tamed. And to this refers the time that is mentioned: when Ephraim was forcibly driven from his own country, then he began to acknowledge his evils and to be touched with a penitent feeling; “Thou hast chastised me,” he says, “and I was instructed.” The verb יסר, iser, means to instruct as well as to chastise, and is applied to princes, counsellors, fathers, and magistrates. The word chastise is more restricted in Latin. But יסר iser, properly means to teach, and yet often it means to chastise, for that is one way of teaching or instructing. He then says that he was chastised, though in a different sense: in the first clause, when he says, “Thou hast chastised me,” he refers to the punishment by which God had humbled his people; and in the second clause he says, “I was instructed,” that is, “I begin now at length to become wise;” for it is the wisdom even of fools, not to become hardened under their calamities; for they who become hardened are altogether in a hopeless state. It is the chief part of wisdom to acknowledge what is right, and willingly to follow it; but, except we be willing to regard our own good, God will then chastise us. 38
When our diseases are healable, we turn to God; but the perversely wicked bite and champ the bridle, and contend with God’s judgment: But the Prophet here refers to the faithful alone; for punishment has not the same effect on all indiscriminately. God, indeed, calls all men by punishment to repentance, so that even the reprobate are without excuse when they harden their hearts, and profit not under the rod. But punishment is peculiarly useful to the faithful; for God not only scourges them, but also, by his Spirit, bends their minds to docility, so that they willingly suffer themselves to be corrected by him. Hence I said that this clause properly refers to the faithful, when the Prophet says that Ephraim was instructed, after having been warned by punishment, to turn himself to God.
He compares himself to an untameable steer; for steers are wanton before they are habituated to the yoke. Such also is the wantonness of men before God subdues them by various kinds of punishment, and not only subdues them, but renders them also tractable and submissive. Next week I shall lecture instead of Beza.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are always carried away by our own vanities, and as the licentiousness and insolence of our flesh are such that we never follow thee and submit to thy will, — O grant, that we may profit more and more under thy scourges, and never perversely harden ourselves, but learn to know that even when thou appearest rigid, thou hast a regard for our salvation, so that we, turning to thee, may strive during the rest of our life to glorify thy name through thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
Lecture One hundred and Twenty-First
In the last lecture, the Prophet told us that Ephraim, until he had been chastised by God’s hand, was like an untamed bullock, and that, therefore, exile was useful to him. He now adds, Turn me, and I shall be turned
This second clause seems not to be in accordance with the former; for the Israelites had before confessed that they had turned, and now they pray God to turn them. Why is this said? For it seems useless to ask for what we have already obtained. But the solution is obvious. It may first be answered, that men never so repent but that they have need of the continual aid of God; for we must be renewed from day to day, and by degrees renounce the lusts of our flesh; nor is it in one day that we put off the old man. And when the Prophet in the Psalms speaks of the deliverance of the people, he says that it was a miracle, that the people had been restored beyond all hope;
“We were,” he says, “like those who dream;”
he afterwards adds,
“Turn our captivity, O Lord,” (Ps. 116:1, 4)
and this he said because God had restored but a small number. The same also happens as to spiritual turning, both with regard to the whole body and to individual members. We turn, as I have already said, by little and little to God, and by various steps; for repentance has its progress. There is, therefore, nothing improper when we say that the Prophet, in the name of the ten tribes, asks God to go on with his work. But as this explanation is rather strained, I prefer a simpler view of the words, “Turn me, and I shall be turned.” They mean the same thing as though the Prophet had said, “O Lord, this is thy work.” He does not then simply refer to a future time, but speaks of God’s favor, as though he had said, that men do not turn by their own impulse, but that God, by the hidden power of his Spirit, turns them.
The Israelites had before confessed that they had been profitably chastised by God’s hand, because punishment had instructed them; but now he adds that this was the singular kindness of God. But, as we before observed, punishment is what the elect and the reprobate have in common; but the end and fruit of punishment is far different; for the reprobate become more and more hardened, the very reverse of being submissive to God; but the elect are subdued, for God not only smites them with his rods, but also tames them within, subdues their pride, and, in a word, bends their hearts to obedience by his Spirit.
We now then understand the purpose of the Prophet: for in the name of the people, he first confesses that punishment, inflicted by God, had been useful, and secondly, he adds, that it was not through the power of men that they willingly returned to a right mind, but that God had bent their hearts by his Spirit, so that they did not become hardened by punishment, nor obstinately resisted, as the case most commonly is. We hence, then, conclude that repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit. God, indeed, invites us, and even urges us by external means to repent; for what is the design of punishment, but to lead us to repentance? But we must still remember that were God only to chastise us, it would have no other effect than to render us inexcusable, for our perverseness could never in this way be corrected. It is, then, necessary to add the second favor, that is, that God should subdue us within, and restore us to obedience. This the Prophet testifieswhen he says, “Turn me, and I shall be turned,” as though he had said, that men indeed turn when God reminds them of their sins, but that they do this not by their own power, for it is the peculiar work of God.
He therefore adds, For thou, Jehovah, art my God By this clause he intimates that God favors only his elect with this privilege; as though he had said, that it does not happen to all indiscriminately that they repent and submit to God when he punishes them for their sins, but that it is a benefit peculiar to his chosen people. We ought then especially to notice the reason by which the Prophet confirms the previous sentence, for we hence learn the manifest difference there is between the elect and the reprobate; for some rebel and kick against the goads, and obstinately rush headlong into ruin, but others calmly and quietly submit to God: the reason is, because some are reprobate and the others are the elect. It now follows, —
19. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.
19. Quia postquam convertisti me, poenituit me, et postquam cognitus sum mihi (vel, ostensum fuit mihi, vel, agnovi meipsum) percussi femur meum; pudefactus sum, atque etiam confusus, quia tuli opprobrium adolescentiae meae.
Jeremiah now proceeds with what he had before briefly touched upon, even to shew that the punishment inflicted on the Israelites had not been without its fruit. And this is a doctrine which ought especially to be known, for we always shun whatever is hard to the flesh; so that if it were according to our own will, the chastisements of God would never be well received by us. It is, therefore, necessary to regard the end, as the Apostle reminds us. (Heb 12:11) Now when we see that God has a regard for our own salvation while handling us somewhat roughly, our sorrow is mitigated and lessened, especially when experience proves that punishment is good for us; we then felicitate ourselves, and give thanks to God that he has not suffered us wholly to perish in our sins. This is the reason why the Prophet enlarges on this doctrine.
He therefore says, After thou hast turned me, I repented He confirms what he has already said, that it is the peculiar work of God when a sinner repents, and that it cannot be ascribed to human powers, as though men could of themselves turn to the right way. But how was this done? After thou hast turned me He thus repeats in other words what he had said, but for the purpose of confirming his previous declaration. The meaning is, that we are never touched by a serious feeling, so as to be displeased with our sins, until God himself turns us.
We hence learn how blind the Papists are, who, speaking of repentance, hold that man, through his own free-will, returns to God; and on this point is our greatest contest with them at this day. But the Prophet briefly determines the whole question; for, as he had said before, that men cannot turn except God turns them, he now adds, that he had found this to be really the fact, that people had never become conscious of their sins though God had grievously punished them until they were turned, not by their own free-will, but by the hidden working and influence of the ttoly Spirit; after thou hast turned me, I repented The meaning is, that men never entertain a real hatred towards sin, unless God illuminates their minds and changes their hearts; for what is the turning or conversion of which the Prophet speaks? It is the renewal of the mind and heart. For let its definition be fetched, as they say, from what is contrary to it; what is turning away? It is the alienation of the mind and heart from God. It then follows that when we turn we are converted, we are renewed in knowledge, and then in heart, or in our affections; both of which the Prophet ascribes to the grace of God, for he says that the people repented not of their sins until they were turned or converted, that is, until they were renewed both in mind and heart. Some give this version, “After I received consolation;” but their mistake is easily confuted by the context; for it immediately follows, I was ashamed and also confounded. There is no doubt then but that here is set forth the displeasure at sin that is felt when the sinner is terrified by God’s judgment so as to renounce his vices.
After I was made known to myself, or, after it was shewn to me, or, simply, after I knew it, etc. For we may take the meaning to be, After it was given to Ephraim to know himself, or, after he knew himself. Some give this version, “After I was known;” and so the meaning would be the same with those words of Paul,
“After ye have known God, or rather are known by him.”
But I fear that this exposition is too refined. I therefore would rather follow those who give this rendering, After I became known to myself, or, after the thing was made known to me. The Prophet, no doubt, commends here the grace of God, because the veil had been taken away from the eyes of the people, or because they had been cured of their blindness; as though they had said, that they had long been blind, because they took delight in their vices, and their whole soul was in a torpid state; for we know that those who are forsaken by God are wholly insensible, and are as it were like the beasts. Then the people of Israel confess that they were, for a time, thus stupid, and that their minds were blinded: they therefore acknowledge here the grace of God, that he had at length opened their eyes. For they do not speak here, as we have said, of their virtue or power, but acknowledge that it proceeded wholly from God’s gratuitous favor that they repented.
As then, under the word, turning or conversion, is included the renewal of the whole soul, so now it is expressly said, that they were endued with a right mind, because God had taken away the veil by which their eyes were covered, and had conferred on them new light. The meaning is, that they were not touched by the true fear of God before they were endued with a right mind; but at the same time he testifies that it had been obtained through the peculiar favor of God. We hence see that the Prophet, in the name of the ten tribes, acknowledges that nothing depended on the free-will of man, but that a sound mind and a right feeling of the heart is the work of the Holy Spirit. 39
The smiting of the thigh means sorrow or grief, which arises from the fear of God: for as long as we disregard God’s judgment, Satan must necessarily fascinate us with his allurements; but when God manifestly shews that he is our judge, and when our own baseness comes to view, then we begin to smite the thigh And he adds, what means the same thing, I was ashamed and even confounded I wonder why many interpreters have omitted the particle גמ gam, even: they invert the order, and render thus, “I was confounded and ashamed.” But the particle shews that the Prophet enhances the greatness of the sorrow and shame when he says, I was ashamed and even confounded
He then adds, Because I have borne the reproach of my youth He here repeats what he had said before, even that punishment, sent from above, had done good to the Israelites. For except they had been thus made ashamed, they would have always taken delight in their vices; for we see that the wicked flatter and deceive themselves as long as God spares and shews forbearance towards them. Hence the Prophet, in the name of the people, says, that punishment had been profitable to him. But we must bear in mind what we have said, that this fruit altogether proceeds from the grace of God: for the reprobate, however dreadful the examples of vengeance which God may exhibit, still remain unbending, nor do they bear their own reproach, that is, confess that they have sinned. To bear reproach, then, is peculiar to the elect of God, who have been regenerated by his Spirit; for they understand the cause of their evils. When we see two diseased persons, one of whom is insane, and so is insensible as to his disease, and the other feels his sorrow, and is affected by it: in this case we see some difference. But we see another difference in others who are diseased; we may therefore suppose a third case, for it often happens, that he who is affected with sorrow, does not yet examine into its cause. He then who is healable is one who understands whence has arisen his disease, and so is ready to obey, and willing to adopt the necessary remedies. There are also many who rush headlong to their own ruin; some, indeed, feel their punishment to be bitter, but consider not the cause of it, that is, that they have provoked God’s wrath: but they who are prepared to seek the restoration of health, well know how they have contracted their disease. Hence the Prophet here says, that they bore their reproach, for they not only felt their sorrow, but also considered its fountain, that is, that they had, by their sins, provoked the wrath of God.
By youth he metaphorically points out the time when the Israelites indulged in excesses; for we know how much ardor belongs to that age. In the aged there is more moderation; but the young intemperately indulge themselves. It is therefore a metaphorical expression, by which the Prophet intimates, that the Israelites had, for a time, been wanton against God, their petulance being not subdued, for, as he had said, they had been like untamed bullocks. It follows, —
20 ls Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD.
20. An filius pretiosus mihi Ephraim? an filius oblectationum? tamen ex quo tempore loquutus sum de eo, recordando recordabor filius (אזכרנו, vel, quia a termpore loquutus sum cum eo, reeordando recordabor illius; dicemus postea de sensu) propterea sonuerunt viscera mea illi (id est, super ipsum) miserando miserabor illius, dicit Jehova.
God here complains of the Israelites, because he had produced so little an effect on them by his great goodness: for the adoption with which he had favored them was an immense benefit;but by their ingratitude they had in a manner annihilated that favor. God then here asks, what sort of people the Israelites had been. But a question makes a thing stronger; for he who asks a question shews that he speaks not of a thing uncertain, but the knowledge of which is so conspicuous that it cannot be denied. It is then the same as though he had said, that Ephraim was unworthy of any honor or esteem, and that he was no object of delight. We now then perceive what God means in the beginning of the verse, even that the people were unworthy of any mercy, because they had abolished, as far as they could, the favor of adoption: for by the word son, he refers to that special favor, the covenant which he had made with the seed of Abraham.
In the first place, he calls him a son, בן, ben, and then a child, ילד, ilad, which refers to his birth: but by these two names, God here intimates that they were to him a peculiar people, as he everywhere calls those his sons who were the descendants of Abraham; for circumcision was to them a symbol and pledge of the covenant; and so the time is a circumstance that ought to be noticed, because God does not shew here what the Israelites were before he had chosen them to be his people. But as I have already said, he charges them with ingratitude, since the time they had been adopted by him as his children. He then calls them sons, or children, by way of concession, and with regard to their adoption, as Jerusalem was called the holy city, because it was God’s habitation. There is then a concession as to the name given to them. But he afterwards adds, that this son was not precious, that is, worthy of any honor, and that he was not an object of delight; as though he had said, that he was of a perverse and wicked disposition, so that he could not take any delight in him, as by another simile he complains in Jer 2:21, as we have seen, that the Jews were become bitter to him,
“My vine have I planted thee;
why then art thou turned to me into bitterness?”
So also now he says, that the Israelites were indeed his sons, but that they were evil-disposed sons, disobedient sons, sons who only vexed their father, who wounded his feelings, who filled him with sorrow.
He then adds, For from the time I spake in him, so it is literally. It is commonly agreed that these words are to be read with those which follow. “For from what time I spake;” and thus the relative אשר, asher, is to be understood; but literally it is, “For from the time I spake in him,” בו, bu, or, as some render it, “concerning him;” but it may suitably be rendered “with him.” Then they read, in connection with this, Remembering I will yet remember him
This passage, on account of its brevity, is obscure, and therefore ambiguous; but the common opinion is this, — that though Ephraim was not a child of delight, yet God would be merciful towards him; and thus they take כי ki, in an adversative sense, “notwithstanding,” or yet: “Is Ephraim a precious son? Is he a child of delight? yet remembering I will still remember him;” as though he had said, that he would not be prevented by the people’s wickedness, for he would still pity him according to his infinite goodness, or that his goodness would surpass their wickedness. This sense is plausible; yet it may be doubted whether this be the meaning. Some read the words, “From the time I spake concerning him,” that is, while I now speak of him: but I know not whether this explanation can stand. I am therefore inclined to the opinion of those who refer this to threatenings, even that from the time God had spoken against Israel, he was yet ready to be reconciled to them, according to what is said by the Prophet Habakkuk,
“In wrath wilt thou remember mercy.” (Hab 3:2)
But this ought to be rather understood of the covenant, as though God had said, “From the time I spake with him, I will remember him;” that is, that he might shew the reason why he dealt so mercifully with the people. For as their wickedness and corruption were so great, a doubt might arise, “Can God still patiently endure them?” Here then our attention is called back to the fountain of gratuitous mercy, even that God would forgive his people, because he had once chosen them.
But still when I narrowly weigh everything, I think the meaning of the Prophet to be different. I therefore separate the two clauses, “From the time I spake with him,” and, “Remembering I will yet remember him;” for the sentence is harsh, when we say, “From the time I spake with him,” and then add, “I will yet remember him.” But the exposition, the most suitable in my opinion, is this, “From the time I spake with him,” (for ב means with) that is, I desisted not continually to exhort him to repentance, and yet I effected nothing; notwithstanding I will still remember him; that is, “Though I have found this people very perverse, and though they have long given many proofs of their obstinacy, for I have spoken to them for a long time, nevertheless I will still remember them.” For the people deserved eternal ruin who had been so often warned; but God declares that he would still be propitious to them, though he had spoken to them for a time, that is, a long time; for he had not ceased for a long space of time to exhort that people by his Prophets, but with no success. So then I read the words, “From the time I spake with him,” separately from what follows, and connect them with the former clauses, “Is he a precious son? Is he a child of delight?” For he complains that they had been rebellious and untameable, not only from the time he had only once addressed them and sought to do them good, but for several ages. He therefore declares that the people themselves had no hope, because they had been intractable for a long time. He yet adds, though it was so, Remembering I will still remember him 40
And he enhances the benefit of this reconciliation, and says, Therefore sounded have my bowels for him, 41 pitying I will pity him Here God ascribes to himself human feelings; for the bowels are moved and make a noise under immoderate grief; and we sigh and groan deeply, when we are pressed down by great sorrow. So also when God expresses the feelings of a tender father, he says that his bowels made a noise, because he wished to receive his people again into favor. This, indeed, does not properly belong to God; but as he could not otherwise express the greatness of his love towards us, he thus speaks in condescension to our capacities. It follows —
21. Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities.
21. Statue tibi titulos, pone tibi acervos, adjice (vel, applica) cor tuum ad semitam, ad viam per quam ambulasti; revertere virgo Israel, revertere ad urbes tuas istas.
He describes what mercy would do, even that God would at length restore the captives and bring them back from exile to their own country. There was however mention made previously of his favor, that we may know that the people were restored for no other reason but because God had mercy on them. The Prophet then having pointed out the fountain of redemption, passes on now to the external effect, by which God proved that he was reconciled to his people. Hence he says, set up for thee titles
We must first understand why the Prophet speaks thus. When the Jews were led away into Chaldea, they thought that a return was closed up against them. Having then given up every concern for their country, they dwelt among foreign nations, as though they were dead to the land of Canaan. They knew that they had forfeited that land; but they did not understand what had been so often said to them by the Prophets, that their punishment was to be temporary. As they had before disregarded all threatenings, so when God began to fulminate against them, despair overwhelmed their minds, so that they did not wish to hear anything about a return. As then they thought that they were never to return to their own country, they had forgotten the way. As when one moves to another place where he intends to dwell all his life, he only seeks to know the way thither, but does not observe the accommodations on the road, in order to use them again, nor does he take notice which way he goes, whether he turns here to the right and there to the left; it is enough for him to reach the place to which he is going; so also it was with the Jews; they had made up their minds to remain in perpetual exile, they were not therefore solicitous about the road, so as to remember their journey. Therefore the Prophet says now, Set up for thee titles, or inscriptions; for those who travel anywhere, if they mean to return, know that such an inn was commodious, and also that there was so much distance between this town or city and that village, and in like manner, that the road was straight or turned more to one side than another. When therefore they think of a return, they attend to such things as these.
It is for this purpose that the Prophet says, Set up for thee titles, that is, that thou mayest assist thy memory, as travelers are wont to do, who intend to return by the same way. Set up then for thee titles, and raise up for thee heaps, or stones, which we call in our language monioyes; as though he had said, “Thou indeed hast hitherto thought that the way has been closed up against thee, so that thou art to return no more: but God will stretch forth his hand and restore thee to thy former state.” We hence see that the similitude is taken from the common practice of men, but employed for this end, that the Jews might not despair of their restoration as they had previously don. 42
He then says, Apply thy heart — he now explains himself — apply thy heart to the footpath, to the way through which thou hast passed We thus see that the Prophet becomes the interpreter of his own words, even that the people would return along the same road, though they expected no such thing. And he again confirms the same declaration in other words, Return, thou daughter of Israel, return to thine own cities; as though he had said, “Though the land has beea deserted for a time, and reduced to solitude, yet the cities remain, which shall again receive their inhabitants; and through the wonderful favor of God the land still waits for its people.” Though it cast them out for a time, yet the exile was not to be perpetual, for the cities which remained were still by right the property of the people, not because they were worthy of them, but because God had prefixed, as it has elsewhere appeared, a set time for their exile and punishment.
Grant, Almighty God, that as pertinacity is inbred in us, so that we always struggle against thee, and are never tractable until we are renewed by thy Spirit, — O grant, that thy chastisements by which thou wouldest restore us to a sound mind, may not prove ruinous to us, but so influence us by thy Spirit within, that we, being really humbled, may acknowledge thee as our Judge and Father — our Judge, in order that we may be displeased with ourselves, and being touched by thy judgment, we may condemn ourselves, — and our Father, in order that we may, notwithstanding, flee to that mercy which is daily offered to us in the Gospel, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SECOND
22. How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.
22. Quousque vagaberis (aut, cir cuibis) filia rebellis (immorigera)? quia creavit Jehova rem novam in terra, Foemina circundabit virum.
As the Prophet had promised a return to the people, he now reproves especially the Israelites, who looked here and there, and never could acquiesce in the word of God alone: for it is a common thing with almost all the unbelieving, that they torment themselves, and, as it were, designedly contrive for themselves many inquietudes. Since then the Israelites were looking forward to what might happen, and could not entertain any hope as to their return, except when some appearance of hope was presented to them, the Prophet now on this account reproves them.
He first calls the people disobedient or rebellions, for they had often been terrified by threatenings, and God had also offered them the hope of pardon. As they had been perverse whenever God spared them, and as they had also rejected all his promises, the Prophet does not without reason call them disobedient or rebellious. And by circuits or wanderings, he means those vain speculations with which the unbelieving are wont to weary themselves; for the word means properly to go around. We may indeed take it in the sense of wandering, and it is the same thing: but as I have said, the Prophet most fitly gives the name of circuits to those crooked and tortuous speculations in which the unbelieving indulged. And there seems to be understood a contrast between the straight way set before theIn by God, and those circuitous courses in which miserable men entangle themselves, when they do not follow God, but are led astray by their own vain devices. Isaiah also makes use of the same similitude, for he says, that the people were carried away by their own inventions, so that they fruitlessly wearied themselves, because they did not proceed in the straight way. (Isa 57:10) 43
We may hence deduce a useful doctrine, — that we are always within the boundary of safety, when we obey God and walk in the way set before us in his word; but that as soon as we turn aside from the right way, we are only drawn here and there through windings and strayings, so that our labor is at last useless and even ruinous.
We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet: as the unbelief of the people was, as it were, a sealed door, so that they did not receive God’s promises as to their liberation and return, his purpose here was to correct this evil, and to reprove the Israelites for wandering and being disobedient.
He afterwards adds, For behold Jehovah will create — literally, has created; but the past tense is here to be taken for the future; and it serves to shew the certainty of a thing when he uses the past tense, as though he was speaking of a thing already done: Jehovah then has created a new thing He intimates that the Israelites acted foolishly in estimating the promise of deliverance according to their own judgment of things, and the state of things as it appeared to them; for he says that the favor promised them would be wonderful, for this is what he means by a new thing, as though he had said, “Ye indeed judge, according to your usual manner, of what God promises to you, as to your return, but it will be a miracle; act not then perversely, by regarding the favor of God as the common order of nature, for God will surpass everything that is usual among men.”
It ought also to be observed, that what Jeremiah said of the redemption of the people is to be extended to the eternal salvation of the Church; for God in a wonderful manner raises the dead, defends and preserves his Church, and succors her in her troubles. Whenever then the Scripture speaks of the state of the Church, we ought to ascend above the world, and above our own conceptions, and to realize the miracle which is hid from us.
Now follows the miracle, A woman shall surround a ‘man Christians, almost with one consent, explain this of the virgin Mary; and the “new thing,” leads them to this opinion, and probably, also, they were anxious to lay hold on whatever might seem to refer to the mystery of our salvation. They, therefore, say that the new thing of which the Prophet speaks is the virgin carrying the infant Christ in her womb, and that he is called man, because he was full of divine power, though he increased according to the flesh in stature, wisdom, and strength. All this is deservedly laughed at by the Jews; yet they themselves, as I think, do not rightly understand the meaning of the Prophet. They apply it to the people of Israel, because they were like a woman divorced from her husband. They then say, “A woman shall embrace a man after having been alienated from him, and prostituted herself to many adulterers.” The Jews seem to think that they give the meaning of the Prophet; but I think otherwise, for there is here a comparison made between a woman and a man, which they do not consider. For the Prophet does not speak here simply of a man, but of a strong man; for the word גבר geber, means a man who is brave or courageous. When, therefore, he compares a woman to a man, I doubt not but the Prophet means that the Israelites, who were like women, without strength, were destitute of any means of help; but then he says, that they would be superior in strength to their enemies, whose power filled the whole world with terror. We, indeed, know what sort of monarchy Babylon was when the Jews were led into exile. If then we consider what the Jews at that time were, we must say that they were like weak women, while their enemies were strong and warlike: A woman then shall surround a man 44
The word סבב, sebab, means not to embrace, but oftentimes to besiege; and it is taken in many places of Scripture in a bad sense, “Enemies have surrounded me.” When, therefore, a siege is mentioned, the Scripture uses this word. It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, “Women shall bring men into such straits that they shall hold them captive.” 45 But he uses the singular number, as though he had said, “One woman shall be superior to many men, or each Jew shall exceed in valor a Chaldean; so the Jews shall gain the upper hand, though the strength of their enemies be great and terrible.” This is what I regard as the meaning of the Prophet; and justly does he set forth this as a wonderful thing, for it, was a sort of revolution in the world when God thus raised up his servants, so that they who had enslaved them should become far unequal to them. It follows, —
23. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.
23. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Adhuc dicent hoc verbum (hoc est, pronunciabunt hunc sermonum) in terra Jehudah et urbibus ejus, ubi convertero captivitatem ipsorum, Benedicet tibi Jellova, habitaculum justitiae, mons sanctitatis.
He confirms in other words what he has said before; nor is the repetition, as we have said elsewhere, superfluous; for it was difficult to convince the Jews that what they had already regarded as impossible could be effected; for by their perverseness they had closed, as it were, the door against the word of God. As then despair had thus laid hold on them, and fast bound their minds, it was necessary to dwell at large on the subject, so that they might at length embrace the promise of deliverance. This is the reason why the Prophet employed many words on the same subject.
Now he makes this preface, that he had his message from God; and he speaks in his name, so that the incredible thing might be believed both by the Israelites and the Jews. They shall yet, he says, say in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I shall restore their captivity, etc. By these words the Prophet brings forward the Israelites and the Jews, as it were, into the middle, that they might see placed before their eyes what they deemed impossible. When I shall restore, therefore, their captivity, they shall again say, Bless thee may God, O dwelling-place of justice, O mountain of holiness
It was not without reason that the Prophet employed this mode of speaking; for Jerusalem, we know, was entirely overthrown, and the Temple pulled down, and even burnt with fire. As then this was a spectacle awful and dreadful to all, there is here described a wonderful revolution, even that Sion would again be the moment of holiness, and Jerusalem the habitation of justice, though then a solitude and desolation. And this passage deserves a special notice, so that we may know that God restores his Church as though he drew it up even from hell itself. When, therefore, there is no form of a Church appearing, let us allow that the power of God can raise it up. Whence?, even, as it has been said, from hell. It follows, —
24. And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, husbandmen, and they that go forth with flocks.
24. Et sedebunt (vel, habitabunt) in ea (nempe terra) Jehudah, et omnes urbes ejus (id est, incolae ejus) simul agricolae, et proficiscentur cum grege.
He proceeds with the same subject, but sets forth the effect of that favor of which he had spoken, for dwell, he says, shall the Jews again in the land; that is, they shall rest there and have a quiet habitation. He adds cities, only to amplify the favor of God as to the number and multiplicity of men; as though he had said, that not a few would return, but a vast number of men, sufficient to fill their cities. Now this was to exceed the hope of all; for when they saw the cities deserted, and the land almost empty, who would have thought that they would again be filled with people? But this the Prophet confirms by saying, Dwell there shall Judah and all his cities; and he adds, husbandmen He extends God’s favor to the country and the villages, as though he had said, that the land would be filled with inhabitants, not only as to the fortified towns, but as to the fields.
It often happens that cities are inhabited when there is any fear or danger from enemies; for they who dwell in cities have walls for their defense, and mounds and other means of safety. Had then the Prophet spoken only of cities, he would not have sufficiently set forth the favor of God. Hence he adds husbandmen, as though he had said, that dwelling in the land would be safe, though there were no gates, no walls, no defences, for husbandmen would rest secure in their cottages as though inclosed within walls. We now then understand what the Prophet means.
Some read thus, “Husbandmen, and they who go forth with the flock,” as though the Prophet made a distinction between husbandmen and keepers of sheep; but this seems to me unsuitable; for I doubt not but that he means that husbandmen with their flocks and herds would be secure, having no fear of the inroads of enemies, but living in the land under the care and protection of God, without apprehending anything adverse or hostile to them. The meaning is, that the restoration of the Church would be such, that its state would not be worse than in former ages, and that it would be in a peaceable and quiet condition, so that the inhabitants of the villages and country places would not be less secure than those in cities. 46
Now, were any one to ask, when was this fulfilled? We must bear in mind what has been said elsewhere, — that the Prophets, when speaking of the restoration of the Church, included the whole kingdom of Christ from the beginning to the end. And in this our divines go astray, so that by confining these promises to some particular time, they are compelled to fly to allegories; and thus they wrest, and even pervert all the prophecies. But the Prophets, as it has been said, include the whole progress of Christ’s kingdom when they speak of the future redemption of the people. The people began to do well when they returned to their own country; but soon after distresses came as Daniel had predicted. It was, therefore, necessary for them to look for the coming of Christ. We now taste of these benefits of God as long as we are in the world. We hence see that these prophecies are not accomplished in one day, or in one year, no, not even in one age, but ought to be understood as referring to the beginning and the end of Christ’s kingdom. It follows, —
25. For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.
25. Quia irrigabo (vel, inebriabo) animam sitientem, et Omnem animam quae deficit implebo.
By this verse he removes every doubt, lest any one should reject what he had promised as to the restoration of the people, because the Jews and the Israelites were at the time as dead men. He therefore says, I will water the thirsty soul; some render it “the weary soul;” but נפש עיפה, nupesh oiphe, is often taken metaphorically for a thirsty soul. So in Ps 143:6, it is said,
“I am as a dry land;”
weariness cannot be suitably applied to land; and in Isa 29:8, we have these words,
“As one dreaming he thinks that he eats; afterwards, when awake, his soul is empty: and as one who thinks that he drinks,”
etc. The Prophet employs there the same word, because there is hardly ever weariness without thirst; we contract thirst by weariness. Then the soul is said to be עיפה, oiphe, by a metaphor, not weary, but on the contrary thirsty; and the verb corresponds, which means to inebriate, to irrigate, or to water, and often to satiate. I will then irrigate, or water to satiety, thy dry soul, and every soul which faints, etc., but as דאב, dab, means to be deficient, and sometimes to be wearied, here it denotes a defect, for it follows, I will fill It is then to be taken for a famished soul. 47
The meaning is, that though the Israelites should hunger and thirst, and be for a time without food and drink, yet their want would not prevent God from affording them relief, for he had the power and the will to satisfy the hungry, and to give drink to the thirsty, or to those who were fainting on account of thirst. It now follows, —
26. Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.
26 Propterea expergefaetus sum et vidi, et somnus meus dulcis fuit mihi, (vel utilis)
Here the Prophet comes forth, and by his own example encourages the faithful to be confident, even to recumb on God’s promise, as though they really enjoyed already what was as yet hid from them, nay, as it has been said, incredible. He then says, that he awoke and saw. This metaphor ought to be applied to a feeling contrary to that by which the Prophet had been, as it were, astonished. For though the Jews were not yet led into exile, yet the ten tribes were in that miserable bondage, — their kingdom had fallen and perished, and final ruin was nigh the kingdom of Judah. While then the Prophet was considering these dreadful vengeances of God, he was, as it were, overwhelmed with sleep. He now says that he awoke. As in darkness men lose the rigor of their minds, and sleep also prevails, so that they cannot distinguish between black and white; so also the Prophet confesses that he was for a time, as it were, lifeless; he then says, that he awoke, that is, when God’s favor shone forth, not by its own effect, but in this prophecy.
We then see that he knew as through a mirror what was yet far distant; for the term of seventy years had not as yet commenced: but faith, as it is well known, is the seeing of things hid, and the substance of things absent; for except the word of God obtains in our hearts this assurance, we betray our unbelief. The Prophet gave a proof of his faith, for he fully acknowledged that all that had been by God predicted, though far distant, would yet be accomplished in due time. We now understand why he says, that he awoke.
And he adds, And my sleep was pleasant to me After having said that he saw the work of God, which yet could not be seen by the human eye, he now adds that his sleep had been pleasant to him, while yet he had been sorrowful and full of fear; for the best alleviator of all sorrow is hope.
But we have said that the sorrow by which the mind of the Prophet had been for a time overwhelmed, is compared to a sleep. 48 He now adds, —
27. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast.
27. Ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, et seminabo domum Israel et domum Jehudah semine hominis et semine animalis.
We see that the Prophet brings forward nothing new, but only animates the Jews with confidence as to their deliverance and their return. He yet employs another similitude, even that God would again sow Judah in the land, that he might produce an increase of men, and also of cattle, and of all kinds of animals. We have said that the land was to be for a time dreary and forsaken. As God then thus condemned as it were the land, that all might regard it as given up to desolation and solitude, the Prophet says that God would cause it to be inhabited again by both men and beasts.
But the similitude sets forth still more fully the favor of God. There is to be understood a contrast between a cultivated and a deserted land. It is as though one should say, “They shall sow and reap on mountains, where corn has never been, where a plough has never been seen.” Were any one then to promise a sowing and a harvest in a desert land, it would be a new thing, and could hardly be believed. Even so does the Prophet now say, I will sow, etc., as though he said, “The land indeed shall for a time be accursed, so that it will not sustain either men or beasts; but it shall be sown again.” I will sow it, he says, with the seed both of, men and of animals: and thus he meets a question, which might have been asked, “How can it be that the land will be again inhabited, since it is now deserted by its inhabitants?” even because God will sow it. In this way then, the Prophet answers the question. But at the same time he exalts the favor of God, as though he had said, that there would be no other remedy for the barrenness of the land, until God should cultivate it himself, and scatter seed on it: which is the same as to say, that the restoration of the land would not be the work of human industry or power, but of the wonderful power of God. 49 It follows, —
28. And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD.
28. Et erit, sicuti vigilavi super eos ad evellendum et conterendum, et ad confringendum et ad perdendum, et ad affligendum, sic vigilabo super eos ad aedificandum et ad plantandum, dicit Jehova.
By these words the Prophet confirms what he had said; for the Israelites and the Jews might have ever made this objection, “Why should God promise to be the liberator of his people, whom he had suffered to be oppressed with so great evils, for it would have been easier to prevent them?” The Jews then might have raised this clamor, “Thou givest us here the hope of a return, but why does God suffer us to be driven into exile? why then does he not apply the remedy in time; for now too late he declares that he will be a help to us after our ruin.” As then the Jews thought that a restoration was promised to them unseasonably, the Prophet says that it was God who chastised them and punished them for their sins, and that he could also relieve them whenever it pleased him. For had the Chaldeans, according to their own pleasure, ruled over the Jews, and had obtained the victory over them, who could have ever hoped that the miserable men, thus reduced, could have been delivered by God’s hand? But now the Prophet shews that there was no reason for the Jews to despair, as though it were difficult for God to free them from the tyranny of their enemies; for nothing had happened to them by chance, or through the power of their enemies, but through the righteous judgment of God.
We now then perceive the design of the Holy Spirit in what the Prophet says, As I have watched over them to pluck up and to break down and to break in pieces and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch, etc. 50 God then sets himself forth as the judge who had punished them for their sins, in order that he might convince them that he would also become their Physician, as though he had said, “I who have inflicted the wound can therefore heal it,” according to what is said elsewhere,
“God is he who kills and brings to life, who leads down to the grave and brings up.”
But he employs many words, for the great mass of so many evils might have plunged the Jews into the abyss of despair. Hence the Prophet anticipates them, and shews, that though they had been reduced to extremities, yet so many and so severe calamities could not prevent God from restoring them, when it seemed good to him. He yet reminds them, that it was not without cause that they suffered such grievous things; for God takes no delight in the miseries of his people. The people then ought to have learnt that they had been guilty of great sins from the fact, that they had been chastised with so much rigor and severity. He now adds, So will I watch over you to build and to plant
As for the verb destroy, if we read הרם erem, it ought to be rendered, and to take away The verb רם rem, as it is well known, means to elevate; but metaphorically, to take away. But the received reading, as I have said, is הרס eres. He says, that he would watch to build and to plant them, as he had watched to destroy them; as though he had said, that they had already been taught by experience, how great was the power of God’s hand to save as well as to destroy. They had disregarded threatenings as long as God had spared them, and they thought that they could sin with impunity; and we see how insolently they rejected all the Prophets. But God had at length shewed by severe proofs how his judgments oughf; to have been dreaded. He now then inspires them with hope, for his watching would no less avail for their preservation. It follows, —
29. In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.
29. In diebus illis non dicent amplius, Patres comederunt omphacium (uvam acerbam) et dentes filiorum obstupuerunt:
30. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.
30. Quin potius vir (hoc est; quisque) in sun iniquitate morietur; omnis homo comedens (hoc est, quisquis comederit) uvam acerbam obstupescent dentes ejus (aut, omnis viri qui comederit, dentes obstupescent)
Ezekiel shews that it was a complaint commonly prevailing among the people, that they suffered for the sins of their fathers, as Horace also says, a heathen and a despiser of God, “O Roman, thou dost undeservedly suffer for the faults of thy fathers.” 51 Such, then, was the arrogance of the Jews, as to strive with God, as though he punished them, while they were innocent; and they expressed this by using a proverb, “If our fathers have eaten sour grapes, what is the reason that our teeth are set on edge?” We know that teeth are set on edge when unripe fruits are eaten; but the word properly means sour grapes, which the Greeks call omphakes. Then the Prophet says, that this proverb would be no longer used, for after having been tamed by evils, they would at length know that God had not dealt so severely with them without a just cause.
We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. And he says, In those days, that is, after God had punished the people, and also embraced them through his mercy; for both these things were necessary, that is, that their perverseness and pride should be subdued, and that they should cease to expostulate with God, and also that the gratuitous favor of God should be manifested to them. At that time then, he says, they shall not use this impious proverb, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth have been blunted: 52 but on the contrary, he adds, every one shall die in his own iniquity; and whosoever eateth a sour grape, his teeth shall be blunted; that is, at that time the just judgment of God shall be exalted, so that there will be no place for these insolent and blasphemous clamors; the mercy of God will also be made manifest, for men, worthy of death, will be delivered, but not otherwise than through the gratuitous goodness of God.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou warnest us daily by so many evidences of thy wrath, that we may in due time repent, — O grant, that we may not be slow to consider thy work, and also the doctrine which thou addest, but anticipate thy extreme vengeance, and thus be made capable of receiving thy mercy, that as thou freely offerest it to us, we may anxiously embrace it, and also so retain it in our hearts by true faith, that thou mayest continue its course towards us, until we shall at length reach that blessed rest, which has been prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Twenty-Third
31. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
31. Ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, et percutiam cum domo Israel et cum domo Jehudah foedus novum:
32. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
32. Non secundum foedus quod percussi cum patribus eorum die quo apprehendi manum eorum, ut educerem eos e terra Egypti, quod irritum fecerunt foedus, inquam, et ego dominabor illis, dicit Jehova.
Jeremiah proceeds with the same subject, but shews more clearly how much more abundant and richer the favor of God would be towards his people than formerly, he then does not simply promise the restoration of that dignity and greatness which they had lost, but something better and more excellent. We hence see that this passage necessarily refers to the kingdom of Christ, for without Christ nothing could or ought to have been hoped for by the people, superior to the Law; for the Law was a rule of the most perfect doctrine. If then Christ be taken away, it is certain that we must abide in the Law.
We hence then conclude, that the Prophet predicts of the kingdom of Christ; and this passage is also quoted by the Apostles, as being remarkable and worthy of notice. (Ro 11:27; Heb 8:8-12; Heb 10:16)
But we must observe the order and manner of teaching here pursued. The Prophet confirms what I have before said, that what we have been considering was incredible to the Jews. Having then already spoken of the benefits of God, which could have been hardly recognised by the senses of men, in order to obviate the want of fifith, he adds, that the Lord would manifest his mercy towards them in a new and unusual manner. We hence see why the Prophet added this passage to his former doctrine. For had he not spoken of a new covenant, those miserable men, whom he sought to inspire with the hope of salvation, would have ever vacillated; nay, as the greater part were already overwhelmed with despair, he would have effected nothing. Here then he sees before them a new covenant, as though he had said, that they ought not to look farther or higher, nor to measure the benefit of God, of which he had spoken, by the appearance of the state of things at that time, for God would make a new covenant.
There is yet no doubt but that he commends the favor of God, which was afterwards to be manifested in the fullness of time. Besides, we must ever bear in mind, that from the time the people returned to their own country, the faith of those who had embraced the favor of deliverance was assailed by the most grievous trials, for it would have been better for them to continue in perpetual exile than to be cruelly harassed by all their neighbors, and to be exposed to so many troubles. If, then, the people had been only restored from their exile in Babylon, it was a matter of small moment; but it behoved the godly to direct their minds to Christ. And hence we see that the Prophets, who performed the office of teaching after the restoration, dwelt on this point, — that they were to hope for something better than what then appeared, and that they were not to despond, because they saw that they did not enjoy rest, and were drawn into weary and grievous contests rather than freed from tyranny. We indeed know what Hagggai says of the future temple, and what Zechariah says, and also Malachi. And the same was the object of our Prophet in speaking of the new covenant, even that the faithful, after having enjoyed again their own country, might not clamor against God, because he did not bestow on them that happiness which he had promised. This was the second reason why the Prophet spoke of the new covenant.
As before, he now repeats the words, that the days would come, in which God would make a covenant with Israel as well as with Judah. For the ten tribes, as it is well known, had been driven into exile while the kingdom of Judah was still standing. Besides, when they revolted from the family of David, they became as it were another nation. God indeed did not cease to acknowledge them as his people; but they had alienated themselves as far as they could from the Church. God then promises that there would be again one body, for he would gather them that they might unite together, and not be like two houses.
Now, as to the new covenant, it is not so called, because it is contrary to the first covenant; for God is never inconsistent with himself, nor is he unlike himself, he then who once made a covenant with his chosen people, had not changed his purpose, as though he had forgotten his faithfulness. It then follows, that the first covenant was inviolable; besides, he had already made his covenant with Abraham, and the Law was a confirmation of that covenant. As then the Law depended on that covenant which God made with his servant Abraham, it follows that God could never have made a new, that is, a contrary or a different covenant. For whence do we derive our hope of salvation, except from that blessed seed promised to Abraham? Further, why are we called the children of Abraham, except on account of the common bond of faith? Why are the faithful said to be gathered into the bosom of Abraham? Why does Christ say, that some will come from the east and the west, and sit down in the kingdom of heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? (Lu 16:22; Mt 8:11) These things no doubt sufficiently shew that God has never made any other covenant than that which he made formerly with Abraham, and at length confirmed by the hand of Moses. This subject might be more fully handled; but it is enough briefly to shew, that the covenant which God made at first is perpetual.
Let us now see why he promises to the people a new covenant. It being new, no doubt refers to what they call the form; and the form, or manner, regards not words only, but first Christ, then the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the whole external way of teaching. But the substance remains the same. By substance I understand the doctrine; for God in the Gospel brings forward nothing but what the Law contains. We hence see that God has so spoken from the beginning, that he has not changed, no not a syllable, with regard to the substance of the doctrine. For he has included in the Law the rule of a perfect life, and has also shewn what is the way of salvation, and by types and figures led the people to Christ, so that the remission of sin is there clearly made manifest, and whatever is necessary to be known.
As then God has added nothing to the Law as to the substance of the doctrine, we must come, as I have already said, to the form, as Christ was not as yet manifested: God made a new covenant, when he accomplished through his Son whatever had been shadowed forth under the Law. For the sacrifices could not of themselves pacify God, as it is well known, and whatever the Law taught respecting expiation was of itself useless and of no importance. The new covenant then was made when Christ appeared with water and blood, and really fulfilled what God had exhibited under types, so that the faithful might have some taste of salvation. But the coming of Christ would not have been sufficient, had not regeneration by the Holy Spirit been added. It was, then, in some respects, a new thing, that God regenerated the faithful by his Spirit, so that it became not only a doctrine as to the letter, but also efficacious, which not only strikes the ear, but penetrates into the heart, and really forms us for the service of God. The outward mode of teaching was also new, as it is evident to all; for when we compare the Law with the Gospel, we find that God speaks to us now openly, as it were face to face, and not under a veil, as Paul teaches us, when speaking of Moses, who put on a veil when he went forth to address the people in God’s name. (2Co 3:13) It is not so, says Paul, under the Gospel, but the veil is removed, and God in the face of Christ presents himself to be seen by us. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet calls it a new covenant, as it will be shown more at large: for I touch only on things which cannot be treated apart, that the whole context of the Prophet may be better understood. Let us then proceed now with the words.
He says that the covenant which he will make will not be such as he had made with their fathers Here he clearly distinguishes the new covenant from the Law. The contrast ought to be borne in mind; for no one of the Jews thought it possible that God would add anything better to the Law. For though they regarded the Law almost as nothing, yet we know that hypocrites pretended with great ardor of zeal that they were so devoted to the Law, that they thought that heaven and earth could sooner be blended together, than that any change should be made in the Law; and at the same time they held most tenaciously what God had only for a time instituted. It was therefore necessary that the Law should be here contrasted with the new covenant, that the Jews might know that the favor in reserve for them would be far more excellent than what had been formerly manifested to the fathers. This, then, is the reason why he says, not according to the covenant, etc.
He afterwards adds, which I made with their fathers when I laid hold of their hand, etc. Here he shows that they could never have a firm hope of salvation, unless God made a new covenant. Such was their pride, that they hardly would have received the favor of God, had they not been convinced of this truth: for this would have been always in their mouth, “Did not God shew himself a Father to his people when he redeemed them? was it not a testimony of his paternal favor? has he not elevated the condition of the Church, which he designs to be perpetual?” They would have therefore rejected the favor of God, had not the Prophet openly declared that the Law had been and would be still useless to them, and that there was therefore a necessity for a new covenant, otherwise they must have perished.
We now perceive the design of the Prophet; and this ought to be carefully observed; for it would not be enough to know what the Prophet says, except we also know why he says this or that. The meaning then is, that it ought not to appear strange that God makes a new covenant, because the first had been useless and was of no avail. Then he confirms this, because God made the first covenant when he stretched out his hand to his ancient people, and became their liberator; and yet they made void that covenant. The circumstance as to the time ought to be noticed, for the memory of a recent benefit ought to be a most powerful motive to obedience. For how base an ingratitude it was for those, who had been delivered by the wonderful power of God, to reject his covenant at a time when they had been anticipated by divine mercy? As then they had made void even at that time the covenant of God, it may with certainty be concluded, that there had been no time in which they had not manifested their impiety, and had not been covenant-breakers.
He adds, I however ruled over them, or was Lord over them. Though some confine the verb בעלתי bolti, to the rule exercised by a husband, and this would not be unsuitable, as God not only ruled then over his people, but was also their husband, a similitude which is often used; yet I know not whether this view can be satisfactorily sustained we ought therefore to be satisfied with the general truth, that God had the people under his own authority, as though he had said, that he only used his own right in ruling over them and prescribing to them the way in which they were to live. At the same time the word covenant, was more honorable to the people. For when a king enjoins anything on his people, it is called an edict; but God deals with his own people more kindly, for he descends and appears in the midst of them, that he may bind himself to his people, as he binds the people to himself. We hence see, in short, why God says that he ruled over the people, even because he had purchased them for himself, and yet he had not enjoyed his own right on account of the untameable and perverse disposition of the people. 53
It ought at the same time to be observed, that the fault is here cast on the people, that the Law was weak and not sufficiently valid, as we see that Paul teaches us in Ro 7:12. For as soon as the weakness of the Law is spoken of, the greater part lay hold of something they deem wrong in the Law, and thus the Law is rendered contemptible: hence the Prophet says here that they had made God’s covenant void, as though he had said, that the fault was not to be sought in the Law that there was need of a new covenant, for the Law was abundantly sufficient, but that the fault was in the levity and the unfaithfulness of the people. We now then see that nothing is detracted from the Law when it is said to be weak and ineffectual; for it is an accidental fault derived from men who do not observe nor keep their pledged faith. There are still more things to be said; but I now, as I have said, touch but briefly on the words of the Prophet. It then follows, —
33. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
33. Quia hoc foedus quod percutiam cum domo Israel post dies illos, dicit Jehova, ponam legem meam in medio ipsorum (id est, in visceribus) et in cordibus ipsorum scribam eam; et ego ero illis in Deum, et ipsi erunt mihi in populum.
He now shews a difference between the Law and the Gospel, for the Gospel brings with it the grace of regeneration: its doctrine, therefore, is not that of the letter, but penetrates into the heart and reforms all the inward faculties, so that obedience is rendered to the righteousness of God.
A question may however be here moved, Was the grace of regeneration wanting to the Fathers under the Law? But this is quite preposterous. What, then, is meant when God denies here that the Law was written on the heart before the coming of Christ? To this I answer, that the Fathers, who were formerly regenerated, obtained this favor through Christ, so that we may say, that it was as it were transferred to them from another source. The power then to penetrate into the heart was not inherent in the Law, but it was a benefit transferred to the Law from the Gospel. This is one thing. Then we know that this grace of God was rare and little known under the Law; but that under the Gospel the gifts of the Spirit have been more abundantly poured forth, and that God has dealt more bountifully with his Church. But still the main thing is, to consider what the Law of itself is, and what is peculiar to the Gospel, especially when a comparison is made between the Law and the Gospel. For when this comparison ceases, this cannot be properly applied to the Law; but with regard to the Gospel it is said, that the Law is that of the letter, as it is called elsewhere, (Ro 7:6) and this also is the reason why Paul calls it the letter in 2Co 3:6,
“the letter killeth,”
etc. By “letter” he means not what Origen foolishly explained, for he perverted that passage as he did almost the whole Scripture: Paul does not mean there the simple and plain sense of the Law; for he calls it the letter for another reason, because it only sets before the eyes of men what is right, and sounds it also in their ears. And the word letter refers to what is written, as though he had said, The Law was written on stones, and was therefore a letter. But the Gospel — what is it? It is spirit, that is, God not only addresses his word to the ears of men and sets it before their eyes, but he also inwardly teaches their hearts and minds. This is then the solution of the question: the Prophet speaks of the Law in itself, as apart from the Gospel, for the Law then is dead and destitute of the Spirit of regeneration.
He afterwards says, I will put my Law in their inward parts By these words he confirms what we have said, that the newness, which he before mentioned, was not so as to the substance, but as to the form only: for God does not say here, “I will give you another Law,” but I will write my Law, that is, the same Law, which had formerly been delivered to the Fathers. He then does not promise anything different as to the essence of the doctrine, but he makes the difference to be in the form only. But he states the same thing in two ways, and says, that he would put his law in their inward parts, and that he would write it in their hearts 54 We indeed know how difficult it is that man should be so formed to obedience that his whole life may be in unison with the Law of God, for all the lusts of the flesh are so many enemies, as Paul says, who fight against God. (Ro 8:7) As then all our affections and lusts thus carry on war with God, it is in a manner a renovation of the world when men suffer themselves to be ruled by God. And we know what Scripture says, that we cannot be the disciples of Christ, except we renounce ourselves and the world, and deny our own selves. (Mt 6:24; Luke 14:26, 27) This is the reason why the Prophet was not satisfied with one statement, but said, I will put my Law in their inward parts, I will write it in their hearts.
We may further learn from this passage, how foolish the Papists are in their conceit about free-will. They indeed allow that without the help of God’s grace we are not capable of fulfilling the Law, and thus they concede something to the aid of grace and of the Spirit: but still they not only imagine a co-operation as to free-will, but ascribe to it the main work. Now the Prophet here testifies that it is the peculiar work of God to write his Law in our hearts. Since God then declares that this favor is justly his, and claims to himself the glory of it, how great must be the arrogance of men to appropriate this to themselves? To write the Law in the heart imports nothing less than so to form it, that the Law should rule there, and that there should be no feeling of the heart, not conformable and not consenting to its doctrine. It is hence then sufficiently clear, that no one can be turned so as to obey the Law, until he be regenerated by the Spirit of God; nay, that there is no inclination in man to act rightly, except God prepares his heart by his grace; in a word, that the doctrine of the letter is always dead, until God vivifies it by his Spirit.
He adds, And I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people Here God comprehends generally the substance of his covenant; for what is the design of the Law, except that the people should call upon him, and that he should also exercise a care over his people? For whenever God declares that he will be our God, he offers to us his paternal layout, and declares that our salvation is become the object of his care; he gives to us a free access to himself, bids us to recumb on his grace, and, in short, this promise contains in itself everything needful for our salvation. The case is now also at this day the same under the Gospel; for as we are aliens from the kingdom of heaven, he reconciles us by it to himself, and testifies that he will be our God. On this depends what follows, And they shall be my people; for the one cannot be separated from the other. By these words then the Prophet briefly intimates, that the main object of God’s covenant is, that he should become our Father, from whom we are to seek and expect salvation, and that we should also become his people. Of these things there is more to be said again; but I have explained the reason why I now so quickly pass over things worthy of a longer explanation. He adds, —
34. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
34. Et non docebit amplius vir (id est, quisque) proximum suum, et quisque fratrum suum, dicendo, cognoscite Jehovam; quia omnes cognoscent me a parvo ipsorum, et (sed abundat copula) ad magnum ipsorum, dicit Jehova; quia ignoscam pecattis ipsorum, et iniquitatum ipsorum non recordabor amplius.
But I cannot now proceed farther, for the clock strikes.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast favored us with so singular a benefit as to make through thy Son a covenant which has been ratified for our salvation, — O grant, that we may become partakers of it, and know that thou so speakest with us, that thou not only shewest by thy Word what is right, but speakest also to us inwardly by thy Spirit, and thus renderest us teachable and obedient, that there may be an evidence of our adoption, and a proof that thou wilt govern and rule us, until we shall at length be really and fully united to thee through Christ our Lord. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth
And no more shall every one teach his neighbor, and every one his brother, saying, Know ye Jehovah; for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their sins, and their iniquities will I remember no more Here is mentioned another difference between the old and the new covenant, even that God, who had obscurely manifested himself under the Law, would send forth a fuller light, so that the knowledge of him would be commonly enjoyed. But he hyperbolically extols this favor, when he says that no one would have need of a teacher or instructor, as every one would have himself sufficient knowledge. We therefore consider that the object of the Prophet is mainly to shew, that so great would be the light of the Gospel, that it would be clearly evident, that God under it deals more bountifully with his people, because its truth shines forth as the sun at noon-day. The same thing Isaiah promises, when he says that all would become the disciples of God. (Isa 54:13) This was indeed the case also under the Law, though God gave then but a small taste of heavenly doctrine: but at the coming of Christ he unfolded the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, so that under the Gospel there is the perfection of what had been begun; for we know that the ancient people were like children, and hence God kept them in the rudiments of knowledge: now, as we are grown up, he favors us with a fuller doctrine, and he comes, as it were, nearer to us.
Hence, he says, No more shall every one teach his neighbor, and a man his brother 55 I have said that the Prophet here amplifies the favor of God. But we find that some fanatics have ignorantly and foolishly abused this passage, seeking to put down teaching of every kind, as the Anabaptists in our day, who reject all teaching; and flattering themselves in their ignorance, they proudly boast that they are endued with the Spirit, and say, that dishonor is done to Christ, if we are still disciples, because it is written as one of the praises and encomiums given to the new covenant, that no one shall teach his neighbor any more And hence it has also happened, that they are inebriated with strange and horrible doctrines: for the devil, when they become swollen with so much pride, can fascinate and delude them as he pleases; and their own pride also so leads them astray, that they invent dreams; and many unprincipled men have drawn aside this passage to serve their own purposes. For when they boast themselves to be prophets, and persuade the simple that they are so, they hold many attached to themselves, and derive gain by this sort of boasting.
But the Prophet here does not mean inspiration, nor does he exclude the practice of teaching, as I have already said; he only shews to us the superior brightness of the gospel light, as God, under the Law, did not so perfectly teach his people as he does us at this day. And hence is that saying of Christ,
“Blessed are the eyes which see the things which ye see, and the ears which hear the things which ye hear; for many kings and prophets,” etc. (Lu 10:23)
Christ, then, is the best interpreter of this passage, even that God would cause the truth to shine forth more fully under the Gospel; and hence Christ is called by Malachi
“the Sun of Righteousness,” (Mal 4:2)
for the Prophet there intimates that the Fathers had indeed some light, but not such as we have. In short, we ought to bear in mind the comparison, of which mention was made yesterday, even that God held his people in suspense with the hope of a better state.
And that we may no farther seek an explanation, let us carefully weigh the words; for it is not simply and without exception said, “No one shall teach his neighbor,” but it it is added, “Saying, Know ye Jehovah.” We hence see that the Prophet promises knowledge, so that they might be no longer alphabetarians; for these words, “Know ye Jehovah,” point out the first elements of faith, or of celestial doctrine. And, doubtless, if we consider how great was the ignorance of the ancient people, they were then only in the elements. He who is at this day the least among the faithful, has so far advanced, that he knows much more clearly what pertains chiefly to salvation than those who were then the most learned. The meaning then is, that all God’s chosen people would be so endued with the gift of knowledge, that they would no longer continue in the first elements.
Now, were any one pertinaciously to urge this one clause, it would be right to set before him a passage in Isaiah, for he certainly speaks of the kingdom of Christ, when he says,
“Lay hold shall each on the hand of his neighbor, and say, Come, let us ascend into the mountain of the Lord, and he will teach us his ways,” etc. (Isa 2:3)
Now, let us reconcile these two prophecies. The design of both is to set forth the favor of God, manifested by Christ at his coming. The one passage says, “No one will teach his neighbor;” and the other, “Lay hold will each on the hand of his neighbor, and say, Let us come and ascend into the mountain, that Jehovah may teach us.” Now the way of reconciling them is this, — that Jeremiah says, that the people would not be so ignorant under the new covenant as to stand in need of the first principles of truth; but that Isaiah says, that each would lay hold on the hand of his neighbor, that they might mutually help one another, so as to attain the knowledge of God’s law. The question is thus solved; and we, at the same time, see how remarkable is the benefit with which God favors his people, as he thus makes himself familiarly known to them.
He says, All shall know me, from the least to the greatest He does not mean that knowledge would be in all in an equal measure. Experience indeed proves this to be false; and further we know, that God has testified from the beginning, as Paul also reminds us, (Rom. 12:2, 3) that the measure of his gifts is according to his good pleasure. But the Prophet means, that those who are the least or the lowest among God’s people shall be endued with so much light of knowledge that they will be almost like teachers. To the same purpose is the prophecy of Joel,
“Prophesy shall your sons, your daughters shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Joe 2:28)
He promises that there would be everywhere prophets and teachers, because the grace of God would be at that day more abundant; and these things ought ever to be understood comparatively. Though, then, many are now ignorant among the children of God, and among those who are really of the number of the faithful, yet if we consider how great was the obscurity of the Law, those who are at this day the least among the disciples, are not otherwise than prophets and teachers. And for this reason Christ says,
“He who is least in the kingdom of heaven,
is greater than John the Baptist,”
who yet was superior to all the Prophets. (Mt 11:11) John the Baptist was, in his office, exalted above all the Prophets, and he excelled them in knowledge; and yet the least of those who professed the Gospel and bore testimony to it, was greater, says Christ, than John the Baptist. And this is not to be applied only to them individually, nor be confined to them, but rather to the clear and plain doctrine which the Gospel conveys, according to the passage we quoted yesterday, where Paul says that there is now no veil intervening, but that we are allowed to see God, as it were, face to face in the person of Christ. (2Co 3:18)
It follows, For I well forgive their sins, and their iniquities will I remember no more The Prophet, no doubt, shews here the foundation of God’s kindness, even that he would receive the people into favor by not imputing to them their sins. If we then seek for the origin of the new covenant, it is the free remission of sins, because God reconciles himself to his people. And we hence conclude, that there is no other cause that we can imagine, why God appeared in his only-begotten Son, and manifested so great a bounty: for the Prophet here reduces to nothing all the glory of the flesh, and lays prostrate all merits, when he says, that God would be so bountiful to his people as to become propitious to them, freely to remit their sins, and not to remember their iniquities. This passage, then, cannot properly be taken as referring to the perpetual remission of sins, though this he included in the general doctrine; but we must bear in mind the design of the Prophet, which was to shew, that God from the beginning, with regard to his Church, was moved by no other cause than a desire to abolish sins.
The Apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, gives rather a refined interpretation of this passage, for he dwells on the word more, עד, od. He says, that under the New Testament God forgives iniquities, because expiation has been made, so that there is no more need of sacrifices. For he assumes the opposite idea, that God remembered iniquities until he made the new covenant. If he remembered sins, he says, until he made a new covenant, it is no wonder that he then required daily sacrifice to propitiate him: but now under the New Testament he remembers them no more. Then sacrifices cease, because there is now no need of satisfaction when sins are forgiven. He hence concludes, that we have been so expiated by the blood of Christ, and so reconciled to God, that confidence as to our salvation ought to give us an entire rest. But we ought to bear in mind what I have said, that the Prophet here expressly, and in the first place, speaks of the beginning of the mercy and grace which God promises; he therefore declares that God would be so kind and so gracious as not to remember iniquities
What, then, does the particle more intimate? Even that God had for a time been angry with his people, and visited their sins with judgment. For God is said to call our sins to remembrance, he is said to be angry with us, he is said to be the avenger of our iniquities, when he punishes us, when he gives evidences of his severity and of his vengeance. Whenever then God severely handled his people, he seemed to remember their iniquities; but when he made the new covenant, all iniquities were then buried, and cast, as another Prophet says, into the depths of the sea. (Mic 7:19) Then the Apostle misapplied the testimony of the Prophet: by no means; for he wisely accommodated it to the subject he was discussing: what God promises, that he would not any more remember iniquities, after having made the new covenant, was accomplished through the coming of Christ. Then Christ alone has effected this — that our iniquities should no more be remembered before God. Hence also we easily learn what the Apostle intended to prove, even that sacrifices cease when sins are expiated. These things indeed harmonize well together, and there is nothing forced or too refined.
Moreover, the Prophet does not here discuss the whole question respecting the difference between the Old and New Testament, but only takes this as granted, that the grace of God would be more abundant than formerly, in order that the faithful, supported by hope, might patiently endure their evils and most grievous trials with which they had to contend, and not despond until Christ was manifested, as we said yesterday. Here, then, he speaks of the grace of regeneration, of the gift of knowledge, and at the same time promises that God would be propitious to his people in a different and more perfect way than he had been in former times. But the Apostle in that Epistle seems to apply this to ceremonies, because these things are connected together; that is, the abrogation of ceremonies and the regeneration of the Spirit which is promised here. Then the Apostle does not wrest the words of the Prophet; but as he commends the new covenant, which was to be more excellent than the Law, he hence concludes, that it is no wonder that ceremonies were not to continue but for a time. For he assumes this principle, that a new covenant was to succeed the old: then some change was necessarily to be. He assumes also that the new covenant was opposed to the old, and that the old was subject to destruction. The Jews could not endure any change in the types, for they would have them to remain the same. But the Apostle says that it is nothing strange that a thing should decay; for God, he says, does not certainly without reason call that covenant old which he made by Moses; then it will not always continue valid. (Heb 8:13) Since it is so, it cannot be inconsistent with the truth and faithfulness of God, that the ceremonies should cease as to their use, while the Law itself remained unchanged. We now then see that the Apostle faithfully interpreted the design of the Prophet by accommodating his testimony to the abrogation of ceremonies.
But as I have to explain only the words of the Prophet, there is no need to speak further of the difference between the Old and New Testament, that is, in what particulars they differ; for the Old and New Testament differ also in other things. But the Prophet, as I have said, thought it sufficient to touch on this point, — that something better was to be hoped at the coming of Christ than what the Fathers in all ages had found. And thus, as I have said, he sought to alleviate the sorrow of the faithful, whom God exercised with hard trials before Christ was manifested in the flesh.
Moreover, the Law and the Gospel form a contrast like Moses and Christ. Then the New Testament is more excellent than the Law, as Christ excels Moses. But we must come to a passage in John, that we may more fully understand why the Prophet says that the grace of the new covenant would be different from that, of the old. John says,
“The Law was given by Moses, but grace
and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (Joh 1:17)
John seems there to leave nothing to the Law but an evanescent shadow. For if Christ only brought truth to us, then there was no truth in the Law, and there was no grace in the Law; but this seems to east a reproach on the Law. Now this question was in part answered yesterday. But as I wish to finish this passage, let it be briefly observed, that whenever the Law is thus extenuated, it is only that the benefit of Christ may be set forth, so that we may know how invaluable is God’s mercy which appears in his only-begotten Son.
Were now any one to object and say, “But why had he previously published the Law? and why did he command it to be reverently received, if it was without grace and truth?” To this I answer, according to what I said yesterday, that the Law was not destitute of those benefits which we at this day receive under the Gospel, but that these benefits were then, as it were, adventitious, and that they do not properly belong to the Law; for if the Law were separated from the Gospel, it would be the same as if one was to separate Moses from Christ. If Moses be regarded, not as opposed to Christ, he was the herald and witness of God’s paternal kindness towards his people; his doctrine also contained promises of a free salvation, and opened to the faithful the door of access to God. But if Moses be set in opposition to Christ, he becomes the minister of death, and his doctrine leads to destruction; for the letter, as Paul in 2Co 3:6, calls it, killeth, — how so? Because whosoever is attached to Moses departs from Christ; and Christ alone possesses in himself the fullness of all blessings. It then follows, that nothing remains in Moses when considered in himself. But God promised salvation to his ancient people, and also regenerated his chosen, and illuminated them by his Spirit. This he did not do so freely and extensively as now. As then God’s grace is at this day more abundant, it is justly extolled in high terms by all the Prophets; and then, as I have already said, whatever God at that time conferred, was, as it were, adventitious, for all these benefits were dependant on Christ and the promulgation of the Gospel. Let us now proceed, —
35. Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; the LORD of hosts is his name:
35. Sic dicit Jehova, Qui ponit solera (vel, posuit) in lucem diei, et leges (vel, statuta, decreta) lunae et stellarum in lucem noctis; scindens mare, et resonant (tumultuautur) fluctus ejus; Jehova exercituum nomen ejus:
36. If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.
36. Si remota fuerint decreta haec a conspectu meo, dicit Jehova, etiam semen Israel cessabit (vel, deficiet) ne sit gens coram facie mea cunctis diebus.
He confirms the promises which we have been considering; for it was difficult to believe that the people would not only recover what they had lost, but also be made much more happy; for the Church was then wholly in a desponding state. It was not then an easy matter to raise, as it were, from the lowest depths a miserable people, and to comfort them so that they might overcome their dreadful trial; for the disorder of the Church was such, that had it been raised a hundred times from the dead, it might again be a hundred times crushed into death, for there still remained for it most grievous evils in future. This is then the reason why the Prophet dwells at large on proving the same thing.
He says in the person of God, “I am he who created the sun, the moon, and the stars; the regular order of things in creation still continues, for the sun performs its course, and so does the moon.” He speaks, indeed, of their diurnal course, for we know that the Prophets spoke popularly, and according to the common notions. Had they philosophized, as astrologers do, and spoken of the monthly course of the moon, and of the annual course of the sun, they could not have been understood by the common people. They were, therefore, satisfied to state things which even children could comprehend, even that the sun made its circuit daily round the world, that the moon did the same, and that the stars in their turns followed; so that the moon holds the first place in the night among the stars, and that the sun rules during the day. “I am the Lord,” he says, “who have fixed this order of things which still remains:” I cut or divide the sea, he says, that is, I stir it up with tempests, and make a noise, or roar, do its waves.”
He mentions things which are contrary, but not inconsistent, though different. For the course of the sun, moon, and stars is regular and fixed, and so he calls their courses חקת cheket, and החקים echekim, that is, decrees, which are not changeable. 56 Then in the heavens we find an order so arranged and regulated, that nothing deviates from its appointed course. But in storms and tempests God seems as though he would shake the world and overturn what appears otherwise immovable; for even the very rocks, as it were, tremble when the sea is violently stirred up; and yet God calms the very sea, and thus puts an end to storms and tempests, so that there ever appears to be a stability and a perpetuity in nature. He then adds, If removed shall these laws be from my presence, the seed of Israel shall also fail; that is, “As certain as is the stability of the order of nature, seen in the course of the sun and the moon, and in the turbulent sea, so certain will be the deliverance of ray Church, nor can it ever be destroyed.” The tempest on the sea seems to shake the world, and yet the world remains fixed. The sun and moon, when they rise, might overwhelm the whole earth; for we know that the sun is much larger than the earth. While so large a body, and almost immeasurable, hangs over our heads, and rolls on so swiftly, who ought not to be afraid? Yet the sun proceeds in its course, and the earth remains firm, because it so pleases God. There is, therefore, no reason to fear that the safety of the Church should ever fail, for the laws or decrees of nature shall never cease; that is, God, who has from the beginning governed the world, will not disregard the welfare of his Church, for whose sake the world has been created.
Nor, indeed, is it a matter of wonder, that the safety of the Church is here shewn to be so secure, for it may justly be preferred even to the fixed course of the sun and of the moon, and to other institutions of nature. But God deemed it enough in this place to use this comparison, according to what is said in the Psalms, where the sun and the moon are called his faithful witnesses in heaven. (Ps. 89:36, 37) But there also the covenant is spoken of, which God was about to make with his people through his only-begotten Son. He mentions the moon as his witness in heaven; but as I have already said elsewhere, he raises us far above the world and above all the elements, yea, above the sun and the moon, when he treats of the certainty of our salvation; and, doubtless, the condition of the Church does not depend on the state of the world; for it is said in another place,
“They shall grow old, but thou wilt remain for ever.”
And the Prophet there compares the heavens to garments, which wear out by use, and at length become useless; but the condition of the Church, he says, is far different. He does not, indeed, express these words; but after having said, “Thou, O God, art the same from eternity,” he comes to the eternity of the Church, “Thy children’s children shall endure.” We now see that the Church has the preference over the whole world. But God had a regard in this place to the weakness of his people, when he said that his grace to his people would be as sure and certain as the institutions of nature. Some refer the last clause in verse 35 (Jer 31:35) to the Red Sea; because God divided the Red Sea; but this is wholly foreign to the meaning of the Prophet, nor does it require any confutation; but I have pointed it out that no one may be led astray.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we enjoy the light of the sun by day, and of the moon by night, we may learn to raise higher our eyes, and not be like the unbelieving, who have this benefit in common with us, but look forward in hope of our eternal salvation, nor doubt but that as thou settest before our eyes a proof of thy immovable constancy in these created things, so also secure and certain shall be our salvation, which is founded on thy most certain truth, which renders sure all things, until at length we come into that blessed kingdom, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Twenty-Fifth
37. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.
37. Sic dicit Jehova, Si mensurentur coeli sursum, et investigentur fundamenta terrae deorsum, etiam ego rejiciam (vel, spernam) totum semen Israel, propter onmia quae fecerunt, dicit Johova.
He confirms the same thing by another comparison, even that it would be impossible for God wholly to forget his covenant, but that he would again gather his people. Exile might indeed appear as a permanent death; and thus the truth of God might have been brought to nothing; and the covenant could not have been made void without giving the people a sort of right to complain, that they had been deceived. For we know, that though a condition was added to the covenant, yet it was not founded on the integrity of men; and hence it is said, that God is not a liar, though all the Jews were perfidious. (Rom. 3:3, 4) Then the Prophet teaches us here, that though God had severely punished the sins of the people, and had resolved to punish them in future, even so as to destroy their city, there would yet be a place for mercy after the people had been chastised.
He had said before that God’s covenant with Abraham’s children could no more fail than the laws of nature: he now says, that if any could measure the heaven, and investigate the foundations of the earth, that is, penetrate into the very center of the earth, then, he says, I will reject the seed of Israel But God brings before us these strange and impossible things, that we may know that he will at length be reconciled to his people after having justly punished them. And this promise could not have afforded any consolation to hypocrites, because God does not include the whole seed of Abraham, but says, that he would not allow the whole seed of Abraham to perish, for some remnant would continue, according to what is said by Isaiah,
“Though thy people were as the sand of the sea,
a remnant shall be saved.” (Isa 10:22)
God then does not here affirm that he would be merciful to all, but that there would be still some remaining, so that the name of the people would continue immortal: in short, he promises that the Church would be saved, but that the number would be small.
We now perceive the design of the Prophet: he doubtless had regard to the faithful, who might have been overwhelmed with despair, on seeing themselves driven far away from their own country, and having no hope of a return. Then he testifies that God had such a care for the safety of the faithful, that he would gather the scattered seed.
But we must bear in mind what we have said, that this promise is to be confined to the elect alone, for they were alone capable of receiving this favor. As to the unbelieving, who were perverse in their wickedness, God might have wholly cut them off, and yet save the remnants of grace.
Now there is no need here to enter into a subtle discussion, whether the center of the earth can be found out. The philosophers do indeed bring some probable reasons as to the extent of the heavens, and the dimension of the earth is also conjectured by them. But the Prophet’s purpose was to declare, according to the common and popular mode of speaking, that God’s mercy would be perpetual and immeasurable towards the children of Abraham, like the immensity of the earth and the heavens, which exceeds the comprehension of the human mind.
He adds, On account of all the things which they have done; that is, though they have deserved to die eternally a hundred times, I will yet have a regard to my covenant and my mercy. The Prophet then designedly sets before us here the sins of the people, that we may know that God’s mercy would be very great, as that the whole mass of so many evils would not hinder God to forgive them. This is the reason why he says, on account of all the things which they have done. It now follows, —
38. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD, from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner.
38. Ecce dies (addunt alii באים, veniunt) dicit Jehova, et edificabitur urbs Jehovae e turri Chananeel usque ad portam anguli:
39. And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath.
39. Et exibit adhuc funiculus mensurae coram ipso (vel, coram ipsa porta) et usque ad collem Gazeb, et circumdabit Goathath,
40. And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse-gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.
40. Et omnem vallem (alii legunt in nominativeocasu, et omnis vailis) cadaverum et cineris, et omnes regiones (vel, agri) ad torrentem Kedron usque ad angulum portae equorum versus orientem, sanctitas Jehovae; non evelletur, et non destructur amplius in perpetuum.
Here the Prophet speaks of the rebuilding of the city. I doubt not but that his object was to shew them that the largeness and splendor of the city after the return of the people would not be less than it had been under David in its most flourishing condition. We must, however, first speak of the words before we proceed to the subject.
Behold, the days are coming, saith Jehovah, and built shall be the city It was not as yet destroyed; but the Prophet intimated that its utter ruin was nigh at hand; he therefore makes now their hope to depend on God’s mercy alone, as to the deliverance of the people from exile: Built then shall be the city to Jehovah from the tower of Hananeel, etc. This tower was, no doubt, placed in the wall of the city. Almost the same prediction is found in Zec 14:10, though there is some diversity in the words; but both the Prophets refer to the same thing. Zechariah’s object was to animate the people under this circumstance, because the beauty, greatness, and extent of the city did not at first correspond with what it had formerly been. He then promises that its glory would at length be the same as it had been; and he names there the tower of Hananeel Jeremiah adds, to the gate of the corner The corner, הפנה ephene, is in the singular number; but in Zechariah it is הפנים ephenim, in the plural; and it is thought that corners or corner is thus called metaphorically, because a corner shews two faces while it stands out, and thus two parts appear; but whether it be the gate of the corner or of the corners, it makes but little difference.
He afterwards adds, Yet go forth shall the line of measure before him Some apply this to the gate, because from the gate the line was to be extended to the hill Gareb, and go round to Goath Of these names of places I cannot say much, for we do not know the ancient situation of the city; and the Jews themselves, when they make conjectures about these uncertain things, shew only their own ignorance. However, the greater part of interpreters understand this, — that the city was to be large, as though God promised that he would extend it beyond the walls; and this they illicit from the verb יצא itsa, go forth shall the line, or cord, of measure But when the Prophet says yet, he compares the ancient greatness of the city with that which he perceives it to be hereafter. Then Zechariah seems to promise that it would be such a city as would contain the same measure; for he says,
“Inhabited shall the city be under itself,”
or in its own place. (Zec 12:6) As then Zechariah promises that the city would occupy the same place as formerly, I do not conclude anything else from the words of our Prophet, especially as the particle yet intimates the same thing. When it is said before him, I apply this to God and not to the gate; for mention is previously made of God, Built shall be the city to Jehovah; and then he adds, before him I have no doubt but that the Prophet here bids the Israelites to raise up their eyes to God, that they might expect from him what was incredible according to the comprehension of men and of the flesh: then before him, that is, when God restores the city, then Go forth shall the line, that is, he will extend the line to the hill Gareb, and surround Goath
He then adds, And the whole valley Some read, “the whole valley shall be holiness to Jehovah:” and it may be suitably taken, that all the places near to the city were to be holy to God; but this verse may be connected with the preceding, as though he said, extended shall be the line to the whole valley of the carcases and of the ashes The word דשן, dashin, means ashes and fatness; but here it is to be taken for ashes; and it is thought that the place was so called, where they were wont to throw the ashes gathered from the altar, after the sacrifices were burnt: as then there was there a great heap of ashes, the place had this name given to it. Another place was also called the place of carcases, because there a host of enemies had been slain by an angel, in the reign of Hezekiah. As then a great and a memorable slaughter had taken place there, it is thought that it received this name, in order that God’s favor might remain known to posterity. If then this name became the monument of God’s favor, Hezekiah, I have no doubt, was the cause of it.
It is then added, and all the regions to the brook Kidron It is probable enough that the places here named were outside of the city, for we know that the brook Kidron was not within the city. Then he adds, to the corner of the gate of the horses It is thought that through this gate went forth the chariots of the king when he wished to exercise his horses. It might have been the market-place for horses. Conjectures only have place here; for no one knows of a certainty whether the king had a place of exercise for his horses. But this gate looked towards the east. He says that all the places would be holiness to Jehovah; and then he promises them a quiet and a perpetual condition, It shall not be cut off nor destroyed any more for ever; for which it is said by Zechariah, “there shall be no more חרם cherim, destruction.” 57
We now see the design of the Prophet: after having spoken of the return of the people, he adds that the city would again become splendid and large, as it had been; for the land continued in a state of disorder until the restoration of the city, as God had there chosen a habitation for himself. And as the Temple had been built there, it behoved the Israelites, wherever they dwelt, ever to direct their eyes to the Temple and the sanctuary of God, that they might live under his protection. Except, then, the city had been built again, the goodness of God could not have been really enjoyed; for a sort of desolation would have otherwise ever presented itself to the eyes of the people, as the city was as it were the banner under which God protected them. This then is the reason why the Prophet expressly announced this prophecy respecting the future restoration of the city.
Now, when he says that the city would be built to Jehovah, he intimates what was especially expected by the Jews, that that city would again be holy; for if it only flourished in wealth and power like other cities, it would have been but a small comfort to the Israelites. But he points out here a difference between Jerusalem and all heathen cities; for God was, as it were, the architect of that city, as it is said in the Psalms,
“He himself founded it,” (Ps 87:5)
“His foundations are on the holy mountains,”
and this ought to be understood of himself. (Ps 87:1) The meaning is, that God would again care for that city, as the Temple would become as it were his royal throne and earthly sanctuary. At the same time when the Prophet affirms that the extent of the city would not be less than it had been, we see that this prophecy must necessarily be referred to the kingdom of Christ: for though Jerusalem before Christ’s coming was eminent and surrounded by a triple wall, and though it was celebrated through all the East, as even heathen writers say that it excelled every other city, yet it was never accomplished, that the city flourished as under David and Solomon. 58 We must then necessarily come to the spiritual state of the city, and explain the promise as the grace which came through Christ.
But we must especially notice what is said, that it would be holiness to Jehovah, and also that no ruin or destruction would be dreaded any more. Had the condition of the elect people been the same as that of other nations, the promise of restoration would have been small and of no great moment; for it would have been better for them to dwell in exile where they inhabited a pleasant and fertile country. But the Prophet here commends a privilege with which God had favored the children of Abraham above all other nations, when he adopted them as his peculiar people. There is however to be understood an implied contrast between the profanation which then prevailed, and the sanctification which is here promised. The Jews had so polluted the land that it differed nothing from other countries; and God, as Ezekiel says, had thence migrated, (Eze 8:6) and we know that the Temple was called by the prophets the den of robbers, (Jer 7:11) and that the city was also compared to Sodom and Gomorrah. (Isa 1:10) Hence the Prophet here promises that the city, with its whole vicinity, would be holy to God, because God would cleanse it from all the defilements by which it had been polluted: and he also claims this as his own work, for to sanctify is a work peculiar to himself.
The promise of perpetual favor is added, as it is also done by Zechariah; for it would not be sufficient to have God’s mercy promised to us for a short time, except its perpetuity were secured. The Prophet then promises now that the course of God’s benefits would be permanent;. The city indeed was again destroyed by Titus, and at length wholly demolished by Adrian; but this fact does not militate against this promise; for as we have said, God gave some taste of his favor in the external aspect of the city until Christ came; but after Christ was manifested, the heavenly Jerusalem became the object to be sought, for all the types and shadows then ceased. The perpetuity then of which the Prophet speaks, is that which corresponds with the character of Christ’s kingdom, and is therefore spiritual. Moreover, this passage teaches us that the Church will be perpetual, and that though God may permit it to be terribly shaken and tossed here and there, there will yet be ever some seed remaining, as long as the sun and the moon shall shine in the heavens, and the order of nature shall continue; so that all the elements, everything we see with our eyes, bear evidence to the perpetuity of the Church, even that it will ever continue: for though Satan and all the world daily threaten its ruin, yet the Lord will in a wonderful manner preserve it to the end, so that it will never perish. This is the import of the passage. Another prophecy follows.
The early versions and the Targum vary much as to the meaning of this and the following verse. The nearest to the Original, as a whole, is the Vulg.; the Sept. go wholly astray. Of all the expositions which have been given, that of Calvin seems the best, as it corresponds more with the Hebrew. I render the second verse thus, —
Thus saith Jehovah, — Find favor in the wilderness Did the people, the remnants of the sword, When proceeding to his rest was Israel.
I take הלוך as a participle, the auxiliary verb being understood, as the case often is in Hebrew. Preceded by a preposition, and followed by a pronoun, הרגיע is a verb in the infinitive mood, used as a noun. Twelve MSS., says Blayney, have הלך a past tense in Kal: if so, then the meaning would be more striking, though somewhat elliptical, —
Proceed (or advance) to his rest did Israel.
As though he had said, “The people, who escaped the sword of Pharaoh and the slaughters which happened to them, found favor during their passage through the wilderness, and notwithstanding all opposition, Israel advanced forward to his promised rest.” — Ed.
I find nothing satisfactory as to this verse, except the explanation here given, and it is that of the Targum. The first clause is the people’s cavilling answer to what is declared in the foregoing verse. Jacob is the person introduced, as representing the people. He says, it is indeed true, —
“At a remote period Jehovah appeared to me.”
Then the rejoinder to this is exactly suitable, —
But with perpetual love have I loved thee,
Therefore have I prolonged to thee mercy.
Or, “extended to thee mercy,” (see Ps 109:12,) or, “continued to thee mercy,” or, according to Blayney, “lengthened out mercy to thee.” Now there is a consistency in the whole passage, according to this view, and also in what follows, “I will again build thee,” etc. — Ed.
See Ex 15:20; Jud 11:34; 1Sa 18:6; Ps 68:25. “Tabrets” or timbrels were carried in one hand, and beaten by the fingers of the other. It was a hoop with bits of brass, and over this hoop parchment was distended; they were very like what are now called tambourins. — Ed.
This verb seems not to have been rightly understood by the authors of the early versions, nor by the writer of the Targum. Their imperfect knowledge of Hebrew frequently appears. — Ed.
The verb for “cry” is either in the past tense or in the imperative mood. As there are so many imperatives in this passage, it seems that this is an imperative too. It appears that the latter part of the last verse, this verse, and that which follows, contain what would be addressed to the people after their return. In no other way can the verbs be grammatically rendered. The whole address is as follows, —
“Plant, O ye planters, and eat the fruit;
6. For come is the day: Call ye, O watchmen, on mount Ephraim, ‘Arise, and let us go into Sion, to Jehovah our God;’
7. For thus has Jehovah said, Shout ye, ‘To Jacob there is joy,’ And cry it aloud amont the chief of the nations; Publish, exultingly proclaim, and say, ‘Saved hath Jehovah thy people, The remnant of Israel.’”
The passage is a sort of an episode. What follows seems well connected with the former part of the 5th verse (Jer 31:5).
“Eat the fruit,” is the meaning, and not the literal version, which can hardly be given: it is so rendered by Blayney. “Call ye,” or, proclaim, or, give the invitation. The news was to be made known “among the chief of the nations,” as it is evident from the 10th verse (Jer 31:10). “Saved,” etc., so the Sept. and the Targum, and more consistent with the context than “save;” but both have “his,” i.e., God’s, instead of “thy people,” i.e., Jacob’s. The verb הללו means not only to praise, but also to boast, to exult, and here evidently to proclaim with exultation or triumph. It is rendered here “sing ye,” by the Vulg. and Syr.
It is worthy of notice, that in this episode the particulars, mentioned in the 4th verse (Jer 31:4-5), and the beginning of the 5th, are referred to in their reversed order. — Ed.
The Targ. and the Versions, excepting the Vulg., give a similar meaning to these two clauses. They give the sense of “departing” to the first verb, while it commonly has the sense of “coming.” It is also in the future tense, and therefore cannot refer to the departing of the Israelites, who are meant here, for they had already gone into exile. Their return is no doubt what is spoken of, which would be attended with “weeping,” not for joy, but for their sins, as it is distinctly expressed in verses 18 and 19 (Jer 31:18-19); and also with entreaties or supplications. And it is better with Venema to join the two words with “coming,” —
With weeping shall they come and with supplications;
I will bring them, I will lead them,
By streams of water, in a straight way;
They shall not stumble in it.
He promises two things, to “bring” and to “lead;” then the leading refers to the streams of water, and the bringing to the straight way; which is a kind of arrangement that is often to be met with in Scripture. Two things, especially necessary for travelers, are promised, water and a good road. “Straight” seems to apply to the surface of the road as well as to its sides; hence some render it “smooth” or even, such as would have nothing that might cause one to stumble. — Ed.
What is here said is no doubt true: but the auxiliary verb is, “I was,” not “I shall be;” and so it is rendered by the Sept., Vulg., and Targ.; and by the Syr., I am. Then the Versions, very incorrectly, give the next clause, in which there is no verb, in the present tense, while it ought to be in the past tense, like the foregoing. The words literally are, —
For I was (or, have been) to Jacob a Father,
And Ephraim, my first-born he (i.e. was he.)
And to this purpose has Blayney rendered the passage. Whenever the auxiliary verb is understood, its tense must be regulated by the context. On “first-born,” see Exod. 4:22, 23, and 1Ch 5:1. — Ed.
The difference between the two verbs seems to be this:, פדה is to rescue, to free, to deliver, either by force or by a ransom; but גאל is to recover what one has a right to, and this also either by force or by a ransom. So that the latter implies a claim or right which is not intimated by the former, —
For Jehovah will deliver Jacob,
And recover him from a hand stronger than his own.
Forcible deliverance is no doubt meant here; and the latter verb is very striking, as it implies that God was vindicating his own right in extricating Jacob from the grasp of a hand stronger than his own. — Ed.
The verb גהר rendered here, “flow together,” has another meaning, “to be enlightened” or illuminated, (see Ps 34:5;) and light in Scripture means comfort, delight, or enjoyment. It is so taken by the Syriac and the Targ., and more suitably to the words which follow than in the sense here given, —
And they shall be comforted by the bounty of Jehovah,
With corn, and with new wine, and with oil,
Also with the young of the flock and of the herd;
And their soul shall be like a watered garden,
And they shall again hunger no more.
And they shall again feel want no more.
The verb דאב, here used, does not mean to mourn or to “sorrow,” though this is the idea given to it by the Targ. It is rendered “hunger,” by the Sept. and Vulg. According to Parkhurst, its real meaning is, “to faint or fail through weariness, hunger, or terror.” Blayney renders, “pine for hunger.” See the previous note. — Ed
This clause may be rendered thus, —
For I will turn their mourning into rejoicing,
And I will comfort them and cheer them above their sorrow.
That is, “I will give them comfort and joy more than the sorrow which they have had.” The preposition מ, has often the meaning of above or more than. See De 14:2. Their sorrow had been great, but the promise here is, to give them in proportion a comfort and a joy still greater. — Ed.
“To be not,” according to the usage of the Scripture, means either dead or absent. See Ge 42:36. Joseph was not, he being dead; and Simeon was not, he being absent in Egypt. To be not here refers to the absent, those driven into exile; but the passage, as quoted by Matthew, refers to such as were dead. The similarity was only in part, that is, as to the weeping. — Ed.
The quotation in Matthew is neither from the Hebrew nor from the Sept. It is substantially correct, but not verbally; the sense and not the words, seems to have been chiefly regarded by the Apostles. — Ed.
“Ramah” is found in the Sept., the Syr., and the Targ.; but “on the height,” or, on high, is the Vulg. It seems better to retain the proper name, “Ramah.” — Ed.
Or the words may be rendered, “There is a hope for thy posterity.” So Gataker, not without reason, renders the words. The following clause explains what this “hope” was. — Ed.
The idea of “transmigrating” is alone given by the Vulg., the other versions and the Targ. have “lamenting:” and the latter is more consonant with the context, and has been adopted by almost all modern commentators. It is used in Jer 15:5, in the sense of being moved or affected for another, of sympathizing or condoling. It is there in its simple form, that is, in Kal. As it is here in Hithpael, its meaning is, self-condoling, or condoling himself, — an idea which is very expressive, and is more fully explained in the next verse. — Ed.
This is no doubt the right rendering, and not, “Thou art Jehovah my God.” So in the first commandment, the version ought to be, “I Jehovah,” or, I the Lord, “am thy God.” The meaning is not, that he is Jehovah, but that he who is Jehovah is our God. — Ed.
The Vulg. and the Targ. favor this view of a different sense of the same verb in the second clause. The Sept. retain the same meaning. There is no need of altering the sense; indeed, another sense does not so well comport with the passage. He says that God had chastised him, and that he was chastised as an untamed, or rather untrained steer or bullock, implying that he was compelled to bear the yoke, and also that he had been brought to submit to it: hence the prayer that follows, “turn,” or rather, restore, etc. The verb יסר means to correct rather than to chastise, even to correct by the rod, or by the goad; and then to teach as the effect of correction, —
Thou hast corrected me;
Yea, I was corrected like a steer, not trained:
Restore thou me, and I shall be restored;
For thou, Jehovah, art my God.
After a confession with regard to correction, a confession that intimates that it had its proper effect, a prayer for restoration seems suitable, and that prayer is founded on the fact that Jehovah was their God. — Ed.
What Calvin teaches here is indisputable, but whether the passage warrants the view he takes of it, is another thing, though most commentators have taken the same view. The versions, especially the Vulg., seem to have suggested this explanation by giving to the verb שוב, in the former verse, the meaning of turning or conversion, instead of returning or restoring, agreeably with the whole context, see verse 17th (Jer 31:17). Gataker suggested this idea; and it was afterwards fully adopted by Venema: and, according to their views I render this verse as follows, —
For after I returned to myself, I repented,
And after I knew myself, I smote my thigh;
I was ashamed and even confounded,
Because I have borne the reproach of my youth.
The Vulg. renders the first words, “After thou hast turned,” or converted “me (convertisti me;)” the Sept., “After my captivity;” the Syr., “After that I was converted;” and the Targ., “When we return to the Law.” Literally the words are, “After my returning,” which, according to the Hebrew idiom may be rendered, “After returning to myself,” as in the following line, “after my knowing,” means evidently “after knowing myself.”
The two verses contain the language of the penitent, praying for restoration to their own land: and two reasons are assigned for this prayer, — because Jehovah was their covenanted God, — and because they repented, for to such had restoration been promised: Hence for is used twice; it is therefore not right to render כי at the beginning of the 19th verse (Jer 31:19), verily or surely. — Ed
This verse has been variously explained. The two questions are taken by Calvin and by others as strong negatives: but this is not always the ease; both ה and אם are often taken as strong affirmatives. See Jer 3:6; 1Sa 2:27; Eze 20:30; Am 6:2. This sense is what the context requires; for this verse is an answer to penitent Ephraim. Neither the Sept., nor the Vulg., nor the Syr., nor the Targ. retain the interrogatory form: but they retain the meaning, if the questions be taken affirmatively, not otherwise. The next words I render thus, —
For since my words are in him,
Remembering I will still remember him.
This is according to the Sept., and the general drift of the Targ. The Syr. gives another meaning, —
For at the time when I speak against him,
Remembering I still remember him.
There are no other versions which come so near to the original. — Ed.
The word for “sounded,” means to tumultuate, to be agitated, to be greatly moved or disturbed. It is rendered by the Vulg., “are troubled — conturbata;” by the Syr. and Targ., “are moved.” It may be rendered “trouble” here. See Isa 16:1 l, where the action of the bowels is compared to the harp, not surely to its sound, but to the vibration of its cords. See also Isa. 63:15, Cant. 5:4. — Ed.
Raise up for thyself heaps, Fix for thyself pillars.
Instead of צינים many copies read ציונים see 2Ki 23:17; Eze 39:15. That תמרורים cannot mean “bitternesses,” as rendered by the Vulg. and the Targ., is evident from the verb that precedes it, which means to place, to set, to fix. תמר is the palm-tree; the word then means palm-tree pillars, or pillars straight and high as the palm-tree. The remainder of the verse is as follows, —
Set thy heart on the highway, The way thou didst go;
Return, O virgin of Israel, return, To thy cities ascend.
The word for “highway” means a raised road, a road prepared for travelling. The “virgin” here signifies one that is of an age to be married. When Israel repented, they were in a fit state to be united to God, as their husband. The last line is rendered according to the proposed emendation of Houbigant and approved by Horsley, עלה instead of, אלה which seems to have no meaning. — Ed
The verb, rendered “going about,” only occurs here in Hithpael, and once in Kal, So 5:6; where it means to “withdraw,” or recede, or turn aside. And this sense of withdrawing is what is given to it here both by the Sept., the Targ., and the Syr.; but it is the withdrawing from accepting the return offered. We may give this version, —
How long wilt thou decline, (i.e., to return,) O daughter of the restoration?
She had been before exhorted to return in the previous verse: she is now blamed for her unwillingness, which seems to have arisen from fear, and a sense of weakness. Then comes in most appropriately what follows, if interpreted according to the explanation of Calvin. The verb שב, the root of, השובבה, means more frequently to turn to, to return, than to turn away, to apostatize. — Ed
Whatever may be the meaning of this clause, it cannot certainly be applied to the miraculous conception of our Saviour, and for this plain reason, as Blayney observes, that the only thing the passage announces, if viewed in this light, is this, — that a woman shall conceive a male child, which is nothing new, but a common event; for the word here for “woman,” is not what signifies a virgin, but what designates only the sex; it means properly a female as distinguished from a male. Henry, as well as Blayney and Adam Clarke, agree materially with Calvin, as to the meaning of this sentence. — Ed.
The principal objection to this interpretation has been, that it was not by overcoming their enemies by force of arms that the Jews returned. The answer to this is, that this is a sort of proverbial expression, intimating that the weakest would prevail over the strongest. Besides, though the Jews returned by virtue of the edict of the king of Persia, yet they had many and strong enemies to oppose them. — Ed.
Blaney renders the verse, thus, —
And Judah shall dwell in it and all his cities,
Husbandmen together, and they shall go about with flocks.
Like Calvin he takes “cities” for citizens; but still there is an inappropriateness in the words. I regard the word “land” as understood before “Judah,” —
And dwell in it, the land of Judah, And in all his cities together,
Shall husbandmen; and they shall remove with their flocks.
See Jer. 33:12, 13,where the meaning of what is here said is made more evident “Remove,” that is, from place to place, as the word means, for the purpose of feeding their flocks. This betokened a state of liberty and of security. — Ed.
Both the Sept. and Syr. render the first word “thirsty,” and the second, “hungry,” agreeably with the verbs which precede them. The “weary” and “sorrowful” of our version are no doubt wrong; the first, adopted from the Vulg.; and the second from the Targ.
For I will water the thirsty soul, And every hungry soul will I fill.
“Soul” here means the person, the individual, — “I will water him that is thirsty,” etc. — Ed.
It is difficult to see exactly the purport of this verse: what does “beheld,” or saw mean? May not the verb be considered as in Hophal, “I was made to see,” or, had a vision? The verb is often used in this sense: see Zec 3:1. Then we may give this version, —
Hereupon I awoke and had a vision;
And my sleep had been pleasant to me.
Visions were of two kinds, given in sleep, and given to persons awake: the previous vision was given to the Prophet while he was asleep. — Ed.
I am disposed to render the latter part of this verse according to the Syriac, —
That I will sow, as to the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
The seed of man and the seed of beast.
I take את as a preposition, which it often is. — Ed.
The words here used are the very same with those in Jer 1:10, except the addition, “to afflict;” and yet neither the Targ., nor the Versions, except the Syriac, render them alike, giving in some instances the meaning of one verb to another, — a proof that they are very loose versions. — Ed.
Carm., Lib. 3, Od. 6.
The Targum thus interprets this proverb, “The fathers have sinned, and the children have been smitten.” “Blunted,” or deprived of feeling, obstupuerunt, is both the Vulg. and the Syr. — Ed.
This clause, as quoted in Heb 8:9, is, “And I regarded them not,” according to the Sept. and the Syr., though the Vulg. is the same with our version. Houbigant says, “Read געלתי I have rejected, I have repudiated.” The only difference is in one letter; and this word is used by Jeremiah in Jer 14:19. There would thus be a perfect correspondence, “and I rejected them, saith Jehovah.”
“Which my covenant,” in the previous clause, is the Vulg.; but according to the Sept., the Syr., and the Targ., it is, “because they have broken my covenant,” etc. אשר is not used, as given in our version, in connection with a noun that follows, though it is so used with pronouns. — Ed
All the nouns in Hebrew are of the singular number, — “law, inward part, heart,” and also “iniquity and sin;” and so are they in the Vulg., except the second, which is rendered “bowels;” but in the other versions and the Targ., they are mostly pluralized. The words as quoted in Hebrews are not exactly according to any of the versions, but for the most part according to that of the Sept.
There is in many copies a ו before נתתי, “I have put,” by which it is turned into a future, “I will even put.” This seems to be the true reading, —
I will even put my law in their inmost part,
And on their heart will I write it.
It is the same as if it was said, “I will put my law in the inmost part of each of them:” the persons are individualized, in order to shew that the act extends to every one alike. — Ed.
Literally the words are, —
And they shall teach no more, a man his neighbor, And a man his brother, by saying, “Know ye Jehovah;” For all of them shall know me, From the least of them to the greatest of them, Saith Jehovah.
“Ordinance,” and “ordinances,” would perhaps be the best words. The word means a fixed order of things, sometimes rendered in our version ”statute,” and sometimes “ordinance,” —
Thus saith Jehovah, —
He who hath appointed the sun for light by day,
The ordinance of the moon and stars for light by night,
Who calms the sea when roar do its waves, —
Jehovah of hosts is his name,
Two opposite meanings are given by many Lexicons to רגע — to divide, to break, to cleave, and also to give rest, to calm. Parkhurst holds that it has only the last. However, that it means here to make quiet, or to calm, is most probable, as God’s restraining power as to the sea is mentioned before in Jer 5:22 as a proof of his greatness.
The word for “ordinance” before “moon” is left out in the Sept., and in one MS.; and the passage would read better without it — Ed.
The whole of this passage is differently rendered in the early versions and the Targum; some of them evidently wrong and some doubtful. Blayney gives the most literal and most consistent version. I give the following, —
38. Behold the days are coming, saith Jehovah, That built shall the city be for (or to) Jehovah, From the tower of Hananeel to the gate of the corner:
39. Yea, go forth again shall the measuring line From over against it, over the hill of Oareb, And shall surround Goath
40. And all the valley of the carcases and ashes, And all the fields to the river Kidron, To the corner of the gate of the horses eastward: Holy to Jehovah, it shall not be rooted up, Nor demolished any more for ever.
The 38th verse (Jer 31:38) contains a general description; this is particularized in the following verses. The beginning of measuring was to be at “the tower of Hananeel;” hence “from over against it,” or before it: the “gate” being feminine cannot be meant; it is then “the tower.” As to the word for “fields,” the reading of the Keri and of several MSS., countenanced by the Vulg., ought no doubt to be adopted. “Eastward,” — thus the line came round to the same point where it began; for the tower of Hananeel was eastward. But what is referred to in the two last lines? The verbs are in the masculine gender, and “city” is feminine; and there is nothing in the passage with which they can agree except the tower of Hananeel. Then this tower seems to stand here for the rebuilt city; and then rooting up, i.e., undermining the foundations, and demolishing, are suitably applied to a tower. — Ed.
Some think, such as Gataker and Blayney, that according to the description here given, the dimensions of the city are much larger than what they had ever been before. The “line” was to inclose a part at least of the hill of Gareb, the whole of Goath, supposed to be Golgotha, the valley of the carcases, and the fields of Kidron, all which were formerly without the walls of the city. — Ed.