Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 21: Jeremiah and Lamentations, Part V, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-ninth
1. The word that the LORD spake against Babylon, and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet.
1. Sermo quem loquutus est Jehova super Babylone, super terra Chaldaeorum, in manu Jeremiae prophetae.
Our Prophet has been hitherto speaking of neighboring nations who had cruelly harassed the chosen people; and it was some consolation when the children of Abraham understood that God undertook their cause and would be the avenger of those wrongs which they had suffered. But this of itself would have been no great consolation, yea, it might have been viewed as nothing by many, while there was no hope of restoration; for it would have been but a small consolation to have others as associates in misery. If, indeed, Jeremiah had only taught that none of the nations who had troubled God’s Church would escape unpunished, the Jews might have raised an objection, and said, that they were not freed from their own calamities, because the monarchy of Babylon still flourished, and that they were buried as it were in a perpetual grave. It was therefore necessary that what we read here should be predicted. And though this prophecy is given last, we ought to notice that the Prophet had from the beginning expressly spoken, as we have seen, of the calamity and destruction of Babylon. But this prophecy is given as the conclusion of the book, to mitigate the sorrow of the miserable exiles; for it was no small relief to them to hear that the tyranny by which they were oppressed, and under which they did live as it were a lifeless life, would not be perpetual. We now then understand why the Prophet spoke of the Babylonians and of their destruction.
But a longer preface would be superfluous, because those acquainted with Scripture well know that the Jews were at length so reduced by the Babylonians that their very name seemed to have been obliterated. As then they were reduced to such extremities, it is no wonder that the Prophet here affirms that the Babylonians would be at length punished, and that not only that God might show himself to be the avenger of wickedness, but also that the miserable exiles might know that they were not wholly repudiated, but on the contrary that God had a care for their salvation. We now perceive the design of this prophecy.
The word of Jehovah, he says, which he spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by the hand of Jeremiah the Prophet He testifies in his usual manner that he did not bring forward what he himself had invented, but that God was the author of this prophecy. He at the same time declares that he was God’s minister; for God did not descend from heaven whenever it pleased him to reveal his favor to the Jews, but, as it is said in Deuteronomy, he was wont to speak by his servants. (De 18:18.) In short, Jeremiah thus recommends the things he was about to say, that the Jews might reverently receive them, not as the fictions of men, but as oracles from heaven. It follows —
2. Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces.
2. Nuntiate in gentibus, audire facite (hoc est, promulgate,) et tollite signum, promulgate, ne taceatis (ad verbum, ne occultetis,) dicite, Capta est Babylon, pudefactus est Bel, contritus est Merodach, pudefacta sunt simulachra ejus, contrita sunt idola ejus.
He predicts the ruin of Babylon, not in simple words, for nothing seemed then more unreasonable than to announce the things which God at length proved by the effect. As Babylon was then the metropolis of the East, no one could have thought that it would ever be possessed by a foreign power. No one could have thought of the Persians, for they were far off. As to the Medes, who were nearer, they were, as we know, sunk in their own luxuries, and were deemed but half men. As then there was so much effeminacy in the Medes, and as the Persians were so far off and inclosed in their own mountains, Babylon peaceably enjoyed the empire of the whole eastern world. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet expresses at large what he might have set forth in a very few words.
Tell, he says, among the nations, publish, raise up a sign, and again, publish To what purpose is such a heap of words? even that the faithful might learn to raise up their thoughts above the world, and to look for that which was then, according to the judgment of all, incredible. This confidence shews that Jeremiah did not, in vain, foretell what he states; but he thundered as it were from heaven, knowing whence he derived this prophecy. And his proclamation was this, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, and Merodach is broken I know not why some think that Merodach was an idol: for as to Bel, we know that the Babylonians trusted in that god, or rather in that figment. But the Prophet mentions here evidently the name of a king well known to the Jews, in order to show that Babylon, with all its defences and its wealth, was already devoted to destruction: for we know that men look partly to some god, and partly to human or temporal means. So the Babylonians boasted that they were under the protection of Bel, and dared proudly to set up this idol in opposition to the only true God, as the unbelieving do; and then in the second place, they were inebriated with confidence in their own power: and hypocrisy ever rules in the unbelieving, so that they arrogate to themselves much more than what they ascribe to their idols. It is then the same thing as though he had said, that Babylon was taken, that Bel was confounded, and that the kingdom was broken, or broken in pieces. 50
The name Merodach, as I have said, was well known among the Jews, and mention is made of a father and of a son of this name, by Isaiah and in sacred history. (Isa 39:1; 2Ki 20:12.) It is no wonder, then, that the Prophet should name this king, though dead, on account of the esteem in which he was held, as we have seen in the case of the kingdom of Syria, he mentioned Ben-hadad, though no one supposes that he was then alive; but as Ben-hadad distinguished himself above other kings of Syria, the Prophet introduced his name. For the same reason, in my opinion, he names Merodach here.
The sum of the whole is, that though Babylon thought itself safe and secure through the help of its idol, and also through its wealth and warlike power, and through other defences, yet its confidence would become vain and empty, for God would bring to shame its idol and destroy its king. He again returned to the idols, and not without reason; for he thus called the attention of his own nation to the only true God, and also reminded them how detestable was the idolatry which then prevailed among the Chaldeans. And it was necessary to set this doctrine before the Jews, and to impress it on them, that they might not abandon themselves to the superstitions of heathens, as it happened. But the Prophet designedly spoke of images and idols, that the Jews might know that it was the only true God who had adopted them, and that thus they might acquiesce in his power, and know that those were only vain fictions which were much made of through the whole world by the heathens and unbelieving. It now follows —
3. For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast.
3. Quoniam ascendet contra eam gens ab aquilone, quae ponet terram in vastitatem, et (ut) non sit habitator in ea ab homine usque ad bestiam; fugerunt, abierunt.
Let what I have before said be borne in mind, that the Prophet makes use of many words in describing the ruin of Babylon; for it was not enough to predict what was to be; but as weak minds vacillated, it was necessary to add a confirmation. After having then spoken of the power of Babylon and its idols, he now points out the way in which it was to be destroyed — a nation would come from the north, that is, with reference to Chaldea. And he means the Medes and Persians, as interpreters commonly think; and this is probable, because he afterwards adds that the Jews would then return. As then Jeremiah connects these two things together, the destruction of Babylon and the restoration of God’s Church, it is probable that he refers here to the Medes and Persians. If, at the same time, we more narrowly view things, there is no doubt but that this prophecy extends further, and this will appear more evident as we proceed.
He simply says now that a nation would come from the north, which would turn the land to a waste This clause shews that this prophecy could not be fitly confined to the time when Babylon was taken by Cyrus; for we know that it was betrayed by two Satraps during a siege; and that it was at a time when a feast was held, as though there was peace and security, as Daniel testifies, with whom heathen writers agree. Now Xenophon testifies that Cyrus exercised great forbearance and humanity, and that he used his victory with such moderation, that Babylon seemed as though it had not been taken. It had, indeed, changed masters, but such was the change that the citizens readily submitted to it. But it was afterwards more hardly dealt with, when Darius recovered it by the aid of Zopyrus; for Babylon had revolted from the Persians, and shook off the yoke. Darius having in vain stormed it, at length recovered it by the help of one man; for Zopyrus, having cut off his nose, and mutilated his ears and his face, pretended, in this deformed manner, to be a fugitive, and complained of the cruelty and barbarity of his king, with whom yet he was most intimate. The city was soon afterwards taken by treachery in the night. Then about four thousand of the Persians were hung in the middle of the Forum, nor did Darius spare the people. The Prophet then seems to include this second destruction when he predicted that the whole land would be made desolate. Nor ought this to be deemed unreasonable, for the Prophets so spoke of God’s judgments, that they extended what they said further than to the commencement, as was the case in the present instance.
When, therefore, Babylon was taken by the Persians, it received the yoke; and she which ruled over all other nations, was reduced to a state of servitude. For the Persians, as it is well known, were very inhuman, and Isaiah describes them so at large. In the meantime, the city, as I have said, retained its external appearance. The citizens were robbed of their gold and silver, and of their precious things, and were under the necessity of serving strangers: this was bitter to them. But when Darius punished their perfidy and hung so many of the chief men, about four thousand, and also shed indiscriminately the blood of the people, and subjected the city itself to the plunder of his soldiers, then doubtless what the Prophet says here was more fully accomplished. It was yet God’s purpose to give only a prelude of his vengeance, when he made the Babylonians subject to the Medes and Persians. It now follows —
4. In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.
4. Diebus illis et tempore illo (sed עת proprie significat condictum aut proefixum tempus,) dicit Jehova, venient filii Israel ipsi, et filii Jehudah simul, eundo et flendo venient, et Jehovam Deum suum quaerent.
The Prophet now explains more clearly the purpose of God, that in punishing so severely the Chaldeans, his object was to provide for the safety of his Church. For had Jeremiah spoken only of vengeance, the Jews might have still raised an objection and said, “It will not profit us at all, that God should be a severe judge towards our enemies, if we are to remain under their tyranny.” Then the Prophet shews that the destruction of Babylon would be connected with the deliverance of the chosen people; and thus he points out, as it were by the finger, the reason why Babylon was to be destroyed, even for the sake of the chosen people, so that the miserable exiles may take courage, and not doubt but that God would at length be propitious, as Jeremiah had testified to them, having, as we have seen, prefixed the term of seventy years. He was derided by the Jews, who had so habituated themselves to hardness of heart, that they counted as nothing, or at least regarded as fables, all the reproofs and threatenings of God, and also gave heed, as we have seen, to the flatteries of the false prophets.
Jeremiah now promises that God would be their liberator after the time of exile had passed, of which he had spoken. Thus we perceive the design of this passage, in which the Prophet, after having referred to the destruction of Babylon, makes a sudden transition, and refers to God’s mercy, which he would show to the Jews after they had suffered a just punishment: In those days, he says, and at that time — he adds the appointed time, that the Jews might not doubt but that the Chaldeans would be subdued, because God had appointed them to destruction.
He says, Come shall the children of Israel, they and the children of Judah together; and he says this, that they might still suspend their desires. He commends here the greatness of God’s favor, because the condition of the Church would be better after the exile than it was before. The ten tribes, as we know, had separated from the kingdom of Judah; and that separation was as it were the tearing asunder of the body. For God had adopted the seed of Abraham for this end, that they might be one body under one head; but they willfully made a defection, so that both kingdoms became mutilated. The kingdom of Israel became indeed accursed, for it had separated from the family of David, and this separation was in a manner an impious denial of God. As then the children of Israel had alienated themselves from the Church, and the kingdom of the ten tribes had become spurious, their condition was doubtless miserable (though the Jews as well as the Israelites were alike inebriated with their own lusts).
But what does our Prophet now say? They shall return together, the children of Israel and the children of Judah; that is, God will not only gather the dispersed, but will also apply such a remedy, that there will no more be any separation; but that on the contrary a brotherly concord will prevail between the ten tribes and the tribe of Judah, when God shall restore them again to himself. We now then perceive what the Prophet had in view: there is, indeed, here an implied comparison between their former state and that which they could yet hardly hope for, after their return from exile; for there is nothing better than brotherly concord, as it is said in the Psalms,
“How good and how pleasant it is for brethren
to dwell together in unity.” (Ps 133:1)
For the kingdom and the priesthood, the pledges, as it were, of the people’s safety, could not stand together, without the union of the Israelites with the Jews. But they had been long alienated from one another, so that the chief favor of God had been extinguished by this separation. The Prophet says now, that they would come together.
And he adds, Going and weeping they shall come This may seem contrary to what is said in the Psalms,
“Going they shall go, and weep as those who sow; but coming they shall come with joy, carrying their handfuls.” (Ps 126:6)
The Prophet says here, that they shall come with tears. How can these two things be consistent? even because weeping may be taken for that which flows from joy or from admiration; for we know that tears gush out not only through sorrow, but also through rejoicing; and further, when anything unexpected happens, tears will flow from our eyes. We can then take the Prophet’s words in this sense, that they would come weeping, because they would then find God merciful to them. But it is better to regard sorrow as simply meant; and the two things may be thus reconciled, — that the Jews would come with joy, and also with sorrow, not only because the memory of their exile could not be immediately obliterated from their minds, but because it behooved them to remember their sins: they saw the Temple overthrown, the land wasted — sights sufficient to draw tears a hundred times from the hardest. On one side there were reasons for joy; and on the other, reasons for tears. We know that there were tears shed; for the Prophet Haggai expressly tells us, that the old men, who had seen the former Temple, were much cast down, because there was then no such glory as they had seen. (Hag 2.)
However this may have been, the Prophet means, that though the return would not be without many troubles, yet the Jews would come; coming, he says, they shall come, that is, going they shall go, and weep, as it is said in the Psalms, that they would come through desert and dry places. (Ps 84:6.) The meaning then is, that though the journey would be hard and laborious, yet the Jews would return with alacrity into their own country, so that no labors would so fatigue them as to make them to desist from their course.
He subjoins the main thing, that they would come to seek their God Their change of place would have been useless, had they not come animated with the desire of worshipping God; for the worship had ceased during the time of exile, as it is said again in another Psalm,
“How shall we sing songs to our God in a foreign land?” (Ps 137:4)
Then the Prophet here reminds them, that God’s favor would be real and complete, because the Jews would not only return to their own country, so as to possess it, but that they would also set up the worship of God, and dwell as it were under his protection. It follows —
5. They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.
5. Sion interrogabunt viam (hoc est, interrogabunt de via) versus Sionem, illuc facies eorum: Venite, et copulate vos Jehovae foedere perpetuo, quod oblivione non delebitur (subaudiendum est relativum pronomen, quod omissum est.)
He explains himself more at large, that they would ask those they met the way, that their faces would be towards Sion, that they would also exhort one another to seek God and join themselves to him by a perpetual covenant. The Prophet includes here all the tribes, and says that the Jews and the Israelites would not only return into their own country, to partake of the produce of that rich and fruitful land, but that they would also render to God the worship due to him, and then that nothing would be so vexatious to them but that they would be able to overcome all difficulties and all obstacles.
He says first, that they would ask the way — a proof of perseverance; that they would ask the way to Sion, that is, ask how they were to proceed that they might come to Sion. By these words, the Prophet, as I have just said, denotes their constancy and indefatigable resolution, as though he had said, that though they journeyed through unknown lands, yea, through many devious places, they would yet be in no way disheartened so as not to inquire of those they met with until they came to Sion. This is one thing. Then he adds to the same purpose, Thither their faces We indeed know, that plans are often changed when adverse events impede us; for he who undertakes an expedition, when he sees his course very difficult, turns back again. But the Prophet declares here that there would be no change of mind that would cause the Jews to relinquish their purpose of returning, because their faces would be towards Sion, that is, they would turn their eyes thither, so that nothing would be able to turn them elsewhere. There is added, in the third place, an exhortation, Come ye; and they shall join themselves to Jehovah their God, by a perpetual covenant Here the Prophet first shews, that the Jews would be so encouraged as to add stimulants to one another; and hence it is said, Come ye; and, secondly, he adds, they shall cleave (there is here a change of person) to Jehovah by a perpetual covenant which shall not by oblivion be obliterated 51
He again repeats what he had said, that the exiles would not return to their own country, that they might there only indulge themselves, but he mentions another end, even that they might join themselves to God. He means, in short, that God would do for them something better and more excellent than to allure them by earthly pleasures.
But we must notice the words, they shall cleave (so it is literally) to Jehovah by a perpetual covenant; for there is an implied contrast between the covenant they had made void and the new covenant which God would make with them, of which Jeremiah spoke in Jeremiah 31. God’s covenant was, indeed, ever inviolable; for God did not promise to be the God of Abraham for a certain term of years; but the adoption, as Paul testifies, remains fixed, and can never be changed. (Ro 11:29.) Then on God’s part it is eternal. But as the Jews had become covenant-breakers, that covenant is called, on this account, weak and evanescent: and for this reason the Prophet said,
“In the last days I will make a covenant with you, not such as I made with your fathers, for they have broken, he said, that covenant.” (Jer. 31:31, 32)
Jeremiah now repeats the same thing, though more briefly, that the Jews would return to favor with God, not only for a moment, but that his covenant might continue and remain valid; and the way by which this would be done is expressed in Jeremiah 21, even because God would inscribe his law on their inward parts, and engrave it on their hearts. For it is not in man’s power to continue so constant as that God’s covenant should never fail; but what the Prophet omits here must be supplied from the former passage, that when the Jews returned, God’s covenant would again become so valid and fixed, that it would never fail, even because their hearts would be renewed, so that they would be faithful to God, and never become apostates any more like their fathers.
He then adds, This covenant shall not be forgotten. We hence conclude, that the perpetuity of which he speaks, was founded rather on the mere benevolence of God than on the virtue of the people. He calls then the covenant which God would never forget, perpetual, because he would remember his mercy towards the chosen people; and though they were unworthy to receive such a favor, yet he would continue perpetually his mercy towards them to the coming of Christ; for the passage clearly shows that this prophecy cannot be otherwise explained than of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. The Jews indeed returned to their own country, but it was only a small number; and besides, they were harassed by many troubles; God also visited their land with sterility, and they were lessened by various slaughters in wars: how then came the prophets thus to extol in such high terms the favor of God, which yet did not appear among the people? even because they included the kingdom of Christ; for whenever they spoke of the return of the people, they ascended, as we have said, to the chief deliverance. I do not yet follow our interpreters, who explain these prophecies concerning the spiritual kingdom of Christ allegorically; for simply, or as they say, literally, ought these words to be taken, — that God would never forget his covenant, so as to retain the Jews in the possession of the land. But this would have been a very small thing, had not Christ come forth, in whom is founded the real perpetuity of the covenant, because God’s covenant cannot be separated from a state of happiness; for blessed are the people, as the Psalmist says, to whom God shows himself to be their God. (Ps 144:15.) Now, then, as the Jews were so miserable, it follows that God’s covenant did not openly appear or was not conspicuous; we must therefore come necessarily to Christ, as we have elsewhere seen, that this was commonly done by the Prophets. The Prophet now enters on a new argument, —
6. My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting-place.
6. Grex perditus fuit populus meus, pastores eorum errare fecerunt ipsos, per montes abierunt, a monte in collem profecti sunt, obliti sunt accubitus sui.
As the clock strikes, I must stop here.
Grant, Almighty God, that we may not be inebriated with the sweetness of earthly blessings which thou bestowest continually on us, but learn to ascend to the hope of celestial life and eternal felicity, and in the meantime have such a taste of thy blessings, that we may know that thou art an inexhaustible fountain of all felicity, so that we may cleave to thee with a sincere heart and in perfect integrity, until we shall at length be brought to the full fruition of that kingdom, which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by his own blood. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTIETH
THE, Prophet in the sixth verse compares God’s people to lost sheep: he therefore says, that the Jews wandered on the mountains and went from mountain to hill He throws the blame on the shepherds, by whom the miserable people had been led astray. Notwithstanding, God does not extenuate the fault of the people; nor did he accuse the pastors as though their wickedness and perfidy absolved the people; but on the contrary, he commends the greatness of his own grace, that he had mercy on a flock that was lost and without hope. We now then understand the design of the Prophet when he thus spoke in the person of God, My people have become lost sheep, and the shepherds have seduced them, on the mountains have they made them to go astray, from mountain to hill have they gone; and he says, that they had forgotten their lying down; 52 for when there is no fixed station, the sheep have no place to rest. Flocks, we know, return in the evening to their folds. But the Prophet says that the Jews, when scattered, forgot their lying down, because they had no settled habitation. It afterwards follows, —
7. All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice, even the LORD, the hope of their fathers.
7. Omnes qui invenerunt eos comederunt, et adversarii eorum dixerunt, Non peccamus, quia scelerati fuerunt contra Jehovam; habitaculum justitiae et expectatio (vel, spes) patrum ipsorum, Jehova.
Jeremiah goes on with the same subject; for he tells us how miserable was the condition of the people until God looked on them to relieve them from their evils. And this comparison, as I have before said, more fully sets forth the favor of God, because he raised up his people as it were from hell at a time when they were reduced to despair.
He says first, All who found them devoured them; that is, all who came in contact with them thought them a prey. He, in short, means that they were plundered by all who met them; and then that enemies were so far from sparing them that they gloried in their cruelty towards them. Hence he adds, Their enemies said, We sin not, because they have acted wickedly against Jehovah. By these words the Prophet intimates, that their enemies indulged in greater wantonness, because they thought that what they did would not be punished. Almost the same sentiment is found in Zechariah, where it is said,
“All who devoured them sinned not, and they who devoured them said, Blessed be the Lord who has enriched us.” (Zec 11:5)
But we must more closely consider the design of the Holy Spirit. The Prophet indeed shows that the Jews were reduced to extremities, so that they were not only cruelly treated by their enemies, but were also exposed to the greatest contempt. He, however, reminded them at the same time of their duty to repent, for when the whole world condemned them, it was but right that God should call them to an account for their sins. As then he had set over them all men as their judges, he indirectly touched and goaded their consciences, so that they might know that they had to do with God. When therefore Zechariah said,
“All who devoured thee said, Blessed be the Lord,”
he meant, that the sins of the people were so manifest to all, that all the heathens declared that they deserved extreme punishment; for by the words, “Blessed be the Lord who hath enriched us,” he intimated that heathens, in spoiling and plundering the Jews, would be so far from feeling any shame, that they would rather glory in being enriched with prey as it were by the hand of God. So also in this place, All who found them devoured them, and their enemies said, We sin, not, — and why? because they have acted wickedly against Jehovah.
In short, the Prophet means, that the Jews would not only be exposed to the rapacity, avarice, and cruelty of enemies, but also to the greatest contempt and reproach. At the same time he exhorted them to repent; for if they were thus condemned by the judgment of the whole world, it was not unreasonable to direct their thoughts to the tribunal of God. Nor was it a strange thing that the unbelieving referred to God, for it is what we commonly meet with in all the prophets; and it was ever a principle held by all nations, that there is some supreme Deity; for though they devised for themselves various gods, yet they all believed that there is one supreme God. So the name, Jehovah, was known in common by all nations: and hence the Prophet here introduced the Chaldeans as speaking, that the Jews had acted wickedly against Jehovah; not indeed that they ascribed to God his honor, but because this opinion, that there is some God, was held by all; and this God they all indiscriminately worshipped according to their own forms of religion, but they still thought that they worshipped God.
What follows, interpreters explain as though the Prophet in the person of enemies intended to exaggerate the sin of the chosen people; they therefore connect the words thus, “They have been wicked against Jehovah, who is the habitation of justice, and has always been the hope of their fathers.” If we take this meaning, it is no wonder that their sin is amplified, because the Jews had forsaken not some unknown God, whose favor and power they had not experienced, but because they had been perfidious against the God who had by many proofs testified his paternal love towards them. It was then an impiety the more detestable, because they had thus dared to forsake the only true God.
But I approve of a different meaning, — that the Prophet answers by God’s command, that their enemies deceived themselves, when they thus confidently trod under foot the chosen people, and thought that everything was lawful for them. The Prophet, I doubt not, now checks the wantonness of which he speaks, as though he had said, “Ye think that this people are wholly rejected by me, and hence there are no limits to your cruelty; but I have so adopted them, that my covenant can never be rendered void.” We may better understand what Jeremiah means by a similar example: when Isaiah answered King Hezekiah that God would be the defender of the city, when they recited to him the words of Sennacherib or of Rabshakch, who brought his orders, (Isa 37:24) he said,
“But he thinks not that I have founded Sion.” 53
That answer seems to me to be wholly like this passage. Sennacherib said, “I will go up and take the city and the temple;” he, in short, triumphed as though he was a conqueror; but God, on the other hand, restrained his confidence in these words, “But that impious and proud enemy knows not that I have created Sion, and have been from the beginning its maker: can I then now bring upon it such a destruction as would wholly cut off the memory of it? Many cities have indeed perished, and there is no place so illustrious which may not sometime be destroyed; but the condition of the holy city (says God) is different.” And he adds the reason, Because he had created it. So in this place, Jehovah is the habitation, of justice and the hope of their fathers For God’s enemies almost always form their judgment according to the present state of things; for in prosperity they are inflated with so much pride that they dare insolently to utter blasphemies against God. For though the Chaldeans had spoken thus, that they sinned not, because the Jews had been wicked, there is yet no doubt but that their boasting was insulting to God, as it is said in Isa. 37:22, 23,
“The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised and derided thee, and drawn out the tongue against thee; me, the God of hosts, he says, hath he despised.”
By these words God shows that he was derided in the person of his Church. For this reason, then, God himself now comes forth and declares that he is the habitation of justice and the hope of his chosen people, in order that the Chaldeans might not promise themselves prosperity perpetually.
We hence see that these sentences are set in opposition one to another rather than connected together, and spoken in the person of the ungodly. The Chaldeans said, “We sin not, because they have acted wickedly against Jehovah;” then the Prophet responds and shows that they deceived themselves if they thought that God’s covenant was abolished, because he for a time chastised his people, as it is said by Isaiah,
“What shall the messengers of the nations declare?”
“What shall be told by the messengers of the nations? that God hath founded Sion.” (Isa 14:32)
When he spoke of the deliverance of the people and city, he added this acclamation, that it would be a memorable benefit, the report of which would be known among all nations, that is, that God had founded Sion, that it had been wonderfully delivered as it were from present destruction.
He first calls God the habitation of justice; and he alludes, as I think, to the tabernacle; and then he more clearly expresses himself, that God was the hope of their fathers The Jews were indeed unworthy of being protected by God; but he speaks not here of their merits, but, on the contrary, God himself affirms the perpetuity of his covenant, and the constancy of his faithfulness, in opposition to the ungodly. For since the Chaldeans had already possessed the greater part of the country, and had taken all the cities except Jerusalem, they thought that the people were forsaken by their God; and this tended to cast reproach on God himself. Hence he declares here, that though the Jews had been wicked, yet his covenant was so far from being extinct, that he was a habitations, that is, like a place of refuge. And he calls him the habitation of justice, that is, firm or faithful; for justice is not to be taken here in its proper sense, but, as in many other places of Scripture, it means firmness or rectitude; as though he had said, “God has once extended his wings to cherish his people, (as it is said elsewhere;) he will therefore be always a sure habitation.”
He had also been the hope of their fathers, according to what is said by Isaiah, that he had created Sion from the beginning; but he renews the memory of his covenant, as though he had said, “It is not today that I have first received this people into favor, but I made a covenant with their father Abraham, which will remain fixed.” So, also, he says in this place, that he was the hope of their fathers, even because he had adopted the whole race of Abraham, and showed them mercy through all ages. Then the Prophet indirectly infers that it would not be possible for their enemies perpetually to possess power over them, because God, after having chastened his people, would again gather the dispersed, and thus heal all their evils. 54
A useful doctrine may be hence gathered, that whenever the Church seems to be so oppressed by enemies as to exclude any hope of restoration, this ought always to be borne in mind by us, that as God has once chosen it, it cannot be but that he will manifest his faithfulness even in death itself, and raise from the grave those who seem to have been already reduced to ashes. Let this passage, then, come to our minds, when the calamities of the Church threaten utter ruin, and nothing but despair meets us; and when enemies insolently arrogate everything to themselves, and boastingly declare that we are accursed. But God is a habitation of justice, and was the hope of our fathers; let us, then, recumb on that grace which he has once promised, when he deigned to choose us for himself, and to adopt us as his peculiar people. Such is the import of the passage. It follows, —
8. Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he-goats before the flocks.
8. Fugite e medio Babylonis, et e Chaldaea egredimini, et sitis tanquam hirci ante gregem.
This verse confirms the exposition which I have given; for God does not now reprove his people, nor does he condemn their sins; but on the contrary, he exhorts them to entertain good hope, though they were overwhelmed with extreme miseries, he then pursues the same subject when he bids them to flee from Babylon and to go forth from Chaldea; for he promises deliverance to the faithful, and at the same time reminds them of the coming ruin of the Chaldean empire, so that they who went the farthest off would best consult their own safety. For the Prophet intimates that all found in Chaldea would be exposed to the violence of enemies; hence he bids them to flee and to go forth quickly. But as I have before said, he promises a free exit to the Jews; for he would have in vain exhorted them to depart had they been shut up, for we know that they had been confined as within inclosures. Had they then been thus captives, the Prophet would have spoken in mockery by saying to them, Flee and go forth But he shows that their captivity would not be perpetual, because God would remove all obstacles and open a way for the miserable exiles to return to their own country.
He bids them to be as he-goats before the flocks: by which he means that they were to hasten with all confidence. For the he-goats possess more boldness than sheep, and they go before the flock because no fear restrains them. So God takes away every fear of danger from the Jews when he bids them to be as he-goats before the flock; as though he had said that they were no more to fear, lest the Chaldeans should punish them for avowing their wish to return to their own country; for it was a capital offense to speak of their return as long as the Chaldeans ruled over the Jews. But God now promises a change, for he would dissipate the terror by which they had been for a time restrained. It follows, —
9. For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain.
9. Quia ecce ego excito (excitans, ad verbum, et adducens) et adduco super Babylonem congregationem gentium magnarum e terra aquilonis, et ordinabunt contra eam (aciem scilicet.) unde capietur; sagittae ejus tanquam fortis prudenter agentis; non redibit frustra,
Here, again, God declares that enemies would come and overthrow the monarchy of Babylon; but what has been before referred to is here more clearly expressed. For he says, first, that he would be the leader of that war — that the Persians and Medes would fight under his authority. I, he says (the pronoun אנכי, anki, is here emphatical,) I am he, says God, who rouse and bring, and then he adds, an, assembly of great nations The Chaldeans, as we know, had devoured many kingdoms, for Babylon had subjugated all the neighboring nations. Except, then, this had been distinctly expressed, they might have disregarded the prophetic threatenings. But Jeremiah speaks here of the assembly of great nations, lest the Chaldeans, relying on their power, the largeness of the monarchy, and the multitude of their men, should promise themselves victory, and thus lie asleep in their indulgences. God then, in these words, shortly intimates that there would be ready at hand those who in number and power would surpass the Chaldeans.
He afterwards adds, They will set in order against her. Something is to be here supplied — that they would set the battle in order. Now, by this expression, the Prophet sets forth the boldness of the Persians and Medes, as they would be immediately ready for the conflict; they would not long consult, but quickly advance to the fight. In short, he refers to the quickness and boldness of the Persians and Medes, when he says, They shall set in order against her; for they who distrust their own strength, take convenient positions, or contrive ambushes, or withdraw for a time until they know all the plans of their enemies; but the Prophet says that the Persians would by no means be such, because they would be prepared for battle at the first onset, and have the army set in order against the Babylonians.
It follows, thence taken shall be Babylon. The word משם, mesham, means from that place. But the Prophet intimates that the Persians would become conquerors by one battle only, so that the Chaldeans would no more dare to resist. We indeed know that those once put to flight, do often prepare new forces and renew the battle; this is indeed usually the case, and it seldom happens that any one is conquered in one battle. But the Prophet here declares that Babylon would be taken at one time; as soon, he says, as the fight begins, the enemies shall not only overcome, but shall by one assault take Babylon, so as to make it captive.
We now, then, perceive the design of the Prophet; but, doubtless, this prophecy was a derision to the unbelieving, for he seemed to speak of a thing impossible: thus he sang a fable to the deaf. But God, however, did not without reason predict that Babylon would be so taken, that it would, as it were, in one moment fall into the hands of enemies. We said, indeed, yesterday, that it was long besieged and taken by treachery in the night; but we also said that this prophecy is not to be confined to one period; for Babylon was often taken. It was taken through the contrivance of Zopyrus, as we said yesterday, when it thought itself sufficiently strong to resist, and Darius had nearly despaired. We shall therefore find nothing inconsistent in this prophecy, when we consider how great and how supine was the security of that people even at the time when they were suddenly overthrown.
He now adds, Its arrows as of a valiant man; some render it, as of a bereaving man, because some put the point on the right side and some on the left. The word שכל, shecal, means to act prudently, to be prosperous, and also to be bereaved. But I agree with those who take the first sense, for it immediately follows, it shall not return in vain Those who render the word “bereaved,” understand thereby that the arrows of the Persians would be deadly or fatal. But the context does not correspond, for an explanation is afterwards given, that it would not return in vain. It seems, then, that by this word Jeremiah denotes their dexterity, as though he had said that the Persians would be so skillful in throwing arrows, that they would not discharge one arrow in vain; as those who are well exercised in that art always aim directly at an enemy, and never shoot their arrows here and there without effect. So then the Prophet says that the arrows of the Persians would be those of men shooting skillfully, who know how to take a right aim. 55 And he calls them valiant or strong; for it is not enough to send arrows straight against an enemy, except there be also nerve and strength to shoot them; for arrows might touch one, but not penetrate into his body, or hardly hurt his skin. But the Prophet refers to both these things — that arrows would be hurled with sufficient force to strike and wound the Chaldeans — and that they would also have always a direct aim, so that no one would miss its object. It afterwards follows, —
10. And Chaldea shall be a spoil: all that spoil her shall be satisfied, saith the LORD.
10. Et erit Chaldaea in praedam; quicunque praedati fuerint ipsam, saturabuntur, dicit Jehova.
Here he mentions the effect of the victory, that he might more fully confirm what he had said; for it is sometimes the case, that they who are conquered flee to their cities. The country is indeed laid waste, but the enemies depart with their spoils. But the Prophet here says, that the whole of Chaldea would be plundered: he further adds, that the plunderers would be satiated, as though he had said, “The enemies shall not only seize on all sides, as it sometimes happens, on what may fall into their hands, but they shall heap together all the treasures of Chaldea until they shall be satiated.” He means, in short, that Chaldea would be wholly emptied; for these two things ought to be deemed as set in opposition the one to the other, — that the enemies would be filled to satiety, and that the Chaldeans would be reduced to poverty. Then the satiety of which the Prophet speaks, implies that the Chaldeans would be brought to extreme penury and want. It follows, —
11. Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine heritage, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls;
11. Certs laetati estis (in futuro quidem tempore, laetabimini,) et exultabitis quum diripietis haereditatem meam; multiplicabimini (hoc est, augescetis) tanquam vitula herbae, et hinnietis tanquam equi fortes:
12. Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hinder most of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.
12. Pudefacta est mater vestra valde, erubuit genitrix vestra; ecce postremum gentium, desertum, vastitas, solitudo.
God shows here, that though the Chaldeans insolently exulted for a time, yet their joy would not continue; and at the same time he points out the cause of their ruin, even because they dealt so arrogantly with the people of God. He then says in the former clause, Ye exulted and rejoiced in plundering my heritage; and then he adds, Ye became fat (for to be multiplied means here to become fat) as a heifer, well fed, or of the grass; for some think that the word is used for דשאה, deshae; but some render it, “herbified,” or fed on grass; while others derive the word from דוש, dush, to thresh or tread out corn. 56 It is then added, Ye neighed like strong horses, or ye bellowed like bulls, as some render the words; for אבירים, abirim, sometimes mean bulls, and sometimes strong horses; and the verb צהל, tzal, means to cry aloud, but is taken sometimes in the sense of neighing, as we have seen in Jeremiah 5, “Every one neigheth on his neighbor’s wife;” the Prophet said so in condemning the people for their lusts; and they who apply this passage to bulls are obliged to change the meaning of the verb — for bellowing, and not neighing, is what belongs to bulls. 57
Now it was necessary, for two reasons, for the Prophet to speak thus; first, it was hardly credible, that the Chaldeans, after so many and so remarkable victories, could be broken down and laid prostrate by new enemies; for they had been terrible to the whole world, they had subdued all their neighbors, they had extended on all sides their borders; it was then the same as though they had set their nest in the clouds. Then the Prophet says here, that though they exulted and gave loose reins to their joy, yet this state of things would not be perpetual, because they should at length be brought to shame. This is one thing. And the second reason why the Prophet spoke thus was, because God intended that it should be testified to his own people, that though he permitted so much liberty to the Chaldeans, he had not yet forgotten his covenant; and for this reason he mentioned the word heritage. Though then the calamity of his people was apparently a sort of repudiation, as though God designed to have nothing more to do with them, yet he says that they were his own heritage; and thus he shows, that God would give a specimen of his favor towards the Jews, by thus severely chastising the Chaldeans. This then is the reason why he says, Ye have rejoiced in plundering my heritage, but your mother is ashamed. He expresses here more than if he had said, “Ye shall at length lie down confounded with shame;” but he names their mother, that he might intimate the destruction of the whole of that monarchy, which had been so terrible to all the neighboring nations. 58
Grant, Almighty God, that though we cease not daily to provoke thy wrath by our many sins, we may yet, with confidence, flee to thy mercy, and that though thou seemest for a time to cast us away, we may not yet cast away hope, founded on thy eternal word, but that, relying on that Mediator in whom we always find the price of expiation, we may not hesitate to call on thee as our Father; and may we, in the meantime, find thee by experience to be such towards us, so that we may cheerfully look forward to that celestial inheritance, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FIRST
WE explained yesterday why the Prophet denounced shame and reproach on the Babylonians, even because they had arrogantly exulted over the children of God. And he says that Babylon would be the extremity of the Nations.
The Chaldeans had flourished in power and wealth, and possessed the empire of the East. It was then an extraordinary revolution to be reduced to the lowest condition, to be, as it were, the dregs of all the nations. And to the same purpose he adds, a barren land, a desert, and a solitude It now follows, —
13. Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues.
13. Ab indignatione Jehovae non habitabitur (hoc est, praee indignatione, aut, propter indignationem,) et erit vastitas tota; quisquis transierit per Babylonem stupebit, et sibilabit super omnibus plagis ejus.
Jeremiah again repeats that the destruction of Babylon would be an evidence of God’s vengeance, because the Chaldeans had unjustly raged against the Church. But the name of God seems also to have been designedly mentioned, that the faithful might more readily receive this prophecy: for had they thought that what Jeremiah said came from man, they would have hardly believed his words, for what he said exceeded the comprehension of men. He then mentioned the indignation of God, that the faithful might know that it was absurd to form an opinion concerning the ruin of Babylon according to the present aspect of things, because God would do a work there beyond the common course of things.
He then says, that it would become a waste, so that every one passing through it would be astonished, and yet would not pity it. This way of speaking often occurs in the Prophets, when they wish to describe a waste exceeding what is common. In the meantime, what follows ought to be noticed, that this arrangement would excite no commiseration, but rather mockery, which the Prophet denotes by the word hissing. It then follows, —
14. Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about: all ye that bend the bow, shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against the LORD.
14. Ordinate contra Babel per circuitum; quicunque tenditis arcum projicite (vel, jaculamini) super earn, (contra eam,) ne parcatis sagittee; quia contra Jehovam scelerat egit.
The Prophet now turns to address the Medes and Persians, and instigates them, in the name of God, to destroy Babylon. We have already said, why the Prophets assume authority over all nations, even that they might show that God’s power is connected with his word. For men do not easily apprehend the efficacy of God’s word, and think that the air is to no purpose beaten by an empty sound. Hence the Prophets show that God has his hand extended whenever he speaks, so that nothing is announced in vain. This then is the reason why the Prophet now, as before, commands the Persians and Medes strenuously to exert themselves in attacking Babylon.
He says, first, Set in order, that is, the battle, or the assault; set in order against Babylon; and then, around, so that no escape might be open to them. He adds, All ye who bend the bow, for this mode of fighting was common among the Medes and Persians, as it appeared elsewhere; and the Orientals still follow the same practice, for they throw darts at their enemy, and move here and there, for they do not engage in pitched battles. he afterwards says, Throw or shoot at her, spare not the arrow; the singular is here used for the plural, he adds the reason, because they have acted wickedly against God. 59
Though the iniquity of Babylon was manifold, there is yet no doubt but that God here undertakes the cause of his Church. Then, of all the sins of the Chaldeans, the chief was this, that they had oppressed the Church of God; for we know with what favor God regards his children, so that he who hurts them toucheth the apple of his eye, as he testifies elsewhere. (Zec 2:8.) This singular effect of love Jeremiah sets forth when he says, that the Chaldeans had acted wickedly against Jehovah, even because they had tyrannically oppressed his Church.
Now God will have nothing, as it were, apart from his children: and hence we learn a useful doctrine, — that the salvation of his Church is so precious in the sight of God, flint he regards the wrong done to the faithful as done to himself. Thus there is no reason why we should torment ourselves, when the ungodly harass us, because God will at length really show that our salvation is not less dear to him than their own eyes are to men. It afterwards follows, —
15. Shout against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations are fallen, her walls are thrown down: for it is the vengeance of the LORD: take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her.
15. Vociferamini contra eam per circuitum; dedit manum suam; ceciderunt fundamenta ejus, diruti sunt muri ejus, quia ultio Jehovae haec; ultionem sumite de ea; quemadmodum fecit, facite ei.
Jeremiah proceeds in exhorting the Persians and the Medes, not that he had ever spoken to them; but this mode of speaking, as it has been said, availed to confirm the minds of the godly, so that they might feel assured that what had proceeded from the mouth of Jeremiah was not vain. Here, then, he assumes the person of God himself, and with authority commands the Persians and the Medes as to what they were to do. He says again, Cry aloud against her. By crying aloud or shouting, he means the cry of triumph which soldiers send forth when a city is taken, or rather, as I think, the encouraging cries, by which soldiers rouse one another when they make an attack; for battles are never without shoutings, nor the storming of cities. God titan bids the soldiers to animate one another in their usual way to make a strenuous effort. Shout, he says, and then adds, all around.
He then says, She hath given her hand By these words he intimates that Babylon would not be able to resist. Hands are wont to be given as a token of union; but he is also said to give his hand who confesses himself to be conquered. In this sense we may take the words of Jeremiah, that Babylon had given her hand, because she could not defend herself against the Medes and Persians. But as we know flint the city was taken by treachery, in this manner also was fulfilled what Jeremiah had announced, when two Satraps, in order to revenge private wrongs, sent for Cyrus: for thus it happened that Babylon, or those within it, willingly stretched forth the hands.
It is added, her foundations have fallen, and her walls have been overthrown; not that Cyrus attacked the city with warlike engines, for he entered in by the fords; but still the soldiers readily mounted the walls. Jeremiah then speaks figuratively, as though he had said, that the Chaldeans were mistaken in thinking that they had strong fortresses, because the walls would avail them nothing, however high and wide they were. And we know what ancient historians relate of these walls and towers. The event was almost incredible; for no one could have thought it possible that a city so fortified could be taken by assault. But the Prophet derides this confidence, and declares that the walls would be overthrown, together with their foundations 60 But as it was a thing difficult to be believed, he again adds a confirmation, that it would be the vengeance of Jehovah; as though he had said, that the destruction of Babylon ought not to be estimated according to the thoughts of men, because God would there put forth his wonderful power. In the meantime, he animates again the Persians and the Medes to take vengeance, and to render to the Babylonians what they had deserved. The Prophet in short intimates that the Persians and the Medes would be armed to execute God’s vengeance on the Babylonians.
But we must notice the last clause, Do to her as she has done to others; for we hence learn, what we have also observed elsewhere, that a reward is rendered to every one, so that they who have been cruel to others, do find how dreadful is God’s judgment. God does not always execute his judgment by men; but still this is ever true,
“Woe to thee who plunderest, for thou shalt be plundered;”
and also this,
“Judgment without mercy shall be to him
who hath showed no mercy;”
and still further,
“With what measure any one measures,
the same shall be rendered to him.”
(Isa 33:1; Jas 2:13; Mt 7:2.) This truth, then, remains fixed and unchangeable. But God in various ways renders to the ungodly their reward; for he sometimes punishes them by the hand of man, and sometimes he suspends his judgment. Here he shows that the Persians and the Medes would be the executioners of his vengeance, even as the Chaldeans themselves had been as it were his scourges when he chastised his people for their sins; for he had employed the Chaldeans in carrying on war against the Jews. But God has many ways by which he calls each one to an account. Thus at length he punished the Chaldeans, because they indulged only their avarice and ambition in oppressing the Jews; for it was not their purpose to punish the Jews as they deserved; but their own lust, as I have just said, led them to cruelty and slaughter. It was, therefore, but just that they should in their turn be chastised by God’s hand. It follows, —
16. Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest: for fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn every one to his people, and they shall flee every one to his own land.
16. Excidite seminantem e Babylone, et qui apprehendit falcem tempore messis; coram gladio opprimente, quisque ad populum suum respiciet, quisque ad terram suam fugiet.
He still addresses the Medes and the Persians, and bids them cut off from Babylon both the sowers and the reapers; but by stating a part for the whole he includes also all others. Husbandmen in a manner preserve the life of men, as other arts and occupations are not capable of doing so. Were there no sowing and reaping, all would of necessity perish. When, therefore, the Prophet bids them take away those who sowed and reaped, it was the same as though he had said, “Strike with the sword and kill all the inhabitants, so that nothing may remain but the land reduced to solitude.” He then commands the Chaldeans to be slain, so that no husbandmen should remain to sow and reap.
This, indeed, was not fulfilled by Cyrus, as we have elsewhere seen. But what I then reminded you of ought to be borne in mind, that the Prophet extends his threatenings much further, for Babylon was often smitten by God’s hand, and at length wholly destroyed. The assault of Cyrus was a prelude, but other calamities followed, when it was more severely oppressed.
He adds, From the face of the oppressing or wasting sword every one shall flee to his people and to his own land As that country was wealthy, many strangers had come there, and they had also drawn together captives from all parts. Thus many foreigners no doubt dwelt in Chaldea when the empire flourished. There were there many husbandmen and many artificers. The Chaldeans ruled, and yet many were content with small means, and even paltry; or it may be that the Chaldeans compelled conquered nations to do servile work in agriculture and in works of art. The Prophet now says, that in the revolution which was to happen, each would look to his own land and flee there, as there could be no delight in a country deserted and desolate. Then from the face of the oppressing sword shall every one look to his own people and to his own land; and those who before pretended to be wholly devoted to the Chaldeans, would forsake them in their necessity, because nothing would be better for them than to consult their own safety. It follows, —
17. Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones.
17. Grex dispersus (vel, agnus dispersus aut haedus; שה significat interdum gregem, interdum etiam significat singulos agnos, vel singulas oves; grex ergo dispersus fuit) Israel; leones expulerunt eun; primus voravit eum rex Assyriae, et hic postremus contrivit ossa ejus Nebuchadrezer rex Babylonis.
Here the Prophet more clearly shows what he had briefly referred to, even that God was thus incensed against the Babylonians, because he had undertaken the cause of the people whom he had chosen. Then Jeremiah’s design was to show to the faithful, that though God severely chastised them for a time, he had not wholly divested himself of his paternal regard towards them, because he would at length make it openly evident that they to whom he had been so rigid were dear to him. He then mitigates the severity of punishment, that the Jews might not succumb to despair, but call upon God in their miseries, and hope that he, after having turned them, would at length be propitious to them.
The sum of what is said is, that whatever punishments God inflicts on his Church are temporary, and are also useful for salvation, being remedies to prevent them from perishing in their vices. Let us then learn to embrace the promises whenever we are wounded with extreme sorrow under the chastisements of God: let us learn, I say, to look to his mercy; and let us be convinced of this, that though signs of his wrath may appear on every side, yet the punishments we suffer are not fatal, but on the contrary, medicinal. For this reason, the Prophet exhorted the faithful of his time to be patient, by showing that God, after having been a Judge, would be again a Father to them.
He then says that Israel was like a scattered flock, or a straying sheep, which is the same thing. He expresses how they became so, the first who devoured them was the king of Assyria; for we know that the kingdom of Israel was overthrown by the Assyrians, and the land of Judah was also very much pillaged by them; a small portion remained. Then God says, that the people had been consumed by the calamities which the Assyrians had occasioned. But he compares what remained to bones, as though a wild beast devoured a sheep, and left only the bones. There was then no flesh or skin in Israel after the Assyrians had cruelly treated them, and that often. But as the kingdom of Judah remained, he says that it was like bones; and hence he adds, and this last, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, hath broken, his bones, 61 that is, hath broken in pieces and devoured the bones which remained.
We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. Moreover, he exaggerates the miseries of the chosen people, that he might in a manner open a way for mercy. God, then, here assumes the feeling of man, who is touched with a sad spectacle, when he sees a miserable and harmless sheep devoured, and the bones cast away, and then sees another wild beast, still more savage, who breaks the bones with his teeth and devours them. Since God then thus speaks, there is no doubt but that he meant to express with what tender feeling he regarded his chosen people, and that he also meant to give the godly the hope of salvation. It afterwards follows,—
18. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria.
18. Propterea sic dicit Jehova exercituun, Deus Israel, ecce ego visito super regem Babylonis, et super terram ejus, quemadmodum visitavi regem Assyriae.
What I have said may hence with more certainty be inferred — that the similitude which God employed was intended for this end, that having assumed the person of one in sorrow, he might represent as it were to their eyes his sympathy, he then shows that he would be the avenger of the cruelty which the Chaldeans had practiced, as he had already been the avenger of all the evils which the Assyrians had done to his people.
We must bear in mind the time — for the meaning of this passage depends on history. The Assyrians were stronger than the Chaldeans when they harassed the kingdom of Israel: for we know that in the time of Hezekiah the king of Babylon sent to him to seek his favor, and to allure him to a confederacy. While then the monarchy of Assyria was formidable, the Assyrians were very hostile to the Israelites and also to the Jews: what followed? Nineveh was overthrown, and Babylon succeeded in its place; and so they who had ruled were constrained to bear the yoke, and thus Babylon made the Assyrians captive to itself. God now refers to this judgment, which was known to all. The Assyrians themselves did not indeed think that the God of Israel was the avenger of his people, but yet it was so. Hence God here declares that he had already given a manifest proof of the solicitude which he had for the welfare of his people: as then he had punished Assyria, so he declares that he would take vengeance on the Babylonians. And thus, by an example, he confirms what might have appeared incredible. For who could have thought that that monarchy could so suddenly fall? And yet it happened beyond what any could have anticipated. God here repeats what had taken place, that the faithful might feel assured that the judgment which the Assyrians had experienced, awaited the Babylonians. This is the plain meaning of the Prophet. It follows, —
19. And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.
19. Et reducam Israelem ad caulas suas, et pascetur in (monte) Carmel et Basan, et in monte Ephraim et Gilead; satiabitur anima ejus.
Jeremiah pursues here the same subject, and sustains the minds of the faithful in their miseries, lest they should wholly despond. It is then the same as though he stretched forth his hand to the shipwrecked, or gave support to those lying down as it were lifeless; for exile to God’s children was not only sad, but was like death, because they perceived the vengeance of God as though they had been wholly repudiated. It was therefore necessary to give them some consolation, that they might not altogether despair. The object, then, of our Prophet now is, to encourage the Jews to bear patiently their troubles, and not to think the stroke inflicted on them to be fatal. Hence God promises a restoration to their own country, which would be an evidence of pardon and of mercy; for when God gathered his people, it was the same as though he had openly showed that their adoption remained unchanged, and that the covenant which seemed for a time to fail was still valid.
We now then see why Jeremiah spoke of the restoration of the people; and then he adds, to their own folds, or to their own habitation. This mode of speaking, we know, is found everywhere in the Prophets, for they compare God to a shepherd, and the Church to a flock of sheep. This similitude then is sufficiently common, nor could God better express how much he was concerned for the welfare of his people, than by setting himself forth as their shepherd, and by testifying that he would take care of his flock. But as we said at the beginning of the book, Jeremiah had a special reason for using this similitude, because he was from a town of pastures, and had been from his childhood among shepherds: there is therefore no wonder that he often uses expressions to which he had been accustomed; for education in a great measure forms the language of men. Though then the Prophet speaks according to the usual phraseology of Scripture, there is yet no doubt but that he retained, as it has been said elsewhere, his own habitual mode of speaking.
He then says, that after the people had been gathered, they would inhabit, rich and fertile mountains, even Carmel and Bashan. The fruitfulness of these mountains is spoken of in many places, but it is not necessary to quote them. The meaning however is, that God, after having again gathered his chosen people, would be as it were a faithful shepherd to them, so that they might feel assured that there would be not only a free return to their own country, but that God would be also the guardian of their safety, so as ever to protect them, to exercise care over them, to defend them against their enemies.
But that God might more fully set forth his kindness, he adds, and satisfied shall be his soul Soul here is to be taken for desire, as in many other places. Now the former doctrine ought to be borne in mind, that God is never so angry or displeased with his Church but that he remembers his covenant. Then, as to the faithful, after they have undergone their temporary punishment, God at length stretches forth his hand to them; nor is he once only propitious to them, but continues his mercy, and so cherishes them, that he is not less solicitous for their welfare than a shepherd is, to whom his flock is not less dear than his own life, so that he watches in the night, endures cold and heat, and also exposes himself to many dangers from robbers and wild beasts in order that he might protect his flock. But the Prophet points out as by the finger the very fountain of all this when he adds, —
20. In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.
20. In diebus illis et tempore illo, dicit Jehova, quaeretur iniquitas Israel, et nulla erit, scelus Jehudah, et non invenietur; quia propitius ero his quos fecero residuos.
As I have already said, the Prophet now shows the primary cause why God purposed to deal so kindly and mercifully with his people, even because he would remit their sins. And doubtless whatever is said of the remission of sins is cold and unmeaning, except we be first convinced that God is reconciled and propitious to us. The unbelieving indeed seek no other thing than to be relieved from their evils, as the sick who require nothing from their physician but that he should immediately remove pain. If the sick man thirsts, “Take away thirst,” he will say. In short, they regard only the symptom, of the disease they do not say a word. Such is the case with the ungodly, they neglect the chief thing, that God should pardon them and receive them into favor. Provided they are exempted from punishment, this is enough for them. But as to the faithful, they can never be satisfied until they feel assured that God is propitious to them. In order, then, to free from disquietude and all misgivings the minds of the godly, our Prophet says that God would be propitious, so that he would bury all the sins of Israel and Judah, so that they might no more be remembered or come to judgment.
This passage is remarkable, and from it we especially learn this valuable truth, that when God severely chastises us, we ought not to stop at the punishment and seek only a relief from our troubles, but on the contrary we ought to look to the very cause of all evils, even our sins. So David, in many places, when he seeks from God a relaxation of evil, does not only say, “Lord, deliver me from mine enemies; Lord, restore to me my health; Lord, deliver me from death;” — he does not simply speak thus, but he earnestly flees to God and implores his mercy. And on the other hand, when God promises deliverance from punishment, he does not simply say, “I will restore you from exile or captivity, I will restore you to your own country;” but he says, “I will forgive you your sins.” For when the disease is removed, the symptoms also which accompany the disease disappear. So also it happens in this case, for when God shows that he is propitious to us, we are then freed from punishment, that is, what we have for a time suffered, or what awaited us, had not God spared us according to his infinite mercy and goodness. 62
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been so merciful towards thine ancient people, and however grievously thou mightest have been offended, yet thou didst preserve some remnant to whom thou gavest tokens of thy mercy, — O grant that it may please thee so to allure us also at this day; and however we may deserve a thousand times to be condemned by thee, yet deign to receive us in thine only-begotten Son, and through him show thyself reconciled to us to the end of our life; and be thou our Father in death itself, so that we may live and die to thee, and acknowledge this to be the only true way of salvation, until we shall at length enjoy that celestial inheritance which has been obtained for us by the blood of the same, thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SECOND
IN the last lecture we began to explain what the Prophet says, that when God redeemed his people he would be so propitious as to blot out all their sins. We said also that the Prophet shows that the people had for just reasons been treated with severity. Here then we have to observe the justice of God in all his judgments. For the Prophet reminds us that the Jews could not have been reconciled to God, except they acknowledged that they had been justly punished. And hence we learn also a useful doctrine, that whenever God smites us with his rods, we are not only to seek that relief may be given us from external evils or sorrow, but that God may also forgive us. The reason also is to be observed, for the Prophet teaches us that there would be no iniquity because God would be propitious. We hence learn that there were also just reasons why God chastised his people, but that as he designed to forgive their sins he became their deliverer. Let us then know that we are counted just before God, not because he sees no iniquities in us, but because he freely forgives them. It is, in short, the only true way of being reconciled to God, when he buries as it were our sins so as never to call them to judgment.
Moreover, that this favor properly belongs to the kingdom of Christ may be gathered from the thirty-first chapter, where the Prophet, having spoken of the new covenant, lays down this as the principal thing,
“I will pardon their iniquities,” (Jer 31:34)
and he uses here the same verb. This promise then ought not to be confined to that short time when the people returned from their Babylonian exile, but ought on the contrary to be extended to the kingdom of Christ, for it was then that this prophecy was fully accomplished, because our sins do not appear before God when he is reconciled to us.
Yet the Prophet intimates that this favor would not be general, for he adds that God would be propitious only to the remnant; and it was needful to express this, because the faithful after their return might have otherwise desponded, when they saw that a few only of the people were restored. Had their restoration been indiscriminately promised, the faith of the godly might have faltered on seeing that almost the whole people disregarded the favor offered to them; for a part only of the tribe of Judah availed themselves of the kindness of Cyrus and Darius; and the ten tribes chose rather to dwell in Chaldea and in other places. And it was not only once that God restricted the promise given here; for it is said by Isaiah,
“Were thy people as the sand of the sea,
a remnant only shall be saved.” (Isa. 10:21, 22)
The people gloried in their number and boasted of what had been said to Abraham,
“Number if thou canst the stars of heaven and the sand of the sea, so shall thy seed be.” (Ge 15:5)
God then shows that the Jews were greatly mistaken when they thought that they would be always in a safe state. Hence the Prophet says here that God would not be propitious indiscriminately to all, but to those whom he would make the remnant. And God also intimates that it was to be ascribed to his gratuitous goodness that any remained alive, according to what is said in Isa 1:9,
“Except some seed had been left to us, we must have been as Gomorrah, and like to Sodom,”
God then declares here that the remnant would not otherwise be saved than through his gratuitous mercy, as Paul also says, that the Jews were not to hope for salvation, except through the free mercy of God. (Ro 11:5.) And he especially noticed this passage and similar passages, because the Jews then in opposing the Gospel raised the objection, that they were the seed of Abraham, and the chosen people; but Paul gave them this answer, that it was not a new thing that God gathered a small remnant from his people; and he assigns as the cause his gratuitous election. It now follows, —
21. Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the LORD, and do according to all that I have commanded thee.
21. Super terram exasperantium ascende super eam (sod abundat) et super habitatores visitationis (et habitatores visitationis;) occide et disperde post eos, dicit Jehova; et fac omnia quae praecepi tibi.
The Prophet here undertakes the office of a herald, and animates the Persians and the Medes to make war with Babylon. This prophecy indeed never came to these nations, but we have stated why the Prophets proclaimed war and addressed at one time heathen nations, at another time the Jews — now one people, then another; for they wished to bring the faithful to the very scene of action, and connected the accomplishment with their predictions. By this mode of speaking, the Prophet then teaches us, that he did not scatter words into the air, but that the power of God was connected with the word which he spoke, as though God had expressly commanded the Medes and the Persians to execute his vengeance on Babylon. And doubtless Jeremiah did not thus speak; according to his own thoughts, nor did he thus speak in the person of man; but on the contrary, he introduced God as the speaker, as it appears front the end of the verse.
He then says, Ascend on the land of the exasperating; others read, “of bitterness,” but improperly. God indeed calls the Chaldeans rebellious, for though they were for a time the scourges of his wrath, they yet had cruelly treated many nations, being impelled only by their own pride and avarice; he justly calls them “the exasperating,” and then adds, Slay the inhabitants of visitation Some regard פקוד, pekud, as a proper name; and they first imagine that it was a town of some note in Chaldea, which is groundless; and then they give a frigid explanation by saying that it was some mean and obscure place. There is then no doubt but that the Prophet calls the Chaldeans the inhabitants of visitation, because God’s vengeance awaited them, nay, it was even suspended over their heads, as he afterwards declares. But this way of speaking frequently occurs in the Prophets. 63
He afterwards adds, and destroy after or behind them There is an alliteration in the words החרם אתריהם, etherem acheriem; and he means that the slaughter would be extreme, so that the Medes and Persians would not cease to destroy until they had extinguished the name of Babylon. Yet we know that this was not done by Cyrus and Darius; for as we have already stated several times, the city was taken by fraud and treachery in the night, and the king and the princes were slain, for Darius, or rather Cyrus, spared the rest of the people; for though Darius had the name of being king, yet Cyrus was by far the most renowned, as he was a valiant soldier, and only on account of his fame accompanied his father-in-law and uncle. As then the sword did not destroy all the Chaldeans when Babylon was taken, we conclude that the Prophets, when they denounced slaughter and destruction on Babylon, did not confine what they said to that time, but included also other slaughters; for Babylon was often taken. It revolted from the Persians; and when it was recovered, it suffered very severe punishment; for, by way of reproach, those who were first in power and authority were hung, and there was also great cruelty exercised towards men and women. There is no doubt then but that the Prophets, in speaking of the destruction of Babylon, referred to God’s judgments inflicted at various times. However this may have been, we learn that though God may long connive, or suspend extreme judgments, yet the ungodly cannot possibly escape his hand, though they may long be spared.
He then adds, Do to them as I have commanded thee This prophetic mode of speaking ought also to be noticed; for the Medes and the Persians never thought that they fought under the authority of God; why then is the word “commanded” used? even because God rules by his secret power ungodly men, and leads them wheresoever he pleases, though nothing of the kind is ever thought of by them. To explain the matter more fully, we must observe flint God commands in two ways; for he commands the faithful when he shows to them what is right and what they ought to follow. Thus daily God may be said to exercise his authority or right of ruling, when he exhorts us to do our duty, when he sets his law before us. And it is the proper way of commanding, or of exercising authority, when God expresses what he would have us to do, or what he requires from us. But God commands the unbelieving in another way; for though he does not declare to them what he would have them to do, he yet draws them, willing or unwilling, where-ever he pleases. Thus, by his secret operation, he induced Cyrus and Darius to take up arms against Babylon.
We now then understand what the Prophet meant by this expression; for he did not mean that Darius and Cyrus obeyed God from the heart, because they knew not that he was the leader and author of that war; no such thing ever entered into their minds. The former mode of commanding, as I have said, is peculiar to the Church; for God is pleased to bestow on us a peculiar privilege and favor, when he shows to us what is right, and prescribes the rule of life. But yet his hidden providence, by which he influences the ungodly, takes the place of a command, as it is said,
“The king’s heart is in the hand of God.” (Pr 21:1)
But Solomon speaks of a king rather than of common men, because, if there be any liberty among mankind, it belongs to kings, for they seem exempt from every yoke; and Solomon declares that the hearts of kings are ruled by God. Though then Darius and Cyrus were carried away by their own cupidity when they made war, yet God, as we shall hereafter see more clearly, guided their hearts. So also he is said to command the heavens and the earth-not that the heavens, being without ears and reason, hear his voice, but because God powerfully moves and influences the heavens; for when he intends to punish us, he commands the heaven not to rain. This command of God the heaven executes, and the earth also obeys God; but there is no word of command given to them, — what then? it is God’s providence which is hid from us. It follows, —
22. A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction.
22. Vox praelii in terra et contritio magna.
The Prophet continues the same style of speaking, for he says that there would be the voice or the sound of battle Could he rouse up the Medes and the Persians? not indeed by his own power, but here he exalts the efficacy of his doctrine; as though he had said, that the vengeance he denounced on the Babylonians would be in readiness when the time came, as Paul says that the ministers of the gospel had vengeance ready at hand for all those who despised it. We now then see why the Prophet mentions the word battle, and says that breaking, or ruin, would be great in the land. It now follows, —
23. How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!
23. Quomodo excisus est et contritus malleus universes terrae? quomodo redacta est (fuit) in vastitatem Babylon inter gentes?
24. I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou wast not aware: thou art found, and also caught, because thou hast striven against the LORD.
24. Illaqueavi to, atque etiam (vel atque, ideo, גם, hic ponitur loco rationalis particuloe, ideo) capta es Babylon, et tu nescivisti; inventa es atque adeo deprehensa, quoniam contra Jehovam to miscuisti (litigasti.)
Here, in the first place, Jeremiah asks in astonishment how it happened that the hammer of the whole earth was broken, when it had before broken all nations. God afterwards gives an answer, even because “I am he who have taken Babylon.” The question availed to rouse the people to a greater attention. We neglect God’s judgments or are blind to them, even because we do not carefully consider them; for little things often excite us, when that which God works in an unusual manner is deemed by us as nothing. As then our apathy as to the works of God is so great, it is necessary to stimulate us. And this is what is done now by Jeremiah, when he says in astonishment, How? for he intimates that to cut down Babylon would be incredible, for no one could have thought that that monarchy could have ever fallen; for it had arrived to the highest eminence, and was surrounded on all sides by so many fortresses, that no danger could be feared. In short, all thought that Babylon could not be endangered without a concussion of heaven and earth.
Then the Prophet here wonders at a thing unusual, and says, How is the hammer of all the earth broken and shattered to pieces? 64 and then, How has Babylon become a waste among the nations? for it had subjugated to itself not only the neighboring nations, but the remotest parts of the earth. And in this manner he animated the faithful to entertain hope, lest they should despond, for the power of that monarchy was terrible.
He then immediately answers in the person of God, I have ensnared thee, and therefore thou Babylon art taken Here God declares, that though it could not be possible that Babylon and its empire should fall through human means, yet its destruction was in his hand. Thou, he says, art taken, even because I ensnared thee; as though he had said, that the Chaldeans would not have to do with men, because he himself would carry on the war and guide and direct the Persians and the Medes, and also endue them with power: He would, in short, fight himself until he had overcome the Babylonians.
When he says, thou knewest not, he not only reproves the insensibility of that people, but at the same time derides their security, as though he had said, “Thou thinkest thyself beyond the reach of harm, but thou wilt find that no one can escape my hand.” We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet. It is indeed true that the unbelieving, when God punishes them for their wickedness, do not acknowledge his hand; but the Prophet means another thing, — that though Babylon trusted in its strength and feared nothing, it would yet be taken, because it could not evade the snares.
He adds, Thou art found and therefore caught; and he states the reason, because she had contended with God. We shall presently explain how Babylon contended or litigated with or against God, even because God had taken under his protection and patronage the Israelites. This, then, is said with reference to the Church, as I shall presently explain more at large. It must be here briefly observed, that God so undertakes the cause of his people, as though he himself were injured, according to what he promises that they would be to him as the apple of his eye. (Zec 2:8.) It now follows, —
25. The LORD hath opened his armoury, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation: for this is the work of the Lord GOD of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans.
25. Aperuit Jehova thesaurum suum, et protulit vasa irae suae, quia opus hoc Domini, Jehovae exercituum, est in terra Chaldaeorum.
The Prophet here expresses more clearly what he bad touched upon, even that this war would not be that of the Persians, but of God himself. He then says, that God had opened his treasure, even because he has various and manifold ways and means, which cannot be comprehended by men, when he resolves to destroy the ungodly. That monarchy was impregnable according to the judgment of men; but God here says that he had hidden means by which he would lay waste Babylon and reduce it to nothing. Then what is by a similitude called the treasure of God, means such a way as surpasses the comprehension of men, that is, when God executes his judgments in a way hidden and unexpected.
As, then, the faithful could hardly conceive what Jeremiah said, he raises up their thoughts to God’s providence, which ought not to be subjected to human judgment; for it is absurd in men to judge of God’s power according to the perceptions of the flesh; it is the same as though they attempted to include heaven and earth in the hollow of their hand. God himself says, that he takes heaven and earth in the hollow of his hand. When, therefore, men seek to comprehend the power of God, it is like a fly attempting to devour all the mountains. Hence the Prophet reproves this presumption to which we are all by nature inclined, even to determine according to the comprehension of our minds what God is about or ought to do, as though his power were not infinite.
This is the reason why the Prophet says, God hath opened his treasury; and then, he hath thence brought forth the instruments of his wrath, that is, from his treasury, even in a way and manner which was then incomprehensible. 65 And subjoined is the reason, Because this is the work of God alone, the God of hosts, in the land of the Chaldeans 66 Here the Prophet briefly concludes, intimating, that the faithful ought quietly to wait until what he taught came to pass, even because it was the work of God. And there is nothing more absurd than for men to seek to measure God’s power, as it has been said, by their own judgment. It follows, — but I cannot explain the verse now.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to set before us thy judgments on the unbelieving, we may not only fear thee, but also learn to cast on thee the hope of our salvation, so that we may make progress in the truth, that we may neither be insensible as to thy threatenings, nor tremble in our extreme evils, but so learn to raise up to thee our eyes, that we may, during the whole course of our life, call on thee through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY THIRD
26. Come against her from the utmost border, open her storehouses: cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly: let nothing of her be left.
26. Venite contra eam a fine, aperite apothecas ejus, calcate earn tanquam acervos, et disperdite eam, ne sint ei reliquiae.
The Prophet again addresses the Persians and the Medes, and encourages them to come against Babylon. We stated yesterday that the prophets are went to speak with authority, because they sustained the person of God; and we mentioned how necessary this mode of speaking was, for the world does not acknowledge that God speaks effectually.
Then he says first, Come ye against her; 67 and then, Open her storehouses The word מאבס, meabes, means a cornhouse or a repository of any kind: hence some render it “granaries.” But it seems to me that the word is thus too much restricted, for the Prophet no doubt speaks of the treasures of Babylon. Now storehouses, (apothecas,) the Greeks call those repositories which contain all sorts of things, not only wine and oil, but goods of merchants, and also money. We call them in French, Arrieres-boutiques, or, magasins. But this word is to be extended to wine, to every kind of fruit, and then to treasures, and also to arms; for they were repositories of arms, of weapons of every kind. It is the same as though Jeremiah had said, that nothing would be so hidden among the Chaldeans but that the Medes and the Persians would find it out.
He then adds, Tread her as heaps. The word ערמים, oremim, means not heaps of stones, but on the contrary, of sheaves. Then he intimates that the Persians and the Medes would act cruelly, and tread them as corn is trodden on the floor. 68 He lastly says, Destroy her utterly, that there way be to her no remnant He seems indirectly to set this in contrast with what God promised always to his people, that there would be some remnant, he then says that nothing would remain when God had executed his vengeance on the Chaldeans. The sum of what is said is, that the punishment of which the Prophet speaks would be such as would obliterate the very name of the Babylonian monarchy. This, as we said yesterday and also previously, was not completed in one day. But when the Prophets speak of God’s judgments, they do not regard only the preludes, but their words extend to the last judgment that awaits all the reprobate. It now follows, —
27. Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation.
27. Occidite omnes juvencos ejus; descendant ad mactationem: vae illis! quia venit dies eorum, tempus visitationis eorum.
He goes on with the same subject; he bids the Persians and the Medes to slay every strong man in Chaldea; for by bullocks he no doubt means by a metaphor all those who excelled in strength, or in power, or in wealth. The sum of what he says is, that the vengeance of which he now speaks, would not only be against the common people, but also against the highest and the choicest among them. He includes then the nobles as well as all the men of war; for he refers not only to strength of body, but also to power and authority.
Slay, then, he says, all her bullocks, that is, whatever is most valued in Chaldea: that was to perish when the day of vengeance came. 69 He afterwards says, let them descend to the slaughter We must ever bear in mind what I have said, that the Prophet gave orders as though he had the Medes and the Persians under his own hand and authority, because the whole world is subject to God’s word. He says, Woe to them! for their day is come, and the time of their visitation This was added, because the faithful might have disputed with themselves and said, “How can it be that Babylon should perish so quickly?” For God seemed to have favored that monarchy for a long time, as though he intended to protect it perpetually. Hence the Prophet speaks here of the time of visitation, so that the faithful might not doubt respecting this prophecy, because God had not as yet put forth his band. He then reminded them that God has his fixed times, and that he does not every day visit nations, that is, that he does not execute his judgments every moment, but at the time which he has appointed. Whenever, then, the ungodly securely exult and triumph, let us ever remember this truth, that the time is not yet come for God to execute his judgment; how so? because there is a fixed time of visitation, and that is dependent on God’s will. Let us then learn to bear patiently all our trials until it shall please God to show that he is the judge of the world. It follows,—
28. The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, the vengeance of his temple.
28. Vox fugientium et qui evaserint e terra Babylonis ad annuntiandum in Sion vindictam Jehovae Dei nostri, vindictam templi ejus.
The Prophet again shows, that God in punishing Babylon, would give a sure proof of his favor towards his Church. For this prophecy would have been uninteresting to the faithful, did they not know that God would be an enemy to that great monarchy, because he had undertaken the care of their safety. Then the Prophet often calls the attention of the faithful to this fact, that God’s vengeance on the Babylonians would be to them a sure proof of God’s favor, through which he had once embraced them, and which he would continue to show to them to the end.
This, then, was the design of the Prophet, when he said, The voice officers and of those who escape from the land of Babylon, etc.; as though he had said, “Babylon is on many accounts worthy of destruction, but God in destroying it will have a regard to his own people, and will effectually show that he is the Father of the people whom he has adopted.” Jeremiah afterwards exhorts the faithful to show their gratitude. There are here, then, two things; the first is, that when God destroyed Babylon, the people would hence with certainty perceive how dear they were to God; and secondly, from this truth flows an exhortation, that the faithful were not to be mute at such a singular benefit of God, but were to proclaim their deliverance. Hence he says, The voice of fleers and of those who escape from the land of Babylon, to announce in Sion, etc. By saying in Sion, he shows for what end God intended to gather his people, even that he might again be worshipped as formerly-in his own Temple.
He adds, to announce in Sion the vengeance of our God The vengeance of God is to be taken here in an active sense, signifying the vengeance which God would execute. The vengeance of the Temple, which immediately follows, is to be taken passively, as meaning the vengeance by which God would avenge the indignity offered to the Temple. God then takes vengeance, and God’s Temple is defended from contempt and reproach.
We now then see the meaning of this passage. The Prophet first teaches us, that God would have a regard to his people in so rigidly punishing Babylon; and secondly, he adds an exhortation, lest the faithful should be unthankful to God, but acknowledge that God, for the sake of their deliverance had undertaken war against that monarchy; and lastly, he shows the end, even that the people who had been scattered, as it is said in Ps 147:2,
“God is he who gathers the dispersed of Israel,”
might again be collected together. As, then, the Jews were as a mutilated body among the Chaldeans, the Prophet shows that that monarchy would be dispersed, in order that the faithful might again be gathered, and that all might worship God together in the Temple, or on mount Sion. It follows, —
29. Call together the archers against Babylon: all ye that bend the bow, camp against it round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her: for she hath been proud against the LORD, against the Holy One of Israel.
29. Convocate contra Babylonem potentes, omnes qui intendunt arcum; obsidete earn in circuitu, ne sit evasio; reddite ei secundum opus suum, secundum omnia quae fecit facite ei; quia contra Jehovam superb egit, contra sanctum Israelis.
The Prophet adopts various modes of speaking, and not without reason, because he had to thunder rather than to speak; and then as he spoke of a thing incredible, there was need of no common confirmation; the faithful also, almost pining away in their miseries, could hardly entertain any hope. This is the reason why the Prophet dwells so long and so diffusely on a subject in itself not obscure, for there was not only need of amplifying, but also of great vehemence.
Then, as though he had many heralds ready to obey, he says, Call together the mighty against Babylon Some read “many,” but the word רבים, rebim, means both; and I think that “the mighty” or strong are meant here. Why some render it “arrows” I know not. It is, indeed, immediately added, all who bend the bow, כל-דרכי קשת, caldereki koshet. But the word, without anything added to it, never means an arrow. They refer to a place in Ge 21:20, where Ishmael is said to be “an archer,” רבה, rebe; but the word “bow” follows it. We cannot then take רבים, rebim here but as signifying many or the mighty; and the latter is the most suitable word. Then the Prophet bids the strong and the warlike to come together, and then he mentions them specifically, — all who bend the bow, even all skillful archers. For the Persians excelled in this art, they were archers of the first order. It was indeed a practice common among eastern nations, but the Persians surpassed all others. The Prophet then points them out when he bids archers to assemble. 70
He adds, encompass or besiege her around, that there may be no escape This also was a thing difficult to be believed, for Babylon was more like a country than a city. Then one could have hardly thought that it could have been besieged around and at length taken, as it happened. Therefore the Prophet here testifies that what exceeded the opinion of all would take place. But he had said before that this would be the work of God, that the faithful might not form a judgment according to their own measure, for nothing is more absurd, as it has been said, than to measure the power of God by our own understanding. As then the Prophet had before declared that the siege of Babylon would be the work of God, he bids them now, with more confidence, to besiege it around, that there might not be an escape
It is then added, Render to her according to her work; according to what she has done, do to her By these words the Prophet shows that the vengeance which God would execute on the Chaldeans would be just, for nothing is more equitable than to render to one what he had done to others.
“With what measure ye mete to others,” says Christ, “it shall be rendered to you.” (Lu 6:38)
As, then, nature itself teaches us that the punishment is most just which is inflicted on the cruel themselves, hence the Prophet reminds us here that God would be a just avenger in his extreme violence against the Babylonians. But he looks farther, for he assumes this principle, that God is the judge of the world. Since he is so, it follows that they who unjustly oppress others must at length receive their own reward; as also Paul says, that the judgment of God, otherwise obscure, will be made evident, when he shall give relief and rest to the miserable who are now unjustly afflicted, and when he shall render their reward to oppressors. (2 Thess. 1:6, 7.) The Prophet then takes occasion of confidence from this truth to animate the faithful and to encourage them to entertain hope. How so? Since God is the judge of the world, the Jews ought to have considered what sort of people the Babylonians had been; nay, they had already sufficiently experienced how cruel and barbarous they were. As, then, the avarice and cruelly of the Chaldeans were sufficiently apparent, the Prophet here reminds them, that as God is in heaven, it could not be otherwise but that he would shortly call them to judgment, for otherwise he would not be God. Surely he would not be the judge of the world, were he not to regard the miserable unjustly oppressed, and bring them help, and stretch forth his hand to relieve them; and were he not also, on the other hand, to punish the avaricious and the proud and the cruel. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet.
He adds, in the last place, because she has acted proudly against Jehovah, against the Holy One of Israel By saying that the Babylonians had acted proudly, he means that they had not only been injurious to men, but had been also insolent towards God himself; for the verb here used denotes a sin different from that which happens through levity or want of thought. When any one sins inconsiderately, he is said to have erred; but when one sins knowingly, it is a deliberate wickedness, and he is said to be proud; and this we learn from Ps 19:12; for David there sets pride in opposition to errors:
“errors,” he says, “who can understand?”
and then he asks God to cleanse him from all pride. David indeed had not designedly raised his horns against God, but he yet feared lest the wantonness of the flesh should lead him to pride. When, therefore, the Prophet now says that the Chaldeans had acted proudly towards God, it is the same as though he accused them of sacrilegious pride, even that they designed to be insolent towards God himself, and not only cruel to his people.
But an explanation follows, against the Holy One of Israel The Babylonians might have raised an objection, and said, that it was not their purpose to act proudly towards God. But the Prophet here brings forward the word Israel, as though he had said, “If there be a God in heaven, our religion is true; then God’s name dwells with us. Since, then, the Babylonians have basely oppressed the people whom God has chosen, it follows that they have been sacrilegious towards him.” And he meant the same thing when he said before, the vengeance of Jehovah our God Why did he add, our God? that the Jews might know that whatever wrongs they had suffered, they reached God himself, as though he were hurt in his own person. So also in this place the Prophet takes away from the Babylonians all means of evasion when he says, that they had acted proudly towards the Holy One of Israel When, therefore, the ungodly seek evasions and say that they do not contend with God, their pretenses are disproved, when they carry on war with his Church, and fight, against his faithful people, whose safety he has undertaken to defend. For God cannot be otherwise the protector of his Church than by setting himself up as a shield in its defense whenever he sees his people unjustly attacked by the reprobate. It follows, —
30. Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the LORD.
30. Propterea cadent electi ejus (vel, adolescentes,) in plateis ejus, et omnes viri militiae ejus (hoc est, omnes viri bellicosi) redigentur ad silentium (alii vertunt, compescentur; nam דמם significat utrumque) in die illo, dicit Jehova.
He confirms the same thing, and shows that the destruction of Babylon would be such, that everything valuable would be destroyed. Fall, he says, shall her strong men in the streets; which is worse than if he had said, “They shall fall in battle.” Babylon was so taken that all her armed men were slain in the middle of the city. Cyrus indeed spared, as it has been already said, the common people; but he slew all the chief men and the armed soldiers. As the Babylonians were taken while keeping a feast, as we read in Daniel, hence Jeremiah mentions the streets. He afterwards adds, —
31. Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord GOD, of hosts: for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee.
31. Ecce ego contra to, superbe, dicit Dominus Jehova exercituum quia venit dies tuus, tempus visitationis tuae.
Jeremiah, in order more fully to confirm what he had said, again introduces God as the speaker. And we have stated how necessary this was, because he could have hardly gained credit otherwise to his prophecy; but when he introduced God, he removed every doubt. Behold, he says, I am against thee, O proud one He again calls the Babylonians proud, even because they had not been led to war by levity or folly, or vain ambition, but because they had assailed God and men without any reverence and without any regard to humanity.
He says that the time had come, because the faithful would have otherwise interrupted him and said, “How is this, that God so long delays?” That they might then sustain and cherish hope until the time which God had prescribed for his vengeance, he says, that the day had come, and the time of visitation Whenever this mode of speaking occurs, let us know that all the natural instincts of our flesh are checked; for there is no one of us who does not immediately jump to take vengeance when we see the faithful oppressed, when we see many unworthy things done to our brethren, when we see innocent blood shed, and the miserable cruelly treated by the ungodly. When, therefore, all these instances of barbarity happen, none of us can contain himself; hence God puts on us a bridle, and exhorts us to exercise patience, when he says, that the time of visitation is not yet completed.
As long then as God delays, let us know that the fit time is not yet come, because he has a fixed day of visitation, unknown to us. It follows, —
32. And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up: and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him.
32. Et impinget superbus et cadet, et nemo qui eum erigat; et accendam ignem in urbibus ejus, qui consumet omnia quae sunt in circuitu (per circuitus ejus, ad verbum.)
The Prophet continues the same subject: as then he had announced in God’s name that the time of visitation would come when God would rise up against the Chaldeans, he now adds, stumble shall the proud, and fall The verb כשל, cashel, means also to fall; but as it is added, ונפל, vanuphel, and fall, it ought to be rendered stumble here. Stumble, then, shall the proud, and fall — for the Prophet denotes a gradation. Some render the words, “Fall shall the proud and tumble down:” but more suitable is the rendering I have given, that the proud would stumble, and then that he would fall. And no one, he says, shall raise him up By these words, God intimates, that though Babylon had many nations under its authority, yet there would be no help given to it, when the time of visitation came. It indeed often happens that many busy themselves, and make every effort to assist the wicked, but without any success. When, therefore, God declares that there would be no one to raise up Babylon when fallen, the meaning is not, that courage would be wanting to all, but that the efforts of all would be of no avail, even because God, when Babylon fell, would be against her, so that were the whole world to unite for her relief, all their attempts would be useless.
And for the same purpose, he adds, I will kindle a fire which will consume or devour all his cities God calls slaughter, by a metaphor, fire; for slaughter, like fire, raged so as to consume the whole monarchy — not only the city, but also all the neighboring nations — for the war reached even to Asia. Cyrus, as it is well known, passed over the sea and depopulated Phrygia. In short, though victory might have been mild, yet it was no doubt like fire, as it devoured all the neighboring nations. It follows,—
33. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; the children of Israel and the children of Judah were oppressed together: and all that took them captives held them fast; they refused to let them go.
33. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Oppressi fuerunt filii Israel et filii Jehudah pariter; et omnes qui captivos ceperunt praevaluerunt contra ipsos, et renuerunt ipsos dimittere.
34. Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name: he shall throughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.
34. Redemptor (inquit) eorum fortis, Jehova exercituum nomen ejus; litem litigando litigabit, (hoc est, disceptando disceptabit causam ipsorum,) ut terram ipsam reddat tranquillam, (ut alii vetrunt, sed ego potius ita interpretor, ut terram scindat,) et contremiscere faciat habitatores Babylonis.
Our Prophet returns again to his former subject — that God, in destroying the Babylonian monarchy, would have a regard to his chosen people. But the comparison made here is very important; for in the first place, the Prophet refers to an occasion of diffidence and even of despair, which might have closed up the way against all his prophecies. For this objection might have always been made, “We are driven into exile, we are in a far country, and in places distant from one another; it is the same as though we were in another world, and we can hardly move a foot without our conquerors being enraged against us.” Thus the Jews, according to the aspect of things at that time, could not otherwise than despair of returning to their own country. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet says here, by way of concession, “It is, indeed, true that the children of Judah and the children of Israel are oppressed with cruel tyranny:” as when we wish to secure faith, we state what seems to be opposed to us, and then dissipate it; so now the Prophet does in this place, as though he had said, “I see what his own mind may dictate to every one, even that the children of Judah, as well as the children of Israel, are held captive, and shut up by such fastnesses that no way of escape is open to them.”
When he speaks of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, we must remember that the ten tribes had been led into exile, and also that the whole kingdom had been destroyed; and at length, after a considerable time, the Chaldeans took possession also of the kingdom of Judah. Hence then it was, that both the Israelites and the Jews became subject to a cruel oppression. He therefore adds, They who led them captive have prevailed, or, as some render the last word, “have held them;” for חזק, chesek, means to hold, to lay hold; but the Prophet seems to mean another thing, even that their conquerors so prevailed as securely to rule over them; and hence it is added, they have refused to let them go; and we learn the same thing from the next verse, in which the strength and power of God is set in opposition to the power of their enemies. As far as things appeared to men, there was certainly no way of deliverance for the people. The Prophet then concedes what might have taken away every hope from them.
But he immediately after removes this ground of despair, and says, Their redeemer is strong He then sets this strong, חזק, chesek, in opposition to the verb used before, “prevailed” or ruled, החזיקו בם, echesiku beem, “prevailed” or domineered “over them,” so that they were stronger. But now, on the other hand, he calls the Redeemer of Israel strong; for were you only to consider, he seems to say, how great the power of Babylon is, you might despond; but can God, in the meantime, do nothing? Is there any power on earth which can overrule him? Since then their redeemer was strong, he would prove superior to the Chaldeans.
He afterwards adds what is of the same import, His name is Jehovah of hosts; that is, neither Babylon nor all other nations have so much power as can resist the infinite power of God, for he is always like himself, and perfect; he is the God of hosts. He at length adds, Their strife by litigating he will litigate, or, by pleading he will plead the cause of his people, even so as to cut off or destroy the land The verb, רגע, rego, means indeed sometimes to rest, and so almost all give this rendering, “so as to make to rest the land:” but as I take “land” and “the inhabitants of Babylon” to be the same, I doubt not but that this verb is to be taken here in its proper sense. Then it is, so as to cut off or destroy the land, 71 and to make to tremble the inhabitants of Babylon. He then speaks of the Chaldeans in mentioning the land, and afterwards explains himself by adding, the inhabitants of Babylon.
Grant, Almighty God, that, as thou hast deigned once to take us under thy protection, we may always raise up our eyes to thine infinite power, and that when we see all things not only confounded, but also trodden under foot by the world, we may not yet doubt but that thy power is sufficient to deliver us, so that we may perpetually call on thy name, and with firm constancy so fight against all temptations, that we may at length enjoy in thy celestial kingdom the fruit of our victory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FOURTH
35. A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the LORD, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men.
35. Gladius super Chaldaeos, et super habitatores Babylonis, et super principes ejus, et super sapientes ejus.
THE Prophet proceeds with the same subject, and employs the same manner of speaking. He denounces war on the Chaldeans as a celestial herald; and then that what he says might have more force and power, he sets the Persians and the Medes before us in the act of assailing and destroying Babylon. He therefore says now in general, A sword on the Chaldeans; and, secondly, he mentions the inhabitants of Babylon, for that city was the seat and head of the kingdom, as it is well known; but as the power of that monarchy was deemed by men unassailable, the Prophet adds, that though the chief men excelled in counsel and strength, and in the art of war, yet a sword would be upon them; and in the last place, that though Babylon had its diviners, their knowledge would yet be in vain. He, indeed, uses an honorable name, yet he no doubt refers to astrologers and soothsayers, and other kinds of prophets. For we know that the whole nation was given to many superstitions; but they boasted themselves to be the chief of all astrologers; and hence soothsayers, who practice their impostures, are called Chaldeans, and it was formerly a common designation.
Then the Prophet means, that neither power nor warlike skill, nor knowledge of any kind, would be a defense to the Chaldeans, nor the arts in which they gloried, even though they thought that they were familiarly acquainted with God; for by the stars they were wont to divine whatever was to be. It follows, —
36. A sword is upon the liars; and they shall dote: a sword is upon her mighty men; and they shall be dismayed.
36. Gladius super divinos ejus, et infatuabuntur; gladius super fortes ejus, et conterentur (vel, expavescent.)
He repeats the same thing, but in other words; and in the first clause he mentions diviners whom he before called wise men; and he calls them now by their true and proper name; for בדים, bedim, mean mendacious men as well as falsehoods. He then calls those now impostors to whom he conceded before the name of wise men. But when he called them wise men, he spoke according to the common opinion, and he was unwilling to contend with the Chaldeans as to the character of their wisdom: he, however, at the same time made known the impositions of those who boasted that they had a familiar intercourse with God and angels, whilst they pronounced by the stars what was to be. 72 That art itself is indeed worthy of praise, were men to preserve moderation. But as the curiosity of men is insatiable, so they wandered here and there, and overleaped all limits, and thus perverted the whole order of nature. The Chaldeans, then, were not genuine, but, on the contrary, spurious astrologers.
This is the reason why the Prophet calls them now liars; for we have before seen, that it was a mere imposition, when the Chaldeans held that the whole life of man is subject to the influence of the stars. Hence he exhorted the faithful to fear no dangers from the stars. It is then no wonder that the Prophet now charges all the diviners with falsehoods, who yet proudly arrogated to themselves the name of wise men, they shall be infatuated, he says. The verb יאל, ial, means indeed to begin, but in Niphal it means to become foolish, or to be infatuated. 73
Then he says, The sword shall be on her valiant men; whom before he called chief men or princes, שרים, sherim, he now calls strong, גברים, geberim, or those who excelled in valor. The amount of the whole is, — that whatever wisdom Babylon arrogated to itself would become folly, and that the valor in which it prided, would vanish away. For he says, that they would be broken in pieces The verb חתת, chetat, means to be broken, but as we have elsewhere seen, it is often applied to the mind, and then it means to dread, or to be terrified. He then says, that the valiant would not be able to stand when the sword was upon them, for they would become, as it were, lifeless, or, at least, they would become so effeminate as to think of nothing but flight.
37. A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all the mingled people that are in the midst of her; and they shall become as women: a sword is upon her treasures; and they shall be robbed.
37. Gladins super equos ejus, et super currus ejus, et super multitudinem ejus (aut, vulgus promiscuum; ערב significat examen animalium sicuti apum, et transfertur etiam ad homines, et tunc accipitur pro vulgo ignobili; super multitudinem ergo,) quae est in medio ejus; erunt in mulieres (hoc est, erunt similes mulieribus;) gladius super thesauros ejus, et spoliabuntur (expositi erunt in praedam.)
The Prophet, indeed, changes the gender of the pronouns, and seems to refer to the king; but there is no ambiguity in the meaning, he then declares that the horses as well as the chariots would perish; for the sword would consume all the things used in war. And at the beginning he generally declared that destruction was nigh all the Chaldeans, so he repeats the same now, on all the promiscuous multitude, which is in the midst of Babylon. He says that they would be without courage, for the Lord would dishearten them by terror, as it will be hereafter stated again. Then he joins, and on her treasures, and they shall be a prey to enemies. It follows, —
38. A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.
38. Siccitas super aquas ejus et arescent; quia terra sculptilium est, et iis idolis (proprie, in terroribus, vel, terriculamentis) gloriantur (vel, insaniunt.)
Here the same word is used in a different sense: he had often before used the word חרב, chereb, “sword;” but now by changing only a point, he uses it in the sense of waste, or drought. 74 But as he mentions waters, the Prophet, no doubt, means drought; nor was it without reason that he mentioned this, because the Euphrates, as it is well known, flowed near the city, and it was also divided into many streams, so that there were many islands, as it were, made by the skill and hand of men. Thus the city was in no ordinary way fortified, for it was difficult of access, being on one side surrounded by so large a river: it had also trenches full of water, and it had many channels. But Cyrus, as Xenophon relates, when attempting to take the city, used the same contrivance, and imitated those who had fortified Babylon, but for a different purpose; for he diverted the streams, so that the river might be forded. Thus, then, he dried up that great river, which was like a sea; so that Babylon was taken with no great trouble. Cyrus, indeed, entered in by night, and unexpectedly invaded Babylon, while they were securely feasting, and celebrating a festival, as we find in the book of Daniel. However, the way by which Cyrus contrived to take the city was, by dividing the Euphrates into many streams. Hence it was, that the Prophet, in order that the Jews might see, as it were, with their own eyes, spoke nothing without reason, having not only predicted the slaughter and destruction of the city, but showed also the very way in which it was done, as though the event had been portrayed before them.
The reason is added, because it is the land of carvings, or gravings. God, indeed, took vengeance on Babylon for other things, as it has before appeared; but the Prophet here speaks of carvings, that the Israelites might know that there is no certain salvation anywhere else except in the one true God, who had revealed himself to them. Jeremiah, in short, means, that when any country is destitute of God’s help, though it may excel in arms, in number, in wealth, and in wisdom, yet everything under heaven is of no avail without the blessing and favor of God. He has spoken of princes and of wise men, and he has named chariots, horses, and treasures, — all these have been mentioned for the purpose I have just stated, even to show, that were we supplied with all that may seem necessary to defend us, except God protected us, whatever the world may offer would be all in vain; for we shall at length find, that without God neither arms, nor chariots, nor wisdom nor counsel, nor any other helps, can avail us anything.
It follows, that Chaldea gloried in images The word אימים, aimim, means terrors, and giants are called by this name in De 2:10, because they inspire terror by their aspect. But this name is no doubt applied to images, because they are only bugbears, des epovantailz, as we say in French. 75 As then they are mere scarecrows, which only frighten children, they are called אימים, aimim. And he says, that they gloried in, or doted on them — for הלל, elal, means both, in Hithpael, as it is found here. It means to boast or to elate one’s-self, and also to be mad or to dote. Either sense would not be unsuitable to this place; for the unbelieving gloried in their idols, and at the same time were mad: yet the first meaning seems to me the best, that they gloried in their idols, as it is said in Ps 47:7,
“Let them perish who trust in images and glory in them.”
Though the verb there is indeed different, yet the meaning is the same.
It was not, indeed, without reason, that the Prophet reproaches the Chaldeans, that they gloried in their idols, because they thereby robbed God of his honor; for what is ascribed to idols is taken away from God. He intimates, in short, that the Chaldeans would be justly punished as guilty of sacrilege, because they had impiously transferred the glory of God to their own idols. And this passage teaches us, that when God is purely worshipped among us, and when true religion flourishes, it will be our best protection. We shall then be more impregnable than if we had all the power and wealth of the world: nothing can hurt us, if we give to God his due honor, and strive to worship him in sincerity and truth. It now follows, —
39, Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.
39. Propterea habitabunt aves sylvestres cum bestiis sylvestribus, et habitabunt filae struthionum; nec habitabitur amplius in seculum; non erit (inquam) in habitationem usque ad aetatem et aetatem.
The birds of the forest with the beasts of the forest, are rendered by some, “the satyrs with the fairies;” but איים, aiim, as well as ציים, tsiim, are, on the contrary, birds or beasts of the forest. Some render איים, aiim, “cats ” I hold no controversy as to these words — let there be a free judgment to every one; but, as we have elsewhere seen, the Prophet means birds and beasts of the forest, rather than satyrs and fairies. Then he adds, the daughters of the ostriches, rendered by some “of the owls;” but about this name also I will not contend. Some then render יענה, ione, “owl,” and refinedly explain that “daughters” are mentioned, because these birds forsake their young, when they howl through want or famine; but this is fictitious. I then take the daughters of the ostriches or of the owls, according to the usual manner of the language, to mean the very birds themselves. 76
The Prophets usually speak thus, when they give no hope. We have said before, that Babylon was not then so laid waste, but that men dwelt there, who afterwards lived in great luxury; for the city, under Cyrus and his son, was always populous; and then, after its revolt, it was again inhabited; and when Alexander subdued Asia, Babylon was full of people, and flourished in luxury and wealth; and when he died there, he left the city very opulent. We hence, then, conclude, that what Jeremiah declares here, was not immediately fulfilled. But as the light or moderate punishments which the unbelieving suffer now are certain preludes of final and eternal destruction; so the Prophets, when speaking of God’s vengeance, ever extend what they say to the last overthrow; and this also appears more clearly from the next verse, where it is said, —
40. As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein.
40. Secundum subversionem Dei in Sodomam et Gomorram et vicinos ejus, dicit Jehova, non habitabit illie vir, et non morabitur in ea filius hominis.
This verse confirms and explains the previous verse. But that the design of the Prophet may be more evident, we must remember what Jude in his epistle (Jude 1:7) says, that the destruction of Sodom is as it were a mirror in which we behold God’s vengeance on all the ungodly. God overthrew Sodom; but he does not proceed in the same way with other lands and nations; yet the same is the lot of all the unbelieving, of the despisers of God, and reprobates; for they are exposed to his vengeance, which they cannot escape, though it may be for a time suspended. When, therefore, the Prophet says now that Babylon would be overthrown, as Sodom was overthrown, he does not mean that this would be after seventy years, when taken by Cyrus and Darius, nor when retaken after its revolt, nor when taken by Alexander; for it remained a long time after this, even to the reign of Augustus Caesar. As, then, it has been so, it follows that our Prophet does not speak of its first, second, or third assault, but that he had in view what I have already stated, — that when God summons the wicked to judgment, it is a certain prelude of eternal and final destruction. His way with the godly is another; for though God may sink them down to the grave, nay, to the center of the earth, yet hope is still left them; hence their death is never like the destruction of Sodom. And to the same purpose is what we have already quoted from Isaiah,
“Except a seed had been left us, we should have been as Sodom, and like to Gomorrah.” (Isa 1:9)
That exception shows the difference between God’s children and the reprobate, even because he often delivers them from ruin.
We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning when he says that Babylon would become desolate and solitary, so that no one would dwell there, nor remain; 77 and that from age to age, or from generation to generation.
Moreover, we learn from what is here said, that the unbelieving are overwhelmed with despair even under the least punishment, because they see nothing but the vengeance of God; for though God does not immediately slay them, yet the least puncture denotes what impends over them; nay, he inflicts a deadly wound when he seems only to touch them lightly. There is then only one consolation, which can sustain us in our miseries, even to know that we are separated from the Sodomites through the mercy of God alone; because we have deserved the same destruction, and the Lord has spared us according to his infinite goodness. This, then, is the meaning, It follows, —
41. Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
41. Ecce populus veniet ab aquilone, et gens magna, et reges multi (aut, validi) excitabuntur a lateribus terrae.
The Prophet again shows whence destruction was to come on the Babylonians. He does not indeed mention Cyrus, as Isaiah does (Isa. 44:28, Isa. 45:1), nor does he mention the Persians; but he evidently points out the Medes, when he says that a people would come from the north He adds, a great nation and many or powerful kings; and lastly, from the sides of the earth. It is indeed certain that the war was carried on under the banner and command of Cyrus and Darius. Cyrus was the chief, but Darius, on account of his age, was deemed the king. To whom then does Jeremiah refer, when he says many kings, if we so render the words? even to the satraps or princes, of whom a great number Darius brought with him; for Cyrus came from remote mountains, and from a barbarous nation; but the kingdom of Darius was very wide. There is then no doubt but that he brought with him many kings, who yet obeyed his authority. But we may take רבים, rebim, in the sense of being strong. However this may be, the Prophet means that the Chaldeans would have to carry on war, not with one nation or one king, but with many nations and with many kings, or certainly with mighty kings. Hence he mentions the sides of the earth, by which phrase he reminds us that the army would come, not from one country but from remote parts; and though the distance might be great, yet the Prophet says, that they would all come together to attack the Chaldeans.
We now see that what afterwards happened is represented as in a picture, in order that the event itself might confirm the Jews, not only in the truth announced by Jeremiah, but also in the whole law and worship of God; for this prophecy was ratified to the faithful when they found that Jeremiah, a faithful interpreter of the law, had thus spoken. And then his doctrine availed also for another purpose, even that the people might know that they rebelled against God when they obstinately resisted the holy Prophet; for we know that they were extremely disobedient. They were then proved, by what happened, to have been guilty of having contended with God in their pertinacious wickedness and contempt. There was afterwards given them a sure ground of hope; for as Jeremiah had spoken of the destruction of Babylon, so, on the other hand, he had promised a return to the Jews. They had then reason to look for restoration, when they saw fulfilled what Jeremiah had spoken.
By the word raised, he expresses something more than by the word come: he says that people would come, and adds, that they would be raised up or roused; he intimates that they would not come of themselves, but by the hidden influence of God, because this war was not carried on merely by men. Cyrus indeed, led by insatiable avarice and ambition, was guided by his own inclination to undertake this war; and he made no end of his cruelty, until he at length miserably died, for he never ceased to shed innocent blood everywhere. But yet the Lord made use of these kings and nations to destroy Babylon: they were in reality the scourges of God, and accordingly he says, that they were roused from the sides of the earth, that is, from the most distant places.
42. They shall hold the bow and the lance: they are cruel, and will not shew mercy: their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses, every one put in array, like a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon.
42. Arcum et scutum apprehendent, crudelis ipse (hoc est, omnes erunt crudeles,) et non tangentur misericordia; vox eorum tanquam mare sonabit (vel, tumultuabitur,) et super equos ascendent; paratus est quisque tanquam vir (hoc est, parati erunt) ad proelium contra to, filia Babylonis.
Jeremiah again speaks especially of armor, to intimate that the Babylonians would not be able to sustain the assault of their enemies. He then says that they would be armed with the bow and the shield; 78 and adds, that they would be cruel. It is certain that the Persians were very bloody; for it was a barbarous nation; and where barbarity rules, there is no feeling of mercy. Cyrus indeed wished to appear a magnanimous prince, and not a savage; but it is sufficiently evident that he was very cruel, though Xenophon in his Life speaks of him otherwise; but he is not a true historian, for he tells many false things in favor of Cyrus. But when any one reads all that has been recorded, he will readily find out that Cyrus was a barbarian, who delighted in slaughter and carnage.
As to the Medes, they were given to luxuries, and were not a warlike nation. Darius, however, brought with him many princes, those whom he had overcome in uncultivated countries, and such as also possessed some valor. Though, then, the king of the Medes was effeminate as well as his people, yet he had with him many warlike men. And the same thing is expressed also by Isaiah; and you ought to compare this prophecy with that of Isaiah (Isa 13:17) for the two Prophets wholly agree, though Isaiah was dead when Jeremiah uttered this prophecy and wrote it.
He says that their voice would be tumultuous as the sea, or would sound or roar as the sea, when moved by some violent storm. And all these things were said, that the Babylonians might know that all their defenses would Be of no avail, when God should arm the Persians and the Medes for their destruction. For had that war been carried on only by men, the Chaldeans would have never thought that their enemies would be victorious; and doubtless they would have never been so, had not the Lord roused them and determined by their means to execute vengeance on the Chaldeans. He says that they would be prepared as a man for war Interpreters do not seem to me to understand the meaning of the Prophet; for though Jeremiah uses the word “prepared” in the singular number, yet he speaks of the whole people. But how does he say they would be prepared? even like a man Here he sets forth the union of the whole army, for they would all come to battle, like one man attacking his own enemy. It is indeed difficult for the minds of all to be so directed in battle, that they should unitedly attack an enemy and fight as it were with one hand, and that they should not look on one another, and yet make an united assault. This, then, is what the Prophet means when he says, that they would be prepared against the Chaldeans as one man.
He then adds, against thee, daughter of Babylon He intimates that they would be not only sufficiently strong against ordinary enemies, but also against the city itself. For had not this been added, Babylon would have ever been considered as an exception; for it was deemed impregnable on account of the multitude of men, the height and breadth of its walls, its towers, and all other defenses. Now, then, God shows that though Babylon proudly exulted in its forces, and thought itself exempt from every danger, yet the Persians and the Medes would possess sufficient power by which they would easily overcome it. What follows I cannot finish today; it is therefore better to stop here.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou teachest us by the example of the ungodly to fear thy name, we may learn to submit our necks to thy word, and willingly, and as it becomes us, submissively to receive thy yoke, that while we strive to glorify thy name, being safe under thy protection, we may disregard all the attacks of our enemies, and all the assaults and onsets of Satan, who is the captain of all our enemies, until we shall at length enjoy our victory in the celestial kingdom, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FIFTH
43. The king of Babylon hath heard the report of them, and his hands waxed feeble: anguish took hold of him, and pangs as of a woman in travail.
43. Audivit rex Babylonis famam ipsorum, et dissolutae sunt manus ejus; anxietas apprehendit (vel, corripuit) eum, dolor tanquam parturientem.
The Prophet means by these words, that as soon as the report of war reached the Chaldeans, they would be so disheartened through fear as to become like a conquered people. As they had subjected to themselves many nations, they had acquired the name of being a warlike people; but the Prophet declares here that they would have no courage, and that therefore there would be no need of much valor to attack them, as they would of themselves give way and flee. The sum of what is said is, that the Persians and the Medes would gain the victory before they fought, for there would be no need of an attack, as their enemies would flee as being without any courage.
The Prophet at the same time intimates that in God’s hand are the hearts of men, as I have often said, so that they who seem to excel in great boldness, melt as wax in a moment. For no doubt the Chaldeans were not wanting in courage to fight until God had rendered them effeminate, so that they took to flight through fear as soon as they heard the report respecting their enemies. It is, indeed, true that this was not immediately the case, for we know that they had long sustained a siege, and that Belshazzar was slain in the night, while they were securely and joyfully feasting as in the greatest quietness and peace; but they were at length taken, so that they had neither wisdom nor confidence; for the king and his princes were slain, and the city was in a moment taken, as though all the men were turned into logs of wood or into statues of stone. It follows,—
44. Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan unto the habitation of the strong: but I will make them suddenly run away from her: and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?
44. Ecce tanquam leo ascendet (ascondens) a tumore Jordanis (ab altitudine, vel, elevatione, proprie, גאון etiam significat metaphorice superbiam) ad habitaculum forte, quum quiescere fecero, (vel, postquam irruptionem fecero,) currere faciam eos ab ipsa; et quis electus quem super eam praeficiam? Quis enim similis mei? et quis contestabitur mecum? et quis ille pastor qui consistat coram me (vel, ad faciem meam)?
We have explained nearly the same words in the last chapter; for the Prophet not only used the same similitude respecting the Humans, but also added all the words which are found here; nay, the Prophet brings forward nothing new to the end of the chapter, but only repeats what we have seen before.
He first compares either Darius or Cyrus to a lion, who, at, the overflowing of Jordan, removes to another place. This passage, like the former, is indeed variously explained. Some read, “for the pride of Jordan.” But as it appears from other places that lions had their dens near the banks of Jordan, I have no doubt but that the Prophet here compares Cyrus to, a lion, forced to leave his own lair because of the inundation of that river. We know how savage a beast is the lion; but, when he is forced to change his dwelling and to move to another place, his fury rages the more. It is the same, then, as though he had said, that not any sort of lion would attack the Babylonians, but a lion furious through rage. He then adds, to the strong habitation When he spoke of the Idumeans, the allusion might have been to their country, which was elevated, and they had also mountains as their fortresses. But as Babylon was also strongly fortified, and nearly impregnable on account of fire various streams of the Euphrates, what the Prophet says is also suitable, that a lion would come, though there were hindrances which might impede his course; for when a lion rambles, being not hungry nor forced by any necessity, he can turn here and there as he pleases; but when rage drives and constrains him, he will then surmount all obstacles. So also the Prophet says, that how confident soever Babylon might be in its fortresses, yet Cyrus would break through them, for he would be like a lion, who, at the overflowing of Jordan, removes elsewhere, as he can no longer find his wonted dwelling.
We now perceive the meaning of the words, — that the Babylonians would have to do, not with an idle but a terrible enemy, and with one who would surmount all obstacles, as when fury excites a lion when necessity drives him as it were headlong.
What follows is obscure. Some render the words thus, “When I shall make Israel to rest, then I will make them to flee from her.” In the former place (Jer 49:19), we read “him,” in the singular, אריצנו, aritsnu; but here the Prophet uses the plural number, “them,” אריצם, aritsem; it is yet certain that the meaning is the same. Some, at the same time, apply this to the Jews, that God would remove them from Babylon, purposing to give them rest, that is, by dwelling securely in their own country; but as there is no mention made here of his people, this view is forced and far-fetched. I omit other explanations, for the meaning of the Prophet seems to me to be simply this, When I shall make an irruption, or, after I shall have made them rest, I will make them to flee He speaks, as I think, of the Chaldeans; and the particle כי, ki, is to be taken as an adverb of time, when, or after. It is, indeed, often a causative, but it has sometimes this meaning.
Now, these two clauses may be thus explained: When I shall make an irruption, or, when I shall have made them rest; for רגע, rego, means both to break and to rest. It is here in the active or causative conjugation, in Hiphil. If, then, we read, “After I shall have made them to rest,” the sense will be that the: Babylonians had been long tranquil, as there was no one who infested them or disturbed their peace; and we know that men having long rested in their idleness and sloth, become almost stupefied, so that they are touched with no fear. God then shows that the Babylonians were greatly mistaken, if they thought that the rest which they had previously enjoyed would be perpetual; for he would make them to flee from the city, though they had been long there in a tranquil state. The other sense is by no means unsuitable, “When I shall break,” or make an irruption, then all will flee away, that is, leave the city, which was before like a paradise. There is still no doubt but that the Prophet here denounces on the Babylonians a sudden overthrow, which would drive the people here and there in all directions. 79
It now follows, Who is the chosen one whom I shall set over her? God here in a manner deliberates as to the person whom he should make the leader of the war against the Chaldeans; and by these words he intimates that there would be ready for him the best general, and one especially active and also excelling in the art of war. And we know that even the unwilling are made to serve God, when he employs the ungodly as his scourges. In short, God shows that though the Babylonians might have brave leaders and most skillful in war, there yet would be prepared leaders, to whom he would commit the office of taking that city. And thus he teaches us at the same time that men are ruled by his hand, so that he chooses them according to his will and directs them to any work he pleases, Who is the chosen one, he says, whom I shall set over her?
And he adds, and who is like me? Here the Prophet shows that the Babylonians in vain trusted in their own defenses; for after having tried all things, they would find that whatever was set up against God and his invincible power, would be mere smoke. This sentence often occurs; and however common it may appear, yet, if we examine ourselves, we shall find that the Holy Spirit does not so often enforce it without reason; for after we have confessed that none is equal to God or can add to his power, — as soon as any trial assails us, this confession vanishes, and we tremble as though God was nothing, and had no power to bring us help. Diffidence, then, which often creeps in when we are in difficulties or dangers, sufficiently shows that we do not attribute to God the praise due to his power. He does not then exclaim here, as in other places, without reason, Who is like me? as though he had said, that the Babylonians would foolishly seek auxiliaries here and there; for when they had made the utmost exertions, whatever they might think the most useful would all vanish away, so that they would be destitute of all remedies.
He adds, And who will protest against me? Some give this frigid version, Who will prescribe to me the time? but they wholly pervert the meaning of the Prophet; for God in this place declares, that men would in vain contend or litigate with him. It is the same as if he had said, “Though all men were to rise up against, me, yet I will not allow them to litigate with me; and this they would also do in vain.” In short, God intimates that men would in vain clamor against his judgments, for he would nevertheless perform what he has decreed. He does not yet claim for himself that absolute power about which the sophists prattle, while they separate it from justice; but he intimates that the causes are not always manifest to men when he executes his judgments; for it is not without reason that the Scripture testifies that God’s judgments are a deep abyss; but by such an expression it is not meant that anything in God’s judgments is confused or in disorder, what then? even that God works in an extraordinary manner, and that hence his judgments are sometimes hidden from men.
Then God briefly shows, that though the Babylonians were to dispute, and start many objections, all this would be useless, because he would execute what he had decreed, and that without debating.
Let us then learn from these words, that when God’s works have the appearance of being unreasonable, we ought humbly to admire them, and never to judge them according to our computation; for God is not to be judged by us. Therefore, as I have already said, we are then only wise, when we humbly adore him in all his works, without disputing with him; for when we adduce all possible things, he will close our mouth with one word, and check all our presumption; nay, he will ever overcome us by being silent, for his justice will always overthrow whatever may come to our minds. But we must bear in mind what I have stated, that God never so acts by his absolute power as to separate it from his justice; for this would be as it were to wound himself; for these things are undivided, his power and justice, though justice often does not appeal however this may be, his sole and simple will is to us the rule of all justice.
It follows, And who is that shepherd who will stand before me? He alludes to the similitude he had used, for he compared himself before to a lion. he says now, “Since I shall go against Babylon like a lion, what shepherd will dare to oppose me?” We see that there is to be understood a contrast, between a lion and a shepherd; for God would be like a lion to destroy Babylon; hence, by pastor, he denotes any adversary who might come forth to defend the Chaldean flock. It follows, —
45. Therefore hear ye the counsel of the LORD, that he hath taken against Babylon; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall make their habitation desolate with them.
45. Propterea audite consilium Jehovae quod consultavit contra Babylonem, et cogitationes quas cogitavit contra terram Chaldaeorum; Si non traxerint eos parvuli gregis; si non perdiderint super eos habitaculum.
The Prophet confirms his previous doctrine, and uses an oath, for he had already spoken sufficiently at large of the destruction of Babylon, and his words might seem otherwise superfluous, because the subject had been explained with abundant clearness. But he introduces God here as making an oath, for the particles, “if not,” אם לא, am la, show the sentence to be elliptical; and we know that this form of swearing is common in Scripture. Then God swears, that the Babylonians were already given up to destruction, so that even the least of the flock would be superior to them.
But it is not without reason that the Prophet speaks here of the counsel of God and of his thoughts; for we know that men through their own vanity are held suspended or in doubt, so that they do not firmly acquiesce in God’s word, at least they vacillate so as to have no stability of faith. As, then, men think in themselves that possibly a thing may happen otherwise than according to the words of the prophets, Jeremiah does here meet such thoughts, and bids men to hear the counsel of God and his thoughts. It is, indeed, a mode of speaking transferred from men, when he speaks of the thoughts of God; for we know that God does not deliberate on what he is about to do, as the case is with men. But this manner of speaking so frequently occurs, that it ought to be familiar to us. However this may be, he intimates that God did not in vain announce terror when speaking of Babylon, but that the irrevocable decree was declared which God had formed. Hence he says, that he had already taken counsel, so that men need not deliberate any more, nor call into question his fixed decree, nor dispute concerning his thoughts. There is, then, no reason for men to revolve things in themselves, and to adopt different views; because events must be, he says, as I have predicted; God then has commanded me to announce this prophecy as brought forth from his counsel, which can by no means be changed. This is the reason why he mentions God’s counsel and thoughts.
He adds, If they shall not draw them forth; some read, “cast them out.” But סחב, sacheb, means to draw; and there is no doubt but that the Prophet denotes by this verb contempt and reproach; as carcasses are drawn through the mud, or a dead dog is drawn and cast into a river; so now, he says, Draw forth the Babylonians shall the least of the flock But how can these things agree together, that there was to be the choicest leader, and that yet the least of the flock would be the conquerors? God intimates, that though he would endow Cyrus with warlike valor, yet if it pleased him, there would be means by which he could destroy the Babylonians, were he to send sheep or lambs as their enemies. He means, in a word, that the Babylonians would be unwarlike, when God deprived them of their courage.
If they will not upset over them their tabernacle Some read as though the verb were שום, shum, “If they will not set,” etc.; others derive the word from ישם, ishem; but it comes rather from שמם, shemem; If, then, they will not upset over them their tabernacle, that is, when the Babylonians shall be laid prostrate, even their houses shall fall and overwhelm them. In short, God sets forth here a final ruin, from which the Babylonians could never be restored; for it is an evidence of hopeless despair, when houses are upset, so that their masters are buried in their ruins. It follows, —
46. At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the nations.
46. A voce captae Babylonis contremuit terra, et clamor in gentibus, (vel, per gentes,) auditus est.
This is to anticipate an objection; for many might have said, “How can it be, that Babylon should thus fall, on whose monarchy so many and so wide countries are dependent?” As, then, such an event appearing so unreasonable, might occur to them, the Prophet meets the objection, and answers by way of anticipation, that though the earth shook, yet this would surely take place. He shows, at the same time, how great the calamity would be, for it would, by its noise, make the whole world to tremble: it would be thus better known how grievous was to be God’s vengeance on the Babylonians; for it was not to be without the shaking of the whole earth. Now follows, —
Most consider that “Merodach” here was a false god; first probably a king, afterwards deified. As confounded, or put to shame, is applied to Bel, the other verb חת, should be rendered “dismayed” or terrified, a meaning which it often has, —
Taken is Babylon, Confounded is Bel, Terrified is Merodach; Confounded are her images, Terrified are her idols.
The word for “images” means labor, and refers to the labor and pains taken by those who made them; and the word for “idols” means a trunk or log of wood from which they were made. — Ed.
The two verbs are rendered by the versions, except the Syr., and by the Targ., in the future tense, “They shall come and be joined,” etc.; and one MS., says Blayney, has יבאו. This would read better. Then the verse would. run thus —
To Zion will they ask the way, Hither their faces; They shall come and be joined to Jehovah, By an everlasting covenant, which shall not be forgotten.
“Hither” and not “thither,” for the Prophet was at Jerusalem; and so the particle means, and it is so given in the Sept. and Vulg. The last clause requires “which” in our translation, though not in Welsh, for, like the Hebrew, it can do without it — nad anghofir literally the Hebrew. What is here predicted was literally accomplished, as recorded by Nehemiah, (Ne 9:38; Ne 10:29.) — Ed.
I render the verse thus, —
6. Lost sheep have become my people; Their shepherds have caused them to err, Having turned them here and there on the mountains; From mountain to hill have they gone; They have forgotten their resting-place.
The meaning of שובבים is given by the Sept. and Vulg., “causing them to wander;” the verb שב is to turn; being here a reduplicate, it means to turn much, or again and again, or here and there; and this is confirmed by what follows — they went, through the teaching of their pastors, from “mountain to hill,” that is, from one form of idolatry to another; and “forgotten their resting-place,” which was God. — Ed
Calvin, in his exposition of Isa 37:26, applies what is said to Sion, and not to Sennacherib, as it is commonly done. — Ed.
The most approved exposition is the first, which makes the latter words to be in apposition with Jehovah, as given in the Versions, though the last clause seems to be a separate sentence, —
Because they have sinned against Jehovah, The habitation of righteousness; And the hope of their fathers was Jehovah.
By calling God the habitation of righteousness, what is implied is, as Lowth suggests, that they would not have been banished, had they not justly deserved to be so treated, God being the seat or dwelling-place of justice or righteousness. And in addition to this, he had been the hope of their fathers. See Jer 40:3, where we have an example of what their enemies alleged. — Ed.
Their arrows, like those of a skilful warrior — Blayney. In the next line there is an instance of לא being in the sense of none, — “None shall return empty,” or void; i.e., without effecting its purpose. See Isa 55:11. — Ed.
Several copies have דשה, threshing. Being allowed to eat at pleasure, the threshing heifer became fat and frisky. It is so taken by Blayney and Henderson, though not countenanced by the Versions or the Targ. — Ed.
Jeremiah having twice before (Jer 8:16; Jer 47:3) used the word for steeds or horses, we may conclude that he means the same here. — Ed.
The connection of these two verses will be more evident, if we render כי when, as proposed by Gataker, and not surely, as by Calvin, nor because, as in our version, —
11. When ye shall rejoice, when ye shall exult, Ye plunderers of mine heritage, When ye shall skip as a fed heifer, And neigh like steeds,
12. Ashamed greatly shall be your mother, Confounded shall she be who bare you; Behold, the last of the nations shall she be, A desert, a dry land, and a wilderness.
The reference seems to be to the rejoicings of Babylon, when it was taken. — Ed.
Or literally, “Because against Jehovah has she sinned.” — Ed.
Rather “battlements” or ramparts, as given by the Sept.; for it is not proper to say that “foundations” have fallen. — Ed.
Literally, “and boned him;” which is to be taken in a privative sense, “and unboned him.” There are similar words in Hebrew: to neck is to break the neck. (Ex 13:13.) To tail is to cut off the tail. (Jos 10:19.) To root is to root up. (Ps 52:5.) The Vulg. here is exossavit — Ed.
The idea of this verse is rightly given in these words: the punishment for iniquity and sins would not be exacted, because God would pardon the remnant; hence they appeared not. The removal of punishment, the restoration from exile, would shew that iniquity and sins no longer existed, God having fully pardoned them, and thus obliterated them.
The iniquity of Israel was false worship, the worship of the calves, and the sins of Judah were especially idolatry and the rejection of God’s messages by his prophets. For these evils more particularly they were banished, and their exile proved a remedy for them, as they never afterwards fell into these sins. — Ed.
Merathaim and Pekod are appellatives, and not proper names, in the early versions, and the first is so in the Targ. and rendered “rebellious;” but by the Sept. “bitterly;” by the Vulg. “rulers;” and by the Syr. “exasperating.” The most probable derivation of the word is from מרה, to rebel, with a dual termination, doubly rebellious, i.e., very rebellious. As to “Pekod,” the versions give it the idea of visiting by way of punishment: “Avenge thou with the sword,” is the Sept.; “Visit her inhabitants,” the Vulg.; “Assail ye her and her inhabitants,” the Syr.; the Targ. has “the inhabitants of Pekod.” It is better to take both words as appellatives: —
21. Against the land of the most rebellious, against her ascend, And to the inhabitants of visitation; Slay and utterly destroy their posterity, saith Jehovah, And do according to all that I have commanded thee.
As to Babylon being “rebellious,” see Jer. 50:24, 33. “Inhabitants of visitation” were such as were to be visited, i.e., with judgment; see Jer 50:31. The repetition, “against her,” is emphatical. “posterity,” i.e., children, or young men, as in Jer 50:30. See 1Ki 16:3. — Ed.
The first verb, גדע, means to cast off as well as to cut off; the breaking is expressed by the following verb. According to order often found in the Prophets, the final act, casting off, is first mentioned, and then the previous act, the breaking of it, —
23. How has the hammer of all the earth Been cast off and broken! How has Babylon become a wonder among nations!
“A wonder” or astonishment, for so the word is evidently to be taken here, according to the Syr., though rendered “extinction” by the Sept., and “desert” by the Vulg. and Targ. Blayney and Henderson render it “astonishment.” — Ed.
“Treasury” here means an armory or arsenal, as rendered by Blayney: and then “instruments” signify weapons, drawn from the armory. — Ed.
Literally it is, —
For a work — this the Lord Jehovah of hosts has In the land of the Chaldeans.
It is added, “from the extremity,” i.e., of heaven, according to a parallel passage in Isa 13:5. They were to come from the farthest parts of the earth then known. — Ed.
The most approved rendering is, “Cast (or throw) her up as heaps,” i.e., of rubbish, according to Jer 51:37. It is said that the verb here never means to tread under foot, “Make her, of a goodly, stately city, nothing but heaps of earth, stones, and rubbish.” Gataker. — Ed.
The Sept. and Syr. take פרי here as signifying fruit, i.e., of the womb — children, offspring; and what is said in Isa 13:16-18, favours this meaning, as well as what is said in Jer 50:21, if we render אחריהם, “their posterity.” The Vulg. and the Targ. render the word here “valiants,” expressing the meaning of “bullocks.” The first version is the most suitable, —
Slay ye all her fruit (or offspring;)
Let them descend to the slaughter.
It is descending to the slaughter that led critics to render פרי bullocks, but we find this expression unconnected with bullocks in Jer 48:15; where “chosen young men” are said to “descend to the slaughter.” To descend denotes degradation, and to ascend dignity. The Targ. has, “Let them be delivered to the slaughter.” — Ed.
The early versions and the Targ. render רבים, “many;” and the rendering of the Sept. and Vulg. is to this effect, —
Proclaim ye to the many at Babylon, To all who bend the bow, — “Encompass her around, Let there be no escape,” etc.
The first part is a charge like what we find in the second verse; and the second states what they were to do. “Proclaim ye to,” is literally, “‘Make ye to hear,” — “Make ye the many at Babylon to hear,” etc. — Ed.
The versions, except the Syr. and the Targ., give a similar meaning to this verb: but there is no instance of the verb in Hiphil having this meaning, though it would be the most suitable to this place. At the same time we may consider the land of Chaldea to be meant, if we regard the stillness or quietness as referring to the check produced by God’s restraining power, —
So as to render the land still,
And to terrify the inhabitants of Babylon.
The promise is to make the land quiet so as not to oppose the return of the Jews, and for the same purpose, to terrify Babylon. — Ed.
The word is rendered “diviners” by the Vulg., the Syr., and the Targ.; it is left out by the Sept. Some derive it from בדא, to feign, to devise, to invent, the א being left out in בדים, others say that it comes from בד, alone, solitary, separate, so that בדים were the recluse, retirement or seclusion being often the habit of impostors. It is connected, in Isa 44:25, with קסמים, diviners, prognosticators. — Ed.
Events would prove, that they were foolish and ignorant, being not able to foretell the ruin of their own nation, notwithstanding their boast in the knowledge of futurity. — Ed.
It is so rendered by the Vulg. and the Targ., omitted by the Sept., and rendered “sword” by the Syr., and also by Blayney and Henderson. The same incongruity exists as to the treasures; but the sword here, means those who wielded it, the soldiers of Cyrus: they spoiled the treasures, they turned the streams of the rivers. — Ed.
That the Babylonians had large idols or images, which were of terrific size, is evident from Da 3:1 — Ed.
As to the two first words, the versions and the Targ. widely differ. According to Bochart, the first word, ציים, means “wild cats,” and the second, איים, jackals. The Vulg., the Syr., and the Targ. render the other word, יענה, the same, “the ostrich;” and this is the general opinion. — Ed.
Rather “sojourn,” according to the Sept. — Ed.
Rather “spear” or lance; so the Sept. and Syr., though the Vulg. and Targ. have “shield.” — Ed.
See note on Jeremiah 49:19. — Ed.