The Prophet, when he saw that his labor availed nothing, or was not so fruitful as he wished, no doubt felt somewhat like a man, and shewed his own weakness. It must however be observed, that he was so restrained by the secret power of the Holy Spirit, that he did not break forth intemperately, as is the case with many; but, he kept the right end so in view, that his sorrows had ever a regard to his object, even to render his labor useful to the people. A clear example of which is seen in these words.
But he addresses his mother, as though he counted his own life a curse; what does this mean? “Why,” he says, “hast thou begotten me, my mother? Woe to me, that I have been born a man of strife and of contention!” We learn from these words, that the Prophet was not so composed and calm in his mind, but that he felt angry when he saw that he effected less than he wished; and yet it is evident from the context, that all this was expressed for the benefit of the public, even that the Jews might know, that their hardness of heart in despising God’s devoted servant, yea, in maliciously opposing him, would not turn out to their benefit. This is the purport of the whole.
He calls himself a man of strife, not only because he was constrained to contend with the people, for this he had in common with all prophets. God does not send them to flatter or to please the world; they must therefore contend with the world, for no one is brought to a right state, so as to undertake the yoke of God winingly and submissively, until he is proved guilty. Hence men will never obey God, they will never submit to his word, until they know that they are in a manner condemned; and for this reason have I said, that this evil is common to all prophets, — that they have to contend with the world. But Jeremiah calls himself a man of strife and contention, because he was slanderously spoken of throughout Judea, as one who through his moroseness drove the whole people to contentions and strifes. This then is to be referred to the false judgments formed by the people; for there was hardly any one who did not say that he was a turbulent man, and that if he was removed, there would have been tranquinity in the city and throughout the whole land. The same objection is at this day made by the enemies of the truth and godliness; they say, that we needlessly create disturbances, and that if we were quiet, there would be the most delightful peace throughout the whole world, and that dissensions and strifes arise only from us, that we are the fans by which the whole world is kindled into contentions. It was then for this reason that Jeremiah complained that he was born a man of strife and contention; not that he was contentious — not that that he gave any occasion to the people to speak so slanderously of him; for the subject here is not respecting the character of the Prophet, as he knew that his courage was approved by God; but as he saw that he was urged and charged with these false accusations, he calls himself a man of strife and a man of contention; the last word is from דן, den, which means to contend.
But as to the exclamation respecting his mother, I have already reminded you that it was an evidence of an intemperate feeling; for had he spoken in a composed state of mind, what had he to do with his mother, so as to make her an associate in the evil he complains of? He indeed seems to ascribe a part of the blame to his mother, because she had given him birth. Now this appears unreasonable. But it may at the same time be easily gathered, that the Prophet was not led away by so great a vehemence, except for the sake of promoting the public good, and that it was for this end that he uttered his complaint; for it was not his purpose to condemn his mother, though at the first view it appears so; but though she was innocent, he still shews that he was unjustly loaded with such calumnies, as that he was a man of strife and contention; as though he had said, “Enquire of my mother, who hath begotten me, whether I was contentious from the womb? has my mother been the cause why ye say that I am a turbulent man and the author of strifes? Doubtless nothing can be imputed to my mother; and I am as innocent as she is.” We now then see that the Prophet indirectly condemns the wickedness of the people, because they calumniated him, as though he moved tumults and strifes through the whole land; and this he more fully confirms by the words which follow: —
I have not given on usury, nor have they borrowed of me on usury; yet every one curses me He shews here that it was not for a private reason that he was hated by the whole people and loaded with calumnies: for whence come hatreds, and strifes, and complaints, and quarrels, and contentions among men, except through unfair dealing in their intercourse with one another? When, therefore, every one is bent on his own private advantage, he in bears anything to be taken from him. It is indeed a rare thing in the world, that they who carry on business with one another are really friends, and that they wholly approve of each other’s conduct; for, as I have already said, covetousness so prevails, that justice and equity disappear among most men. Hence the Prophet says, that he had not lent on usury Under one kind he includes all transactions of life, as though he had said, Je n’ay point traffique, I have had no contention about money affairs, for I have neither lent nor borrowed money, so that I have had no contention with the people on a private concern, nor have they quarrelled with me as though I had injured them or defrauded them, as though they had suffered any loss on my account: yet they all curse me.”
We see that the Prophet here testifies that he had not incurred the displeasure of the people through his own fault, or on account of any private concern, but because he had faithfully discharged his duty to God and to his ChurJeremiah He then brings against the people a most awful accusation, that they carried on war, not with a mortal man, but rather with God himself. We now understand what the Prophet had in view.
But all faithful teachers are here reminded, that if they perform their office strenuously and wisely, they will surely be loaded with many calumnies, and be called tumultuous, or morose, or disturbers of the peace. They ought then to be fortified against such stumbling — blocks, so that they may persevere in the course of their calling. They ought at the same time to take heed lest they create enemies through any private concerns. For when the pastors of the Church abstain from every public business, yet when they contend, as they ought with the world, all immediately cry out that they are contentious and turbulent; but if the other be added, if they quarrel with this or that man about worldly things, then it cannot be but that the word of God will be evil spoken of through their fault. Hence great care ought to be taken that those who sustain the office of public teaching should not engage in worldly business, and be thus exposed to the necessity of contending about worldly things: they have enough to do, and more than enough, in the warfare in which the Lord has engaged them.
Now when the Prophet says that they all cursed him, it was a sad instance of impiety; for he speaks not of heathens but of the seed of Abraham. There was no Church then in the world but at Jerusalem, and yet the Prophet was regarded there as contentious and a man of strife. It ought not then to appear strange to us, that not only professed enemies of Christ load us with reproaches, but that they also curse us who deem themselves to be members of the ChurJeremiah It now follows —
God at the beginning of this verse no doubt intimates that he would be propitious to his servant, and grant him what he asked. We then conclude that the Prophet’s prayer was heard; and hence also becomes manifest what I have stated, that the Prophet was not so led away by the force of grief, but that he chiefly regarded the benefit of the people. God then was so propitious to his request, that he said that it would be well with his remnant, that what remained would be blessed.
Interpreters differ as to the second clause: some apply what is said to the people, I will make the enemy to meet thee in the time of evil, and in the time of trouble: and so they take this view, that God at the beginning of the verse answers the Prophet, and intimates that his request was accepted, so that there would be a better and happier end than what then appeared; and they think that God then turns his discourse to the people, “With regard to you, I will make the enemy to meet you in the day of affliction.” But this explanation seems forced. I prefer to regard the whole verse as addressed to the Prophet. God promises first that his remnant would be prosperous; and by remnant he means the remaining time or the end of life, as though he had said, “I will at length have pity on thee, so that the things which cause thee the greatest grief shall turn into joy: thine end then shall be more prosperous than thou thinkest.” Then the words which follow confirm the previous sentence: for the Prophet might have objected and said, “Then either the people shall be delivered from all trouble, or I shall not escape a part of the calamity.” To this God replies and says, “Thou and others nmst suffer many things, but I will make the enemy to meet thee, that is, I will make the enemy to be propitious to thee, and even of his own accord to anticipate thee.
Interpreters differ still farther respecting the verb הפגעתי epegoti; some regard it in a transitive sense, “To meet thee will I make the enemy;” others render the sentence thus, “I will meet the enemy for thee,” or, “I will cause the enemy to ask for thee.” The verb, פגע pego, means sometimes to meet, either in a good or bad sense; as when one goes as an enemy against another, he is said to meet him; or, when one offers help and shews kindness to another, he is said to meet him. But the word has another meaning, and signifies sometimes to ask, and so some take it here, “I will cause the enemy to ask for thee.” But this is far — fetched: God did not send messengers to pacify the Babylonians towards his servant Jeremiah. I prefer to render the words thus, “I will meet the enemy for thee,” or, “I will cause the enemy to meet thee;” that is, “I will pacify him by my secret influence, so that he will of himself spare thee and treat thee kindly.” And we know that it so happened; for Jeremiah was loosed from his chains and was allowed his liberty, so that he was permitted to go wherever he wished. As then the enemies treated him with so nmch kindness, it appears evident that what God had before promised was fulfined.
As to the main thing intended, there is no ambiguity in the words: God promised that the latter end of Jeremiah would be happy, and that though he was to suffer somewhat in the common calamity of the whole people, yet the enemy would treat him kindly, so that his condition would be better and more desirable than that of others.
But why did Jeremiah make this public? why did he give this description? why did he commit it to writing? even that the Jews might understand that they who harassed him, when he had done them no injury, dealt unjustly with him. They had indeed been excited by him, but it was through what his office required, for he could not deny obedience to God. Jeremiah then made public what God only knew before, that he might produce an impression on them, provided any hope of repentance yet remained. And for the same reason also was the promise of God added; for the Jews ought to have been terrified, when they saw that such an end was promised by God to the Prophet; for what must have happened to them, except the curse of God to the utter-most? We hence see, that in the complaint of the Prophet, and in the answer given by God, the salvation of the people was regarded; for the complaint contains a most severe reproof and the answer of God threatens a most dreadful judgment to the rebellious people. It follows —
I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil – This was literally fulfilled; see Jer_39:11, etc. Nebuchadnezzar had given strict charge to Nebuzaradan, commander in chief, to look well to Jeremiah, to do him no harm, and to grant him all the privileges he was pleased to ask.
The Prophet again turns to God, to shew that he had to do with the deaf. This breaking off in the Prophet’s discourse has much more force than if he had pursued regularly his subject. Had he spoken calmly and in uniform order to the people, his address would have been less forcible, than by speaking to them as it were angrily and by severely reproving them, and then immediately by turning from them and addressing God as though bidding adieu to men. Of this we have spoken elsewhere, but it is well to remind you of what we have before noticed. We now perceive the design of the Prophet, in thus abruptly turning from the people to God, and then again from God to the people, even because he indignantly bore the loss of his labor, when the ears of almost all were closed, and when they had become so hardened that they had no fear of God, nor any regard for his teaching. As then the Prophet indignantly bore so great a wickedness, he could not but speak in a hasty manner.
According to this strain, he now says, Thou knowest, Jehovah; remember me, and visit me, and avenge me of mine enemies The Prophet, however, seems here to have been more angry than he ought to have been, for revenge is a passion unbecoming the children of God. How was it, then, that the Prophet was so indignant against the people that he desired revenge? We have said elsewhere that the prophets, though freed from every carnal feeling, might yet have justly prayed for vengeance on the reprobate. We must distinguish between private and public feelings, and also between the passions of the flesh, which keep within no limits, and the zeal of the Spirit. It is certain that the Prophet had no regard to himself when he thus spoke; but he dismissed every regard for himself, and had regard only to the cause of God: for inconsiderate zeal often creeps in, so that we wish all to be condemned of whom we do not approve; and such was the excessive zeal of the disciples, when they said, “Lord, bid fire to descend from heaven to consume them, as was done by Elias.” (Luk_9:54 )
But it is necessary not only to be moved by a pious zeal, but also to be guided by a right judgment: and this second requisite was possessed by the Prophet; for he did not let loose the reins to his own zeal, but subjected himself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Since, then, these two things were united, — a right zeal, to the exclusion of any private feeling, — and the spirit of wisdom and a right judgment, it was lawful to ask for vengeance on the reprobate, as the Prophet does.
There is further no doubt but that he pitied the people; but he was in a manner freed from the influence of human feelings, and had put off whatever might have disturbed him and led him away from moderation. Though, then, the Prophet was thus emancipated and freed from every kind of perturbation, there is yet no doubt but that he prayed for final judgment on the reprobate; and yet, if there were any healable, he doubtless wished them to be saved, and also prayed anxiously for them.
In short, whenever the prophets were carried away by such a fervor as this, we must understand that they were fined by the Spirit of Christ; and we must know that, when they were thus fined, their whole zeal was directed against the reprobate, while they were at the same time endeavoring to gather together all that could be saved: and the same was the case with David; when he fervently implored destruction on his enemies, he no doubt sustained the person of Christ, as he was fined by his Spirit. (Psa_35:4 ) Hence he turned and levelled all his vehemence against the reprobate; but, when there was any hope of salvation, David also, in the spirit of kindness, prayed for the restoration of those who seemed to have already perished. Now, then, when the Prophet says, “Thou knowest, Jehovah; remember me, and visit, me, and avenge me of my persecutors,” he doubtless does not mean all his persecutors, but those who had been given up and devoted to destruction, and whom he himself knew to be reprobates.
He afterwards shews what he meant by these words — remember me, and visit me; for he says, Take me not away by deferring So they render the passage, “Whilstthou bearest with the impiety of this people, and for a time suspendest thy vengeance, let not thy wrath take me away.” The word ארך arek, means to defer, to protract, and also to prolong, to extend, and to continue. Hence this meaning is not unsuitable, “Take me not away in the protraction of thy wrath;” that is, “By protracting thy wrath, not only for one day, but for a long time, take me not away, involve me not in the same destruction with the reprobate.” David also prayed for the same thing,
“When thou destroyest the wicked, involve me not with them.” (Psa_26:9 ) The sum of the whole is, that the Prophet asks a favor for himself, that God would make a difference between him and the reprobate while he was protracting his wrath; that is, while he was not only taking vengeance on the impiety of the people for a short time, but also while he was adding calamities to calamities, and accumulating evils on evils, and while thus his fire burned for a long time, until the whole land was consumed: and this is the meaning which I prefer, though all the interpreters agree in another.
It must further be noticed that the Prophet, in this prayer, did not so much consult his own advantage as the good of the people, — that they might at length dread the dreadful judgment which was at hand. We have already stated how supine a security prevailed throughout Judea; and they also hoped, that if any calamity happened it would be for a short time, so that, having endured it, they might again live in pleasure and quietness. Hence the Prophet speaks of the protraction of God’s wrath, in order that they might know, as I have already said, that the fire which had been kindled could not be extinguished until they all perished.
Jer 15:15 O Lord, thou knowest,…. All persons and things; he knew the prophet and his heart, and all that was in it; his innocence and integrity; all his afflictions, and what he met with from his enemies; and he knew them, and all their malicious designs against him:
remember me; with the favour which he bore to his own people, his covenant with him, his promises to him, and the word on which he had caused him to hope; because of his trials and troubles, he might seem to be forgotten by him:
and visit me; in mercy for good; and so the Targum adds, “that thou mayest do well unto me:”
and revenge me of my persecutors; not so much for his own sake; unless this is to be attributed to his frailty and infirmity, to the warmth of his spirit, being a man of like passions with others; for private revenge ought not to be sought by good men, but for the sake of God and his glory, in whose cause he was engaged, and on whose account he was persecuted:
take me not away in thy longsuffering; while thou art bearing with others, do not take me away by death; or suffer them, whom thou dost forbear, to take me away, or give them an opportunity thereby so to do; or when thy longsuffering is at an end, do not involve me in the same calamity with them. The Targum is,
“do not give delay to my injury;” or, “length to my affliction;” that is, do not delay to take vengeance on my persecutors; and to this sense Jarchi interprets it, “do not take my cause, and leave it to thy longsuffering, but hasten and avenge me;” and De Dieu proposes such a rendering of the words, “to thy longsuffering do not bring me” (q); and which sense is favoured by the Septuagint version:
know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke; let it appear, and that even to mine enemies, that it is for thy sake that all this reproach is cast upon me; and all these afflictions are endured by me, by thy resentment of their carriage to me.
(q) אל לארך אפך תפחני “ne ad longanimitatem tuam adduc me”, De Dieu; “nec me capias ad dilationem irae tua”, Gussetius.
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thou knowest — namely, my case; what wrongs my adversaries have done me (Jer_12:3).
revenge me — (See on Jer_11:20). The prophet in this had regard to, not his own personal feelings of revenge, but the cause of God; he speaks by inspiration God’s will against the ungodly. Contrast in this the law with the gospel (Luk_23:34; Act_7:60).
take me not away in thy long-suffering — By Thy long-suffering towards them, suffer them not meanwhile to take away my life.
for thy sake I have suffered rebuke — the very words of the antitype, Jesus Christ (Psa_69:7, Psa_69:22-28), which last compare with Jeremiah’s prayer in the beginning of this verse.
The Prophet had said in the last verse that he was loaded with reproach on God’s account; for in his intercourse with his own people he did not incur their hatred for any private affair, but for his faithfulness in the discharge of his duty: hence arose their reproaches and slanders. He now confirms the same thing in other words, and at the same time explains what might have appeared obscure on account of the brief statement which he had made. This verse, then, is explanatory; for the Prophet shews what he meant by saying that he was burdened with reproaches and calumnies on account of God’s name.
Found, he says, by me have been thy words, and I did eat them, and they turned to me for joy of heart Hence then it was that he was hated by the whole people, because he labored to obey from the heart and in sincerity the command of God, and to perform the office committed to him. But by saying that words had been found, he refers to his calling, as though he had said that he had not sought them as ambitious men are wont to do. We indeed see, with regard to many, that they busy themselves about many things, while they might be at ease and be troublesome to none; but a foolish ambition impels them to seek offices for themselves, and thus they excite against themselves the hatred of many. The Prophet therefore testifies here, that he did not ambitiously seek his office, but that it had been conferred on him from above. We may also take the word in another sense — that the Prophet felt assured that God had sent him; for the word, to find, is often thus taken in Scripture; that is, when anything is perceived and known it is said to be found. But the former view is what I approve, for it is more simple. Then the Prophet says that he was called and made a Prophet, when he expected no such thing; for when he in no way intruded himself, God met him, and in a manner anticipated him: and this we have seen in the first chapter; for he said, for the sake of excusing himself, “Ah! Lord, I cannot speak.” (Jer_1:8 ) We hence see that the Prophet sought to decline the office rather than to desire it as a vocation of honor. So he now rightly declares that God’s words had been found by him, that is, that they had been gratuitously bestowed on him, according to what the Lord says by Isaiah, “I have been found by them who sought me not, and I have manifested myself to them who asked not for me.” (Isa_65:1; Rom_10:20 ) This indeed is to be applied to all; but as to the meaning of the term, to find, we see how suitable it is. the Prophet then did not hunt for this honor, nor did he desire any such thing, but the favor of God anticipated him.
He afterwards adds, I did eat them He here testifies that he from the heart, and with a sincere feeling, submitted to God’s command. We indeed know that many prattle about heavenly mysteries, and have the words of God on their tongues; but the Prophet says that he had eaten the words of God; that is, that he brought forth nothing from the tip of his tongue, as the proverb is, but spoke from the bottom of his heart, while engaged in the work of his calling. Well known and sufficiently common in Scripture is the metaphor of eating. When we are said to eat Christ, (Mat_26:26 ) the reference no doubt is to the union we have with him, because we are one body and one spirit. So also we are said to eat the word of God, not when we only taste and immediately spew it out again, as fastidious men do, but when we receive inwardly and digest what the Lord sets before us. For celestial truth is compared to food, and we know by the experience of faith how fit the comparison is. Since then celestial truth is good to feed spiritually our souls, we are justly said to eat it when we do not reject it, but greedily receive it, and so really chew and digest it that it becomes our nourishment. This then is what is meant by the Prophet; for he did not act a fable on the stage when teaching the people, but performed in real earnest the office committed to him, not like an actor, is the case is with many who boast themselves to be ministers of the word, but he was a faithful and true minister of God. He then says, that the word of God had been to him the joy and gladness of his heart; that is, that he delighted in that word, like David, who compares it to honey. (Psa_19:11; Psa_119:103 ) The same manner of speaking is used by Ezekiel,(Eze_2:8 and Eze_3:1;) for the Prophet is there bidden to eat the volume presented to him; and then he says that it was to him like honey in sweetness, for he embraced the truth with ardent desire, and made privately such a proficiency in the school of God, that his labors became afterwards publicly useful. We hence see how similar was the case with Jeremiah and Ezekiel; for they not only recited, as is commonly done by those who seek to please the ear, what they had been taught, but they became the disciples of the holy Spirit before they became teachers to the people.
It may however be asked, how could the word of God be so sweet and pleasant to the Prophet, when yet it was so full of bitterness; for we have seen elsewhere that many tears were shed by the holy man, and he had expressed a wish that his eyes would flow, as though they were fountains of water. How then could these things agree — the grief and sorrow which the holy man felt for God’s judgments, and the joy and gladness which he now mentions? We have said elsewhere that these two feelings, though apparently repugnant, were connected together in the Prophets; they as men deplored and mourned for the ruin of the people, and yet, through the power of the Spirit, they performed their office, and approved of the just vengeance of God. Thus then the word of God became joy to the Prophet, not that he was not touched by a deep feeling for the destruction of the people, but that he rose above all human feelings, so as fully to approve of God’s judgments. Hosea says the same thing — “Right are the ways of the Lord; the just will walk in them, but the ungodly will stumble and fall.” (Hos_14:9 )
The Prophet indeed speaks thus, not of the word itself, but of its execution; but yet the design is the same; for the Prophet Hosea checks the wantonness of the people, because they complained that God was too rigid and severe. Right, he says, are the ways of the Lord; the just will walk in them, that is, they will consent to God, and acknowledge that he acts rightly, even when he punishes for sins; but the ungodly will stumble, according to what the Lord says in another place — “Are my ways perverse and not rather yours?” (Eze_18:25 ) For they said that the Lord’s ways were crooked, because they, being soft and delicate, could not endure those severe rebukes, which their own wickedness forced from the holy Prophets. God answers them, and says, that his ways were not crooked, nor thorny, nor tortuous, but that the fault was in the people themselves.
We now then understand the real meaning of this passage. The Prophet knew that nothing was better than to receive whatever proceeded from God; and he testifies that he found sweetness in God’s word.
He afterwards adds, Because on me is called thy name, O Jehovah, God of hosts This mode of speaking occurs often in Scripture, but in a different sense. The name of God is indeed called indiscriminately on all, who are deemed his people. As it was formerly given to the whole seed of Abraham, so it is at this day conferred on all who are consecrated to his name by holy baptism, and who boast themselves to be Christians and the sons of the Church; and this belongs even to the Papists. We are called by his name, because he has favored us with his peculiar grace, for the purity of true and lawful worship exists among us; errors have been removed and his simple truth remains; yet many hypocrites are mixed with the elect of God, so that in a true and well ordered church, the reprobate are called by the name of God; but the elect alone are truly called by his name, as Paul says, “Let every one who calls on the name of the Lord depart from iniquity,” (2Ti_2:19 ) There is in this case a mutual connection; for to call on the name of the Lord, and to have his name called on any one, amounts to the same thing. We hence see that the name of God is only truly and really called on those, who not only boast that they are the faithful, but who have been also regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
But the Prophet here refers to his office when he says, that the name of God was called on him; for he had been chosen to his office of teaching; he was not only dignified with the title, but was really approved by God. We now then perceive in what sense he says that God’s name was called on him, even because God had laid his hand on him and resolved to employ him in the work of teaching the people. But there are many mercenaries in the Church, and though they do not openly corrupt or adulterate the truth of God, they yet, as Paul says, preach it for gain, (2Co_2:17 ) It must be observed, that God’s name was called on Jeremiah, because he was known to God as being true and faithful; and he had not only proved himself to be so to men, but he had been chosen by God to be his faithful messenger.
There is emphasis in the words, O Jehovah, the God of hosts; for the Prophet no doubt refers here to the glory of God, that he might with an elevated mind look down, as it were, on so many adversaries, who proudly despised him, as it was difficult to carry on war with the whole people. This then was the reason why he spoke of God’s glory in terms so magnificent, by saying, O Jehovah, the God of hosts It follows: —
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eat — (Eze_2:8; Eze_3:1, Eze_3:3; Rev_10:9, Rev_10:10). As soon as Thy words were found by me, I eagerly laid hold of and appropriated them. The Keri reads, “Thy word.”
thy word … joy — (Job_23:12; Psa_119:72, Psa_119:111; compare Mat_13:44).
called by thy name — I am Thine, Thy minister. So the antitype, Jesus Christ (Exo_23:21).
Here the Prophet more fully declares, that he was hated by the whole people because he pleased God. He indeed inveighs against the impiety of those who then bore rule; he does not here so much reprove the common people as the chief men, who exercised authority and administered justice; for when he speaks of the assembly of the ungodly, he no doubt refers to wicked rulers, as the word סוד, sud, which means a secret, means also a council. And David (or whosoever was the author of the sixty-ninth Psalm) says, not that he was a sport to the vulgar, but that he was derided by those who sat in the gate, (Psa_69:12 ) which means, that he was reproachfully treated by wicked judges, who possessed the chief authority. So also in this place, Jeremiah says, that he did not sit in the council of mockersIt is not the same word as in the first Psalm; and סוד, sud, is sometimes taken in a good sense, but here in a bad sense; for Jeremiah speaks of the profane despisers of God, who ridiculed everything that was announced in the name of God.
Now it was necessary for the holy man thus to exasperate these impious men, for they were in favor, credit, and authority with the people; and we know that they who were in power do in a manner dazzle the eyes of the vulgar with their splendor. As they then thus deceived the simple, the Prophet removed the mask, and exclaimed, that he did not sit in their council nor exulted with them. In denying that he was connected with them, he intimates what their conduct and manners were. He therefore shews, that whatever their dignity might be, they were still the impious despisers of God, and were only mockers. The same is the case with us at this day, we are under the necessity directly to expose those masked rulers, who are inflated with their own power and fascinate the people; for buffoons in tippling-houses and taverns do not so wantonly mock God as those courtiers, who, while consulting respecting the state of the whole earth, and deciding on the affairs of all kingdoms, seem as though they themselves possessed all the power of God; and we also know that they are profane mockers. Hardly any piety or reverence for God is to be found in the courts of princes; nay, especially at their councils, the devil reigns, as it were, without control. We are therefore constrained often to speak very strongly against such unprincipled men, who falsely assume the name of God, and by this pretense deceive the common people. By this necessity was Jeremiah constrained to declare, that he had not been in the assembly of such men.
He then adds, On account of thine hand (from the presence of thine hand) I sat apart, because with indignation hast thou filled me Here Jeremiah confesses that he had departed from the people; but he did so, because he could not have otherwise obeyed God. Some consider hand to mean prophecy, and others, a stroke; and so it is often taken metaphorically; but I am disposed to take it for command, “On account of thy hand;” that is, because I attended to what thou hast commanded, nor had I any other object but to obey thee. Hence, On account of thine hand, because I regarded thee and wished wholly to submit to thy will, I sat apart
This passage is especially deserving of notice; for the Prophet was at Jerusalem among the priests, and was one of them, as we found at the beginning of this book. Though then he was a priest, he was constrained to separate himself and to renounce all connection with his colleagues and brethren. As then this was the case with the holy Prophet, why do the Papists try to frighten us by objecting to us our separation, as though it were a most heinous crime? they call us apostates, because we have departed from their assemblies; truly if Jeremiah was an apostate, we need not be ashamed to follow his example, since he was approved by God, though he separated from the whole people, and also from the ungodly priests. Let us at this day openly and boldly confess that we have separated. There is then a separation between us, and one indeed irreconcilable; and accursed were we, if we sought an union with the Papists. We are therefore constrained plainly and openly to repudiate them, and to move heaven and earth rather than to agree with them. We see that there is a rule here prescribed to us by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Jeremiah. To refute then the ealumnies of those who object to us our separation, this very passage is sufficient.
“I sat apart,” and true it, was so; but no one can say this at this day; for the Lord has gathered to himself many teachers and many disciples. They then who now profess the gospel do not sit apart as Jeremiah. But though all had forsakert him, he yet hesitated not to separate himself from all. But were it necessary for every one of us to become separated and to live apart, were God to scatter each of us through all the regions of the world, so that no one were to strengthen and encourage another, yet we should still stand firm, under the conviction that we sat apart on account of God’s hand. Let the Papists then complain as they please, that we are proud, and that we disturb the peace of the whole world, provided we have this answer to give, — That we sit apart on account of God’s hand, because we seek to obey God and to follow his call: we can therefore boldly and safely despise and scorn all the reproaches with which they falsely load us.
He afterwards adds, For thou hast filled me with idignation He confirms what he said in the last verse, — that he had eaten the word of God, that he had not been slightly moved, but had been inflamed with zeal for God: for we cannot really execute the commission given to us unless we be fined with indignation, that is, unless zeal for God burns inwardly, for the prophetic office requires such a fervor. He then adds —
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My “rejoicing” (Jer_15:16) was not that of the profane mockers (Psa_1:1; Psa_26:4, Psa_26:5) at feasts. So far from having fellowship with these, he was expelled from society, and made to sit “alone,” because of his faithful prophecies.
because of thy hand — that is, Thine inspiration (Isa_8:11; Eze_1:3; Eze_3:14).
filled me with indignation — So Jer_6:11, “full of the fury of the Lord”; so full was he of the subject (God’s “indignation” against the ungodly) with which God had inspired him, as not to be able to contain himself from expressing it. The same comparison by contrast between the effect of inspiration, and that of wine, both taking a man out of himself, occurs (Act_2:13, Act_2:15, Act_2:18).
Before we proceed, we shall shortly refer to the meaning of the passage. Jeremiah has before shewn that he possessed an heroic courage in despising all the splendor of the world, and in regarding as nothing those proud men who boasted that they were the rulers of the Church: but he now confesses his infirmity; and there is no doubt but that he was often agitated by different thoughts and feelings; and this necessarily happens to us, because the flesh always fights against the spirit. For though the Prophet announced nothing human when he declared the truth of God, yet he was not wholly exempt from sorrow and fear and other feelings of the flesh. For we must always distinguish, when we speak of the prophets and the apostles, between the truth, which was pure, free from every imperfection, and their own persons, as they commonly say, or themselves. Nor were, they so perfectly renewed but that some remnant of the flesh still continued in them. So then Jeremiah was in himself disturbed with anxiety and fear, and affected with weariness, and wished to shake off the burden which he felt so heavy on his shoulders. He was then subject to these feelings, that is, as to himself; yet his doctrine was free from every defect, for the Holy Spirit guided his mind, his thoughts, and his tongue, so that there was in it nothing human. The Prophet then has hitherto testified that he was called from above, and that he had cordially undertaken the office deputed to him by God, and had faithfully obeyed him: but now he comes to himself, and confesses that he was agitated by many thoughts, which betokened the infirmity of the flesh, and were not free from blame. This then is the meaning.
He says, Why is my grief strong, or hard? He intimates that his grief could not be eased by any soothing remedy. He alludes to ulcers, which by their hardness repel all emollients. And for the same purpose he adds, And my wound weak, as some render it, for it is from אנש anesh, to be feeble; and hence is אנוש anush, which means man; and it expresses his weakness, as אדם adam, shews his origin, and איש aish, intimates his strength and courage. Others render the words, “and my wound full of pain;” and others, “strong,” as he had before called his grief strong. He afterwards thus explains what he meant by the terms he used, It refuses to be healed There is no doubt, as I have already intimated, but that the Prophet here honestly expresses the perturbations of his own mind, and shews that he in a manner vacinated; the wickedness of the people was so great, that he could not so perseveringly execute his office as he ought to have done.
He adds, Thou wilt be to me as the deception of inconstant waters I wonder why some render the words, “Thou wilt be to me deceptive as inconstant waters.” The word may indeed be an adjective, but it is doubtless to be rendered as a substantive, “Thou wilt be to me as the deception,” and then, “of unfaithful waters.” that is, of such as flow not continually: for faithful or constant waters are those which never fail; as the Latins call a fountain inexhaustible whose spring never dries; so the Hebrews call a fountain faithful or constant which never fails either in summer or in drought. On the contrary, they call waters unfaithful which become dry, as when a well, which has no perennial veins, is made dry by great heat; and such also is often the case with large streams.
We now see the import of this comparison: but the words are apparently very singular; for the Prophet expostulates with God as though he had been deceived by him, “Thou wilt be to me,” he says, “as a vain hope, and as deceptive waters, which fail during great heat, when they are mostly wanted.” If we take the words as they appear to mean, they seem to border on blasphemy; for God had not without reason testified before, that he is the Fountain of living water; and he had condemned the Jews for having dug for themselves broken cisterns, and for having forsaken him, the Fountain of living water. Such, no doubt, had He been found by all who trusted in him. What then does Jeremiah mean here by saying, that God was to him as a vain hope, and as waters which continue not to flow? The Prophet, no doubt, referred to others rather than to himself; for his faith had never been shaken nor removed from his heart. He then knew that he could never be deceived; for relying on God’s word he greatly magnified his calling, not only before the world, but also with regard to himself: and his glorytug, which we have already seen, did not proceed except from the inward feeling of his heart. The Prophet then was ever fully confident, because he relied on God, that he could not be made ashamed; but here, as I have said, he had regard to others. And we have already seen similar passages, and the like expressions will hereafter follow.
There is no doubt but that it was often exultingly alleged that the Prophet was a deceiver: “Let him go on and set before us the words of his God; it has already appeared that his boasting is vain in saying that he has hitherto spoken as a prophet.” Since then the ungodly thus harassed the Prophet, he might have justly complained that God was not to him like perennial springs, because they all thought that he was deceived. And we must always bear in mind what I said yesterday, — that the Prophet does not speak here for his own sake, but raffler that he might reprove the impiety of the people. It therefore follows —
Wilt thou be altogether unto me as – waters that fail? – Leaning either springs, which in the height of summer grow dry; or, like that phenomenon in the sandy desert, where, by a peculiar action of the air on the rising vapors, the resemblance of water is produced, so that the traveler, deceived, rejoices that he is come, in the sandy desert, to the verge of a beautiful lake; but the farther he travels, it is still at the same distance, and at last vanishes; and he finds the whole was an illusion, for the waters have failed. Nothing can exceed the disappointment of the farmer whose subsistence absolutely depends on the periodical rains, when these fail, or fall short of their usual quantity. Some times the rice is sown and springs up in the most promising manner; but the latter rains fail, and whole fields of young rice wither and perish.
From this answer of God we may gather more clearly the design of the Prophet, for his purpose was, in order more fully to prove the people guilty, to set before their eyes as it were his own perverseness. Had he spoken only according to the heroic elevation of his own mind, so as not to appear touched by any human feeling, they might have derided him as hardhearted or a fanatic, for so we find that the proud of this world speak and think of the faithful servants of Christ. They call them melancholy, they consider them as unfeeling, and as they neither dread death, nor are drawn away by the allurements of this life, they think that all this proceeds from brutal savageness. Had then the Prophet only performed the duties of his office, the ungodly might have derided his insensibility, but he wished to set forth his own infirmity, his sorrows, his fears, and his anxieties, that he might thus lead the Jews to view things aright. This answer of God ought then to be connected with the complaint of the Prophet, and we may hence learn the meaning of the whole.
God gives this answer, If thou wilt be turned, I will turn thee, that thou mayest stand before me It is the same as though he had said, that he was reproved by the Lord because he fluctuated amidst the commotions of the people. A similar passage is found in the eighth chapter of Isaiah. The Lord there exhorts his Prophet to separate himself from the people, and not to connect himself with those who might have often easily disturbed him, because they continued not in his word; then he says, “Seal my law for my disciples, sign the testimony,” (Isa_8:12 ) as though he had said, “Have now nothing to do with so perverse a people.” So also now the Lord speaks, If thou wilt be turned, that is, if thou wilt not be guided by the false judgments of the people, nor heed what they say of thee, but boldly despise them and persevere in thy separation from them, I will turn thee, that is, I will by my spirit so strengthen thee, that they may perceive at length that thou art my faithful servant. Then he adds, that thou mayest stand before me. We hence see more plainly what is the meaning of the word “turn” in the second clause, even that the Prophet would render his office approved of God, however clamorous the Jews might be; though they even rose up tumulmously against him, yet he says, thou shalt stand before me. There is implied here a contrast in the word “stand,” for though the Prophet should be most violently assailed by the false words of men, yet God would support and sustain him. The rest we defer until to-morrow.
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God’s reply to Jeremiah.
return … bring … again — Jeremiah, by his impatient language, had left his proper posture towards God; God saith, “If thou wilt return (to thy former patient discharge of thy prophetic function) I will bring thee back” to thy former position: in the Hebrew there is a play of words, “return … turn again” (Jer_8:4; Jer_4:1).
stand before me — minister acceptably to Me (Deu_10:8; 1Ki_17:1; 1Ki_18:15).
take … precious from … vile — image from metals: “If thou wilt separate what is precious in thee (the divine graces imparted) from what is vile (thy natural corruptions, impatience, and hasty words), thou shall be as My mouth”: my mouthpiece (Exo_4:16).
return not thou unto them — Let not them lead you into their profane ways (as Jeremiah had spoken irreverently, Jer_15:18), but lead thou them to the ways of godliness (Jer_15:16, Jer_15:17). Eze_22:26 accords with the other interpretation, which, however, does not so well suit the context, “If thou wilt separate from the promiscuous mass the better ones, and lead them to conversion by faithful warnings,” etc.
As Jeremiah might have objected and said, that the burden was too heavy for him, if he only attempted to break down the contumacy of the people, for he was alone, and we have seen how great was the ferocity and also the cruelty of his adversaries, — as he might have shunned his commission, it being too much for his strength, hence God comes to his aid and bids him to take courage, for he was fortified by a help from heaven, I have set thee, he says, for a brazen fortified wall to this people The word for “fortified” is from בצר, betsar; were it בצרה betsare, derived from צורtsur, to besiege, it would much better suit this place. I know not whether the passage has been corrupted: however, I will not depart from the common reading. As then interpreters agree in this, I will change nothing; and indeed the difference is not very material.
We see then what God meant by these words: As the Prophet was almost alone, and God had bidden him to contend with many and powerful enemies, he promises to stand on his side; as though he had said, — “Though thou art defenceless and unarmed, and they are furnished with wealth and great power, thou shalt yet be like a well-fortified city; thou shalt indeed be impregnable, notwithstanding all their assaults and whatever they may attempt against thee.”
But God proceeds by degrees; for he first declares that his Prophet would be like a brazen and a fortified wall, that is, like an invincible city: for by stating a part for the whole, a wall means a city that is impregnable. It then follows, They indeed will fight against thee. This warning was very necessary; for Jeremiah was doubtless willing to serve God in exercising authority over teachable and humble men, and in gently inducing them to render obedience to God; but he is reminded here that he would have many hard contests with a rebellious people, They will fight, he says, against thee We see how God does not promise ease to Jeremiah, nor gives him a hope of a better lot in future; but, on the centrary, he exhorts him to fight; and why? because the people would not bear the yoke of God, but kindled into rage against him. But another promise follows, They shall not prevail against thee, or overcome thee.
It was indeed necessary for Jeremiah of his own self to disturb the Jews; for nothing would have been more agreeable to them than his silence; and the object of all their attempts was to drive him to despair. But it is not without reason that they are said to fight with him; for it is contrary to nature for men to resist God and to set themselves against him when he invites them to himself; for what can be more natural than for the whole world to hasten to God? It is then something monstrous for men to oppose God, nay, furiously to rise up against hhn, when he kindly calls them to himself. Hence it is that God here makes the Jews the authors of all this disturbance. For since they loaded the Prophet with the most wicked calumnies, as we have seen, and said, that he was a turbulent man and confounded all things by his morosity, God here shews, on the other hand, that all the commotions and the rightings ought to be attributed to them, because they ought to have obediently received the doctrine set before them.
But though this was said only once to Jeremiah, yet the condition of all God’s servants is here set before us as in a mirror; for they cannot perform what God commands them without having to encounter many and grievous assaults; for the world is never so prepared to obey God, but the greater part furiously resists, and, as far as it can, stifles the word of God and checks his ministers.
He states the reason, For I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee By these words God exhorts his Prophet to prayer; for we know how dangerous is self-security to all the children of God, and especially to teachers. As then they have at all times need of God’s aid, they are to be exhorted to have recourse to solitude and prayer. This is the import of the words which God uses, I am with thee; as though he had said, “Thou indeed wilt not stand by thyself, or through thine own painstaking, nor wilt thou be a conqueror by carrying on war thyself; but thou must learn to flee to me.” It afterwards follows —
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The promise of Jer_1:18, Jer_1:19, in almost the same words, but with the addition, adapted to the present attacks of Jeremiah’s formidable enemies, “I will deliver thee out of … wicked … redeem … terrible”; the repetition is in order to assure Jeremiah that God is the same now as when He first made the promise, in opposition to the prophet’s irreverent accusation of unfaithfulness (Jer_15:18).
This verse contains nothing new, but is a confirmation of the promise which we have seen. God had promised to be with the Prophet; he now shews that there was sufficient strength in his hand to deliver him. How much soever then the Jews might oppose him, God declares here that he alone would be sufficient to break them down. We hence see that there is more expressed in these words than in what he had said before, I will be with thee to deliver thee; he now shews the act itself as by the finger. I will deliver thee He had promised his aid; he now says, that his aid would be strong enough to deliver him from the hands of his enemies.
He says first, from the hand of the wicked, that the Jews might know that all their disguises would avail them nothing, for they were condemned by the mouth of God. In the second place, he calls them strong, that the Prophet might not be terrified by their power, as was usually the case. For it is very difficult for us not to be disturbed, when we are assailed on every side, and when threats and dangers are in our way. God then here reminds Jeremiah in time, that he would have to fight with the strong and valiant, but that all their strength in opposing him would be unavailing, for divine aid would be much stronger. Now follows —