Idols and the Living GodJeremiah 10 1 Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2 Thus says the Lord:
“Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
3 for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
4 They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move.
5 Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good.”
6 There is none like you, O Lord;
you are great, and your name is great in might.
7 Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?
For this is your due;
for among all the wise ones of the nations
and in all their kingdoms
there is none like you.
8 They are both stupid and foolish;
the instruction of idols is but wood!
9 Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,
and gold from Uphaz.
They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith;
their clothing is violet and purple;
they are all the work of skilled men.
10 But the Lord is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
12 It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
13 When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
14 Every man is stupid and without knowledge;
every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
and there is no breath in them.
15 They are worthless, a work of delusion;
at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
16 Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob,
for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;
the Lord of hosts is his name.
17 Gather up your bundle from the ground,
O you who dwell under siege!
18 For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I am slinging out the inhabitants of the land
at this time,
and I will bring distress on them,
that they may feel it.”
19 Woe is me because of my hurt!
My wound is grievous.
But I said, “Truly this is an affliction,
and I must bear it.”
20 My tent is destroyed,
and all my cords are broken;
my children have gone from me,
and they are not;
there is no one to spread my tent again
and to set up my curtains.
21 For the shepherds are stupid
and do not inquire of the Lord;
therefore they have not prospered,
and all their flock is scattered.
22 A voice, a rumor! Behold, it comes!—
a great commotion out of the north country
to make the cities of Judah a desolation,
a lair of jackals.
23 I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
24 Correct me, O Lord, but in justice;
not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.
25 Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not,
and on the peoples that call not on your name,
for they have devoured Jacob;
they have devoured him and consumed him,
and have laid waste his habitation.
The Broken CovenantJeremiah 11 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3 You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant 4 that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, 5 that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, Lord.”
6 And the Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7 For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. 8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”
9 Again the Lord said to me, “A conspiracy exists among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. 11 Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. 12 Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble. 13 For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah, and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to make offerings to Baal.
14 “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. 15 What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds? Can even sacrificial flesh avert your doom? Can you then exult? 16 The Lord once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. 17 The Lord of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.”
18 The Lord made it known to me and I knew;
then you showed me their deeds.
19 But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
I did not know it was against me
they devised schemes, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
that his name be remembered no more.”
20 But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously,
who tests the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.
Jeremiah 12 1 Righteous are you, O Lord,
when I complain to you;
yet I would plead my case before you.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
2 You plant them, and they take root;
they grow and produce fruit;
you are near in their mouth
and far from their heart.
3 But you, O Lord, know me;
you see me, and test my heart toward you.
Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter,
and set them apart for the day of slaughter.
4 How long will the land mourn
and the grass of every field wither?
For the evil of those who dwell in it
the beasts and the birds are swept away,
because they said, “He will not see our latter end.”
The Lord Answers Jeremiah
5 “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you,
how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you are so trusting,
what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?
6 For even your brothers and the house of your father,
even they have dealt treacherously with you;
they are in full cry after you;
do not believe them,
though they speak friendly words to you.”
7 “I have forsaken my house;
I have abandoned my heritage;
I have given the beloved of my soul
into the hands of her enemies.
8 My heritage has become to me
like a lion in the forest;
she has lifted up her voice against me;
therefore I hate her.
9 Is my heritage to me like a hyena's lair?
Are the birds of prey against her all around?
Go, assemble all the wild beasts;
bring them to devour.
10 Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard;
they have trampled down my portion;
they have made my pleasant portion
a desolate wilderness.
11 They have made it a desolation;
desolate, it mourns to me.
The whole land is made desolate,
but no man lays it to heart.
12 Upon all the bare heights in the desert
destroyers have come,
for the sword of the Lord devours
from one end of the land to the other;
no flesh has peace.
13 They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns;
they have tired themselves out but profit nothing.
They shall be ashamed of their harvests
because of the fierce anger of the Lord.”
The Ruined LoinclothJeremiah 13 1 Thus says the Lord to me, “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.” 2 So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist. 3 And the word of the Lord came to me a second time, 4 “Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” 5 So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. 6 And after many days the Lord said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” 7 Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.
8 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. 11 For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.
The Jars Filled with Wine12 “You shall speak to them this word: ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Every jar shall be filled with wine.”’ And they will say to you, ‘Do we not indeed know that every jar will be filled with wine?’ 13 Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David's throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 14 And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the Lord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them.’”
15 Hear and give ear; be not proud,
for the Lord has spoken.
16 Give glory to the Lord your God
before he brings darkness,
before your feet stumble
on the twilight mountains,
and while you look for light
he turns it into gloom
and makes it deep darkness.
17 But if you will not listen,
my soul will weep in secret for your pride;
my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears,
because the Lord's flock has been taken captive.
18 Say to the king and the queen mother:
“Take a lowly seat,
for your beautiful crown
has come down from your head.”
19 The cities of the Negeb are shut up,
with none to open them;
all Judah is taken into exile,
wholly taken into exile.
20 “Lift up your eyes and see
those who come from the north.
Where is the flock that was given you,
your beautiful flock?
21 What will you say when they set as head over you
those whom you yourself have taught to be friends to you?
Will not pangs take hold of you
like those of a woman in labor?
22 And if you say in your heart,
‘Why have these things come upon me?’
it is for the greatness of your iniquity
that your skirts are lifted up
and you suffer violence.
23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard his spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to do evil.
24 I will scatter you like chaff
driven by the wind from the desert.
25 This is your lot,
the portion I have measured out to you, declares the Lord,
because you have forgotten me
and trusted in lies.
26 I myself will lift up your skirts over your face,
and your shame will be seen.
27 I have seen your abominations,
your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings,
on the hills in the field.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
How long will it be before you are made clean?”
What I'm Reading
Jer. 10:1–5. The nothingness of the false gods.—V. 1. “Hear the word which Jahveh speaketh unto you, house of Israel! V. 2. Thus saith Jahveh: To the ways of the heathen use yourselves not, and at the signs of the heaven be not dismayed, because the heathen are dismayed at them. V. 3. For the ordinances of the peoples are vain. For it is wood, which one hath cut out of the forest, a work of the craftsman’s hands with the axe. V. 4. With silver and with gold he decks it, with nails and hammers they fasten it, that it move not. V. 5. As a lathe-wrought pillar are they, and speak not; they are borne, because they cannot walk. Be not afraid of them; for they do not hurt, neither is it in them to do good.”
This is addressed to the house of Israel, i.e., to the whole covenant people; and “house of Israel” points back to “all the house of Israel” in 9:25. עֲלֵיכֶם for אֲלֵיכֶם, as frequently in Jeremiah. The way of the heathen is their mode of life, especially their way of worshipping their gods; cf. ἡ ὁδὸς, Acts 9:2; 19:9. לָמַד c. אֶל, accustom oneself to a thing, used in 13:21 with the synonymous עַל, and in Ps. 18:35 (Piel) with לְ. The signs of heaven are unwonted phenomena in the heavens, eclipses of the sun and moon, comets, and unusual conjunctions of the stars, which were regarded as the precursors of extraordinary and disastrous events. We cannot admit Hitz.’s objection, that these signs in heaven were sent by Jahveh (Joel 3:3, 4), and that before these, as heralds of judgment, not only the heathen, but the Jews themselves, had good cause to be dismayed. For the signs that marked the dawning of the day of the Lord are not merely such things as eclipses of sun and moon, and the like. There is still less ground for Näg.’s idea, that the signs of heaven are such as, being permanently there, call forth religious adoration from year to year, the primitive constellations (Job 9:9), the twelve signs of the zodiac; for נִחַת (תֵּחַתּוּ), to be in fear, consternari, never means, even in Mal. 2:5, regular or permanent adoration. “For the heathen,” etc., gives the cause of the fear: the heathen are dismayed before these, because in the stars they adored supernatural powers.
Jer. 10:3. The reason of the warning counsel: The ordinances of the peoples, i.e., the religious ideas and customs of the heathen, are vanity. הוּא refers to and is in agreement with the predicate; cf. Ew. § 319, c. The vanity of the religious ordinances of the heathen is proved by the vanity of their gods. “For wood, which one has hewn out of the forest,” sc. it is, viz., the god. The predicate is omitted, and must be supplied from הֶבֶל, a word which is in the plural used directly for the false gods; cf. 8:19, Deut. 32:21, etc. With the axe, sc. wrought. מַעֲצָד Rashi explains as axe, and suitably; for here it means in any case a carpenter’s tool, whereas this is doubtful in Isa. 44:12. The images were made of wood, which was covered with silver plating and gold; cf. Isa. 30:22; 40:19. This Jeremiah calls adorning them, making them fair with silver and gold. When the images were finished, they were fastened in their places with hammer and nails, that they might not tumble over; cf. Isa. 41:7; 40:20. When thus complete, they are like a lathe-wrought pillar. In Judg. 4:5, where alone this word elsewhere occurs. תֹּמֶר means palm-tree (= תָּמָר); here, by a later, derivative usage, = pillar, in support of which we can appeal to the Talmudic תַּמֵּר, columnam facere, and to the O.T. תִּימְרָה, pillar of smoke. מִקְשָׁה is the work of the turning-lathe, Ex. 25:18, 31, etc. Lifeless and motionless as a turned pillar. Not to be able to speak is to be without life; not to walk, to take not a single step, i.e., to be without all power of motion; cf. Isa. 46:7. The Chald. paraphrases correctly: quia non est in iis spiritus vitalis ad ambulandum. The incorrect form יִנָּשׂוּא for יִנָּשְׂאוּ is doubtless only a copyist’s error, induced by the preceding נָשׂוֹא. They can do neither good nor evil, neither hurt nor help; cf. Isa. 41:23. אֹותָם for אִתָּם, as frequently; see on 1:16.
Jer. 10:6–11. The almighty power of Jahveh, the living God.—V. 6. “None at all is like Thee, Jahveh; great art Thou, and Thy name is great in might. V. 7. Who would not fear Thee, Thou King of the peoples? To Thee doth it appertain; for among all the wise men of the peoples, and in all their kingdoms, there is none at all like unto Thee. V. 8. But they are all together brutish and foolish; the teaching of the vanities is wood. V. 9. Beaten silver, from Tarshish it is brought, and gold from Uphaz, work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith; blue and red purple is their clothing; the work of cunning workmen are they all. V. 10. But Jahveh is God in truth, He is living God and everlasting King; at His wrath the earth trembles, and the peoples abide not His indignation. V. 11. Thus shall ye say unto them: The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”
In this second strophe Jahveh is contrasted, as the only true God and Lord of the world, with the lifeless gods. These there is no need to fear, but it behoves all to fear the almighty God, since in His wrath He can destroy nations. When compared with Ps. 86:8, the מִן in מֵאֵין seems redundant,—so much so, that Ven. pronounces it a copyist’s error, and Hitz. sets it aside by changing the vowels. The word as it stands contains a double negation, and is usually found only in dependent clauses with a strong negative force: so that there is none. Here it has the same force, but at the beginning of the sentence: none at all is as Thou; cf. Ew. § 323, a. Great is Thy name, i.e., the manifestation of Thee in the world, in Thy government of the earth. “In (or with) might” belongs to “great:” great with might, displaying itself in acts of might; cf. 16:21. Who would not fear Thee? a negative setting of the thought: every one must fear Thee. King of the nations; cf. Ps. 22:29; 47:8; 96:10. יָאָתָה from יָאָה, ἁπ. λεγ. equivalent to נָאָה (whence נַאֲוָה), to be seemly, suitable. Among the wise men of the peoples none is like Thee, so as that any should be able to make head against Thee by any clever stroke; cf. Isa. 19:12; 29:14. Nor is there in any kingdom of the peoples any one like Jahveh, i.e., in might. It is not merely earthly kings that are meant, but the gods of the heathen as well. In no heathen kingdom is there any power to be compared with Jahveh. We are led here to think also of the pagan gods by v. 8, where the wisdom and almighty power of the living God are contrasted with foolishness and vanity of the false gods. בְּאַחַת is not: in uno = in una re, sc. idololatria (Rabb.); nor is it, as Hitz. in most strained fashion makes it: by means of one thing, i.e., by (or at) a single word, the word which comes immediately after: it is wood. אַחַת is unquestionably neuter, and the force of it here is collective, = all together, like the Chald. כַחֲדָא. The nominative to “are brutish” is “the peoples.” The verb בָּעַר is denom. from בְּעִיר, to be brutish, occurring elsewhere in the Kal only in Ps. 94:8, Ezek. 21:36; in the Niph. vv. 14, 21, 51:17, Isa. 19:11. כָּסַל as verb is found only here; elsewhere we have כְּסִיל, foolish, and כֶּסֶל, folly (Cant. 7:2–5), and, as a verb, the transposed form סָכַל. The remaining words of the verse make up one clause; the construction is the same as in v. 3a, but the sense is not: “a mere vain doctrine is the wood,” i.e., the idol is itself but a doctrine of vanities. In this way Ew. takes it, making “wood” the subject of the clause and מוּסַר the predicate. מוּסַר הֲבָלִים is the antithesis to מוּסַר יהוה, Deut. 11:2, Prov. 3:11, Job 5:17. As the latter is the παιδεία of the Lord, so the former is the παιδεία of the false gods (הֲבָלִים, cf. 8:19). The παιδεία of Jahveh displayed itself, acc. to Deut. 11:2, in deeds of might by means of which Jahveh set His people Israel free from the power of Egypt. Consequently it is the education of Israel by means of acts of love and chastenings, or, taken more generally, the divine leading and guidance of the people. Such a παιδεία the null and void gods could not give to their worshippers. Their παιδεία is wood, i.e., not: wooden, but nothing else than that which the gods themselves are—wood, which, however it be decked up (v. 9), remains a mere lifeless block. So that the thought of v. 8 is this: The heathen, with all their wise men, are brutish; since their gods, from which they should receive wisdom and instruction, are wood. Starting from this, v. 9 continues to this effect: However much this wood be decked out with silver, gold, and purple raiment, it remains but the product of men’s hands; by no such process does the wood become a god. The description of the polishing off of the wood into a god is loosely attached to the predicate עֵץ, by way of an enumeration of the various things made use of therefore. The specification served to make the picture the more graphic; what idols were made of was familiar to everybody. מְרֻקָּע, beat out into thin plates for coating over the wooden image; cf. Ex. 39:3, Num. 17:3f. As to תַּרְשִׁישׁ, Tartessus in Spain, the source of the silver, see on Ezek. 27:12. Gold from Ophir; אוּפָז here and Dan. 10:5 is only a dialectical variety of אֹופִיר, see on 1 Kings 9:27. As the blue and red purple, see on Ex. 25:4. חֲכָמִים, skilful artisans, cf. Isa. 40:20. They all, i.e., all the idols.
Jer. 10:10. Whereas Jahveh is really and truly God. אֱלֹהִים אֱמֶת (standing in apposition), God in truth, “truth” being strongly contrasted with “vanity,” and “living God” (cf. Deut. 5:23) with the dead gods (vv. 5, 8); and everlasting King of the whole world (cf. Ps. 10:16; 29:10, Ex. 15:18), before whose wrath the earth trembles and the peoples quake with terror; cf. Nah. 1:5, Joel 2:11, Ps. 97:5. לֹא יָכִלוּ (written as in 2:13), they hold not, do not hold out, do not endure.
Jer. 10:11. V. 11 is Chaldee. But it must not be regarded as a gloss that has found its way into the text, on the grounds on which Houb., Ven., Ros., Ew., Hitz., Gr., etc., so regard it, namely, because it is Chaldee, and because there is an immediate connection between vv. 10 and 12. Both the language in which the verse is written, and the subject-matter of it, are unfavourable to this view. The latter does not bear the character of a gloss; and no copyist would have interpolated a Chaldee verse into the Hebrew text. Besides, the verse is found in the Alexandrian version; and in point of sense it connects very suitably with v. 10: Jahveh is everlasting King, whereas the gods which have not made heaven and earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens. This the Israelites are to say to the idolaters. אַרְקָא is the harder form for אַרְעָא. The last word, אֵלֶּה, is Hebrew; it does not belong to שְׁמַיָּא, but serves to emphasize the subject: the gods—these shall perish. Jeremiah wrote the verse in Chaldee, ut Judaeis suggerat, quomodo Chaldaeis (ad quos non nisi Chaldaice loqui poterant) paucis verbis respondendum sit, as Seb. Schm. has remarked. The thought of this verse is a fitting conclusion to the exhortation not to fear the gods of the heathen; it corresponds to the 5th verse, with which the first strophe concludes the warning against idolatry The Israelites are not only not to fear the null and void gods of the heathen, but they are to tell the heathen that their gods will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.
Jer. 10:12–16. The third strophe.—In it the almighty power of the living God is shown from His providential government of nature, the overthrow of the false gods in the time of judgment is declared, and, finally, the Creator of the universe is set forth as the God of Israel.—V. 12. “That made the earth by His power, that founded the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding stretched out the heavens. V. 13. When He thundering makes the roar of waters in the heavens, He causes clouds to rise from the ends of the earth, makes lightnings for the rain, and brings the wind forth out of His treasuries. V. 14. Brutish becomes every man without knowledge; ashamed is every goldsmith by reason of the image, for falsehood is his molten image, and there is no spirit in them. V. 15. Vanity are they, a work of mockery; in the time of their visitation they perish. V. 16. Not like these is the portion of Jacob: the framer of (the) all is He, and Israel is the stock of His inheritance: Jahveh of hosts is His name.”
In point of form, “that made the earth,” etc., connects with “Jahveh God,” v. 10; but in respect of its matter, the description of God as Creator of heaven and earth is led up to by the contrast: The gods which have not made the heaven and the earth shall perish. The subject to עֹשֵׂה and the following verbs is not expressed, but may be supplied from the contrasted statement of v. 11, or from the substance of the several statements in v. 12. The connection may be taken thus: The true God is the one making the earth by His power = is He that made, etc. As the creation of the earth is a work of God’s almighty power, so the establishing, the founding of it upon the waters (Ps. 24:2) is an act of divine wisdom, and the stretching out of the heavens over the earth like a tent (Isa. 40:22; Ps. 104:2) is a work of intelligent design. On this cf. Isa. 42:5; 44:24; 45:18; 51:13. Every thunder-storm bears witness to the wise and almighty government of God, v. 13. The words לְקֹול תִּתֹּו are difficult. Acc. to Ew. § 307, b, they stand for לְתִתֹּו קֹול: when He gives His voice, i.e., when He thunders. In support of this it may be said, that the mention of lightnings, rain, and wind suggests such an interpretation. But the transposition of the words cannot be justified. Hitz. has justly remarked: The putting of the accusative first, taken by itself, might do; but not when it must at the same time be stat. constr., and when its genitive thus separated from it would assume the appearance of being an accusative to תִּתֹּו. Besides, we would expect לָתֵת קֹולֹו rather than לְתִתֹּו קֹול. קֹול תִּתֹּו cannot grammatically be rendered: the voice which He gives, a Näg. would have it, but: the voice of His giving; and “roar of waters” must be the accusative of the object, governed by תִּתֹּו. Hence we must protest against the explanation of L. de Dieu: ad vocem dationis ejus multitudo aquarum est in caelo, at least if ad vocem dationis is tantamount to simul ac dat. Just as little can לְקֹול taken by itself mean thunder, so that ad vocem should, with Schnur., be interpreted by tonitru est dare ejus multitudinem aquae. The only grammatically feasible explanation is the second of those proposed by L. de Dieu: ad vocem dandi ipsum, i.e., qua dat vel ponit multitudinem aquarum. So Hitz.: at the roar of His giving wealth of waters. Accordingly we expound: at the noise, when He gives the roar of waters in heaven, He raises up clouds from the ends of the earth; taking, as we do, the וַיַּעֲלֶה to be a ו consec. introducing the supplementary clause. The voice or noise with which God gives the roar or the fulness of waters in the heaven, is the sound of the thunder. With this the gathering of the dark thunder-clouds is put into causal connection, as it appears to be to the eye; for during the thunder we see the thunder-clouds gather thicker and darker on the horizon. נָשִׂיא, the ascended, poetic word for cloud. Lightnings for the rain; i.e., since the rain comes as a consequence of the lightning, for the lightning seems to rend the clouds and let them pour their water out on the earth. Thunder-storms are always accompanied by a strong wind. God causes the wind to go forth from His store-chambers, where He has it also under custody, and blow over the earth. See a like simile of the store-chambers of the snow and hail, Job 38:22f. From וַיַּעֲלֶה onwards, this verse is repeated in Ps. 135:7.
Jer. 10:14f. In presence of such marvels of divine power and wisdom, all men seem brutish and ignorant (away from knowledge = without knowledge), and all makers of idols are put to shame “because of the image” which they make for a god, and which is but a deception, has no breath of life. נֶסֶךְ, prop. drink-offering, libamen, cf. 7:15; here molten image = מַסֵּכָה, as in Isa. 41:29; 48:5, Dan. 11:8. Vanity they are, these idols made by the goldsmith. A work of mockings, i.e., that is exposed to ridicule when the nullity of the things taken to be gods is clearly brought to light. Others: A work which makes mockery of its worshippers, befools and deludes them (Hitz., Näg.). In the time of their visitation, cf. 6:15.
Jer. 10:16. Quite other is the portion of Jacob, i.e., the God who has fallen to the lot of Jacob (the people of Israel) as inheritance. The expression is formed after Deut. 4:19, 20, where it is said of sun, moon, and stars that Jahveh has apportioned (חָלַק) them to the heathen as gods, but has taken Israel that it may be to Him לְעַם נַחֲלָה; accordingly Israel is in Deut. 32:9 called חֵלֶק יהוה, while in Ps. 16:5 David praises Jahveh as מְנָת־חֶלְקֹו. For He is the framer הַכֹּל, i.e., of the universe. Israel is the stock of His inheritance, i.e., the race which belongs to Him as a peculiar possession. שֵׁבֶט נַחֲלָתֹו is like חֶבֶל נַחֲלָתֹו, Deut. 32:9; in Ps. 74:2 it is said of Mount Zion, and in Isa. 63:17 it is sued in the plural, שִׁבְטֵי ן׳, of the godly servants of the Lord. The name of this God, the framer of the universe, is Jahveh of hosts—the God whom the hosts of heaven, angels and stars, serve, the Lord and Ruler of the whole world; cf. Isa. 54:5, Amos 4:13.
Jer. 10:17–25. The captivity of the people, their lamentation for the devastation of the land, and entreaty that the punishment may be mitigated.—V. 17. “Gather up thy bundle out of the land, thou that sittest in the siege. V. 18. For thus hath Jahveh spoken: Behold, I hurl forth the inhabitants of the land this time, and press them hard, that they may find them. V. 19. Woe is me for my hurt! grievous is my stroke! yet I think: This is my suffering, and I will bear it! V. 20. My tent is despoiled, and all my cords are rent asunder. My sons have forsaken me, and are gone: none stretches forth my tent any more, or hangs up my curtains. V. 21. For the shepherds are become brutish, and have not sought Jahveh; therefore they have not dealt wisely, and the whole flock is scattered.—V. 22. Hark! a rumour: behold, it comes, and great commotion from the land of midnight, to make the cities of Judah a desolation, an abode of jackals.—V. 23. I know, Jahveh, that the way of man is not in himself, nor in the man that walketh to fix his step. V. 24. Chasten me, Jahveh, but according to right; not in Thine anger, lest Thou make me little. V. 25. Pour out Thy fury upon the peoples that know Thee not, and upon the races that call not upon Thy name! for they have devoured Jacob, have devoured him and made an end of him, and laid his pastures waste.”
Jer. 10:17. In v. 17 the congregation of the people is addressed, and captivity in a foreign land is announced to them. This announcement stands in connection with 9:25, in so far as captivity is the accomplishment of the visitation of Judah threatened in 9:24. That connection is not, however, quite direct; the announcement is led up to by the warning against idolatry of vv. 1–16, inasmuch as it furnishes confirmation of the threat uttered in v. 15, that the idols shall perish in the day of their visitation, and shows besides how, by its folly in the matter of idolatry, Judah has drawn judgment down on itself. The confession in v. 21: the shepherds are become brutish, points manifestly back to the description in v. 14 of the folly of the idolaters, and exhibits the connection of vv. 17–25 with the preceding warning against idolatry. For “gather up,” etc., Hitz. translates: gather thy trumpery from the ground; so that the expression would have a contemptuous tone. But the meaning of rubbish cannot be proved to belong to כִּנְעָה; and the mockery that would lie in the phrase is out of place. כִּנְעָה, from Arab. kn’, contrahere, constipare, means that which is put together, packed up, one’s bundle. The connection of אָסַף and מֵאֶרֶץ is pregnant: put up thy bundle and carry it forth of the land. As N. G. Schroeder suspected, there is about the expression something of the nature of a current popular phrase, like the German Schnür dein Bündel, pack up, i.e., make ready fore the road. She who sits in the siege. The daughter of Zion is meant, but we must not limit the scope to the population of Jerusalem; as is clear from “inhabitants of the land,” v. 18, the population of the whole land are comprised in the expression. As to the form יֹושֶׁבֶתי, see at 22:23. אִסְפִּי with dag. lene after the sibilant, as in Isa. 47:2. “I hurl forth” expresses the violent manner of the captivity; cf. Isa. 22:17f. “This time;” hitherto hostile invasions ended with plundering and the imposition of a tribute: 2 Kings 14:14; 16:5; 18:13f.—And I press them hard, or close them in, לְמַעַן יִמְצָאוּ. These words are variously explained, because there is no object expressed, and there may be variety of opinion as to what is the subject. Hitz., Umbr., Näg., take the verb find in the sense of feel, and so the object צָרָה would easily be supplied from the verb הֲצֵרֹתִי: so that they may feel it, i.e., I will press them sensibly. But we cannot make sure of this meaning for מָצָא either from 17:9 or from Eccles. 8:17, where know (יָדַע) and מָצָא are clearly identical conceptions. Still less is Graf entitled to supply as object: that which they seek and are to find, namely, God. His appeal in support of this to passages like Ps. 32:6, Deut. 4:27 and 29, proves nothing; for in such the object is manifestly suggested by the contest, which is not the case here. A just conclusion is obtained when we consider that הֲצֵרֹתִי contains a play on בַּמָּצֹור in v. 17, and cannot be understood otherwise than as a hemming in by means of a siege. The aim of the siege is to bring those hemmed in under the power of the besiegers, to get at, reach them, or find them. Hence we must take the enemy as subject to “find,” while the object is given in לָהֶם: so that they (the enemy) may find them (the besieged). Thus too Jerome, who translates the disputed verb passively: et tribulabo eos ut inveniantur; while he explains the meaning thus: sic eos obsideri faciam, sicque tribulabo et coangustabo, ut omnes in urbe reperiantur et effugere nequeant malum. Taken thus, the second clause serves to strengthen the first: I will hurl forth the inhabitants of this land into a foreign land, and none shall avoid this fate, for I will so hem them in that none shall be able to escape.
This harassment will bring the people to their senses, so that they shall humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. Such feelings the prophet utters at v. 19ff., in the name of the congregation, as he did in the like passage 4:19f. As from the hearts of those who had been touched by their affliction, he exclaims: Woe is me for my breach! i.e., my crushing overthrow. The breach is that sustained by the state in its destruction, see at 4:6. נַחְלָה, grown sick, i.e., grievous, incurable is the stroke that has fallen upon me. For this word we have in 15:18 אֲנוּשָׁה, which is explained by “refuseth to be healed.” וַאֲנִי introduces an antithesis: but I say, sc. in my heart, i.e., I think. Hitz. gives אַךְ the force of a limitation = nothing further than this, but wrongly; and, taking the perf. אָמַרְתִּי as a preterite, makes out the import to be: “in their state of careless security they had taken the matter lightly, saying as it were, If no further calamity than this menace us, we may be well content;” a thought quite foreign to the context. For “this my suffering” can be nothing else than the “hurt” on account of which the speaker laments, or the stroke which he calls dangerous, incurable. אַךְ has, besides, frequently the force of positive asseveration: yea, certainly (cf. Ew. § 354, a), a force readily derived from that of only, nothing else than. And so here: only this, i.e., even this is my suffering. חֳלִי, sickness, here suffering in general, as in Hos. 5:13, Isa. 53:3f., etc. The old translators took the Yod as pronoun (my suffering), whence it would be necessary to point חָלְיִ, like גֹּויִ, Zeph. 2:9; cf. Ew. § 293, b, Rem.—The suffering which the congregation must bear consists in the spoliation of the land and the captivity of the people, represented in v. 20 under the figure of a destruction of their tent and the disappearance of their sons. The Chald. has fairly paraphrased the verse thus: my land is laid waste and all my cities are plundered, my people has gone off (into exile) and is no longer here. יְצָאֻנִי construed with the accus. like egredi urbem; cf. Ge. 50:4, etc.—From “my sons have forsaken me” Näg. draws the inference that vv. 19 and 20 are the words of the country personified, since neither the prophet could so speak, nor the people, the latter being indeed identical with the sons, and so not forsaken, but forsaking. This inference rests on a mistaken view of the figure of the daughter of Zion, in which is involved the conception of the inhabitants of a land as the children of the land when personified as mother. Nor is there any evidence that the land is speaking in the words: I think, This is my suffering, etc. It is besides alleged that the words give no expression to any sense of guilt; they are said, on the contrary, to give utterance to a consolation which only an innocent land draws from the fact that a calamity is laid upon it, a calamity which must straightway be borne. This is neither true in point of fact, nor does it prove the case. The words, This is my suffering, etc., indicate resignation to the inevitable, not innocence or undeserved suffering. Hereon Graf remarks: “The suffering was unmerited, in so far as the prophet and the godly amongst the people were concerned; but it was inevitable that he and they should take it upon their shoulders, along with the rest.” Asserted with so great width, this statement cannot be admitted. The present generation bears the punishment not only for the sins of many past generations, but for its own sins; nor were the godly themselves free from sin and guilt, for they acknowledge the justice of God’s chastisement, and pray God to chasten them בְּמִשְׁפָּט, not in anger (v. 24). Besides, we cannot take the words as spoken by the prophet or by the godly as opposed to the ungodly, since it is the sons of the speaker (“my sons”) that are carried captive, who can certainly not be the sons of the godly alone.
Jer. 10:21. The cause of this calamity is that the shepherds, i.e., the princes and leaders of the people (see on 2:8; 3:15), are become brutish, have not sought Jahveh, i.e., have not sought wisdom and guidance from the Lord. And so they could not deal wisely, i.e., rule the people with wisdom. הִשְׂכִּיל is here not merely: have prosperity, but: show wisdom, deal wisely, securing thus the blessed results of wisdom. This is shown both by the contrasted “become brutish” and by the parallel passage, 3:15. מַרְעִיתָם, their pasturing, equivalent to “flock of their pasturing,” their flock, 23:1.
The calamity over which the people mourns is drawing near, v. 22. Already is heard the tremendous din of a mighty host which approaches from the north to make the cities of Judah a wilderness. קֹול שְׁמוּעָה is an exclamation: listen to the rumour, it is coming near. From a grammatical point of view the subject to “comes” is “rumour,” but in point of sense it is that of which the rumour gives notice. Graf weakens the sense by gathering the words into one assertory clause: “They hear a rumour come.” The “great commotion” is that of an army on the march, the clattering of the weapons, the stamping and neighing of the war-horses; cf. 6:23; 8:16. From the land of midnight, the north, cf. 1:14; 4:6, etc. “To make the cities,” etc., cf. 4:7; 9:10.—The rumour of the enemy’s approach drives the people to prayer, vv. 23–25. The prayer of these verses is uttered in the name of the congregation. It begins with the confession: Not with man is his way, i.e., it is not within man’s power to arrange the course of his life, nor in the power of the man who walks to fix his step (וְ before הָכִין merely marking the connection of the thought: cf. Ew. § 348, a). The antithesis to לָאָדָם and לְאִישׁ is ליהוה, with God; cf. Ps. 37:23, Prov. 16:9: Man’s heart deviseth his way, but Jahveh establisheth the steps. The thought is not: it is not in man’s option to walk in straight or crooked, good or evil ways, but: the directing of man, the way by which he must go, lies not in his own but in God’s power. Hitz. justly finds here the wisdom that admits: “Mit unserer Macht ist nichts getan,”—man’s destiny is ordained not by himself, but by God. Upon this acquiescence in God’s dispensation of events follows the petition: Chasten me, for I have deserved punishment, but chasten בְּמִשְׁפָּט, acc. to right, not in Thine anger; cf. Ps. 6:2; 38:2. A chastening in anger is the judgment of wrath that shall fall on obstinate sinners and destroy them. A chastening acc. to right is one such as is demanded by right (judgment), as the issue of God’s justice, in order to the reclamation and conversion of the repentant sinner. “Lest Thou make me little,” insignificant, puny; not merely, diminish me, make me smaller than I now am. For such a decrease of the people would result even from a gentle chastisement. There is no comparative force in the words. To make small, in other words, reduce to a small, insignificant people. This would be at variance with “right,” with God’s ordained plan in regard to His people. The expression is not equivalent to: not to make an utter end, 30:11, etc. The people had no call to pray that they might escape being made an utter end of; thus much had been promised by God, 4:27; 5:10.—God is asked to pour forth His fury upon the heathen who know not the Lord nor call upon His name, because they seek to extirpate Jacob (the people of Israel) as the people of God, at this time found in Judah alone. The several words in v. 25b suggest the fury with which the heathen proceed to the destruction of Israel. The present verse is reproduced in Ps. 79:6, 7, a psalm written during the exile, or at least after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; but in the reproduction the energetic expansion of the “devoured” is omitted.
Commentary on the Old Testament: Jeremiah, Lamentations(Vol. VIII)
Ch. 11–13—Judah’s Faithlessness to Covenant Obligations, and the Consequences Thereof
Jer. 11–13. In the first part of this compilation of discourses (Jer. 11:1–17) Judah is upbraided for disloyalty to the covenant, on account of which people and kingdom are threatened with sore disaster. In the second part (Jer. 11:18–12:17), the murderous attempt of the people of Anathoth against the prophet’s life (Jer. 11:18–23) gives occasion for a description of Judah’s irreclaimable perverseness; while Jeremiah’s expostulation with God as to the prosperity of godless men, and the reproof therefor received by him from God (Jer. 12:1–6), call forth an announcement that, in spite of God’s long-suffering, judgment on Judah and all nations will not be for ever deferred (Jer. 12:7–17). Finally, in the third part, Jer. 13, we have first a further account, by means of a symbolical action to be performed by the prophet, of the abasement of Judah’s pride in banishment to Euphrates (vv. 1–11); and next, an account of the judgment about to fall on Judah in the destruction of Jerusalem, and this both in figurative and in direct language (vv. 12–27).
From the contents of the discourses it appears unquestionable that we have here, gathered into the unity of a written record, various oral addresses of Jeremiah, together with some of the experiences that befell him in the exercise of his calling. There is no foundation for the assertion, that 12:7–17 is a self-complete prophetic discourse (Hitz.), or a supplement to the rest, written in the last years of Jehoiakim (Graf); nor for the assumption of several commentators, that the composition of c. 13 falls into the time of Jehoiachin,—as will be shown when we come to expound the passages referred to. The discourse throughout contains nothing that might not have been spoken or have happened in the time of Josiah; nor have we here any data for determining precisely the dates of the several portions of the whole discourse.
Jer. 11:1–17. Judah’s Disloyalty to the Covenant, with the Consequences Thereof—In vv. 2–8 is a short summary of the covenant made with the fathers; in vv. 9–13 is an account of the breaking of this covenant by Judah, and of the calamity which results therefrom; and in vv. 14–17 further description of this calamity.
Jer. 11:1–8. “The word which came to Jeremiah from Jahveh, saying: V. 2. Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, V. 3. And say thou to them: Thus hath Jahve, the God of Israel, said: Cursed is the man that heareth not the words of this covenant, V. 4. Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the iron furnace, saying: Hearken to my voice, and do them according to all which I command you; so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God; V. 5. That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. And I answered and said: So be it, Jahveh. V. 6. Then said Jahveh to me: Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying: Hear ye the words of this covenant and do them. V. 7. For I have testified to your fathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt unto this day, testifying from early morning on: Hearken to my voice! V. 8. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked each in the stubbornness of their evil heart; and so I brought on them all the words of this covenant which I have commanded them to do, and they have not done them.”
The form of address, v. 2: hear ye (שִׁמְעוּ), and speak ye (דִּבַּרְתֶּם), is noteworthy since we are not told who are to hear and speak; while at v. 3, in וְאָמַרְתָּ Jeremiah receives the commission to declare the words of the covenant to the people, and to make known in the cities of Judah, etc. (v. 6). The difficulty is not removed by the plan adopted by Hitz. and Graf from the LXX, of changing וְדִבַּרְתֶּם into וְדִבַּרְתָּם, “and speak them;” for the שִׁמְעוּ remains to be dealt with. To whom then, is it addressed? Schleussner proposed to change it into שִׁמְעָה—a purely arbitrary change. In v. 4 “hearing” is used in the sense of giving ear to, obeying. And in no other sense can it be taken in v. 1. “The words of this covenant” are, as is clear from the succeeding context, the words of the covenant recorded in the Pentateuch, known from the reading of the Torah. The call to hear the words thereof can only have the meaning of: to give ear to them, take them to heart. Hence Chr. B. Mich. and Schnur. have referred the words to the Jews: Listen, ye Jews and ye citizens of Jerusalem, to the words of the covenant, and make them know to one another, and exhort one another to observe them. But this paraphrase is hardly consistent with the wording of the verse. Others fancied that the priests and elders were addressed; but if so, these must necessarily have been named. Clearly it is to the prophets in general that the words are spoken, as Kimchi observed; and we must not take “hear ye” as if the covenant was unknown to the prophets, but as intended to remind the prophets of them, that they might enforce them upon the people. Taken thus, this introductory verse serves to exalt the importance of the truths mentioned, to mark them out as truths which God had commanded all the prophets to proclaim. If it be the prophets in general who are addressed in v. 2, the transition to “and say thou” is easily explained. Jeremiah, too, must himself do that which was the bounden duty of all the prophets, must make the men of Judah and Jerusalem call to mind the curse overhanging transgressors of the covenant. The words: Cursed is the man, etc., are taken from Deut. 27:26, from the directions for the engagement to keep the covenant, which the people were to solemnise upon their entry into Canaan, and which, acc. to Josh. 8:30ff., they did solemnise. The quotation is made freely from memory. Instead of “that heareth not the words of this covenant,” we find in Deut. l.c.: “the confirmeth not (יָקִים) the words of this law to do them.” The choice there of the word יָקִים is suggested by its connection with the act of solemnisation enjoined. The recitation and promulgation of the law upon Mount Gerizim and Ebal (Deut. 27) had no other aim than that of solemnly binding the people to keep or follow the law; and this is what Jeremiah means by “hearing.” The law to be established is the law of the covenant, i.e., the covenant made by Jahveh with Israel, and spoken of in Deut. 28:69 and 29:8 as the “words of this covenant.” This covenant, which Moses had made with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab (Deut. 28:69), was but a renewal of that solemnly concluded at Sinai (Ex. 24). And so Jeremiah speaks of this covenant as the one which Jahveh commanded the fathers in the day, i.e., at the time, of their leaving Egypt. “In the day that,” etc., as in 7:22. “Out of the iron furnace:” this metaphor for the affliction endured by Israel in Egypt is taken from Deut. 4:20. The words: hearken unto my voice and do them (the words of the covenant), suggest Deut. 27:1, 2; and the words: so shall ye be my people, suggest Deut. 29:12, a passage which itself points back to ex. 6:7 (Jer. 19:5f.), Lev. 27:12, Deut. 7:6, etc. That I may establish, i.e., perform, the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, i.e., the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deut. 7:8, etc.), promising to give them a land flowing, etc. The frequently repeated description of the promised land; cf. Ex. 3:8, 17, Deut. 6:3, etc. כַּיֹּום הַזֶּה, as in Deut. 2:30; 4:20, etc., is not: at this time, now (Graf), but: as this day, meaning: as is even now the case, sc. that ye still possess this precious land. The assenting reply of the prophet: אָמֵן יהוה, yea, or so be it (γένοιτο, LXX), Lord, corresponds to the אָמֵן with which the people, acc. to Deut. 27:15ff., were to take on themselves the curses attached to the breaking of the law, curses which they did take on themselves when the law was promulgated in Canaan. As the whole congregation did on that occasion, so here the prophet, by his “yea,” expresses his adherence to the covenant, and admits that the engagement is yet in full force for the congregation of God; and at the same time indicates that he, on his part, is ready to labour for the fulfilment of the covenant, so that the people may not become liable to the curse of the law.
Jer. 11:6–8. Having set forth the curse to which transgressors of the law are exposed, God commands the prophet to proclaim the words of the covenant to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, and to call upon them to do these. “All these words” are those subsequently specified, i.e., the commandments of the law (cf. v. 2). Jeremiah is to proclaim these, because, in spite of unremitting exhortation to hear and give heed to the voice of the Lord, the fathers had paid no regard thereto. קָרָא, not: read aloud (Hitz., Graf), but: proclaim, make known, as in 2:2; 3:12, etc. הֵעִיד with בְּ, to testify against any one, equivalent to: solemnly to enforce on one with importunate counsel and warning; cf. Deut. 30:19, Ps. 50:7, etc. On הַשְׁכֵּם וְהָעֵד, see at 7:13.—But they have not hearkened, v. 8a, running almost literally in the words of 7:24. “And I brought upon them,” etc., i.e., inflicted upon them the punishments with which transgressors of the law were threatened, which curses had been, in the case of the greater part of the people, the ten tribes, carried to the extreme length, i.e., to the length of their banishment from their own land into the midst of the heathen; cf. 2 Kings 17:13ff.
Jer. 11:9–13. The people’s breach of the covenant, and the consequences of this.—V. 9. “And Jahveh said unto me: Conspiracy is found among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. V. 10. They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to give ear to my words, and they are gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers. V. 11. Behold, I bring evil upon them, from which they cannot escape; and though they cry to me, I will not hear them. V. 12. And the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall go and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense, but they shall not help them in the time of their trouble. V. 13. For as many as are thy cities, so many are thy gods become, O Judah; and as many as are the streets of Jerusalem, so many altars have ye set up to Shame, altars to offer odours to Baal.”
Jeremiah is once more to enforce the words of the covenant upon the people, because they have broken the covenant, returned to the idolatry of the fathers. Conspiracy is found, is to be seen. The people’s defection from Jahveh, their breach of faith towards the covenant God, is called conspiracy, because it had become as universal as if it had been initiated by a formal preconcertment. “The former fathers,” forefathers of the people, are the Israelites under Moses, who broke the covenant by idolatry while still at Sinai, and those of the time of the Judges. With וְהֵמָּה the subject is changed; “they” are not the forefathers, but the prophet’s contemporaries. In the last clause of v. 10 is comprehended the apostasy of the whole people: Like Israel, Judah too has broken the covenant. Israel has been punished for this by being cast out among the heathen, the like doom awaits Judah.
Jer. 11:11. Because of the covenant broken, the Lord will bring on Judah and Jerusalem evil out of which they shall not come forth, i.e., not merely, from which they shall not escape safely, but: in which they shall find no way of rescue; for it in this calamity they cry to the Lord, He will not hear them. Nor will the gods whom they serve, i.e., the false gods, help them then. As to “as many as are,” etc., see on 2:28. “(The) Shame,” i.e., Baal, as at 3:24.
Jer. 11:14–17. Neither entreaty on their behalf nor their hypocritical worship will avert judgment.—V. 14. “But thou, pray not for this people, neither lift up for them cry or prayer; for I hear them not in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble. V. 15. What would my beloved in my house? they who practise guile? Shall vows and holy flesh remove they calamity from thee? then mayest thou exult. V. 16. A green olive, fair for its goodly fruit, Jahveh called thy name; with the noise of great tumult He set fire to it, and its branches brake. V. 17. And Jahveh of hosts, that planted thee, hath decreed evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah which they themselves have done, to provoke me, in that they have offered odours to Baal.”
We have already, in Jer. 7:16, met with the declaration that the Lord will not accept any intercession for the covenant-breaking people (v. 14); the termination of this verse differs slightly in the turn to takes.—בְּעַד רָעָתָם the ancient commentators have almost unanimously rendered: tempore mali eorum, as if they had read בְּעֵת (this is, in fact, the reading of some codd.); but hardly on sufficient grounds. בְּעַד gives a suitable sense, with the force of the Greek ἀμφί, which, like the German um, passes into the sense of wegen, as the English about passes into that of concerning.—In vv. 15–17 we have the reason why the Lord will hear neither the prophet’s supplication nor the people’s cry in their time of need. V. 15 is very obscure; and from the Masoretic text it is hardly possible to obtain a suitable sense. “The beloved” of Jahveh is Judah, the covenant people; cf. Deut. 33:12, where Benjamin is so called, and Jer. 12:7, where the Lord calls His people יְדִידוּת נַפְשִׁי. “What is to my beloved in my house?” i.e., what has my people to do in my house—what does it want there? “My house” is the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, as appears from the mention of holy flesh in the second clause. The main difficulty lies in the words עֲשׂוֹתָהּ הַמְזִמָּתָה הָרַבִּים. Hitz. takes עֲשׂוֹתָהּ to be the subject of the clause, and makes the suffix point back to יְדִידִי, which, as collective, is to be construed generis faem.: what should the accomplishment of his plans be to my beloved in my house? But as adverse to this we must note, a. the improbability of יָדִיד as used of the people being feminine; b. the fact that even if we adopt Hitz.’s change of הַמְזִמָּתָה into הַמְזִמֹּות, yet the latter word does not mean plans or designs to bring offerings. The phrase is clearly to be taken by itself as a continuation of the question; and the suffix to be regarded, with Ew., Umbr., etc., as pointing, in the Aramaic fashion, to the object following: they who practise guile. מְזִמָּה, a thinking out, devising, usually of hurtful schemes, here guile, as in Ps. 139:20, Job 21:27. What is meant is the hypocrisy of cloaking their apostasy from God by offering sacrifices in the temple, of concealing their idolatry and passing themselves off as worshippers of Jahve. On the form מְזִמָּתָה, see Ew. § 173, g, Gesen. § 80, Rem. 2, f. הָרַבִּים makes no sense. It belongs manifestly to the words which follow; for it can neither be subject to עֲשׂוֹתָהּ, nor can it be joined to הַמְזִמָּתָה as its genitive. The LXX render: μὴ εὐχαὶ καὶ κρέα ἅγια ἀφελοῦσιν ἀπὸ σοῦ τὰς κακίας σου; and following this, Dathe, Dahl., Ew., Hitz. hold הַנְדָרִים to be the original reading. On the other hand, Maur., Graf, and Näg. think we should read הֲרָנִּים (after Ps. 32:7) or הֲרִנִּים, crying, loud supplication; on the ground of Buxtorf’s hint, Anticrit. p. 661, that probably the Alexandrians had הָרַבִּים in their text, but, changing the ב for ן, read הרנים. We must make our choice between these two conjectures; for even if הָרַבִּים did not stand in the codex used by the Alexandrians, it cannot have been the original word. The form רָנִּים is, indeed, sufficiently attested by רָנֵּי פֶלֶט, Ps. 32:7; but the meaning of exultation which it has there is here wholly out of place. And we find no case of a plural to רִנָּה, which means both exultation and piteous, beseeching cry (e.g., 7:16). So that, although רִנָּה is in the LXX occasionally rendered by δέησις (Jer. 11:14; 14:12, etc.) or προσευχή (1 Kings 8:28), we prefer the conjecture הַנְדָרִים; for “vow” is in better keeping with “holy flesh,” i.e., flesh of sacrifice, Hag. 2:12, since the vow was generally carried out by offering sacrifice.—Nor do the following words, יַעַבְרוּ מֵעָלַיִךְ וגו׳, convey any meaning, without some alteration. As quoted above, they may be translated: shall pass away from thee. But this can mean neither: they shall be torn from thee, nor: they shall disappoint thee. And even if this force did lie in the words, no statement can begin with the following כִּי רָעָתֵכִי. If this be a protasis, the verb is wanting. We shall have to change it, after the manner of the LXX, to יַעֲבִרוּ מֵעָלַיִכִי רָעָתֵכִי: shall vows and holy flesh (sacrifice) avert thine evil from thee? For the form יַעֲבִרוּ as Hiph. cf. יַדְרִכוּ, 9:2. “Thine evil” with the double force: thy sin and shame, and the disaster impending, i.e., sin and (judicial) suffering. There is no occasion for any further changes. אָז, rendered ἢ by the LXX, and so read אֹו by them, may be completely vindicated: then, i.e., if this were the case, if thou couldst avert calamity by sacrifice, then mightest thou exult. Thus we obtain the following as the sense of the whole verse: What mean my people in my temple with their hypocritical sacrifices? Can vows and offerings, presented by you there, avert calamity from you? If it could be so, well might you shout for joy.
Jer. 11:16, 17. This idea is carried on in vv. 16, 17. Judah (Israel) was truly a noble planting of God’s, but by defection from the Lord, its God and Creator, it has drawn down on itself this ruin. Jahveh called Judah a green olive with splendid fruit. For a comparison of Israel to an olive, cf. Hos. 14:7, Ps. 52:10; 128:3. The fruit of the tree is the nation in its individual members. The naming of the name is the representation of the state of the case, and so here: the growth and prosperity of the people. The contrasted state is introduced by לְקֹול ה׳ without adversative particle, and is thus made to seem the more abrupt and violent (Hitz.). Noise of tumult (הֲמֻלָּה, occurring besides here only in Ezek. 1:24 as equivalent to הָמֹון), i.e., of the tumult of war, cf. Isa. 13:4; not: roar of the thunderstorm or crash of thunder (Näg., Graf). עָלֶיהָ for בָּהּ, cf. 17:27; 21:14, etc. The suffix is regulated by the thing represented by the olive, i.e., Judah as a kingdom. Its branches brake; רָעַע, elsewhere only transitive, here intransitive, analogously to רָצַץ in Isa. 42:4. Hitz. renders less suitably: its branches look bad, as being charred, robbed of their gay adornment. On this head cf. Ezek. 31:12. The setting of fire to the olive tree Israel came about through its enemies, who broke up one part of the kingdom after the other, who had already destroyed the kingdom of the ten tribes, and were now about to destroy Judah next. That the words apply not to Judah only, but to Israel as well, appears from v. 17, where the Lord, who has planted Israel, is said to have spoken, i.e., decreed evil for the sin of the two houses, Israel and Judah. דִּבֶּר is not directly = decree, but intimates also the utterance of the decree by the prophet. לָהֶם after עָשׂוּ is dat. incomm.: the evil which they have done to their hurt; cf. 44:3, where the dative is wanting. Hitz. finds in לָהֶם an intimation of voluntary action, as throwing back the deed upon the subject as an act of free choice; cf. Ew. § 315, a.
Jer. 11:18–12:17. Evidence that Judah is Unreclaimable, and that the Sore Judgments Threatened cannot be Averted.—As a practical proof of the people’s determination not to reform, we have in Jer. 11:18–23. Vv. 18–23 an account of the designs of the inhabitants of Anathoth against the prophet’s life, inasmuch as it was their ill-will towards his prophecies that led them to this crime. They are determined not to hear the word of God, chiding and punishing them for their sins, and so to put the preacher of this word out of the way.—V. 18. “And Jahveh gave me knowledge of it, and I knew it; then showedst Thou me their doings. V. 19. And I was as a tame lamb that is led to the slaughter, and knew not that they plotted designs against me: Let us destroy the three with the fruit thereof, and cut him off out of the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered. V. 20. But Jahveh of hosts, that judgeth justly, trieth reins and heart—I shall see Thy vengeance on them, for to Thee have I confided my case. V. 21. Therefore thus hath Jahveh spoken against the men of Anathoth, that seek after thy life, saying, Thou shalt not prophesy in the name of Jahveh, that thou die not by our hand. V. 22. Therefore thus hath Jahveh of hosts spoken: Behold, I will punish them; the young men shall die by the sword, their sons and daughters shall die by famine. V. 23. And a remnant shall not remain to them; for I bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, the year of their visitation.”
Jeremiah had not himself observed the designs of the people of Anathoth against his life, because the thing was carried on in secret; but the Lord made it known to him. אָז, then, sc. when I knew nought of their murderous intent; cf. v. 19. “Their doings,” i.e., those done in secret. V. 19. כֶּבֶשׂ אַלּוּף, agnus mansuetus, a tame pet-lamb, such as the Arabs used to keep, such as the Hebrews too, 2 Sam. 12:3, kept; familiar with the household, reared by them in the house, that does not suspect when it is being taken to be killed. In like manner Jeremiah had no suspicion that his countrymen were harbouring evil designs against him. These designs are quoted directly without לֵאמֹר. The saying is a figurative or proverbial one: we will destroy the tree בְּלַחְמֹו. This word is variously taken. The ordinary meaning, food for men and beasts, usually bread, seems not to be suitable. And so Hitz. wishes to read בְּלַחֹו, in its sap (cf. Deut. 34:7, Ezek. 21:3), because לֶחֶם may mean grain, but it does not mean fruit. Näg. justly remarks against this view: What is here essential is simply the produce of the tree, furnished for the use of man. The word of the prophet was a food which they abhorred (cf. v. 21b). As לֶחֶם originally meant food, we here understand by it the edible product of the tree, that is, its fruit, in opposition to sap, wood, leaves. This interpretation is confirmed by the Arabic; the Arabs use both laḥûmun and ukulu of the fruit of a tree, see ill. in Rosenm. Schol. ad h. l. The proverbial saying is given in plain words in the next clause. We will cut him (i.e., the prophet) off, etc.
Jer. 11:20. Therefore Jeremiah calls upon the Lord, as the righteous judge and omniscient searcher of hearts, to punish his enemies. This verse is repeated almost verbally in 20:12, and in substance in 17:10. Who trieth reins and heart, and therefore knows that Jeremiah has done no evil. אֶרְאֶה is future as expressing certainty that God will interfere to punish; for to Him he has wholly committed his cause. גִּלִּיתִי, Pi. of גָּלָה, is taken by Hitz., Ew., etc. in the sense of גָּלַל: on Thee have I rolled over my cause; in support of this they adduce Ps. 22:9; 37:5, Prov. 16:3, as parallel passages. It is true that this interpretation can be vindicated grammatically, for גלל might have assumed the form of גלה (Ew. § 121, a). But the passages quoted are not at all decisive, since Jeremiah very frequently gives a new sense to quotations by making slight alterations on them; and in the passage cited we read גָּלַל אֵת רִיב. We therefore adhere, with Grot. and Ros., to the usual meaning of גָּלָה; understanding that in making known there is included the idea of entrusting, a force suggested by the construction with אֶל instead of לְ. רִיב, controversy, cause.—The prophet declares God’s vengeance to the instigators of the plots against his life, vv. 21–23. The introductory formula in v. 21 is repeated in v. 22, on account of the long intervening parenthesis. “That thou diest not” is introduced by the וְ of consecution. The punishment is to fall upon the entire population of Anathoth; on the young men of military age (בַּחוּרִים), a violent death in war; on the children, death by famine consequent on the siege. Even though all had not had a share in the complot, yet were they at heart just as much alienated from God and ill-disposed towards His word. “Year of their visitation” is still dependent on “bring.” This construction is simpler than taking שְׁנַת for accus. adverb., both here and in 23:12. Commentary on the Old Testament: Jeremiah, Lamentations(Vol. VIII)
Jer. 12:1–6. The prophet’s displeasure at the prosperity of the wicked.—The enmity experienced by Jeremiah at the hands of his countrymen at Anathoth excites his displeasure at the prosperity of the wicked, who thrive and live with immunity. He therefore beings to expostulate with God, and demands from God’s righteousness that they be cut off out of the land (vv. 1–4); whereupon the Lord reproves him for this outburst of ill-nature and impatience by telling him that he must patiently endure still worse.—This section, the connection of which with the preceding is unmistakeable, shows by a concrete instance the utter corruptness of the people; and it has been included in the prophecies because it sets before us the greatness of God’s long-suffering towards a people ripe for destruction.
Jer. 12:1. “Righteous art Thou, Jahveh, if I contend with Thee; yet will I plead with Thee in words. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper, are all secure that deal faithlessly? V. 2. Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root; grow, yea, bring forth fruit. Near art Thou in their mouth, yet far from their reins. V. 3. But Thou, Jahveh, knowest me, seest me, and triest mine heart toward Thee. Tear them away like sheep to the slaughter, and devote them for a day of slaughter. V. 4. How long is the earth to mourn and the herb of the field to wither? For the wickedness of them that dwell therein, gone are cattle and fowl; for they say: He sees not our end. V. 5. If with the footmen thou didst run and they wearied thee, how couldst thou contend with the horses? and if thou trustest in the land of peace, how wilt thou do in the glory of Jordan? V. 6. For even thy brethren and they father’s house, even they are faithless towards thee, yea, they call after thee with full voice. Believe them not, though they speak friendly to thee.”
The prophet’s complaint begins by acknowledging: Thou art righteous, Lord, if I would dispute with Thee, i.e., would accuse Thee of injustice. I could convict Thee of no wrong; Thou wouldst appear righteous and prove Thyself in the right. Ps. 51:6; Job 9:2ff. With אַךְ comes in a limitation: only he will speak pleas of right, maintain a suit with Jahveh, will set before Him something that seems incompatible with God’s justice, namely the question: Why the way of the wicked prospers, why they that act faithlessly are in ease and comfort? On this cf. Job 21:7ff., where Job sets forth at length the contradiction between the prosperity of the wicked and the justice of God’s providence. The way of the wicked is the course of their life, their conduct. God has planted them, i.e., has placed them in their circumstances of life; like a tree they have struck root into the ground; they go on, i.e., grow, and bear fruit, i.e., their undertakings succeed, although they have God in their mouth only, not in their heart.
Jer. 12:3. To show that he has cause for his question, Jeremiah appeals to the omniscience of the Searcher of hearts. God knows him, tries his heart, and therefore knows how it is disposed towards Himself (אִתָּךְ belongs to לִבִּי, and אֵת indicating the relation—here, viz., fidelity—in which the heart stands to God; cf. 2 Sam. 16:17). Thus God knows that in his heart there is no unfaithfulness, and that he maintains to God an attitude altogether other than that of those hypocrites who have God on their lips only; and knows too the enmity which, without having provoked it, he experiences. How then comes it about that with the prophet it goes ill, while with those faithless ones it goes well? God, as the righteous God, must remove this contradiction. And so his request concludes: Tear them out (נָתַק of the tearing out of roots, Ezek. 17:9); here Hiph. with the same force (pointing back to the metaphor of their being rooted, v. 2), implying total destruction. Hence also the illustration: as sheep, that are dragged away out of the flock to be slaughtered. Devote them for the day of slaughter, like animals devoted to sacrifice.
Jer. 12:4. Ver. 4 gives the motive of his prayer: How long shall the earth suffer from the wickedness of these hypocrites? be visited with drought and dearth for their sins? This question is not to be taken as a complaint that God is punishing without end; Hitz. so takes it, and then proposes to delete it as being out of all connection in sense with v. 3 or v. 5. It is a complaint because of the continuance of God’s chastisement, drawn down by the wickedness of the apostates, which are bringing the land to utter ruin. The mourning of the land and the withering of the herb is a consequence of great drought; and the drought is a divine chastisement: cf. 3:3; 5:24ff., 14:2ff., etc. But this falls not only on the unfaithful, but upon the godly too, and even the beasts, cattle, and birds suffer from it; and so the innocent along with the guilty. There seems to be injustice in this. To put an end to this injustice, to rescue the innocent from the curse brought by the wickedness of the ungodly, the prophet seeks the destruction of the wicked. סָפָה, to be swept away. The 3rd pers. fem. sing. with the plural וֹת, as in Joel 1:20 and often; cf. Ew. § 317, a, Gesen. § 146, 3. “They that dwell therein” are inhabitants of the land at large, the ungodly multitude of the people, of whom it is said in the last clause: they say, He will not see our end. The sense of these words is determined by the subject. Many follow the LXX (οὐκ ὄψεται ὁ Θεὸς ὁδοὺς ἡμῶν) and refer the seeing to God. God will not see their end, i.e., will not trouble Himself about it (Schnur., Ros., and others), or will not pay any heed to their future fate, so that they may do all they choose unpunished (Ew.). But to this Graf has justly objected, that רָאָה, in all the passages that can be cited for this sense of the word, is used only of that which God sees, regards as already present, never of that which is future. “He sees” is to be referred to the prophet. Of him the ungodly say, he shall not see their end, because they intend to put him out of the way (Hitz.); or better, in a less special sense, they ridicule the idea that his prophecies will be fulfilled, and say: He shall not see our end, because his threatenings will not come to pass.
Jer. 12:5, 6. In vv. 5 and 6 the Lord so answers the prophet’s complaint as to reprove his impatience, by intimating that he will have to endure still worse. Both parts of v. 5 are of the nature of proverbs. If even the race with footmen made him weary, how will he be able to compete with horses? תֶּחֱרָה here and 22:15, a Tiph., Aramaic form for Hiph., arising by the hardening of the ה into ת—cf. Hos. 11:3, and Ew. § 122, a—rival, vie with. The proverb exhibits the contrast between tasks of smaller and greater difficulty, applied to the prophet’s relation to his enemies. What Jeremiah had to suffer from his countrymen at Anathoth was but a trifle compared with the malign assaults that yet awaited him in the discharge of his office. The second comparison conveys the same thought, but with a clearer intimation of the dangers the prophet will undergo. If thou puttest thy trust in a peaceful land, there alone countest on living in peace and safety, how wilt thou bear thyself in the glory of Jordan? The latter phrase does not mean the swelling of Jordan, its high flood, so as that we should with Umbr. and Ew., have here to think of the danger arising from a great and sudden inundation. It is the strip of land along the bank of the Jordan, thickly overgrown with shrubs, trees, and tall reeds, the lower valley, flooded when the river was swollen, where lions had their haunt, as in the reedy thickets of the Euphrates. Cf. v. Schubert, Resie, iii. S. 82; Robins. Bibl. Researches in Palestine, i. 535, and Phys. Geogr. of the Holy Land, p. 147. The “pride of the Jordan” is therefore mentioned in 49:19; 50:44, Zech. 11:3, as the haunt of lions, and comes before us here as a region where men’s lives were in danger. The point of the comparison is accordingly this: Thy case up till this time is, in spite of the onsets thou hast borne, to be compared to a sojourn in a peaceful land; but thou shalt come into much sorer case, where thou shalt never for a moment be sure of thy life. To illustrate this, he is told in v. 6 that his nearest of kin, and those dwelling under the same roof, will behave unfaithfully towards him. they will cry behind him מָלֵא, plena voce (Jerome; cf. קִרְאוּ מַלְאוּ, 4:5). They will cry after him, “as one cries when pursuing a thief or murderer” (Gr.). Perfectly apposite is therefore Luther’s translation: They set up a hue and cry after thee. These words are not meant to be literally taken, but convey the thought, that even his nearest friends will persecute him as a malefactor. It is therefore a perverse design that seeks to find the distinction between the inhabitants of Anathoth and the brethren and housemates, in a contrast between the priests and the blood-relations. Although Anathoth was a city of the priests, the men of Anathoth need not have been all priests, since these cities were not exclusively occupied by priests.—In this reproof of the prophet there lies not merely the truth that much sorer suffering yet awaits him, but the truth besides, that the people’s faithlessness and wickedness towards God and men will yet grow greater, ere the judgment of destruction fall upon Judah; for the divine long-suffering is not yet exhausted, nor has ungodliness yet fairly reached its highest point, so that the final destruction must straightway be carried out. But judgment will not tarry long. This thought is carried on in what follows.
Jer. 12:7–17. The execution of the judgment on Judah and its enemies.—As to this passage, which falls into two strophes, vv. 7–13 and vv. 14–17, Hitz., Graf, and others pronounce that it stands in no kind of connection with what immediately precedes. The connection of the two strophes with one another is, however, allowed by these commentators; while Eichh. and Dahler hold vv. 14–17 to be a distinct oracle, belonging to the time of Zedekiah, or to the seventh or eighth year of Jehoiakim. These views are bound up with an incorrect conception of the contents of the passage,—to which in the first place we must accordingly direct our attention.
Jer. 12:7. “I have forsaken mine house, cast out mine heritage, given the beloved of my soul into the hand of its enemies. V. 8. Mine heritage is become unto me as a lion in the forest, it hath lifted up its voice against me; therefore have I hated it. V. 9. Is mine heritage to me a speckled vulture, that vultures are round about it? Come, gather all the beasts of the field, bring them to devour! V. 10. Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard, have trodden down my ground, have made the plot of my pleasure a desolate wilderness. V. 11. They have made it a desolation; it mourneth around me desolate; desolated is the whole land, because none laid it to heart. V. 12. On all the bare-peaked heights in the wilderness are spoilers come; for a sword of Jahveh’s devours from one end of the land unto the other: no peace to all flesh. V. 13. They have sown wheat and reaped thorns; they have worn themselves weary and accomplished nothing. So then ye shall be put to shame for your produce, because of the hot anger of Jahve.”
V. 14. “Thus saith Jahveh against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the heritage which I have given unto my people Israel: Behold, I pluck them out of their land, and the house of Judah will I pluck out of their midst. V. 15. But after I have plucked them out, I will pity them again, and bring them back, each to his heritage, and each into his land. V. 16. And it shall be, if they will learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name: As Jahveh liveth, as they have taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built in the midst of my people. V. 17. But if they hearken not, I will pluck up such a nation, utterly destroying it, saith Jahve.”
Hitz. and Graf, in opposition to other commentators, will have the strophe, vv. 7–13, to be taken not as prophecy, but as a lament on the devastation which Judah, after Jehoiakim’s defection from Nebuchadnezzar in the eighth year of his reign, had suffered through the war of spoliation undertaken against insurgent Judah by those neighbouring nations that had maintained their allegiance to Chaldean supremacy, 2 Kings 24:2f. In support of this, Gr. appeals to the use throughout of unconnected perfects, and to the prophecy, v. 14ff., joined with this description; which, he says, shows that it is something complete, existing, which is described, a state of affairs on which the prophecy is based. For although the prophet, viewing the future with the eyes of a seer as a thing present, often describes it as if it had already taken place, yet, he says, the context easily enables us in such a case to recognise the description as prophetic, which, acc. to Graf, is not the case here. This argument is void of all force. To show that the use of unconnected perfects proves nothing, it is sufficient to note that such perfects are used in v. 6, where Hitz. and Gr. take בָּגְדוּ and קָרְאוּ as prophetic. So with the perfects in v. 7. The context demands this. For though no particle attaches v. 7 to what precedes, yet, as Graf himself alleges against Hitz., it is shown by the lack of any heading that the fragment (vv. 7–13) is “not a special, originally independent oracle;” and just as clearly, that it can by no means be (as Gr. supposes) an appendix, stuck on to the preceding in a purely external and accidental fashion. These assumptions are disproved by the contents of the fragment, which are simply an expansion of the threat of expulsion from their inheritance conveyed to the people already in 11:14–17; an expansion which not merely points back to 11:14–17, but which most aptly attaches itself to the reproof given to the prophet for his complaint that judgment on the ungodly was delayed (Jer. 12:1–6); since it discloses to the prophet God’s designs in regard to His people, and teaches that the judgment, though it may be delayed, will not be withheld.
Jer. 12:7ff. contain sayings of God, not of the prophet, who had left his house in Anathoth, as Zwingli and Bugenhagen thought. The perfects are prophetic, i.e., intimate the divine decree already determined on, whose accomplishment is irrevocably fixed, and will certainly by and by take place. “My house” is neither the temple nor the land inhabited by Israel, in support whereof appeal is unjustly made to passages like Hos. 8; 1, 9:15, Ezek. 8:12; 9:9; but, as is clearly shown by the parallel “mine heritage,” taken in connection with what is said of the heritage in v. 8, and by “the beloved of my soul,” v. 7, means the people of Israel, or Judah as the existing representative of the people of God (house = family); see on Hos. 8:1. נַחֲלָתִי = עַם נַחֲלָה, Deut. 4:20, cf. Isa. 47:6; 19:25. יְדִדוּת, object of my soul’s love, cf. 11:15. This appellation, too, cannot apply to the land, but to the people of Israel,—V. 8 contains the reason why Jahveh gives up His people for a prey. It has behaved to God like a lion, i.e., has opposed Him fiercely like a furious beast. Therefore He must withdraw His love. To give with the voice = to lift up the voice, as in Ps. 46:7; 68:34. “Hate” is a stronger expression for the withdrawal of love, shown by delivering Israel into the hand of its enemies, as in Mal. 1:3. There is no reason for taking שָׂנֵאתִי as inchoative. The “hating” is explained fully in the following verses. In v. 9 the meaning of הַעַיִט צָבוּעַ is disputed. In all other places where it occurs עַיִט means a bird of prey, cf. Isa. 46:11, or collective, birds of prey, Gen. 15:11, Isa. 18:6. צָבוּעַ, in the Rabbinical Heb. the hyaena, like the Arabic ṣabu’un or ṣab’un. So the LXX have rendered it; and so, too, many recent comm., e.g., Gesen. in thes. But with this the asyndeton by way of connection with עַיִט does not well consist: is a bird of prey, a hyaena, mine heritage? On this ground Boch. (Hieroz. ii. p. 176, ed. Ros.) sought to make good the claim of עַיִט to mean “beast of prey,” but without proving his case. Nor is there in biblical Heb. any sure case for צָבוּעַ in the meaning of hyaena; and the Rabbinical usage would appear to be founded on this interpretation of the word in the passage before us. צָבַע, Arab. ṣaba’a, means dip, hence dye; and so צֶבַע, Judg. 5:30, is dyed materials, in plur. parti-coloured clothes. To this meaning Jerome, Syr., and Targ. have adhered in the present case; Jerome gives avis discolor, whence Luther’s der sprincklight Vogel; Chr. B. Mich., avis colorata. So, and rightly, Hitz., Ew., Graf, Näg. The prophet alludes to the well-known fact of natural history, that “whenever a strange-looking bird is seen amongst the others, whether it be an owl of the night amidst the birds of day, or a bird of gay, variegated plumage amidst those of duskier hue, the others pursue the unfamiliar intruder with loud cries and unite in attacking it.” Hitz., with reference to Tacit. Ann. vi. 28, Sueton. Caes. 81, and Plin. Hist. N. x. 19. The question is the expression of amazement, and is assertory. לִי is dat. ethic., intimating sympathetic participation (Näg.), and not to be changed, with Gr., into כִּי. The next clause is also a question: are birds of prey round about it (mine heritage), sc. to plunder it? This, too, is meant to convey affirmation. With it is connected the summons to the beasts of prey to gather round Judah to devour it. The words here come from Isa. 56:9. The beasts are emblem for enemies. הֵתָיוּ is not first mode or perfect (Hitz.), but imperat., contracted from הֶאֱתָיוּ, as in Isa. 21:14. The same thought is, in v. 10, carried on under a figure that is more directly expressive of the matter in hand. The perfects in vv. 10–12 are once more prophetic. The shepherds who (along with their flocks, of course) destroy the vineyard of the Lord are the kings of the heathen, Nebuchadnezzar and the kings subject to him, with their warriors. The “destroying” is expanded in a manner consistent with the figure; and here we must not fail to note the cumulation of the words and the climax thus produced. They tread down the plot of ground, turn the precious plot into a howling wilderness. With “plot of my pleasure” cf. אֶרֶץ חֶמְדָּה וגו׳, 3:19.
In v. 11 the emblematical shepherds are brought forward in the more direct form of enemy. שָׂמָהּ, he (the enemy, “they” impersonal) has changed it (the plot of ground) into desolation. It mourneth עָלַי, round about me, desolated. Spoilers are come on all the bare-topped hills of the desert. מִדְבָּר is the name for such parts of the country as were suited only for rearing and pasturing cattle, like the so-called wilderness of Judah to the west of the Dead Sea. A sword of the Lord’s (i.e., the war sent by Jahveh, cf. 25:29; 6:25) devours the whole land from end to end; cf. 25:33. “All flesh” is limited by the context to all flesh in the land of Judah. בָּשָׂר in the sense of Gen. 6:12, sinful mankind; here: the whole sinful population of Judah. For them there is no שָׁלֹום, welfare or peace.
Jer. 12:13. They reap the contrary of what they have sowed. The words: wheat they have sown, thorns they reap, are manifestly of the nature of a saw or proverb; certainly not merely with the force of meliora exspectaverant et venerunt pessima (Jerome); for sowing corresponds not to hoping or expecting, but to doing and undertaking. Their labour brings them the reverse of what they aimed at or sought to attain. To understand the words directly of the failure of the crop, as Ven., Ros., Hitz., Graf, Näg. prefer to do, is fair neither to text nor context. To reap thorns is not = to have a bad harvest by reason of drought, blight, or the ravaging of enemies. The seed: wheat, the noblest grain, produces thorns, the very opposite of available fruit. And the context, too, excludes the thought of agriculture and “literal harvesting.” The thought that the crop turned out a failure would be a very lame termination to a description of how the whole land was ravaged from end to end by the sword of the Lord. The verse forms a conclusion which sums up the threatening of vv. 7–12, to the effect that the people’s sinful ongoings will bring them sore suffering, instead of the good fortune they hoped for. נֶחְלוּ, they have worn themselves out, exhausted their strength, and secured no profit. Thus shall ye be put to shame for your produce, ignominiously disappointed in your hopes for the issue of your labour.
Jer. 12:14–17. The spoilers of the Lord’s heritage are also to be carried off out of their land; but after they, like Judah, have been punished, the Lord will have pity on them, and will bring them back one and all into their own land. And if the heathen, who now seduce the people of God to idolatry, learn the ways of God’s people and be converted to the Lord, they shall receive citizenship amongst God’s people and be built up amongst them; but if they will not do so, they shall be extirpated. Thus will the Lord manifest Himself before the whole earth as righteous judge, and through judgment secure the weal not only of Israel, but of the heathen peoples too. By this discovery of His world-plan the Lord makes so complete a reply to the prophet’s murmuring concerning the prosperity of the ungodly (vv. 1–6), that from it may clearly be seen the justice of God’s government on earth. Viewed thus, both strophes of the passage before us (vv. 7–17) connect themselves singularly well with vv. 1–6.
Jer. 12:14. The evil neighbours that lay hands on Jahve’s heritage are the neighbouring heathen nations, the Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Philistines, and Syrians. It does not, however, follow that this threatening has special reference to the event related in 2 Kings 24:2, and that it belongs to the time of Jehoiakim. These nations were always endeavouring to assault Israel, and made use of every opportunity that seemed favourable for waging war against them and subjugating them; and not for the first time during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, at which time it was indeed that they suffered the punishment here pronounced, of being carried away into exile. The neighbours are brought up here simply as representatives of the heathen nations, and what is said of them is true for all the heathen. The transition to the first person in שְׁכֵנַי is like that in 14:15. Jahveh is possessor of the land of Israel, and so the adjoining peoples are His neighbours. נָגַע בְ, to touch as an enemy, to attack, cf. Zech. 2:12. I pluck the house of Judah out of their midst, i.e., the midst of the evil neighbours. This is understood by most commentators of the carrying of Judah into captivity, since נָתַשׁ cannot be taken in two different senses in the two corresponding clauses. For this word used of deportation, cf. 1 Kings 14:15. “Them,” v. 15, refers to the heathen peoples. After they have been carried forth of their land and have received their punishment, the Lord will again have compassion upon them, and will bring back each to its inheritance, its land. Here the restoration of Judah, the people of God, is assumed as a thing of course (cf. v. 16 and 32:37, 44; 33:26).
Jer. 12:16. If then the heathen learn the ways of the people of God. What we are to understand by this is clear from the following infinitive clause: to swear in the name of Jahveh, viz., if they adopt the worship of Jahveh (for swearing is mentioned as one of the principal utterances of a religious confession). If they do so, then shall they be built in the midst of God’s people, i.e., incorporated with it, and along with it favoured and blessed.
Jer. 12:17. But they who hearken not, namely, to the invitation to take Jahveh as the true God, these shall be utterly destroyed. נָתֹושׁ וְאַבֵּד, so to pluck them out that they may perish. The promise is Messianic, cf. 16:19, Isa. 56:6f., Mic. 4:1–4, etc., inasmuch as it points to the end of God’s way with all nations. Commentary on the Old Testament: Jeremiah, Lamentations(Vol. VIII)
Jer. 13. The Humiliation of Judah’s Pride.—The first section of this chapter contains a symbolical action which sets forth the corruptness of Judah (vv. 1–11), and shows in figurative language how the Lord will bring Judah’s haughtiness to nothing (vv. 12–14). Upon the back of this comes the warning to repent, and the threatening addressed to the king and queen, that the crown shall fall from their head, that Judah shall be carried captive, and Jerusalem dishonoured, because of their disgraceful idolatry (vv. 15–27).
Jer. 13:1–11. The spoilt girdle.—V. 1. “Thus spake Jahveh unto me: Go and buy thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, but into the water thou shalt not bring it. V. 2. So I bought the girdle, according to the word of Jahveh, and put it upon my loins, V. 3. Then came the word of Jahveh to me the second time, saying: V. 4. Take the girdle which thou hast bought, which is upon thy loins, and arise, and go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a cleft of the rock. V. 5. So I went and hid it, as Jahveh had commanded me. V. 6. And it came to pass after many days, that Jahveh said unto me: Arise, go to the Euphrates, and bring thence the girdle which I commanded thee to hide there. V. 7. And I went to the Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it; and, behold, the girdle was marred, was good for nothing. V. 8. And the word of Jahveh came to me, saying: V. 9. Thus hath Jahveh said, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem. V. 10. This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the stubbornness of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them and to worship them, it shall be as this girdle which is good for nothing. V. 11. For as the girdle cleaves to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith Jahveh; that it might be to me for a people and for a name, for a praise and for an ornament; but they hearkened not.”
With regard to the symbolical action imposed on the prophet and performed by him, the question arises, whether the thing took place in outward reality, or was only an occurrence in the spirit, in the inward vision. The first view seems to be supported by the wording of the passage, namely, the twice repeated account of the prophet’s journey to the Phrat on the strength of a twice repeated divine command. But on the other hand, it has been found very improbable that “Jeremiah should twice have made a journey to the Euphrates, merely to prove that a linen girdle, if it lie long in the damp, becomes spoilt, a thing he could have done much nearer home, and which besides everybody knew without experiment” (Graf.). On this ground Ros., Graf, etc., hold the matter for a parable or an allegorical tale, But this view depends for support on the erroneous assumption that the specification of the Euphrates is of no kind of importance for the matter in hand; whereas the contrary may be gathered from the four times repeated mention of the place. Nor is anything proved against the real performance of God’s command by the remark, that the journey thither and back on both occasions is spoken of as if it were a mere matter of crossing a field. The Bible writers are wont to set forth such external matters in no very circumstantial way. And the great distance of the Euphrates—about 250 miles—gives us no sufficient reason for departing from the narrative as we have it before us, pointing as it does to a literal and real carrying out of God’s command, and to relegate the matter to the inward region of spiritual vision, or to take the narrative for an allegorical tale.—Still less reason is to be found in arbitrary interpretations of the name, such as, after Bochart’s example, have been attempted by Ven., Hitz., and Ew. The assertion that the Euphrates is called נְהַר פְּרָת everywhere else, including Jer. 46:2, 6, 10, loses its claim to conclusiveness from the fact that the prefaced נהר is omitted in Gen. 2:14, Jer. 51:63. And even Ew. observes, that “fifty years later a prophet understood the word of the Euphrates at 51:63.” Now even if 51:63 had been written by another prophet, and fifty years later (which is not the case, see on Jer. 50ff.), the authority of this prophet would suffice to prove every other interpretation erroneous; even although the other attempts at interpretation had been more than the merest fancies. Ew. remarks, “It is most amazing that recent scholars (Hitz. with Ven. and Dahl.) could seriously come to adopt the conceit that פְּרָת is one and the same with אֶפְרָת (Gen. 48:7), and so with Bethlehem;” and what he says is doubly relevant to his own rendering. פְּרָת, he says, is either to be understood like Arab. frt, of fresh water in general, or like frḍt, a place near the water, a crevice opening from the water into the land,—interpretations so far fetched as to require no serious refutation.
More important than the question as to the formal nature of the emblematical action is that regarding its meaning; on which the views of commentators are as much divided. from the interpretation in vv. 9–11 thus much is clear, that the girdle is the emblem of Israel, and that the prophet, in putting on and wearing this girdle, illustrates the relation of God to the folk of His covenant (Israel and Judah). The further significance of the emblem is suggested by the several moments of the action. The girdle does not merely belong to a man’s adornment, but is that part of his clothing which he must put on when about to undertake any laborious piece of work. The prophet is to buy and put on a linen girdle. פִּשְׁתִּים, linen, was the material of the priests’ raiment, Ezek. 44:17f., which in Ex. 28:40; 39:27ff. is called שֵׁשׁ, white byssus, or בַּד, linen. The priest’s girdle was not, however, white, but woven parti-coloured, after the four colours of the curtains of the sanctuary, Ex. 28:40; 39:29. Wool (צֶמֶר) is in Ezek. 44:18 expressly excluded, because it causes the body to sweat. The linen girdle points, therefore, to the priestly character of Israel, called to be a holy people, a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6). “The purchased white girdle of linen, a man’s pride and adornment, is the people bought out of Egypt, yet in its innocence as it was when the Lord bound it to Himself with the bands of love” (Umbr.). The prohibition that follows, “into water thou shalt not bring it,” is variously interpreted. Chr. B. Mich. says: forte ne madefiat et facilius dein computrescat; to the same effect Dahl., Ew., Umbr., Graf: to keep it safe from the hurtful effects of damp. A view which refutes itself; since washing does no kind of harm to the linen girdle, but rather makes it again as good as new. Thus to the point writes Näg., remarking justly at the same time, that the command not to bring the girdle into the water plainly implies that the prophet would have washed it when it had become soiled. This was not to be. The girdle was to remain dirty, and as such to be carried to the Euphrates, in order that, as Ros. and Maur. observed, it might symbolize sordes quas contraxerit populus in dies majores, mores populi magis magisque lapsi, and that the carrying of the soiled girdle to the Euphrates might set forth before the eyes of the people what awaited it, after it had long been borne by God covered with the filth of its sins.—The just appreciation of this prohibition leads us easily to the true meaning of the command in v. 4, to bring the girdle that was on his loins to the Euphrates, and there to conceal it in a cleft in the rock, where it decays. But it is signifies, as Chr. B. Mich., following Jerome, observes, populi Judaici apud Chaldaeos citra Euphratem captivitas et exilium. Graf has objected: “The corruptness of Israel was not a consequence of the Babylonish captivity; the latter, indeed, came about in consequence of the existing corruptness.” But this objection stands and falls with the amphibolia of the word corruptness, decay. Israel was, indeed, morally decayed before the exile; but the mouldering of the girdle in the earth by the Euphrates signifies not the moral but the physical decay of the covenant people, which, again, was a result of the moral decay of the period during which God had, in His long-suffering, borne the people notwithstanding their sins. Wholly erroneous is the view adopted by Gr. from Umbr.: the girdle decayed by the water is the sin-stained people which, intriguing with the foreign gods, had in its pride cast itself loose from its God, and had for long imagined itself secure under the protection of the gods of Chaldea. The hiding of the girdle in the crevice of a rock by the banks of the Euphrates would have been the most unsuitable emblem conceivable for representing the moral corruption of the people. Had the girdle, which God makes to decay by the Euphrates, loosed itself from him and imagined it could conceal itself in a foreign land? as Umbr. puts the case. According to the declaration, v. 9, God will mar the great pride of Judah and Jerusalem, even as the girdle had been marred, which had at His command been carried to the Euphrates and hid there. The carrying of the girdle to the Euphrates is an act proceeding from God, by which Israel is marred; the intriguing of Israel with strange gods in the land of Canaan was an act of Israel’s own, against the will of God.
Jer. 13:6. After the course of many days—these are the seventy years of the captivity—the prophet is to fetch the girdle again. He went, digged (חָפַר, whence we see that the hiding in the cleft of the rock was a burying in the rocky soil of the Euphrates bank), and found the girdle marred, fit for nothing. These words correspond to the effect which the exile was designed to have, which it has had, on the wicked, idolatrous race. The ungodly should as Moses’ law, Lev. 26:36, 39, declared, perish in the land of their enemies; the land of their enemies will devour them, and they that remain shall pine or moulder away in their iniquities and in the iniquities of their fathers. This mouldering (יִמַּקּוּ) is well reproduced in the marring (נִשְׁחַת) of the girdle. It is no contradiction to this, that a part of the people will be rescued from the captivity and brought back to the land of their fathers. For although the girdle which the prophet had put on his loins symbolized the people at large, yet the decay of the same at the Euphrates sets forth only the physical decay of the ungodly part of the people, as v. 10 intimates in clear words: “This evil people that refuses to hear the word of the Lord, etc., shall be as this girdle.” The Lord will mar the גָּאֹון of Judah and Jerusalem. The word means highness in both a good and in an evil sense, glory and self-glory. Here it is used with the latter force. This is shown both by the context, and by a comparison of the passage Lev. 26:19, that God will break the גְּאֹון עֹז of the people by sore judgments, which is the foundation of the present v. 9.—In v. 11 the meaning of the girdle is given, in order to explain the threatening in vv. 9 and 10. As the girdle lies on the loins of a man, so the Lord hath laid Israel on Himself, that it may be to Him for a people and for a praise, for a glory and an adornment, inasmuch as He designed to set it above all other nations and to make it very glorious; cf. Deut. 26:19, whither these words point back.
Jer. 13:12–17. How the Lord will destroy His degenerate people, and how they may yet escape the impending ruin.—V. 12. “And speak unto them this word: Thus hath Jahveh the God of Israel said, Every jar is filled with wine. And when they say to thee, Know we not that every jar is filled with wine? V. 13. Then say to them: Thus hath Jahve said: Behold, I fill all inhabitants of this land—the kings that sit for David upon his throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all inhabitants of Jerusalem—with drunkenness, V. 14. And dash them one against another, the fathers and the sons together, saith Jahve; I will not spare, nor pity, nor have mercy, not to destroy them.— V. 15. Hear ye and give ear! Be not proud, for Jahveh speaketh. V. 16. Give to Jahveh, your God, honour, ere He bring darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the mountains of dusk, and ye look for light, but He turn it into the shadow of death and make it darkness. V. 17. But if ye hear it not, then in concealment shall my soul weep for the pride, and weep and run down shall mine eye with tears, because the flock of Jahve is carried away captive.”
To give emphasis to the threatening conveyed in the symbolical action, the kind and manner of the destruction awaiting them is forcibly set before the various ranks in Judah and Jerusalem by the interpretation, in vv. 12–14, of a proverbial saying and the application of it to them. The circumstantial way in which the figurative saying is brought in in v. 12, is designed to call attention to its import. נֵבֶל, an earthenware vessel, especially the wine jar (cf. Isa. 30:24, Lam. 4:2), is here the emblem of man; cf. 18:6, Isa. 29:16. We must not, as Näg. does, suppose the similar to be used because such jars are an excellent emblem of that carnal aristocratic pride which lacked all substantial merit, by reason of their being of bulging shape, hollow within and without solidity, and of fragile material besides. No stress is laid on the bulging form and hollowness of the jars, but only on their fulness with wine and their brittleness. Nor can aristocratic haughtiness be predicated of all the inhabitants of the land. The saying: Every jar is filled with wine, seemed so plain and natural, that those addressed answer: Of that we are well aware. “The answer is that of the psychical man, who dreams of no deeper sense” (Hitz.). Just this very answer gives the prophet occasion to expound the deeper meaning of this word of God’s. As one fills all wine jars, so must all inhabitants of the land be filled by God with wine of intoxication. Drunkenness is the effect of the intoxicating wine of God’s wrath, Ps. 60:5. This wine Jahveh will give them (cf. 25:15, Isa. 51:17, etc.), so that, filled with drunken frenzy, they shall helplessly destroy one another. This spirit will seize upon all ranks: upon the kings who sit upon the throne of David, not merely him who was reigning at the time; upon the priests and prophets as leaders of the people; and upon all inhabitants of Jerusalem, the metropolis, the spirit and temper of which exercises an unlimited influence upon the temper and destiny of the kingdom at large. I dash them one against the other, as jars are shivered when knocked together. Here Hitz. finds a foreshadowing of civil war, by which they should exterminate one another. Jeremiah was indeed thinking of the staggering against one another of drunken men, but in “dash them,” etc., adhered simply to the figure of jars or pots. But what can be meant by the shivering of pots knocked together, other than mutual destruction? The kingdom of Judah did not indeed fall by civil war; but who can deny that the fury of the various factions in Judah and Jerusalem did really contribute to the fall of the realm? The shattering of the pots does not mean directly civil war; it is given as the result of the drunkenness of the inhabitants, under which they, no longer capable of self-control, dash against and so destroy one another. But besides, the breaking of jars reminds us of the stratagem of Gideon and his 300 warriors, who, by the sound of trumpets and the smashing of jars, threw the whole Midianite camp into such panic, that these foes turned their swords against one another and fled in wild confusion: Judg. 7:19ff., cf. too 1 Sam. 14:20. Thus shall Judah be broken without mercy or pity. To increase the emphasis, there is a cumulation of expressions, as in 21:7; 15:5, cf. Ezek. 5:11; 7:4, 9, etc.
Jer. 13:15ff. With this threatening the prophet couples a solemn exhortation not to leave the word of the Lord unheeded in their pride, but to give God the glory, ere judgment fall on them. To give God the glory is, in this connection, to acknowledge His glory by confession of apostasy from Him and by returning to Him in sincere repentance; cf. Josh. 7:19, Mal. 2:2. “Your God,” who has attested Himself to you as God. The Hiph. יַחְשִׁךְ is not used intransitively, either here or in Ps. 139:12, but transitively: before He brings or makes darkness; cf. Amos 8:9. Mountains of dusk, i.e., mountains shrouded in dusk, are the emblem of unseen stumbling-blocks, on which one stumbles and falls. Light and darkness are well-known emblems of prosperity and adversity, welfare and misery. The suffix in שָׂמָהּ goes with אֹור, which is construed feminine here as in Job 36:32. Shadow of death = deep darkness; עֲרָפֶל, cloudy night, i.e., dark night. The Chet. ישׁית is imperf., and to be read יָשִׁית; the Keri וְשִׁית is uncalled for and incorrect.
Jer. 13:17. Knowing their obstinacy, the prophet adds: if ye hear it (what I have declared to you) not, my soul shall weep. In the concealment, quo secedere lugentes amant, ut impensius flere possint (Chr. B. Mich.). For the pride, sc. in which ye persist. With tears mine eye shall run down because the flock of Jahveh, i.e., the people of God (cf. Zech. 10:3), is carried away into captivity (perfect. proph).
Jer. 13:18–27. The fall of the kingdom, the captivity of Judah, with upbraidings against Jerusalem for her grievous guilt in the matter of idolatry.—V. 18. “Say unto the king and to the sovereign lady: Sit you low down, for from your heads falls the crown of your glory. V. 19. The cities of the south are shut and no man openeth; Judah is carried away captive all of it, wholly carried away captive. V. 20. Lift up your eyes and behold them that come from midnight! Where is the flock that was given thee, thy glorious flock? V. 21. What wilt thou say, if He set over thee those whom thou hast accustomed to thee as familiar friends, for a head? Shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail? V. 22. And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore cometh this upon me? for the plenty of thine iniquity are thy skirts uncovered, thy heels abused. V. 23. Can an Ethiopian change his skin, and a leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to doing evil. V. 24. Therefore will I scatter them like chaff that flies before the wind of the wilderness. V. 25. This is thy lot, thine apportioned inheritance from me, because thou hast forgotten me and trustedst in falsehood. V. 26. Therefore will I turn thy skirts over thy face, that thy shame be seen. V. 27. Thine adultery and thy neighing, the crime of thy whoredom upon the ills, in the fields, I have seen thine abominations. Woe unto thee, Jerusalem! thou shalt not be made clean after how long a time yet!”
From v. 18 on the prophet’s discourse is addressed to the king and the queen-mother. The latter as such exercised great influence on the government, and is in the Books of Kings mentioned alongside of almost all the reigning kings (cf. 1 Kings 15:13, 2 Kings 10:13, etc.); so that we are not necessarily led to think of Jechoniah and his mother in especial. To them he proclaims the loss of the crown and the captivity of Judah. Set yourselves low down (cf. Gesen. § 142, 3, b), i.e., descend from the throne; not in order to turn aside the threatening danger by humiliation, but, as the reason that follows show, because the kingdom is passing from you. For fallen is מַרְאֲשֹׁתֵיכֶם, your head-gear, lit., what is about or on your head (elsewhere pointed מְרַאֲשֹׁות, 1 Sam. 19:13; 26:7), namely, your splendid crown. The perf. here is prophetic. The crown falls when the king loses country and kingship. This is put expressly in v. 19. The meaning of the first half of the verse, which is variously taken, may be gathered from the second. In the latter the complete deportation of Judah is spoken of as an accomplished fact, because it is as sure to happen as if it had taken place already. Accordingly the first clause cannot bespeak expectation merely, or be understood, as it is by Grotius, as meaning that Judah need hope for no help from Egypt. This interpretation is irreconcilable with “the cities of the south.” “The south” is the south country of Judah, cf. Josh. 10:40, Gen. 13:1, etc., and is not to be taken according to the prophetic use of “king of the south,” Dan. 11:5, 9. The shutting of the cities is not to be taken, with Jerome, as siege by the enemy, as in Josh. 6:1. There the closedness is otherwise illustrated: No man was going out or in; here, on the other hand, it is: No man openeth. “Shut” is to be explained according to Isa. 24:10: the cities are shut up by reason of ruins which block up the entrances to them; and in them is none that can open, because all Judah is utterly carried away. The cities of the south are mentioned, not because the enemy, avoiding the capital, had first brought the southern part of the land under his power, as Sennacherib had once advanced against Jerusalem from the south, 2 Kings 18:13f., 19:8 (Graf, Näg., etc.), but because they were the part of the kingdom most remote for an enemy approaching from the north; so that when they were taken, the land was reduced and the captivity of all Judah accomplished. For the form הָגְלָת see Ew. § 194, a, Ges. § 75, Rem. 1. שְׁלֹומִים is adverbial accusative: in entirety, like מֵישָׁרִים, Ps. 58:2, etc. For this cf. גָּלוּת שְׁלֵמָה, Amos 1:6, 9.
The announcement of captivity is carried on in v. 20, where we have first an account of the impression which the carrying away captive will produce upon Jerusalem (vv. 20 and 21), and next a statement of the cause of that judgment (vv. 22–27). In שְׂאִי and רְאִי a feminine is addressed, and, as appears from the suffix in עֵינֵיכֶם, one which is collective. The same holds good of the following verses on to v. 27, where Jerusalem is named, doubtless the inhabitants of it, personified as the daughter of Zion—a frequent case. Näg. is wrong in supposing that the feminines in v. 20 are called for by the previously mentioned queen-mother, that vv. 20–22 are still addressed to her, and that not till v. 23 is there a transition from her in the address to the nation taken collectively and regarded as the mother of the country. The contents of v. 20 do not tally with Näg.’s view; for the queen-mother was not the reigning sovereign, so that the inhabitants of the land could have been called her flock, however great was the influence she might exercise upon the king. The mention of foes coming from the north, and the question coupled therewith: Where is the flock? convey the thought that the flock is carried off by those enemies. The flock is the flock of Jahveh (v. 17), and, in virtue of God’s choice of it, a herd of gloriousness. The relative clause: “that was given thee,” implies that the person addressed is to be regarded as the shepherd or owner of the flock. This will not apply to the capital and its citizens; for the influence exerted by the capital in the country is not so great as to make it appear the shepherd or lord of the people. But the relative clause is in good keeping with the idea of the idea of the daughter of Zion, with which is readily associated that of ruler of land and people. It intimates the suffering that will be endured by the daughter of Zion when those who have been hitherto her paramours are set up as head over her. The verse is variously explained. The old transll. and comm. take פָּקַד עַל in the sense of visit, chastise; so too Chr. B. Mich. and Ros.; and Ew. besides, who alters the text acc. to the LXX, changing יִפְקֹד into the plural יִפְקְדוּ. For this change there is no sufficient reason; and without such change, the signif. visit, punish, gives us no suitable sense. The phrase means also: to appoint or set over anybody; cf. e.g., 15:3. The subject can only be Jahveh. The words from וְאַתְּ onwards form an adversative circumstantial clause: and yet thou hast accustomed them עָלַיִךְ, for אֵלַיִךְ, to thee (cf. for לִמֵּד c. אֶל, 10:2). The connection of the words אַלֻּפִים לְרֹאשׁ depends upon the sig. assigned to אַלֻּפִים. Gesen. (thes.) and Ros. still adhere to the meaning taken by Luther, Vat., and many others, viz., principes, princes, taking for the sense of the whole: whom thou hast accustomed (trained) to be princes over thee. This word is indeed the technical term for the old Edomitish chieftains of clans, Gen. 36:15ff., and is applied as an archaic term by Zech. 9:7 to the tribal princes of Judah; but it does not, as a general rule, mean prince, but familiar, friend, Ps. 55:14, Prov. 16:28, Mic. 7:5; cf. Jer. 11:19. This being the well-attested signification, it is, in the first place, not competent to render עָלַיִךְ over or against thee (adversus te, Jerome); and Hitz.’s exposition: thou hast instructed them to thy hurt, hast taught them a disposition hostile to thee, cannot be justified by usage. In the second place, אלפים cannot be attached to the principal clause, “set over thee,” and joined with “for a head:” if He set over thee—as princes for a head; but it belongs to “hast accustomed,” while only “for a head” goes with “if He set” (as de Wet., Umbr., Näg., etc., construe). The prophet means the heathen kings, for whose favour Judah had hitherto been intriguing, the Babylonians and Egyptians. There is no cogent reason for referring the words, as many comm. do, to the Babylonians alone. For the statement is quite general throughout; and, on the one hand, Judah had, from the days of Ahaz on, courted the alliance not of the Babylonians alone, but of the Egyptians too (cf. 2:18); and, on the other hand, after the death of Josiah, Judah had become subject to Egypt, and had had to endure the grievous domination of the Pharaohs, as Jeremiah had threatened, 2:16. If God deliver the daughter of Zion into the power of these her paramours, i.e., if she be subjected to their rule, then will grief and pain seize on her as on a woman in childbirth; cf. 6:24; 22:23, etc. אֵשֶׁת לֵדָה, woman of bearing; so here, only, elsewhere יֹולֵדָה (cf. the passages cited); לֵדָה is infin., as in Isa. 37:3, 2 Kings 19:3, Hos. 9:11.
Jer. 13:22. This will befall the daughter of Zion for her sore transgressions. Therefore will she be covered with scorn and shame. The manner of her dishonour, discovery of the skirts (here and esp. in v. 26), recalls Nah. 3:5, cf. Isa. 47:3, Hos. 2:5. Chr. B. Mich. and others understand the violent treatment of the heels to be the loading of the feet with chains; but the mention of heels is not in keeping with this. Still less can the exposure of the heels by the upturning of the skirts be called maltreatment of the heels; nor can it be that, as Hitz. holds, the affront is simply specialized by the mention of the heels instead of the person. The thing can only mean, that the person will be driven forth into exile barefoot and with violence, perhaps under the rod; cf. Ps. 89:52.
Jer. 13:23. Judah will not escape this ignominious lot, since wickedness has so grown to be its nature, that it can as little cease therefrom and do good, as an Ethiopian can wash out the blackness of his skin, or a panther change it spots. The consequential clause introduced by גַּם אַתֶּם connects with the possibility suggested in, but denied by, the preceding question: if that could happen, then might even ye do good. The one thing is as impossible as the other. And so the Lord must scatter Judah among the heathen, like stubble swept away by the desert wind, lit., passing by with the desert wind. The desert wind is the strong east wind that blows from the Arabian Desert; see on 4:11.
Jer. 13:25. In v. 25 the discourse draws to a conclusion in such a way that, after a repetition of the manner in which Jerusalem prepares for herself the doom announced, we have again, in brief and condensed shape, the disgrace that is to befall her. This shall be thy lot. Hitz. renders מְנַת מִדַּיִךְ: portion of thy garment, that is allotted for the swelling folds of thy garment (cf. Ruth 3:15, 2 Kings 4:39), on the ground that מַד never means mensura, but garment only. This is, however, no conclusive argument; since so many words admit of two plural forms, so that מִדִּים might be formed from מִדָּה; and since so many are found in the singular in the forms of both genders, so that, alongside of מִדָּה, מַד might also be used in the sense of mensura; especially as both the signiff. measure and garment are derived from the same root meaning of מָדַד. We therefore adhere to the usual rendering, portio mensurae tuae, the share portioned out to thee. אֲשֶׁר, causal, because. Trusted in falsehood, i.e., both in delusive promises (Jer. 7:4, 8) and in the help of beingless gods (Jer. 16:19).—In the וְגַם־אֲנִי lies the force of reciprocation: because thou hast forgotten me, etc., I too have taken means to make retribution on your unthankfulness (Calv.). The threatening of this verse is word for word from Nah. 3:5.—For her lewd idolatry Jerusalem shall be carried off like a harlot amid mockery and disgrace. In v. 27 the language is cumulative, to lay as great stress as possible on Jerusalem’s idolatrous ongoings. Thy lewd neighing, i.e., thy ardent longing for and running after strange gods; cf. 5:8; 2:24f. זִמָּה, as in Ezek. 16:27; 22:9, etc., of the crime of uncleanness, see on Lev. 18:17. The three words are accusatives dependent on רָאִיתִי, though separated from it by the specification of place, and therefore summed up again in “thine abominations.” The addition: in the field, after “upon the hills,” is meant to make more prominent the publicity of the idolatrous work. The concluding sentence: thou shalt not become clean for how long a time yet, is not to be regarded as contradictory of v. 23, which affirms that the people is beyond the reach of reformation; v. 23 is not a hyperbolical statement, reduced within its true limits here. What is said in v. 23 is true of the present generation, which cleaves immoveably to wickedness. It does not exclude the possibility of a future reform on the part of the people, a purification of it from idolatry. Only this cannot be attained for a long time, until after sore and long-lasting, purifying judgments. Cf. 12:14f., 3:18ff. Commentary on the Old Testament: Jeremiah, Lamentations(Vol. VIII)
Repairing the Ruins: An Interview with Cal Thomas
By Cal Thomas 2/01/2012
Tabletalk: Evangelical Christians took center stage in American politics during the years when the Moral Majority was prominent. Was that a good thing or a bad thing for the Church? Why?
Cal Thomas: As Ed Dobson and I wrote in our 1999 book Blinded by Might, there is no biblical command against believers voting. But followers of Jesus, whose kingdom is not of this world, should not think that having the “right” person in office will somehow restore righteousness to a fallen and sin-infested world. How can a fallen leader repair a fallen society? He (or she) can’t. Only God can do that through changed lives. And lives can be changed only by the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it has always been so. As revivals of the past have shown us, the social impact was astounding. So if believers want to see a culture improved (fewer abortions, less drunkenness, fewer divorces, and so on), let their objective be to lead more people to Christ. Those converts will then be “transformed by the renewing of their minds,” and societal transformation will follow. It’s bubble- up, not trickle-down. The problems we face come from our forgetting God and worshipping the golden calf of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In material things and pleasure we trust, not God. That’s why He gives us over to the consequences of an unrestrained lower nature. Politics can’t redeem us from that.
TT: How can Christians be involved in the political process with out compromising their principles?
CT: The entire nation has compromised God’s “principles.” That’s why so few genuine followers of Jesus hold high office. If a majority feared God and thus respected human life and marriage, as just two examples, we wouldn’t have allowed the aborting of more than 50 million babies and wouldn’t be flirting with same-sex “marriage.” The key for a believer who intends to run for office or serve in some other capacity in politics is to realize the limitations of politics and government. God’s power is unlimited. Man’s power is very limited. Too many Christians seem happy to settle for the lesser power because they think it is a shortcut to ratifying their beliefs and seeing them reflected in the public square. That is an illusion. The first thing we learn about Satan is that he is “crafty” or “subtle,” so isn’t it part of his strategy to get us to focus just a little less on Jesus and more on what he is doing? That’s what I would do if I were Satan. You can seduce far more people that way and make them ineffective in promoting God’s kingdom.
TT: In light of the intense and ongoing partisan war, what helpful perspective could you offer Christians as we attempt to stand for our principles in the public square?
CT: I once asked John Stott about this. As a reporter for a TV station in Houston, I covered a city council meeting at which zoning was being discussed. The issue was whether to allow “adult” bookstores in a certain neighborhood. A man testified before the council. He quoted from a King James Bible in opposition to the stores. He was mostly ignored. John Stott told me: “God’s principles work whether we acknowledge their source or not.” I took that to mean that the man with the Bible should have argued against the stores on the basis of their effect on the city. These would include a likely increase in crime, a lowering of tax revenue as upscale businesses might move, a greater police presence that would cost the city, and so forth. I think that’s a good strategy for those who actually want to achieve success, particularly with people for whom the Bible is not the authority it is for believers.
TT: You have a well-known friendship with Bob Beckel, who tends to be more liberal than you politically. What have you learned from him about talking to those with whom we might disagree on many issues?
CT: Bob sits with me in church (when he is not ministering to alcoholics on a Sunday), and we pray together there and when we travel. Before Bob’s conversion, we used to debate on TV and never change each other’s minds. Since his conversion, Bob has devoured the Bible and now sees many things from the Lord’s perspective. By listening to his story, I have a greater appreciation and respect for him as a man, a father, and a fellow American who loves this country as much as I do. We just sometimes have different approaches to making it better. I have come to understand why he holds many of his views and even embraced some of them, as he has mine. But it begins with a relationship — with God and with each other. Most of us know each other by labels — conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat. We speak of those with whom we disagree as being on “the other side.” Bob isn’t on the other side. The Taliban are on the other side. Bob is my brother in Christ and one of my dearest friends.
TT: You speak and write on many subjects. For what are you most severely criticized?
CT: The criticism isn’t always apparent. My wife and I aren’t invited many places. I think some people feel we will ruin a party by hauling out a Bible and preaching. That’s not my style, as those who know me will testify. Columns and commentaries that speak openly about Jesus Christ bring a lot of heat from the pagans and even some “ministers” who tell me Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven. But that is to be expected. If I weren’t being persecuted for the right reasons, I would be denying Jesus, who said I would be persecuted if I seriously followed Him. I don’t know why some believers get upset over persecution. Whatever persecution we experience in America is nothing compared to what believers endure in many other countries.
TT: How does the current political sphere look in comparison to twentyfive years ago? In what direction do you believe it is currently moving?
CT: Everything is right on schedule. The newspapers and TV tell of “wars and rumors of wars,” nation rising against nation, and so forth. Jesus said those are just the beginning of “birth pangs.” We haven’t yet started betraying our parents or turning each other in to the authorities. The gospel has yet to be preached to the entire world (though technology now makes that possible). The world is winding down, and while believers might ocassionally be able to slow the process by doing things God’s way (and not through the ballot box — see above), there is nothing anyone can do to reverse the process. We should not despair over this because it means each day brings us closer to that “new heaven and new earth” we all long to see, with the Tree of Life restored. And by the way, that is not fatalism, or giving in, but faith.
TT: If you were the head of a major news organization, what changes (if any) would you make to the way information is disseminated to the public?
CT: I’d restore my old show on Fox. Seriously, I would practice real diversity, which most of the media talk about but don’t practice. On important issues, I would make sure there was an honest discussion, with solutions given to problems, not just the shouting matches we often hear on TV. I would make sure that voices other than Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were heard when it comes to issues affecting the black community, and I would do stories on what works. We didn’t just crawl out of a cave and have to invent the wheel and discover fire. We have a history of what works — economically, morally, socially and religiously — and what doesn’t work. I would demand my staff report solutions, not repeat the same tired answers that never solve anything, especially in Washington. That, by the way, is one of the objectives of Bob Beckel’s and my bi-weekly USA Today column called “Common Ground.” I would hire more believers who are both smart and good reporters, thus encouraging more young people to follow me and the few other believers in the media (though there are more than some people think). They would be surprised at how many opportunities they have to reach people who are in great need of hearing that God loves them and has a plan for their lives beyond making money and being famous.
The Divine Foundation of Authority
By R.C. Sproul 3/1/2009
“You’re out!” “I’m safe!” “Out!” “Safe!” “Out!” “It’s my ball, and it’s my bat, and I say that I’m safe.” This is how we settled disputes over plays in our pickup baseball games played without the benefit of a referee or umpire. When a disputed play could not be resolved through reason or through yelling, the one who possessed the equipment usually determined the outcome. It was a child’s game in which might made right. It was the nascent expression of the cynical statement: “He who owns the gold, rules.”
These illustrations indicate that at some level ownership is involved in authority. The very word authority has within it the word author. An author is someone who creates and possesses a particular work. Insofar as God is the foundation of all authority, He exercises that foundation because He is the author and the owner of His creation. He is the foundation upon which all other authority stands or falls.
We use the term foundation with respect to the imagery of a building. Houses and commercial buildings are erected upon a foundation. As Jesus indicated in His parables, if the foundation is not solid, the structure will not stand. The house that is built upon the sand will crumble at the first sign of a windstorm. Instead, Jesus commended the building of the house upon a rock. The foundation has to be firm in order for the house to stand.
In the sixteenth century, the critical dispute that arose in the Protestant Reformation focused on two central issues. Historians speak of one as being the material cause, that is, the matter around which the dispute centered. That material cause was the doctrine of justification. The battle was fought over the issue of what is required for a person to be justified in the sight of God. The other issue, the formal one, lurked only slightly under the surface of the external debate about justification: the question of authority. When Luther defended his doctrine in his disputes with Cardinal Cajetan and with the theologian Johann Eck, the Roman Catholic experts called attention to the decrees of earlier church councils and of papal encyclicals to refute Luther’s arguments. Luther in response argued that the edicts of church councils and even the encyclicals of popes can err and often do err. The only final authority Luther would recognize, upon which the controversy could be resolved, was the authority of Scripture, because that authority carried the weight of God’s authority itself.
As a result, the Diet of Worms culminated with Luther’s expression: “Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant because my conscience is held captive by the Word of God, and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. God help me. I can do no other.” In that statement, Luther was affirming publicly his commitment to the principle of sola Scriptura, that the Bible alone is the only authority that can bind the conscience of a person absolutely because it is the only authority that carries with it the intrinsic authority of God Himself.
In the Scriptures we see that God creates the universe and owns the universe. It is His possession, and He governs it by His own authority. The authority by which God governs all things is His autonomous authority. To say that God’s authority is autonomous is to say that God is a law unto Himself. He is not bound by some abstract system of law that exists outside of Himself or independent from Him (ex lex). Nor is God under some external law (sub lego); rather, He is a law unto Himself. This does not mean that He acts or behaves in an arbitrary manner. Rather, God’s activity is directed by God’s own character. And His character is completely righteous. All that He does flows out of His own internal righteousness. His external authority comes from His internal righteousness. In this sense God’s authority is intrinsic. It is found within Himself. It is not borrowed, delegated, or assigned from any other source.
In the same manner, all lesser authorities on heaven and on earth are only as valid as they are delegated by God’s authority. Whatever authority we possess is extrinsic rather than intrinsic. It exists only by delegation. This was the issue in the garden of Eden. The primal sin of Adam and Eve could be described as the grasping for autonomy. They sought to take for themselves the authority that belonged only to God. To act on one’s own authority against the authority of God is the essence of disobedience and of sin. When we grasp authority ourselves and do what is right in our own minds, we are attacking the very foundation of life and of the welfare of human beings.
“You’re out!” “I’m safe!” This question has to be determined by some foundation other than the possession of bats and balls. Justice must reign if we are to escape a life and a world without foundations. Any authority that rules without divine foundation is tyranny.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Authority in Vocation
By Gene Edward Veith 3/1/2009
Do you want to know how Christians can influence the culture? How to have a strong family? Do you want to know the meaning of your life? Do you want to know how authority works? Then attend to the Reformation doctrine of vocation.
This strangely neglected doctrine has to do with how God providentially governs the world of human beings. It also constitutes the theology of the Christian life.
The doctrine of vocation, a term that is just the Latin word for “calling,” deals with how God works through human beings to bestow His gifts. God gives us this day our daily bread by means of the farmer, the baker, the cooks, and the lady at the check-out counter. He creates new life — the most amazing miracle of all — by means of mothers and fathers. He protects us by means of police officers, firemen, and our military. He creates beauty through artists. He heals by working through doctors, nurses, and others whom He has gifted, equipped, and called to the medical professions. He proclaims His Word, administers His sacraments, and cares for His sheep through the calling of pastors.
Luther called vocation a “mask of God.” He said that God milks the cows by means of the milkmaid. We see a menial worker and may even be so presumptuous to look down upon her, but behind that humble façade looms God Himself, providing milk for His children.
And we too are masks of God in all of our multiple callings. We have callings in the church (pastors, elders, choir members, parishioners); in the state (rulers, subjects, voters); in the workplace (employer, employee, factory worker, milkmaid, businessman); and in the family (husband and wife; father and mother; child; grandparent).
Before God, all vocations are equal. Our standing before Him is based solely on Jesus Christ, our sin-bearer, our redeemer, and our righteousness. But as we receive God’s grace in Christ, we are then sent into the world to live out our faith in the daily routines of ordinary life — that is, in our vocations.
The purpose of every vocation is to love and serve our neighbor. God does not need our good works, commented Luther, but our neighbor does. In our vocations we encounter specific neighbors whom we are to love and serve through the work of that calling. Husbands and wives are to love and serve each other; parents love and serve their kids; office and factory workers love and serve their customers; rulers love and serve their subjects; pastors and congregations are to love and serve each other. And God is in it all.
Of course, we also sin in vocation — insisting on being served rather than serving; loving ourselves rather than our neighbors; misusing the gifts and the calling God Himself has given us — we come to Him on Sunday mornings in repentance, hearing God’s Word, being built up in our faith. Whereupon God sends us back into our callings, with all of their trials and tribulations, for that faith to bear fruit in love, service, and sanctification.
One problem people often have with vocation — that of others, as well as their own — is that some vocations exercise authority. “There is no authority except from God,” says the apostle Paul (Rom. 13:1). Strictly speaking, only God has authority in Himself. But as Romans 13 goes on to say, God exercises His authority through the agency of lawful government, punishing wrongdoers and rewarding those who do well, so as to make civil order possible.
Similarly, fathers have an authority in the family because of the fatherhood of God. In marriage, Christ is hidden in the office of the husband. In the church, a pastor wields the authority of God’s Word.
This authority is not inherent in the person but rather comes by virtue of the office. But authority in vocation is not just a matter of who gets to boss whom. Authority in vocation must be exercised in love and service to the neighbor (see Matt. 20:26–27). The ruler is described as “God’s servant” (Rom. 13:4). Masters are reminded that they too have a master (Eph. 6:9).
The vocation of marriage entails only one neighbor to love and serve: one’s spouse. Christ is hidden in marriage. Thus, wives are to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). But note how husbands are to exercise this authority: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). Wives are indeed to submit, but husbands, like Christ, are to give themselves up for their wives.
This self-sacrificial love is the foundation of Christian authority. It allows for no tyranny. A husband is not called to hurt, use, or brutalize his wife. Rather, he is called to love and serve her by giving himself up for her sanctification (v. 26). Parents are not called to harm their children or even provoke them to anger, but rather to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (6:4).
Earthly rulers too are to exercise their office in love and service to their neighbors, that is, to their subjects. According to Romans 13, earthly rulers are called to protect the innocent and punish wrongdoers. A ruler who protects wrongdoers and punishes the innocent has no calling — and thus no authority — from God.
God is hidden in vocations that bear authority. But that puts the pressure on the human being who exercises that authority to act with God’s justice and grace.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
The Marriage Feast
By R.C. Sproul 5/1/1992
Thank you, Gary North. One of the benefits reaped by the impact of the theonomist movement is a renewal of the serious study of the Old Testament law.
As a consequence of the pervasive spirit of antinomianism that has infected contemporary evangelicalism, the law of God has been treated with woeful neglect. In their zeal to recover the importance of divine law, the theonomists have produced significant scholarly expositions of the Old Testament law. In his huge volume Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus, Gary North provides a masterful exposition of many of the laws of the Old Testament that appear arcane to the modern reader. I found his treatment of the case laws of the Holiness Code of Exodus 21–23 particularly helpful. Exodus 21:2–4 presents a conundrum of severe difficulty for the contemporary reader:
If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.
On the surface this text appears to justify a practice that is blatantly cruel, harsh, and severe. Not only do we face the problem of the Old Testament sanction of slavery, but we see the treatment of slaves by which upon their liberation in the sabbatical year they may face separation from their wives and children. This all seems primitive and savage in its conception.
North explains the text in terms of the practice of indentured servanthood and the Jewish practice of exacting a “bride price” from a groom. If a man wanted to take a wife in Israel, he was required to pay a bride price to the girl’s father. The bride price was proof of economic productivity and stability, evidence that the groom was capable of supporting his wife and their subsequent offspring.
(Even in modern times, when a young man asks a girl’s father for her “hand in marriage,” the father usually inquires about the suitor’s ability to provide for his daughter.)
In Exodus 21:3, it is clear that if the servant was already married when he entered into his indentured servitude (to repay debt he was unable to pay), the Law provided that at the time of his liberation, his wife and children would go free with him. In the case of 21:4, the provision of the Law deals with a servant who marries after he enters indentured servitude. The question then becomes, from whence did the servant acquire his bride? Perhaps he married a female servant of his master or a servant from another family. If she had been the daughter of a free man, then the master would have been required to pay the bride price to her father.
The point is clear that the servant did not have the financial means to pay a bride price. It is the master, then, who pays the bride price and assumes legal and covenantal responsibility for the care of the wife and children. He would remain legally responsible for them until the servant was able to get on his feet financially and pay the bride price himself. This law was designed to assure the natural father of the bride that his daughter and grandchildren would have continual support and protection.
The whole system is remarkably displayed in the history of Israel and the church. God redeems the nation Israel out of bondage in Egypt. The indentured servant, if he was unable to purchase his bride, could remain with her if he was adopted by the master as his household servant. So Israel, when she is delivered from bondage, is adopted by God into His family. This adoption symbolizes the only method by which any person, then or now, is ever redeemed.
The second way of escape from bondage was through the bride-redemption system. When God redeemed Israel from Egypt, He not only adopted her but He purchased her as His bride. In both the Old and New Testaments, the people of God are called the bride of God. Isaiah declared, “For your Maker is your husband” (Isaiah 54:5a).
The New Testament builds on this analogy. The church is the bride of Christ. He has redeemed her. He has purchased her. The bride-price Jesus paid was the most expensive price ever paid for a bride. With that price He assumed covenantal responsibility for her provision, nurture, and protection.
When Christ purchased His bride He bought a bride who was “damaged merchandise.” His bride was sullied by manifest impurities. She was covered by spots and marred by wrinkles. Yet what He purchased He also sanctifies to purify her:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her: to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25–27).
Christ prepares His bride for His wedding feast. The wedding feast is envisioned in Revelation 19:7–9:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him the glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we celebrate not only the redeeming purchase price paid by the Bridegroom, but symbolically the marriage feast of the Lamb to which every believer is called.
Jonathan Edwards argued that the coming of the Bridegroom comes to each of us at our deaths. He said:
“The coming of Christ, His destroying the Jewish state and church, and setting up the Gospel dispensation, is compared to the coming of the Bridegroom, and His marriage to the church; the Gospel day, to the wedding day; and the procession of God’s house under the Gospel, to the wedding feast; and Gospel ministers, to servants sent out to invite persons to the wedding.”
It is those who hunger and thirst after His righteousness who will receive an invitation on that great day. It is those who are ever prepared for the bridegroom, who cry out, “Maranatha, Lord come.”
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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 89I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD
89 A Maskil Of Ethan The Ezrahite.
1 I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
3 You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah
5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
6 For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,
7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around him?
8 O LORD God of hosts,
who is mighty as you are, O LORD,
with your faithfulness all around you?
9 You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11 The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
10/1/2016 Truth and True Peace
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He did so for the sake of the peace, purity, and unity of the church. His first thesis called the church to genuine and continual repentance, and among his last theses he called the church to true peace through Christ. Luther wasn’t a rebellious schismatic who sought to lead a revolt against Rome; he was an ardent herald and defender of the gospel who, due to his obstinate and unwavering faithfulness, drew Rome’s ire in the midst of its revolt against the truth, the gospel, and the true church. Luther wasn’t a divider, he was a peacemaker. For there to be true peace and true unity, there must first be truth, and truth divides before it can unite. Truth must conquer before it can liberate. Luther did not divide the church—Rome divided the church by infusing the church with the false doctrines of men. The Reformers didn’t leave Rome—Rome left them by leaving the truth, the gospel, and the church. The Reformers sought reform in Rome, and in return, Rome sought their heads. Rome divided the true church from the false church and kicked out the true church.
The forerunners of the Reformation (such as Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, and Jan Hus) and the Magisterial Reformers of the sixteenth century (such as Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, and John Calvin) are rightly called Reformers, but they were Reformers in the most basic sense of the word. They sought reform in order to bring the church back to her original form. For something to be reformed, there must first be the form itself—and the form the Reformers sought was the original form of the church found in the only infallible guide for faith and life, namely, Scripture, and Scripture alone. Ultimately, the Reformers were not seeking to change the nature of the church, but to call the church back to her biblical identity and to who she must be in order to be the true church.
The Reformers wanted peace, but not at the expense of truth, as Luther cried, “Peace if possible, but truth at all costs.” True peace only comes through true repentance. In calling Rome to repentance, Luther didn’t set out to divide the church but to unite the church and bring about real peace by proclaiming the truth. True peace is found only in the truth of Jesus Christ, and thus real peace and unity can only exist where truth reigns. The true church knows the truth, and the truth sets us free (John 8:32). And when we are free in Christ, we will also seek the truth and, in turn, the peace, purity, and unity of the church for the glory of God alone, soli Deo gloria.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
He conquered from Austria to Palestine, Holland to Egypt. He uncovered the Pyramid treasures and the Rosetta Stone. He sold a million square miles of land to U.S. to raise money for his army. His name was Napoleon Bonaparte, born this day, August 15, 1769. Though emperor for life, disasters in Russia and later Waterloo led to his banishment to the Island of Saint Helena. There Napoleon wrote: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires… upon force!… Christ founded His upon love; and at this hour millions… would die for Him.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Scratch the Christian
and you find the pagan - spoiled.
--- Israel Zangwill
Through the humbling dispensations of Divine Providence,
men are sometimes fitted for his service.
John Woolman's Journal
If your religion does not make you holy, it will damn you. It is simply painted pageantry to go to hell in.
--- Charles Spurgeon
He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.
The Complete Works of John Bunyan: With an Introduction (Classic Reprint)
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
12. Now the besieged had plenty of corn within the city, and indeed of all necessaries, but they wanted water, because there was no fountain in the city, the people being there usually satisfied with rain water; yet is it a rare thing in that country to have rain in summer, and at this season, during the siege, they were in great distress for some contrivance to satisfy their thirst; and they were very sad at this time particularly, as if they were already in want of water entirely, for Josephus seeing that the city abounded with other necessaries, and that the men were of good courage, and being desirous to protract the siege to the Romans longer than they expected, ordered their drink to be given them by measure; but this scanty distribution of water by measure was deemed by them as a thing more hard upon them than the want of it; and their not being able to drink as much as they would made them more desirous of drinking than they otherwise had been; nay, they were as much disheartened hereby as if they were come to the last degree of thirst. Nor were the Romans unacquainted with the state they were in, for when they stood over against them, beyond the wall, they could see them running together, and taking their water by measure, which made them throw their javelins thither the place being within their reach, and kill a great many of them.
13. Hereupon Vespasian hoped that their receptacles of water would in no long time be emptied, and that they would be forced to deliver up the city to him; but Josephus being minded to break such his hope, gave command that they should wet a great many of their clothes, and hang them out about the battlements, till the entire wall was of a sudden all wet with the running down of the water. At this sight the Romans were discouraged, and under consternation, when they saw them able to throw away in sport so much water, when they supposed them not to have enough to drink themselves. This made the Roman general despair of taking the city by their want of necessaries, and to betake himself again to arms, and to try to force them to surrender, which was what the Jews greatly desired; for as they despaired of either themselves or their city being able to escape, they preferred a death in battle before one by hunger and thirst.
14. However, Josephus contrived another stratagem besides the foregoing, to get plenty of what they wanted. There was a certain rough and uneven place that could hardly be ascended, and on that account was not guarded by the soldiers; so Josephus sent out certain persons along the western parts of the valley, and by them sent letters to whom he pleased of the Jews that were out of the city, and procured from them what necessaries soever they wanted in the city in abundance; he enjoined them also to creep generally along by the watch as they came into the city, and to cover their backs with such sheep-skins as had their wool upon them, that if any one should spy them out in the night time, they might be believed to be dogs. This was done till the watch perceived their contrivance, and encompassed that rough place about themselves.
15. And now it was that Josephus perceived that the city could not hold out long, and that his own life would be in doubt if he continued in it; so he consulted how he and the most potent men of the city might fly out of it. When the multitude understood this, they came all round about him, and begged of him not to overlook them while they entirely depended on him, and him alone; for that there was still hope of the city's deliverance, if he would stay with them, because every body would undertake any pains with great cheerfulness on his account, and in that case there would be some comfort for them also, though they should be taken: that it became him neither to fly from his enemies, nor to desert his friends, nor to leap out of that city, as out of a ship that was sinking in a storm, into which he came when it was quiet and in a calm; for that by going away he would be the cause of drowning the city, because nobody would then venture to oppose the enemy when he was once gone, upon whom they wholly confided. 16. Hereupon Josephus avoided letting them know that he was to go away to provide for his own safety, but told them that he would go out of the city for their sakes; for that if he staid with them, he should be able to do them little good while they were in a safe condition; and that if they were once taken, he should only perish with them to no purpose; but that if he were once gotten free from this siege, he should be able to bring them very great relief; for that he would then immediately get the Galileans together, out of the country, in great multitudes, and draw the Romans off their city by another war. That he did not see what advantage he could bring to them now, by staying among them, but only provoke the Romans to besiege them more closely, as esteeming it a most valuable thing to take him; but that if they were once informed that he was fled out of the city, they would greatly remit of their eagerness against it. Yet did not this plea move the people, but inflamed them the more to hang about him. Accordingly, both the children and the old men, and the women with their infants, came mourning to him, and fell down before him, and all of them caught hold of his feet, and held him fast, and besought him, with great lamentations, that he would take his share with them in their fortune; and I think they did this, not that they envied his deliverance, but that they hoped for their own; for they could not think they should suffer any great misfortune, provided Josephus would but stay with them.
17. Now Josephus thought, that if he resolved to stay, it would be ascribed to their entreaties; and if he resolved to go away by force, he should be put into custody. His commiseration also of the people under their lamentations had much broken that his eagerness to leave them; so he resolved to stay, and arming himself with the common despair of the citizens, he said to them, "Now is the time to begin to fight in earnest, when there is no hope of deliverance left. It is a brave thing to prefer glory before life, and to set about some such noble undertaking as may be remembered by late posterity." Having said this, he fell to work immediately, and made a sally, and dispersed the enemies' out-guards, and ran as far as the Roman camp itself, and pulled the coverings of their tents to pieces, that were upon their banks, and set fire to their works. And this was the manner in which he never left off fighting, neither the next day, nor the day after it, but went on with it for a considerable number of both days and nights.
by D.H. Stern
He will serve kings, not obscure people.
by Frank W. Boreham
I was once advised to write a novel. I scouted the suggestion at the time; I scout it still. If you write a novel, you run a great risk. One of these days somebody may read it—you never know what queer things people may do nowadays. And if somebody should read it, your secret is out, and the paucity of your imagination stands grimly exposed. No, I shall not write a novel, although this article will be something in the nature of a novelette. For I have found a heroine, and many a full-blown novelist, having found a heroine, would consider that he had come upon a novel ready made. My heroine is Lily; and Lily—to break the news gently—was a pig. I say was advisedly, for Lily is dead, and therein lies the pathos of my story. And so I have my heroine, and I have my story, and I have my strong suffusion of sentiment all ready to my hand; and really, I feel half inclined to write my novel after all. But let me state the facts—for which I am prepared to vouch—and then it will be time enough to see if we can weave them into a great and classical romance.
Away on the top of a hill, in a rural district of Tasmania, there stands a quaint little cottage. Down the slopes around, and away along the distant valleys, are great belts of virgin bush. But here on the hill is our quaint little cottage, and in or about the cottage you will find a quaint little couple. They may not be able to discuss the latest aspects of the Balkan question, or the Irish crisis, or the Mexican embroglio; but they can discuss questions that are very much older and that are likely to last very much longer. For they can discuss fowls and sheep and pigs; and, depend upon it, fowls and sheep and pigs were discussed long before the Balkan question was dreamed of, and fowls and sheep and pigs will be discussed long after the Balkan question is forgotten. And so the old couple make you feel ashamed of your simpering superficiality; you are amazed that you can have grown so excited about the things of a moment; and you blush for your own ignorance of the things that were and are and shall be. Yes, John and Mary can discuss fowls, for they have a dozen of them, and they call each bird by name. Whilst poor Mary's back was turned for a moment the rooster flew on to the table.
'Really, Tom, you naughty boy!' she cried, on discovering the outrage. 'I am ashamed of you!' And to impress the whole feathered community with the enormity of the offence, she proceeded to drive them all out of the kitchen.
'Go on, Lucie,' she cried, a note of sadness betraying itself in her voice in spite of her assumed severity. 'Go on, Lucie,' and she flapped her apron to show that she meant it, much as an advancing army might defiantly flutter its flag. 'Go on; and you too, Minnie; and Nellie, and Kate, and Nancie; you must all go! It was a dreadful thing to do; I don't know what you were thinking of, Tom!' I said that John and Mary could discuss sheep; but their flock was a very limited one, for it consisted entirely of Birdie, the pet lamb. I cannot tell—probably through some defect in my imagination—why they called him 'Birdie,' nor, for the matter of that, why they called him a lamb. I can imagine that he may have been a lamb once; but of feathers I could discover no trace at all. Yes, after all, these are prosaic details, and only show how incompetent a novelist I should prove to be. I grovel when I ought to soar. John and Mary were very fond of Birdie, and Birdie was very fond of them. He came trotting up when he was called, wagging his long tail as though it were proof positive that he was still a lamb. It was scarcely a triumph of logic on Birdie's part, and yet it was just about as good as the artistic subterfuges by which lots of us try to convince the world and his wife that we are still in the charming stage of lamb-like simplicity. And then there was Lily.
The old couple were very fond of Lily. How carefully they made her bed on cold nights! How considerately they fed her on boiled potatoes, skim milk, and other wondrous delicacies! She, too, came shambling up whenever she heard her name, and, with a grunt, acknowledged their bounty. 'Dear old Lily,' poor Mary exclaimed fervently, as Lily lifted her snout to be rubbed, and looked with queer, piggish eyes into those of her doting mistress.
Yes, Lily was a pig, but she was none the worse for that; and if any ridiculous person objects to my taking a pig for my heroine, I shall take offence and write no more novels. Lily, I repeat, was none the worse for being a pig. And I am sure that John and Mary were none the worse for loving her. It is always safe to love, for if you love that which cannot profit by your love, your love comes back to you, like Noah's dove, and you yourself are none the poorer. But I am not at all sure that affection was wasted on Lily. Why should it be? There is no disgrace in being born a pig. It did not even show bad taste on Lily's part, for Lily was not asked. She came; and found, on arrival, that she was what men called a pig; and as a pig she performed her part so well that those who knew her grew very fond of her. What more can the best of us do? And, after all, why this squeamishness? Why this revulsion of feeling when I announce that my heroine is a pig? I aver that it is a species of snobbery—a very contemptible species of snobbery. Booker Washington used to declare that a high-grade Berkshire boar, or a Poland China sow, is one of the finest sights on this planet. And one of our own philosophers has gone into rhapsodies over the pig. 'Pigs,' he says, 'always seem to me like a fallen race that has seen better days. They are able, intellectual, inquisitive creatures. When they are driven from place to place, they are not gentle or meek, like cows and sheep, who follow the line of least resistance. The pig is suspicious and cautious; he is sure that there is some uncomfortable plot on foot, not wholly for his good, which he must try to thwart if he can. Then, too, he never seems quite at home in his deplorably filthy surroundings; he looks at you, up to the knees in ooze, out of his little eyes as if he would live in a more cleanly way if he were permitted. Pigs always remind me of the mariners of Homer, who were transformed by Circe; there is a dreadful humanity about them, as if they were trying to endure their base conditions philosophically, waiting for their release.' All this I entreat my critic to lay well to heart before he judges me too severely for selecting Lily as my heroine.
I suppose the truth is, if only my supercilious critics could be trusted to tell the whole truth, that Lily is not good-looking enough for them. But that, again, is all a question of taste. Beauty is relative and not absolute. My critics may themselves be at fault. The real trouble may be, not want of comeliness in Lily, but a sad lack of appreciation in themselves. I notice that the champion Yorkshire sow at the Sydney Show this year was Mr. E. Jenkins' 'Queen of Beauty'; and as I gazed upon her photograph and noted her alluring name, I thought once more of Lily and laughed in my sleeve at my critics. I once spent a week with an old Lincolnshire gentleman at Kirwee, in New Zealand; and almost before I had been able to bolt the meal that awaited my arrival, he begged me to come and see the pigs. And at the very first animal to which we came my happy host rubbed his hands in an ecstasy of pride, whilst his eyes fairly sparkled. 'Bean't he a beauty?' he asked me excitedly. And I answered confidently that he was. I could see at a glance that the pig was a beauty to him; and if he was a beauty to him, he was a beauty, and there remained no more to be said. I remember reading a story of two ministers who met beneath the hospitable roof of an old-fashioned English farm-house. One of them no sooner approached the table than he uttered an exclamation of delight. Picking up one of the cups, he spoke of the wonderful beauty of the china. He held the plates up to the light and asked the others to see how thin they were, and went into ecstasies over the wondrous old china that had been in the farm-house for many generations. The other took little interest in his talk, and could not be aroused to enthusiasm over the china; but when the farmer took out of his cupboard some old books, one of which was a black-letter commentary, he became excited. He turned the pages over lovingly, and pointed to the quaint initials, and became eloquent over their beauties. The farmer thought both men silly. Neither the china nor the books seemed precious to him. 'What a heap o' nonsense ye be talking surely,' he said. 'Now if ye want to see something worth seeing, come along o' me, and I'll show you the finest litter o' pigs in the country.'
I know, of course, that, beaten at every other point, my critics will take their stand on dietetic grounds. 'How can you have a pig for your heroine?' they will ask, with their noses turned up in disgust. 'See what a pig eats!' Now I confess that this objection did appear to me to be serious until I went into the matter a little more carefully. Before abandoning poor Lily, and consigning her to everlasting obscurity, it seemed to me that I owed it to her, as a matter of common gallantry, to investigate this charge. An author has no more right than any other man to toy with feminine affections; and having pledged myself to Lily as my heroine, I dared not commit a breach of promise, save on most serious grounds. Into this matter of Lily's diet I therefore plunged, with results that have surprised myself. I find that Lily is the most fastidious of eaters. Experiments made in Sweden show that, out of 575 plants, the goat eats 449, and refuses 126; the sheep, out of 528 plants, eats 387, and refuses 141; the cow, out of 494 plants, eats 276, and refuses 218; the horse, out of 474 plants, eats 262, and refuses 212; whilst the pig, out of 243 plants, eats 72, and refuses 171. From all these fiery ordeals my heroine, therefore, emerges triumphant, and her critics cut a sorry figure. Theirs is the melancholy fate of all those who will insist on judging from appearances. It is the oldest mistake in the world, and it is certainly the saddest. Many, like Lily, have been judged hastily and falsely, and, as in Lily's case, the evil thought has clung to them as though it were a charge established, and under that dark cloud they have lived shadowed and embittered lives. Half the pathos of the universe lies just there.
One thing affords me unbounded pleasure. If I take Lily for my heroine after all, I shall be following a noble precedent—Michael Fairless, in The Roadmender, did something very much like it. 'In early spring,' she says, 'I took a long tramp. Towards afternoon, tired and thirsty, I sought water at a little lonely cottage. Bees worked and sang over the thyme and marjoram in the garden; and in a homely sty lived a solemn black pig, a pig with a history. It was no common utilitarian pig, but the honoured guest of the old couple who lived there; and the pig knew it. A year before, their youngest and only surviving child, then a man of five-and-twenty, had brought his mother the result of his savings in the shape of a fine young pig. A week later he lay dead of the typhoid. Hence the pig was sacred, cared for, and loved by this Darby and Joan.
'"'E be mos' like a child to me and the mother, an' mos' as sensible as a Christian, 'e be," the old man said.'
What a world of illusion this is, to be sure! It takes a good pair of eyes to see through its good-humoured trickery. You see a pig turning this way and that way as he wanders aimlessly about the yard, and you never dream of romance. And yet that pig is none other than Lily! You see another pig in a commonplace sty, and you never dream of pathos; but old Joan wipes a tear from her eye with her apron when she remembers how that pig came into her possession. There is a world of poetry in pig-sties. Yes, and pathos, too, of its kind. For, as I said, Lily is dead. It was this way.
John and Mary are not rich; and a pig is a pig.
'What about Lily, Mary?' John asked awkwardly one day. 'You see, Mary, she's got to die. If we keep her, she'll die. And if we sell her, she'll only die. If we keep her, Mary, she may die of some disease, and we shall see her in pain. If we sell her, she will die suddenly, and feel no pain. And then, Mary,' he continued slowly, as though afraid to introduce so prosaic an aspect of so pathetic a theme, 'and then, Mary, if she dies here, look at the loss, for Lily's a pig, you know! And if we sell her, look at the gain! And with part of the money we can get another pet, and be just as fond of it.'
There were protests and there were tears, but Lily went to market.
Awhile afterwards John came home from the city with a parcel. 'Mary,' he said hesitatingly, 'I've brought ye home a bit o' Lily! I thought I'd like to see how she'd eat.'
Next morning at breakfast they neither of them ate heartily, but they both tasted. There is food that is too sacred for a glut of appetite.
'Ah, well,' said John, at last, 'those who eat Lily will none of them say anything but good of her, that's one comfort.'
And Mary went silently off to see if she could find another.
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A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Signs of the new birth
Ye must be born again. --- John 3:7.
The answer to the question “How can a man be born when he is old?” is—When he is old enough to die—to die right out to his ‘rag rights,’ to his virtues, to his religion, to everything, and to receive into himself the life which never was there before. The new life manifests itself in conscious repentance and unconscious holiness.
“As many as received Him.” (John 1:12.) Is my knowledge of Jesus born of internal spiritual perception, or is it only what I have learned by listening to others? Have I something in my life that connects me with the Lord Jesus as my personal Saviour? All spiritual history must have a personal knowledge for its bedrock. To be born again means that I see Jesus.
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3.) Do I seek for signs of the Kingdom, or do I perceive God’s rule? The new birth gives a new power of vision whereby I begin to discern God’s rule. His rule was there all the time, but true to His nature; now that I have received His nature, I can see His rule.
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin,”
(1 John 3:9.) Do I seek to stop sinning or have I stopped sinning? To be born of God means that I have the supernatural power of God to stop sinning. In the Bible it is never—Should a Christian sin? The Bible puts it emphatically—A Christian must not sin. The effective working of the new birth life in us is that we do not commit sin, not merely that we have the power not to sin, but that we have stopped sinning. 1 John 3:9 does not mean that we cannot sin; it means that if we obey the life of God in us, we need not sin.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
There were people around;
I would have spoken with them.
But the situation had got beyond
Language. Machines were invented
To cope, but they also were limited
By our expectations. Men stared
With a sort of growing resentment
At life that was ubiquitous and
Unseizable. A sense of betrayal
At finding themselves alive at all
Maddened the young; the older,
Following the narrowing perspectives
Of art, squinted at where a god died.
Between fierce alternatives
There was need as always of a third
Way. History was the proliferation
Of the offerers of such. Fortunes were made
On the ability to disappoint.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 21:18–19 / When men quarrel and one strikes the other with stone or fist, and he does not die but has to take to his bed—if he then gets up and walks outdoors on his staff, the assailant shall go unpunished, except that he must pay for his idleness and his cure.
MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 30, 17 / Rabbi Shimon says, “There are many warnings written here, as it says, ‘When men quarrel and one strikes the other.’ No good thing, and no peace, ever come from arguing. Cain slew his brother only because of an argument, ‘And one strikes the other with stone or fist.’ God adds a warning here, as it says, ‘if he then gets up and walks outdoors.’
Why is [the name] ‘God/Elohim’ mentioned in each case? Because the creatures are steeped in the Evil Urge, as it says, ‘Since the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth’ (Genesis 8:21). If the Holy One, praised is He, were to swallow up the Evil Urge, everyone would come under His wings. And the Holy One, praised is He, would then put it [the Evil Urge] to death. You will find that the Evil Urge is what causes humans to sin, and it [the Evil Urge] is the one who slays him, as it says, ‘They make their own laws and rules’ (Habakkuk 1:7). Therefore, the Holy One, praised is He, warns us about the rules in the Torah, as it says, ‘These are the rules’ (Exodus 21:1). The Holy One, praised is He, said, ‘Observe the rule in this world, and I will save you from the rule of Geihinnom.’ ”
CONTEXT / Noting the many laws and regulations in this chapter, Rabbi Shimon says, “There are many warnings written here, and he focuses on one of them, as it says, ‘When men quarrel and one strikes the other.’ ” Rabbi Shimon comments that no good thing, and no peace, ever come from arguing. As proof, he cites the example of Cain and Abel, where Cain slew his brother only because of an argument. In the Genesis story, Cain becomes jealous of his brother. The Rabbis assume that some argument ensued and that Cain slew Abel as a result of this quarrel. Thus, the verse in Exodus 21 is applied by the Rabbis directly to Cain and Abel: “And one strikes the other with a stone or fist.” The Rabbis interpret the verse to mean even more than a prohibition against murder: God adds a warning here, as it says, “if he then gets up and walks outdoors.” Even if you do not kill him but only hit the person, and he is still able to walk around, you will still have to compensate him for his injury.
Why is [the name] “God/Elohim,” the divine appellation that the Rabbis associated with justice, mentioned in each case, that is, in so many of the criminal cases cited in Exodus 21–22? The name Elohim usually means God, but in these cases, we know from the context that the word means human judges. Why, then, is Elohim used, rather than a more common word, shofetim, for judges? Because the creatures are steeped in [שְׁטוּפִים/shetufim] the Evil Urge, as it says, “Since the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). In choosing the word שְׁטוּפִים/shetufim, “steeped in,” the Rabbis are setting up a wordplay: שְׁטוּפִים/shetufim sounds like שׁוֹפְטִים/shofetim, “judges.” This play on letters serves to make a point: Since human beings are inherently inclined to do evil, human judges alone might not be sufficient to assure justice in the world. Therefore, the Bible uses the word Elohim when it means judges to tell us that God is an integral part of the judicial process.
The Rabbis do not answer the implied question, “Why doesn’t God simply destroy the Evil Urge?” Instead, they focus on our part in the equation: Humans die because of their own sins, and “it,” the Evil Urge, slays “him,” man, for those sins. As it says, “They make their own laws and rules” (Habakkuk 1:7). Those who make their own laws—as opposed to following God’s rules—cause their own demise. Therefore, the Holy One, praised is He, warns us about the rules in the Torah, as it says, “These are the rules”
(Exodus 21:1). The Holy One, praised is He, said, “Observe the rule in this world, and I will save you from the rule of Geihinnom,” the place, according to the Rabbis, where the wicked are punished after death.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to beknown as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He choseto be mistreated along with the people of God ratherthan to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ asof greater value than the treasures of Egypt,because he was looking ahead to his reward.
--- Hebrews 11:24–26.
As though [the writer of Hebrews] said, “No one of you has left a palace… nor such treasures, nor, when you might have been a king’s son, have you despised this, as Moses did.” (The Early Church Fathers--Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series: 14 Volumes (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14)) And that he did not simply leave, [the writer] expressed by saying, he “refused,” that is, he hated, he turned away. For when heaven was set before him, it was needless to admire an Egyptian palace.
And [the writer] did not say Moses regarded heaven and the things in heaven of greater value than the treasures of Egypt but—what? Disgrace for the sake of Christ he counted better than being at ease, and this itself was reward.
“He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” He called unwillingness to be mistreated with the rest “sin.” If then he counted it sin not to be ready to be mistreated with the rest, it follows that suffering must be a great good, since he threw himself into it from the royal palace.
But this he did seeing some great things before him. “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ of greater value than the treasures of Egypt.” What is “disgrace for the sake of Christ”? It is being disgraced in such ways as that [which] Christ endured, or that [which Moses] endured for Christ’s sake. It is disgrace for the sake of Christ when you are reproached by those of your own family or by those whom you are benefiting.
In these words [the writer of Hebrews] encouraged [his readers], by showing that even Christ suffered these things, and Moses also, two illustrious persons. But neither did the one send forth lightning nor the other feel any [anger], but he was reviled and endured all things. Since therefore it was probable that [the readers] also would bear such things and would long for the reward, [the writer] says that even Christ and Moses had suffered the like. So then ease is [the reward] of sin, but to be disgraced, of Christ. For what then do you wish? Disgrace for the sake of Christ, or ease?
--- John Chrysostom
My Victory August 15
Rev. William Anderson of Philadelphia’s North United Presbyterian Church saw a boy dart into a grocery store. He followed him, asking, “Where do you go to Sabbath school?” Nine-year-old Robert McQuilkin replied, “Nowhere.” Anderson invited him. “And I can promise you a wonderful teacher, too,” he added. “William Parker. He has a fine class of boys.”
At age 12, Robert united with the church, saying, “When I grow up I am going to be a minister; the Lord wants me.” But as a teen, he grew dissatisfied with his Christian experience. Though active among his church’s youth, he wrestled with anxiety and doubt. On Christmas Eve, 1904, he wrote, “Have come much closer to Christ, advanced spiritually but not near enough.” He entered the University of Pennsylvania and the following summer took time to attend a missionary conference on the New Jersey coast. The speaker, Dr. Charles Trumbull, shared his testimony, admitting that there had been great fluctuations in his own spiritual life. But he had discovered that “the resources of the Christian life, my friends, are just—Jesus Christ. That is all. But that is enough.”
McQuilkin sought out Trumbull, the two talked, and on August 15, 1911, McQuilkin entered a prayer room. There came to me this impression: I am going into that room, and I do not want to come out before this matter is settled, and I have taken Christ as my Victory for daily living.
McQuilkin knelt and consciously surrendered every sector of his life to Christ—his sins, his “doubtful things,” his doubts, his loved ones, his fiancée, his past failures, his future. When I finished, I had no special emotion, and I saw no vision. But it did seem for the first time consciously in my life that there were just two persons in the universe—my Lord and I, and nothing else mattered except the will of that other person.
For the next 40 years, the Holy Spirit flowed through McQuilkin like rivers of living water—and out of his ministry came Columbia Bible College/Columbia International University in South Carolina, today one of the great Christian and missionary training centers on earth.
Every child of God can defeat the world, and our faith is what gives us this victory. No one can defeat the world without having faith in Jesus as the Son of God. --- 1 John 5:4,5.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 15
“Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide.” --- Genesis 24:63.
Very admirable was his occupation. If those who spend so many hours in idle company, light reading, and useless pastimes, could learn wisdom, they would find more profitable society and more interesting engagements in meditation than in the vanities which now have such charms for them. We should all know more, live nearer to God, and grow in grace, if we were more alone. Meditation chews the cud and extracts the real nutriment from the mental food gathered elsewhere. When Jesus is the theme, meditation is sweet indeed. Isaac found Rebecca while engaged in private musings; many others have found their best beloved there.
Very admirable was the choice of place. In the field we have a study hung round with texts for thought. From the cedar to the hyssop, from the soaring eagle down to the chirping grasshopper, from the blue expanse of heaven to a drop of dew, all things are full of teaching, and when the eye is divinely opened, that teaching flashes upon the mind far more vividly than from written books. Our little rooms are neither so healthy, so suggestive, so agreeable, or so inspiring as the fields. Let us count nothing common or unclean, but feel that all created things point to their Maker, and the field will at once be hallowed.
Very admirable was the season. The season of sunset as it draws a veil over the day, befits that repose of the soul when earthborn cares yield to the joys of heavenly communion. The glory of the setting sun excites our wonder, and the solemnity of approaching night awakens our awe. If the business of this day will permit it, it will be well, dear reader, if you can spare an hour to walk in the field at eventide, but if not, the Lord is in the town too, and will meet with thee in thy chamber or in the crowded street. Let thy heart go forth to meet him.
Evening - August 15
“And I will give you an heart of flesh.” --- Ezekiel 36:26.
A heart of flesh is known by its tenderness concerning sin. To have indulged a foul imagination, or to have allowed a wild desire to tarry even for a moment, is quite enough to make a heart of flesh grieve before the Lord. The heart of stone calls a great iniquity nothing, but not so the heart of flesh.
“If to the right or left I stray,
That moment, Lord, reprove;
And let me weep my life away,
For having grieved thy love”
The heart of flesh is tender of God’s will. My Lord Will-be-will is a great blusterer, and it is hard to subject him to God’s will; but when the heart of flesh is given, the will quivers like an aspen leaf in every breath of heaven, and bows like an osier in every breeze of God’s Spirit. The natural will is cold, hard iron, which is not to be hammered into form, but the renewed will, like molten metal, is soon moulded by the hand of grace. In the fleshy heart there is a tenderness of the affections. The hard heart does not love the Redeemer, but the renewed heart burns with affection towards him. The hard heart is selfish and coldly demands, “Why should I weep for sin? Why should I love the Lord?” But the heart of flesh says; “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee; help me to love thee more!” Many are the privileges of this renewed heart; “’Tis here the Spirit dwells, ’tis here that Jesus rests.” It is fitted to receive every spiritual blessing, and every blessing comes to it. It is prepared to yield every heavenly fruit to the honour and praise of God, and therefore the Lord delights in it. A tender heart is the best defence against sin, and the best preparation for heaven. A renewed heart stands on its watchtower looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Have you this heart of flesh?
HAVE THINE OWN WAY, LORD
Adelaide A. Pollard, 1862–1934
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father, We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
An elderly woman at a prayer meeting one night pleaded, “It really doesn’t matter what you do with us, Lord, just have your way with our lives.” At this meeting was Adelaide Pollard, a rather well-known itinerant Bible teacher who was deeply discouraged because she had been unable to raise the necessary funds for a desired trip to Africa to do missionary service. She was moved by the older woman’s sincere and dedicated request of God.
At home that Evening Miss Pollard meditated on Jeremiah 18:3, 4:
Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, he wrought a work on the wheels, and the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Before retiring that Evening, Adelaide Pollard completed the writing of all four stanzas of this hymn as it is sung today. The hymn first appeared in published form in 1907.
Often into our lives come discouragements and heartaches that we cannot understand. As children of God, however, we must learn never to question the ways of our sovereign God—but simply to say:
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
as in Thy presence humbly I bow.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!
For Today: Psalm 27:14; Romans 6:13, 14; 9:20, 21; Galatians 2:20
Breathe this ancient prayer: “I am willing, Lord, to receive what Thou givest, to lack what Thou withholdest, to relinquish what Thou takest, to surrender what Thou claimest, to suffer what Thou ordainest, to do what Thou commandest, to wait until Thou sayest ‘Go.’ ” Reflect on these words again as you go ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
The notion of the sovereignty of God bears the same date with the notion of his Godhead; and by the same way that he reveals himself, he reveals his authority over us: whether it be by creatures without, or conscience within. All authority over rational creatures consists in commanding and directing: the duty of rational creatures in compliance with that authority consists in obeying. Where there is therefore a careless neglect of those means which convey the knowledge of God’s will and our duty, there is an utter disowning of God as our Sovereign and our rule.
(2.) When any part of the mind and will of God breaks in upon men, they endeavor to shake it off: as a man would a sergeant that comes to arrest him, “they like not to retain God in their knowledge” (Rom. 1:28). “A natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God;” that is, into his affection; he pusheth them back as men do troublesome and importunate beggars: they have no kindness to bestow upon it: they thrust with both shoulders against the truth of God, when it presseth in upon them; and dash as much contempt upon it as the Pharisees did upon the doctrine our Saviour directed against their covetousness. As men naturally delight to be without God in the world, so they delight to be without any offspring of God in their thoughts. Since the spiritual palate of man is depraved, divine truth is unsavory and ungrateful to us, till our taste and relish is restored by grace: hence men damp and quench the motions of the Spirit to obedience and compliance with the dictates of God; strip them of their life and vigor, and kill them in the womb. How unable are our memories to retain the substance of spiritual truth; but like sand in a glass, put in at one part and runs out at the other! Have not many a secret wish, that the Scripture had never mentioned some truths, or that they were blotted out of the Bible, because they face their consciences, and discourage those boiling lusts they would with eagerness and delight pursue? Methinks that interruption John gives our Saviour when he was upon the reproof of their pride, looks little better than a design to divert him from a discourse so much against the grain, by telling him a story of their prohibiting one to cast out devils, because he followed not them. How glad are men when they can raise a battery against a command of God, and raise some smart objection whereby they may shelter themselves from the strictness of it!
(3.) When men cannot shake off the notices of the will and mind of God, they have no pleasure in the consideration of them; which could not possibly be, if there were a real and fixed design to own the mind and law of God as our rule. Subjects or servants that love to obey their prince and master, will delight to read and execute their orders. The devils understand the law of God in their minds, but they loathe the impressions of it upon their wills: those miserable spirits are bound in chains of darkness, evil habits in their wills, that they have not a thought of obeying that law they know. It was an unclean beast under the law that did not chew the cud: it is a corrupt heart that doth not chew truth by meditation. A natural man is said not to know God, or the things of God; he may know them nationally, but he knows them not affectionately. A sensual soul can have no delight in a spiritual law. To be sensual and not to have the Spirit are inseparable (Jude 19). Natural men may indeed meditate upon the law and truth of God, but without delight in it; if they take any pleasure in it, it is only as it is knowledge, not as it is a rule; for we delight in nothing that we desire, but upon the same account that we desire it. Natural men desire to know God and some part of his will and law, not out of a sense of their practical excellency, but a natural thirst after knowledge: and if they have a delight, it is in the act of knowing, not in the object known, not in the duties that stream from that knowledge; they design the furnishing their understandings, not the quickening their affections,—like idle boys that strike fire, not to warm themselves by the heat, but sport themselves with the sparks; whereas a gracious soul accounts not only his meditation, or the operations of his soul about God and his will to be sweet, but he hath a joy in the object of that meditation. Many have the knowledge of God, who have no delight in him or his will. Owls have eyes to perceive that there is a sun, but by reason of the weakness of their sight have no pleasure to look upon a beam of it: so neither can a man by nature love, or delight in the will of God, because of his natural corruption. That law that riseth up in men for conviction and instruction, they keep down under the power of corruption; making their souls not the sanctuary, but prison of truth (Rom. 1:18). They will keep it down in their hearts, if they cannot keep it out of their heads, and will not endeavor to know and taste the spirit of it.
(4.) There is, further, a rising and swelling of the heart against the will of God. 1st. Internal. God’s law cast against a hard heart, is like a ball thrown against a stone wall, by reason of the resistance rebounding the further from it; the meeting of a divine truth and the heart of man, is like the meeting of two tides, the weaker swells and foams. We have a natural antipathy against a divine rule, and therefore when it is clapped close to our consciences, there is a snuffing at it, high reasonings against it, corruption breaks out more strongly: as water poured on lime sets it on fire by an antiperistasis, and the more water is cast upon it, the more furiously it burns; or as the sunbeams shining upon a dunghill make the steams the thicker, and the stench the noisomer, neither being the positive cause of the smoke in the lime, or the stench in the dunghill, but by accident the causes of the eruption: (Rom. 7:8), “But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence, for without the law sin was dead.” Sin was in a languishing posture, as if it were dead, like a lazy garrison in a city, till, upon an alarm from the adversary, it takes arms, and revives its courage; all the sin in the heart gathers together its force to maintain its standing, like the vapors of the night, which unite themselves more closely to resist the beams of the rising sun. Deep conviction often provokes fierce opposition; sometimes disputes against a divine rule end in blasphemies: (Acts 13:45), “contradicting and blaspheming” are coupled together. Men naturally desire things that are forbidden, and reject things commanded, from the corruption of nature, which affects an unbounded liberty, and is impatient of returning under that yoke it hath shaken off, and therefore rageth against the bars of the law, as the waves roar against the restraint of a bank. When the understanding is dark, and the mind ignorant, sin lies as dead; “A man scarce knows he hath such motions of concupiscence in him, he finds not the least breath of wind, but a full calm in his soul; but when he is awakened by the law, then the viciousness of nature being sensible of an invasion of its empire, arms itself against the divine law, and the more the command is urged, the more vigorously it bends its strength, and more insolently lifts up itself against it;” he perceives more and more atheistical lusts than before; “all manner of concupiscence,” more leprous and contagious than before. When there are any motions to turn to God, a reluctancy is presently perceived; atheistical thoughts bluster in the mind like the wind, they know not whence they come, nor whither they go; so unapt is the heart to any acknowledgment of God as his ruler, and any re-union with him. Hence men are said to resist the Holy Ghost (Acts 7:51), to fall against it, as the word signifies, as a stone, or any ponderous body falls against that which lies in its way: they would dash to pieces, or grind to powder that very motion which is made for their instruction, and the Spirit too which makes it, and that not from a fit of passion, but an habitual repugnance; “Ye always resist,” &c. 2d. External. It is a fruit of atheism in the fourth verse of this Psalm, “Who eat up my people as they eat bread.” How do the revelations of the mind of God meet with opposition! and the carnal world like dogs bark against the shining of the moon; so much men hate the light, that they spurn at the lanthorns that bear it; and because they cannot endure the treasure, often fling the earthen vessels against the ground wherein it is held. If the entrance of truth render the market worse for Diana’s shrines, the whole city will be in an uproar. When Socrates upon natural principles confuted the heathen idolatry, and asserted the unity of God, the whole cry of Athens, a learned university, is against him; and because he opposed the public received religion, though with an undoubted truth, he must end his life by violence. How hath every corner of the world steamed with the blood of those that would maintain the authority of God in the world! The devil’s children will follow the steps of their father, and endeavor to bruise the heel of divine truth, that would endeavor to break the head of corrupt lust.
(5.) Men often seem desirous to be acquainted with the will of God, not out of any respect to his will, and to make it their rule, but upon some other consideration. Truth is scarce received as truth. There is more of hypocrisy than sincerity in the pale of the church, and attendance on the mind of God. The outward dowry of a religious profession, makes it often more desirable than the beauty. Judas was a follower of Christ for the bag, not out of any affection to the divine revelation. Men sometime pretend a desire to be acquainted with the will of God, to satisfy their own passions, rather than to conform to God’s will; the religion of such is not the judgment of the man, but the passion of the brute. Many entertain a doctrine for the person’s sake, rather than a person for the doctrine’s sake, and believe a thing because it comes from a man they esteem, as if his lips were more canonical than Scripture. The Apostle implies in the commendation he gives the Thessalonians, that some receive the word for human interest, not as it is in truth the word and will of God to command and govern their consciences by its sovereign authority; or else they have the “truth of God” (as St. James speaks of the faith of Christ) “with respect of persons;” and receive it not for the sake of the fountain, but of the channel; so that many times the same truth delivered by another, is disregarded, which, when dropping from the fancy and mouth of a man’s own idol, is cried up as an oracle. This is to make not God, but man the rule; for though we entertain that which materially is the truth of God, yet not formally as his truth, but as conveyed by one we affect; and that we receive a truth and not an error, we owe the obligation to the honesty of the instrument, and not to the strength and clearness of our own judgment. Wrong considerations may give admittance to an unclean, as well as a clean beast into the ark of the soul. That which is contrary to the mind of God, may be entertained, as well as that which is agreeable. It is all one to such that have no respect to God, what they have, as it is all one to a sponge to suck up the foulest water or the sweetest wine, when either is applied to it.
(6). Many that entertain the notions of the will and mind of God, admit them with unsettled and wavering affections. There is a great levity in the heart of man. The Jews that one day applaud our Saviour with hosannahs as their king, vote his crucifixion the next, and use him as a murderer. We begin in the Spirit, and end in the flesh. Our hearts, like lute-strings, are changed with every change of weather, with every appearance of a temptation; scarce one motion of God in a thousand prevails with us for a settled abode. It is a hard task to make a signature of those truths upon our affections, which will with ease pass current with our understandings; our affections will as soon lose them, as our understandings embrace them. The heart of man is “unstable as water.” Some were willing to rejoice in John’s light, which reflected a lustre on their minds; but not in his heat, which would have conveyed a warmth to their hearts; and the light was pleasing to them but for a season, while their corruptions lay as if they were dead, not when they were awakened. Truth may be admitted one day, and the next day rejected; as Austin saith of a wicked man, he loves the truth shining, but he hates the truth reproving. This is not to make God, but our own humor, our rule and measure.
(7.) Many desire an acquaintance with the law and truth of God, with a design to improve some lust by it; to turn the word of God to be a pander to the breach of his law. This is so far from making God’s will our rule, that we make our own vile affections the rule of his law. How many forced interpretations of Scripture have been coined to give content to the lusts of men, and the vine rule forced to bend, and be squared to men’s loose and carnal apprehensions! It is a part of the instability or falseness of the heart, to “wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction;” which they could not do, if they did not first wring them to countenance some detestable error or filthy crime. In Paradise the first interpretation made of the first law of God, was point blank against the mind of the Lawgiver, and venomous to the whole race of mankind. Paul himself feared that some might put his doctrine of grace to so ill a use, as to be an altar and sanctuary to shelter their presumption (Rom. 6:1, 15): “Shall we then continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Poisonous consequences are often drawn from the sweetest truths; as when God’s patience is made a topic whence to argue against his providence, or an encouragement to commit evil more greedily; as though because he had not presently a revenging hand, he had not an all-seeing eye or when the doctrine of justification by faith is made use of to depress a holy life; or God’s readiness to receive returning sinners, an encouragement to defer repentance till a death-bed. A liar will hunt for shelter in the reward God gave the midwives that lied to Pharaoh for the preservation of the males of Israel, and Rahab’s saving the spies by false intelligence. God knows how to distinguish between grace and corruption, that may lie close together; or between some thing of moral goodness and moral evil, which may be mixed; we find their fidelity rewarded, which was a moral good; but not their lie approved, which was a moral evil. Nor will Christ’s conversing with sinners, be a plea for any to thrust themselves into evil company. Christ conversed with sinners, as a physician with diseased persons, to cure them, not approve them; others with profligate persons, to receive infection from them, not to communicate holiness to them. Satan’s children have studied their father’s art, who wanted not perverted Seripture to second his temptations against our Saviour. How often do carnal hearts turn divine revelation to carnal ends, as the sea fresh water into salt! As men subject the precepts of God to carnal interests, so they subject the truths of God to carnal fancies. When men will allegorize the word, and make a humorous and crazy fancy the interpreter of divine oracles, and not the Spirit speaking in the word; this is to enthrone our own imaginations as the rule of God’s law, and depose his law from being the rule of our reason; this is to rifle truth of its true mind and intent. ’Tis more to rob a man of his reason, the essential constitutive part of man, than of his estate; this is to refuse an intimate acquaintance with his will. We shall never tell what is the matter of a precept, or the matter of a promise, if we impose a sense upon it contrary to the plain meaning of it; thereby we shall make the law of God to have a distinct sense according to the variety of men’s imaginations, and so make every man’s fancy a law to himself. Now that this unwillingness to have a spiritual acquaintance with divine truth is a disowning God as our rule, and a setting up self in his stead, is evident; because this unwillingness respects truth.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXVIII. — BUT let us dispatch these hobgoblins of glosses, and take Isaiah’s words as they are. “The people (he saith) is grass.” “People” does not signify flesh merely, or the infirm condition of human nature, but it comprehends every thing that there is in people — the rich, the wise, the just, the saints. Unless you mean to say, that the pharisees, the elders, the princes, the nobles, and the rich men, were not of the people of the Jews! The “flower of grass” is rightly called their glory, because it was in their kingdom, their government, and above all, in the law, in God, in righteousness, and in wisdom, that they gloried: as Paul shews, Rom. ii.iii. and ix.
When, therefore, Isaiah saith, “All flesh,” what else does he mean but all “grass,” or, all “people?” For he does not say “flesh” only, but “all flesh.” And to “people” belong soul, body, mind, reason, judgment, and whatever is called or found to be most excellent in man. For when he says “all flesh is grass,” he excepts nothing but the spirit which withereth it. Nor does he omit any thing when he says, “the people is grass.” Speak, therefore, of “Free-will,” speak of anything that can be called the highest or the lowest in the people, — Isaiah calls the whole “flesh and grass!” Because, those three terms “flesh,” “grass,” and “people,” according to his interpretation who is himself the writer of the book, signify in that place, the same thing.
Moreover, you yourself affirm, that the wisdom of the Greeks and the righteousness of the Jews which were withered by the Gospel, were “grass” and “the flower of grass.” Do you then think, that the wisdom which the Greeks had was not the most excellent? and that the righteousness which the Jews wrought was not the most excellent? If you do, shew us what was more excellent. With what assurance then is it, that you, Philip-like, flout and say,
- “If any one shall contend, that that which is most excellent in the nature of man, is nothing else but “flesh;” that is, that it is impious, I will agree with him, when he shall have proved his assertion by testimonies from the Holy Scripture?” —
You have here Isaiah, who cries with a loud voice that the people, devoid of the Spirit of the Lord, is “flesh;” although you will not understand him thus. You have also your own confession, where you said, (though unwittingly perhaps), that the wisdom of the Greeks was “grass,” or the glory of grass; which is the same thing as saying, it was “flesh.” — Unless you mean to say, that the wisdom of the Greeks did not pertain to reason, or to the EGEMONICON, as you say, that is, the principal part of man. If, therefore, you will not deign to listen to me, listen to yourself; where, being caught in the powerful trap of truth, you speak the truth.
You have moreover the testimony of John, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John iii. 6). You have, I say, this passage, which makes it evidently manifest, that what is not born of the Spirit, is flesh: for if it be not so, the distinction of Christ could not subsist, who divides all men into two distinct divisions, “flesh” and “spirit.” This passage you floutingly pass by, as if it did not give you the information you want, and betake yourself somewhere else, as usual; just dropping as you go along an observation, that John is here saying, that those who believe are born of God, and are made the sons of God, nay, that they are gods, and new creatures. You pay no regard, therefore, to the conclusion that is to be drawn from this division, but merely tell us at your ease, what persons are on one side of the division: thus confidently relying upon your rhetorical maneuver, as though there were no one likely to discover an evasion and dissimulation so subtlely managed.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library