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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 1:1-3

1. The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin:

1. Verba Jeremiae filii Helkiae, ex sacerdotibus qui erant in Anathoth, in terra Benjamin,

2. To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

2. Nempe ('sr explicative hic ponitur) fecit sermo Jehovae ad ipsum, in diebus Josiea, filii Amon, regis Jehudah, decimo tertio anno regm ejus;

3. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.

3. Et fuit (hoc est, perrexit in, cursum vocationis suae) diebus Joakim, filii Josiae, regis Jehudah, usque ad complementum undecimi anni Zedechiae, filii Josiae, regis Jehudah, ad transmigrationem Jerusalem, mense quinto.

I Have said that the time, when Jeremiah began to discharge his office of a Prophet in God's Church, is not stated here without reason, and that it was when the state of the people was extremely corrupt, the whole of Religion having become vitiated, because the Book of the Law was lost: for nowhere else can be found the rule according to which God is to be worshipped; nor can right knowledge be obtained from any other source. It was then, at the time when impiety had by a long custom prevailed among the Jews, that Jeremiah suddenly came forth. There was then laid on his shoulders the heaviest burden; for many enemies must have risen to oppose him, when he attempted to bring back the people to the pure doctrine of the law, which the greater part were then treading under their feet.

He calls himself the son of Hilkiah The Rabbins think that this Hilkiah was the priest by whom the Book of Moses was found five years after: but this seems not to me probable. The conjecture also of Jerome is very frivolous, who concludes that the Prophet was a boy when he began to prophesy, because he calls himself nr (nor,) a child, a little farther on, as though he did not use the word metaphorically. At what age he was called to the prophetic office, we do not know; it is, however, probable that he was of mature age, for it was a work of high authority; and further, had he been a youth, doubtless such a miracle would not have been passed over in silence, that is, that he was made a prophet before the age of maturity.

With regard to his father, it is nothing strange that the Rabbins have regarded him as the high priest; for we know that they are always prone to vain boastings. Ambition possessed them, and hence they have said that Jeremiah was the son of the high priest, in order to add to the splendor of his character. But what does the Prophet himself say? He declares indeed that he was the son of Hilkiah, but does not say that this was the high priest; on the contrary he adds, that he was from the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin Now we know that this was a mean village, not far from Jerusalem; and Jeremiah says, that it was in the tribe of Benjamin. Its nearness to Jerusalem may be gathered from the words of Isaiah, who says that small Anathoth was terrified. (Isaiah 10:30) He threatened Jerusalem by saying that the enemy was near.

|What,| he says, |is your security? Ye can hear the noise of your enemies and the groans of your brethren from your very gates; for Anathoth is not far from you, being only three miles distant.|

Since then Jeremiah only says, that he came from Anathoth, why should we suppose him to be the sort of the high priest? And frivolous is what the Chaldee paraphraser adds here, that Hilkiah had possessions in the town of Anathoth, as though it was allowed the priests to possess land: God allowed them only what was necessary to feed their flocks. We may then take it as certain, and what the Prophet indeed expressly declares, that he came from the village of Anathoth.

He further says, that he was of the priestly order. Hence the prophetic office was more suitable to him than to many of the other prophets, such as Amos and Isaiah. God took Isaiah from the court, as he was of the royal family, and made him a prophet. Amos was in a different situation: he was taken from the shepherds, for he was a shepherd. Since God appointed such prophets over his Church, he no doubt thus intended to cast a reflection on the idleness and sloth of the priests. For, though all the priests were not prophets, yet they ought to have been taken from that order; for the priestly order was as it were the nursery of the prophets. But when gross want of knowledge and ignorance prevailed among them, God chose his prophets from the other tribes, and thus exposed and condemned the priests. They ought, indeed, to have been the messengers of the God of hosts, so as to keep the law in their lips, that the people might seek it from their mouth, according to what is said by Malachi. (Malachi 2:7) But as they were dumb dogs, God transferred the honor of the prophetic office to others; but Jeremiah, as I have already stated, was a prophet as well as a priest.

He begins in the second verse to speak of his calling. It would have, indeed, been to little purpose, had he said that he came forth and brought a message; but he explains, in the second verse, that he brought nothing but what had been delivered to him by God, as though he had said, that he faithfully declared what God had commanded him. For we know that the whole authority belongs entirely to God, with regard to the doctrine of religion, and that it is not in the power of men to blend this or that, and to make the faithful subject to themselves. As God, then, is the only true teacher of the Church, whosoever demands to be heard, must prove that he is God's minister. This is, then, what Jeremiah is now carefully doing, for he says that the word of Jehovah was given to him.

He had before said, the words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah; but any one of the people might have objected and said, |Why dost thou intrude thyself, as though any one is to be heard? for God claims this right to himself alone.| Hence Jeremiah, by way of correction, subjoins, that the words were his, but that he was not the author of them, but the minister only. He says, then, that he only executed what God had commanded, for he had been the disciple of God himself, before he undertook the office of a teacher.

As to the beginning of his time and its termination, it has been briefly shewn, why he says that he had been chosen a prophet in the thirteenth year of Josiah, and that he discharged his office till the eleventh year of Zedekiah.

Now that Josiah is called the son of Amon, it is doubtful whether Josiah was properly his son. Amon began to reign in his twenty-second year, and reigned only two years. Josiah succeeded him in the eighth year of his age. If we number the years precisely, Josiah must have been born when Amon was in his sixteenth year; but it does not appear likely, that Amon was a father when he was sixteen years of age, for in this case he must have begotten a son in his fifteenth year; as the birth must have taken place nine months after. Then Josiah must have been begotten in the fifteenth year of Amon's age. It is hence a probable conclusion, that he was a son by law and not by nature, according to what is afterwards said of Zedekiah, that he was Josiah's son, because he was his successor, while he was, as many think, his nephew, a brother's son. But it was a common thing to call the successors of kings their sons, who were their sons by law, and not, as I have said, by nature. It now follows-

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