17. Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
17. Et tu accinge lumbos tuos et surge, et loquere ad ipsos quaecunque (vel, omnia quae) ego mandavero tibi; ne timeas a facie ipsorum, ne to conteram (vel, timere faciam) a facie ipsorum (est enim verbum sumptum ex eadem radice.)
God first bids his Prophet to be the herald of the dreadful judgment, which we have already noticed: for it was not his purpose to speak only as it were in a corner, or secretly, to Jeremiah, but he committed to him what he intended should be proclaimed audibly to the whole people. It hence follows, And thou, etc. We therefore see that the Prophet had been taught by the Lord, that he might confidently and boldly declare what we shall hereafter see. These things should then be connected, -- that God would ascend his tribunal to execute the vengeance he had deferred, -- and also that Jeremiah would be the herald of that vengeance he was prepared to inflict. Thou then, -- an illative is to be added here, for the copulative is to be thus taken in this place, -- Thou then; that is, as thou hast heard that I shall be now the avenger of the people's sins, and that the time of vengeance is at hand; and also as thou knowest that this has been told thee, that thou mightest warn them to render them more inexcusable, -- Thou then, gird thy loins We see why God addressed his servant Jeremiah privately; it was, that he might publicly exercise his office as a teacher.
And hence we learn, that all who are called to rule the Church of God cannot be exempt from blame, unless they honestly and boldly proclaim what has been committed to them. Hence Paul says that he was free from the blood of all men, because he had from house to house and publicly declared whatever he had received from the Lord, (Acts 20:26, 27;) and he says in another place,
|Woe is to me if I preach not the Gospel,
for it has been committed to me.| (1 Corinthians 9:16)
God bids the Prophet to gird his loins This is to be understood of the kind of dress which the Orientals used and continue to use, for they wear long garments; and when they undertake any work, or when they proceed on a journey, they gird themselves. Hence he says, gird thy loins, that is, undertake this expetition which I devolve on thee. At the same time he requires activity, so that the work might be expeditiously undertaken. Arise, he says, and speak to them whatsoever I shall command thee In short, God intimates in these words, that he was unwilling to proceed to extremes, until he had still tried whether there was any hope of repentance as to the people. He indeed knew that they were wholly irreclaimable; but he intended to discover more fully their perverseness in bidding Jeremiah, in the last place, to pronounce the extreme sentence of condemnation.
He now again repeats what he had before said, Fear not their face And this exhortation was very needful, as Jeremiah undertook an office in no small degree disliked; for it was the same as though he was an herald, to proclaim war in the name of God. As, then, Jeremiah had distinctly to declare that it was all over with the people, because their perverseness had been so great that God would no longer be entreated, it was a very hard message, not likely to be attended to, especially when we consider what great pride the Jews had. They gloried in their holy descent, and also thought, as we shall hereafter see, that the Temple was an impregnable fortress even against God himself. Since, then, their temper was so refractory, it was needful that the Prophet should be more than once confirmed by God, so that he might boldly undertake his office. The exhortation is, therefore, repeated, Fear not before them.
He afterwards adds, lest I make thee to fear But the word cht, chet, means sometimes to fear, and sometimes to break in pieces. Jerome perverts the meaning of the Prophet, by rendering the phrase, |I shall never make thee to fear.| It is indeed a godly truth, that God would give courage to his Prophet so as to render him invincible against his enemies; and doubtless he would exhort us in vain, were he not to supply us with fortitude by his Spirit. This is, indeed, true; but the word phn, pen, will not allow us thus to explain the passage. What then does God mean? We must either render the verb to break or to fear. The verb 'chtk achetak, is transitive; and either meaning would be suitable. For God, after having bidden the Prophet to be of a courageous and invincible mind, now adds,
|Take heed to thyself; for if thou be timid, I will cause thee really to fear, or, I will break thee down before them.|
He then intimates, in these words, that the Prophet ought to be sufficiently fortified, as he knew that he was sent by God, and thus acted as it were under the authority of the highest power, and that he should not fear any mortal man. There is also to be understood here a threatening, |See, if thou conductest thyself courageously I shall be present with thee, and however formidable at the first view thy opponents may be, they shall not yet prevail; but if thou be timid and faint -- hearted, I will render thee an object of contempt: thou shalt not only be timid in heart; but I will make thee to be despised by all, so that thou shalt be contemptuously treated; for in that case thou wilt not be worthy that I should fight for thee and supply thee with any courage and power to put thine enemies to flight.|
We hence see what this means, Fear not, lest I should make thee to fear; that is, |Be of a good courage and of a ready mind, lest thou be justly exposed to shame; and fear them not, lest thou shouldest really fear them, and lest they should even tear thee to pieces and tread thee under their feet: for in case thou fearest them, thou wilt be unworthy of being supported by the strength of my Spirit.|
This passage contains a useful doctrine, from which we learn that strength shall never be wanting to God's servants, while they derive courage from the conviction that God himself is the author of their calling and become thus magnanimous; for God will then supply them with strength and courage invincible, so as to render them formidable to the whole world: but if they be unhinged and timid, and turn here and there, and be influenced by the fear of men, God will render them base and contemptible, and make them to tremble at the least breath of air, and they shall be wholly broken down; -- and why? because they are unworthy that God should help them, that he should stretch forth his hand and fortify them by his power, and supply them, as it has been already said, with that fortitude, by which they might terrify both the Devil and the whole world.