6. Neither said they, Where is the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?
6. Et non dixerunt, (hoc est, non cogitarunt apud se,) Ubi est Jehova, qui eduxit nos e terra Egypti, et proficisci fecit nos per desertum in terra solitaria (vel, vasta) et squalida, in terra horribili et umbrae mortis; in terra per quam vir non transtit, et in qua non habitavit homo?
7. And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.
7. Et introduxi vos in terram fertilem, ad comedendos fructus ejus (vel, ad comedendum fructum ejus, in singulari,) et ubertatem ejus (ad verbum est, ad bonum ejus;) et ingressi estis et polluistis terram meam, et haereditatem meam posuistis in abominationem.
The Prophet goes on with the same subject; for God adduces here no small crime against his people, as they had buried his favom's in oblivion. Indeed, a redemption so wonderful was worthy of being celebrated in all ages, not only by one nation, but by all the nations of the earth. As then the Jews had thus buried the memory of a favor so remarkable and valuable, their base impiety appeared evident. Had they not experienced the power and kindness of God, or had they only witnessed them in an ordinary way, their guilt might have been extenuated; but as God had from heaven made an unusual display of his power, and as his majesty had been manifested before the eyes of the people, how great was their sottishness in afterwards forgetting their God, who had openly and with such proofs made himself known to them!
We now then understand what the Prophet means by saying, they have not said: for God here sharply reproves the stupidity of the Jews, -- that they did not consider that they were under perpetual obligations to him for his great kindness in delivering them in a manner so wonderful from the land of Egypt. By saying that they did not say, Where is Jehovah, he intimates that he was present with them and nigh them, but that they were blind, and that hence they were without an excuse for their ignorance, as he was not to be sought as one at a distance, or by means tedious and difficult. If then this only had come to their mind, |Did not God once redeem us?| they could not have departed after their vanities. How then was it that their error, or rather their madness, was so great that they followed idols? Even because they did not choose to make any effort, or to apply their minds to seek or to inquire after God.
Here then the Prophet meets the objection of the hypocrites, who might have said, that they had been deceived, and had relapsed through ignorance; for they have ever some evasions ready at hand, when they are called to an account for their sins. But lest the Jews should make any pretense of this kind, the Prophet here shews that they had not been through a mistake deceived, but that they had followed after falsehood through a wicked disposition, for they had willfully despised God and refused to inquire respecting him, though he was sufficiently nigh them.
This passage deserves to be especially noticed; for there is nothing more common than for the ungodly, when they are proved guilty, to have recourse to this subterfuge, -- that they acted with good intention, when they gave themselves up to their own superstitions. The Prophet then takes off this mask, and shews that where God is once known, his name and his glory cannot be obliterated, except through the depravity of men, as they knowingly and willfully depart from him. Hence all apostates are by this one clause condemned, that they may no more dare to make evasions, as though they have been through more simplicity deceived: for when the matter is examined, their malignity and ingratitude are discovered, because they deign not to inquire, Where is Jehovah?
And he afterwards adds what explains this sentence. I have said that other nations are not here condemned, but the Jews, who had known by clear experience that God was their father. As then God had, by many testimonies, made himself known to them, they had no pretext for their ignorance. Hence the Prophet says, that they did not consider where God was who brought them from the land of Egypt, and made them to pass through the desert He could not have stated this indiscriminately of all nations; but, as it has been said, the words are addressed particularly to the Jews, who had clearly witnessed the power of God; so that they could not have sinned except willfully, even by extinguishing, through their own malignity, the light presented to them, which shone before their eyes. And here, also, the Prophet amplifies their guilt by various circumstances: for he says, not simply that they had been brought out of Egypt, but intimates that God had been their constant guide for forty years; for this time is suggested by the word |desert.| The history was well known; hence a brief allusion was sufficient. He, at the same time, by mentioning the desert, greatly extols the glory of God.
But the first thing to be observed is, that the Jews were inexcusable, who had not considered that their fathers had been wonderfully and in an unusual manner preserved by God's hand for forty years; for they had no bread to eat, nor water to drink. God drew water for them from a rock, and satisfied them with heavenly bread; and their garments did not wear out during the whole time. We then see that all those circumstances enhanced their guilt. Then follows what I have referred to: the Prophet calls the desert a dry or a waste land, a dreary land, a horrible land, a land of deadly gloom, as though he had said, that the people had been preserved in the midst of death, yea in the midst of many deaths: for man was not wont to pass through that land, nor did any one dwell in it |Whence then,| he says, |did salvation arise to you? from what condition? even from death itself: for what else was the desert but a horrible place, where you were surrounded, not only by one kind of death, but by a hundred? Since then God brought you out of Egypt by his incredible power, and fed you in a supernatural manner for forty years, what excuse can there be for so great a madness in now alienating yourselves from him?| Now this passage teaches us, that the more favors God confers on us, the more heinous the guilt if we forsake him, and less excusable will be our wickedness and ingratitude, especially when he has manifested his kindness to us for a long time and in various ways.
He afterwards adds, And I brought you in, etc. Here Jeremiah introduces God as the speaker; for God had, as with his hand stretched forth, brought in the children of Abraham into the possession of the promised land, which they did not get, as it is said in Psalm 44:3, by their own power and by their own sword; for though they had to fight with many enemies, yet it was God that made them victorious. He could then truly say, that they did not otherwise enter the land than under his guidance; inasmuch as he had opened a way and passage for them, and subdued and put to flight their enemies, that they might possess the heritage promised to them. I brought you in, he says, into the land, into Carmel Some consider this to be the name of a place; and no doubt there was the mount Carmel, so called on account of its great fertility. As then its name was given to it because it was so fertile, it is nothing strange that Jeremiah compares the land of Israel to Carmel. Some will have the preposition k, caph, to be understood, |I have brought you into a land like Carmel.| But there is no need laboriously to turn in all directions the Prophet's words. It is, as I think, a common noun, meaning fruitful, and used here to shew that the Israelites had been brought by God's hand into a fertile land; for its fertility is everywhere celebrated, both in the Law and in the Prophets.
That ye might eat its fruit and its abundance; that is, |I wished you to enjoy the large and rich produce of the land.| By these words God intimates that the Israelites ought to have been induced by such allurements cordially to serve him; for by such liberal treatment he kindly invited them to himself. The greater, then, the bounty of God towards the people, the greater was the indignity offered by their defection, when they despised the various and abounding blessings of God.
Hence he adds, And ye have polluted my land, and mine heritage have ye made an abomination; as though he had said, |This is the reward by which my bounty towards you has been compensated. I indeed gave you this land, but on this condition, that ye serve me faithfully in it: but ye have polluted it.| He calls it his own land, as though he had said, that he had so given the land to the Israelites, that he remained still the lord of it as a proprietor, though he granted the occupation of it to them. He hence shews that they impiously abused his bounty, in polluting that land which was sacred to his name. For the same purpose he calls it his heritage, as if he said that they possessed the land by an hereditary right, and yet the heritage belonged to their Father. They ought, therefore, to have considered, that they had entered into the land, because it had been given to Abraham and to his children for an heritage, -- by whom? By God, who was the fountain of this bounty. The more detestable, then, was their ingratitude, when they made the heritage of God an abomination It follows --