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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 2:22

22. For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD.

22. Etiam si lveris to nitro (ut vertunt,) et multiplicaveris tibi borith (alii exponunt, herbam fullonum; alii, saponem; quod ad rei summam spectat, nulla est ambiguitas, quoniam intelligit Deus nullo artificio, nullis herbis posse maculas populi purgari,) impressa est (vel, insculpta est, vel, signata, ut alii vertunt) iniquitas tua coram facie mea, dicit Dominus Jehova.

We have already seen, and the Prophet will often repeat the same thing, -- that the people were become so refractory that they would not willingly give way to any reproofs; for they were almost all of such a hard front, and so obdurate in their wickedness, that they dared insolently to raise objections against the prophets; whenever they severely reproved them: |What! Are not we God's holy people? Has he not chosen us? Are we not the holy seed of Abraham?| It was therefore necessary for the prophets to apply a hard wedge to a hard knot, as they commonly say. As, then, the Israelites were like a knotty wood, it was necessary to strike hard their obstinacy.

On this account Jeremiah now says, Even if thou wert to wash thyself with nitre, and multiply to thee borith, yet thine iniquity would be before me marked; that is, |Ye effect nothing when ye set forth various pretences for the sake of excusing your impiety: wash yourselves, but your iniquity remains marked before me.| The Prophet speaks in the person of God, that he might add more weight to the denunciation he pronounced on the Israelites, and by which he reduced to nothing their self -- flatteries, according to what has been already stated.

By nitre and borith they removed stains in cloth; and hence borith is often mentioned in connection with fullers. But there is no need of a laborious inquiry, whether it was an herb or dust, or something of that kind; for as to what is meant, it is generally agreed that the Prophet teaches us by this metaphor, -- that hypocrites gain nothing by setting up their pretences, that they may escape, when God condemns them. Hence he says, that all their attempts would be vain and fruitless. How so? Because their iniquity remained unwashed; that is, because they could not remove by washing what is imprinted. Spots or stains can indeed be cleansed or washed away by soap or other things; but when the stain is inward, and imprinted within, washing will avail nothing, for the marks are so deep that some more efficacious remedy must be adopted. So now the Prophet says, that the stains were imprinted, and therefore could not be washed away or cleansed by soap or borith.

But the Prophet says, that the stains were marked, or stamped, before God; for it was a common thing with the Israelites to clear themselves from every blame; nay, so great was their audacity, that they openly opposed the prophets, as though some great wrong was done to them; and they called the prophets accusers and slanderers, Hence he says, Thine iniquity is stamped before me? that is, |However thou mayest by self -- flatteries deceive thyself, and hidest thy sins before the world, yet thou gainest nothing; for in my sight thine iniquity ever remains stamped.| He afterwards adds --

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