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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 2:23

23. How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways;

23. Quomodo dices (hoc est, quomodo dicis; nam futurum tempus saepe accipitur apud Hebraeos pro acu continuo, quomodo igitur dicis) non sum polluta, post Baalim non profecta sum? Vide vias tuas in valle, cognosce quid feceris dromedaria velox corripiens vias suas (vel, circumiens, nam deducitur vox ista a corrigia calceamenti).

Jeremiah goes on here with his reproof, and dissipates the clouds of hypocrites, under which they thought themselves to be sufficiently concealed: for hypocrites, when they allege their fallacious pretences, think themselves already hidden from the eyes of God and from the judgment of all men. Hence the Prophet here sharply condemns this supine self -- security, and says, How darest thou to boast that thou art not polluted? How darest thou to say, that thou hast not walked after Baalim? that is, after strange gods. I have already said, that by this word were meant inferior gods: for though the Jews acknowledged one Supreme Being, yet they sought for themselves patrons; and hence arose, as it is usual, a great number of gods. The superstitious never lapsed into that degree of impiety and madness, but that they ever confessed that there is some supreme Deity; but they added some inferior gods. And thus they had their Baalim and patrons, like the Papists, who call their patrons saints, for they dare not in their delusions to call them gods. Such was the sophistry of the Jews.

How then, he says, canst thou excuse thyself, and say, that thou hast not walked after Baalim? See, he adds, thy ways, see what thou hast done in the valley, and know at length that thou hast been like a swift dromedary The Prophet could not have fully expressed the furious passions which then raged in the Jews without comparing them to dromedaries: and as he addresses the people in the feminine gender, the female dromedary is mentioned. I consider that she is called swift, not only on account of the celerity of her course, but on account of her impetuous lust, as we shall presently see.

Now this passage teaches us, that the people had become so hardened, that they insolently rejected all reproofs given them by the prophets. Their impiety was openly manifest, and yet they ever dared to allege excuses, for the purpose of shewing that the prophets unjustly condemned them. Nor are we to wonder that such contumacy prevailed in that ancient people, since at this day we find that the Papists, with no less perverseness, resist the clear light of truth. For however gross and shameful their idolatry appears, they yet think that they evade the charge by merely saying, that their statues and images are not idols, and that the people of Israel were, indeed, condemned for inventing statues for themselves, but that they did this, because they were prone to superstition. Hence they cry against us, and say, that the worship which prevails among them is unjustly calumniated. We see, and even children know, that under the Papacy every kind of superstition prevails; and yet they seek to appear innocent, and free from every blame. The same was the case formerly: and as the temple continued, and the people offered sacrifices there, and as some kind of religion remained, whenever the prophets reproved the impious corruptions, which were blended with and vitiated the pure worship of God, and which were called adulteries, as they everywhere declare, |What!| they said, |Do we not worship God?| This very perverseness is what the Prophet now condemns by saying, How darest thou to say, I am not polluted, I have not walked after Baalim? So the Papists say at this day, |Do we not believe in one God? Have we devised for ourselves various gods? Yet they rob God of all his power, and dishonor him in a thousand ways: and at the same time they assert against us, with a meretricious mouth and an iron front, that they worship the one true God. The case was exactly the same with the Jews: but the Prophet here proves their boasting to be vain and grossly false, See, he says, thy ways in the valley; see what thou, a swift dromedary, hast done As they could not be overcome by reasons, their willfulness being so great, the Prophet compares them to wild animals: |Ye are,| he says, |like lascivious dromedaries, which are so carried away by lust, that they forget everything while pursuing their own courses.| It follows --

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