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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 2:24

24. A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.

24. Onager (sed adhuc retinet foemineum genus, foemina igitur onagri) assueta deserto, in appetitu animae sum (hoc est, pro desiderio, vel, cupidine animae suae colligens ventura occasionis suae (vel, occursus sui) quis inde reducet eam? Quisquis persequitur earn non fatigabitur, in mense suo inveniet eam.

As Jeremiah had called the people a dromedary, so he now calls them a wild ass: |Thou,| he says, |art both a dromedary and a wild ass.| For when a wild ass has caught the wind according to her desire, that is, when she has pantingly sought it, and has caught the wind of her occasion, that is, such as may chance to be; for he meant to shew, by this expression, that there is no choice made by beasts, no judgment shewn, no moderation exercised; -- when, therefore, she has caught the wind, wherever chance may take her, no one can restrain her from her impetuous course; and he who pursues her will in vain fatigue himself, until he finds her in her month

By these words the Prophet intimates the untamable madness of the people, that they could not by any means be restrained, being like a wild ass, which cannot be tamed nor divested of its wildness, especially when she has caught the wind. For were she shut in, bolts might do something, so as to prevent her headlong course: but when a wild ass is free, and allowed to ramble over hill and dale, when she catches the wind, and catches it according to her desire; that is, when she can wander here and there, and nothing prevents her from rambling in all directions, -- when such a liberty is allowed to wild animals that they catch the wind, and the wind of occasion; that is, any wind that may chance to be, there is no reason, as the Prophet seems to intimate, in wild beasts, nor do they keep within any due bounds. When any one of us undertakes a journey, he inquires how far he can go in one day, he avoids weariness, and provides against it as far as he can, and after having fixed the extent of his journey, he thinks of a resting -- place; and he also makes inquiries as to the right way, and the best road. The case is different with wild animals; for when they begin to run, they go not to Lyons or to Lausanne, but abandon themselves to a blind impulse: and then when they are fatigued, they cease not to proceed in their course, for lust hurries them on. We now perceive the design of the Prophet.

He then adds, Who can bring her back? As though he had said, that the people could not be stopped or brought back to anything like moderation, for a wildness, yea rather a complete madness, had taken an entire possession of them.

It afterwards follows, There is no reason for any one to weary himself, he will at length find her in her month All interpreters agree that this month is to be taken for the time of foaling. When the wild asses are in foal, and the time of parturition draws nigh, they are then restrained by their burden, and may be easily caught, as they retain not their previous swiftness, for they carry a burden. The Prophet then says, that the people were like wild asses, for they could be restrained by no instruction, and nothing could bridle their excesses; but that the time of parturition must be waited for.

Let us now see how this similitude applies to the people. The verse contains two parts. The first shews, as I have already said, that the people could not be turned by any warnings, nor would they obey any counsels, but were carried away by their insane passions, as it were by the wind of occasion, or any wind that might blow. This is the first part. Now as the obstinacy of the people was so great, God here declares to hypocrites, that the time would come when he would put a restraint on them, and break down their impetuous infatuation. How? The time of parturition would come; that is, |when ye shall have done many iniquities, your burden will stop and restrain you.| And he intimates, that it would be the time of his judgment; as though he had said, |you must be dealt with not as sane men, endued with a sound mind; for ye are wild beasts which cannot be tamed.| What, then, remains to be done? As the wild ass is weighed down with her burden when the time of parturition approaches, so I will cause you at length to feel the burden of your iniquities, which will be by its weight intolerable; and though your perverseness is untamable, yet my hand will be sufficient to restrain you; for I shall break you down, as ye will not bend nor obey my instruction.| We now, then, understand the import of the similitude, and how applicable it was to the case of the people; the use of which ought to be learnt, also, by us in the present day. The rest tomorrow.

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