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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 3:5

5. Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.

5. An observabit in seculum? an custodiet in perpetuum? Ecce, loquuta es, et perpetrasti malitias (vel, scelera) et potuisti.

God shews that it was the fault of the Jews, that he did not receive them into favor. And here he takes the argument from his own nature, and speaks of himself in the third person; and it is the same as though the Prophet had interposed this reasoning, |God is not inexorable, for he is as ready to forgive as he is long -- suffering: now, then, what prevents you from living happily again under his government? for he will spare you, provided he finds in you genuine repentance.| We now then see, what the Prophet means here: for as God had kindly exhorted the people to repent, the Prophet speaks now generally of God's own nature, -- that he keeps not for ever, nor reserves perpetually

These words, when put alone, mean that he does not cherish vengeance, and in our language we imitate the Hebrews, Il lui garde. This garde, when put without anything added to it, means, as I have said, that vengeance is cherished within. But nothing is more contrary than this to the nature of God. It hence follows, that the Jews had no obstacle in their way, except that they shunned God, and that being addicted to their own vices, they were unwilling to receive the pardon that was freely offered to them.

As to the second clause, it admits of being explained in two ways. We may regard an adversative particle to be understood, |though thou hast spoken and hast done, |etc.; as if God had said, that he would be propitious to the Jews, however atrociously they might have sinned. But another view is more simple, -- that God here complains that there was no hope of amendment, as they had become hardened in their vices, |Thou hast spoken,| he says, |thou hast done, and thou hast been able.| And interpreters further vary in their views: for the copulative is explained by some as a particle of comparison, in the sense of k'sr, keasher, |according to what thou wert able, thou hast done wickedness.| But others take the words more simply and more correctly, as I think, |Thou hast been very strong;| that is, thou hast exerted all thy power, so that thou hast put forth all thy strength in doing evil, as we say in Latin, pro virili, with all thy might; that is, as far as thy capacity extended, thou hast devoted thyself to wickedness.

I therefore give this explanation: God had before put on, as it were, the character of one in grief and sorrow, and kindly exhorted the people to repent, and testified that he would be ready to pardon them, and at the same time shewed in general that he would be propitious, as he is by nature inclined to mercy. After having set forth these things, he now adds, that he despaired of that people, because they gloried in their own wickedness: for to speak and to do means the same as if he had said, that the people were so impudent, that they boasted of their rebellion against God, and dared to call darkness light; for the superstitious, we know, glory against God without any shame. Now, such was the state of the people; for God, by his prophets, condemned this especially in them -- that they had corrupted the pure worship of the law; but they with a meretricious front dared to set up against him their own devotions and good intentions, as they are commonly called. As then, they thus presumptuously defended their wicked deeds, God here complains that they were in no way healable, and so he leaves them as past remedy. This I regard as the real meaning of the Prophet: and of similar import is the verb tvkl, tucal; |thou hast put forth all thy might,| he says, that is, thou hast observed no limits in sinning, but, on the contrary, hast given thyself up to unbridled licentiousness. It now follows --

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