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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Jeremiah 3:6-8

Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 3:6-8

6. The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.

6. Et dixit Jehova ad me in diebus Josiae regis, An vidisti quid fecerit aversatrix (alii vertunt, rebellis) Israel? Profecta est ipsa super omnem montem excelsum, et subtus omnem arborem frondosam, et scortata est illic:

7. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it

7. Et dixi, Post facere ipsam (hoc est, postquam fecit omnia haec,) Ad me revertere (alii in tertia persona reddunt, Revertatur;) et non reversa est: et vidit perfida ejus soror Jehudah.

8. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

8. Et vidi, quod super his omnibus (hoc est, quod propter haec, nempe 'dvt significat occasiones vel causas,) quia scortata erat rebellis Israel, dimiserim ipsam (repudiaverim,) et dederim librum repudiorum ejus (repudii ejus) illi, et non timuit perfida Jehudah soror ejus, et scortata est etiam ipsa.

Here the Prophet enters on a new discourse: he relates what God had committed to him, and mentions the time, even in the reign of Josiah. It is indeed well known, that the land was then cleansed from superstitions; for that pious king labored to restore the true worship of God, and to remove all the filth and defilements, by which the temple and the whole of religion had been corrupted. He strenuously exerted himself, and no doubt there was an improved appearance of religion throughout the land; but we shall see that a great portion of the people were under the influence of hypocrisy and deceit., as it is usually the case when rulers seek to support the pure worship of God, and to free it from all corruptions; for there are many hypocrites, who for a time dissemble, while the same antipathy to God still remains. Such was then the condition of the people.

And this ought to be carefully observed; for Jeremiah might have appeared to have dealt somewhat too sharply and rigorously with his own nation, as reform was in the mouth of all, according to what we find to be the case with many now, who having left the superstitions of the Papacy, seemed at first to embrace the doctrines of the Gospel, but all now wish to be satisfied with any kind of reformation; at the same time, they shake off the yoke of Christ and can bear submission to no discipline: in short, their object, is to subvert all order; and yet they boldly claim to be the advocates of reformation, whenever their impiety is reproved. This was no doubt the contest which Jeremiah had to carry on, the same with that by which the Lord tries his servants at this day. He therefore says, that he received this commission in the days of Josiah, that is, when that king was laboring to establish the pure worship of God, and no one dared to oppose; for we find that God was then worshipped by the whole people without any external corruptions.

But what is contained in this commission? Hast thou seen, he says, what apostate Israel hath done? God here compares the ten tribes with the tribe of Judah, with whom was united, as it is well known, the half tribe of Benjamin: he then compares Israel with the tribe of Judah, |Do you not see what rebellious Israel hath done?| But he introduces the kingdom of Israel, as well as the kingdom of Judah, under the character of women; for God, as it has already appeared, represents himself as the husband of his people. He then says that he had two wives, even Israel and Judah. God had indeed espoused to himself the whole seed of Abraham by one contract; but Jeremiah speaks here in a popular manner. Though the Israelites had departed from God, yet he had not wholly rejected them. The kingdom of Israel had then become adulterous; but God for a time bore with that sin, so that the covenant, in part, remained. For this reason he acknowledges as his wives both Israel and Judah. Hence he says, |Hast thou not seen what estranged Israel hath done?| The word msvh, meshibe, is derived from svv, shub, which signifies, both to return and to depart; and Jerome everywhere renders it aversatrix, one who turns aside, or is estranged. But some render it |rebellious;| we might say more correctly in French, debauchee She went, he says, on every high hill, and under every shady tree, and there played the harlot In short, God complains that the ten tribes had violated the sacred bond of marriage, when they prostituted themselves to idols, even on all high hills and under all shady trees: for as I have already said, they chose those places as though there was some holiness both on mountains and under shades of trees.

He afterwards adds, Yet I said; God here states, that he had long suspended his judgment before he punished the people of Israel. He then extols here his patience, that he had not immediately visited the Israelites as they deserved, but bore with them and for a long time waited to see whether they could be reclaimed: I said, then, after she had done all these things, Return to me If we read in the third person, the sense will be the same, |I hoped indeed that they would return to the right way, though they had thus fallen away, yea though they had denied me by an impious defection, and had become alienated from the faith and from piety.| But I am more inclined to another view, -- that God here records the fact, that he had recalled to himself the ten tribes by his servants the Prophets, though they had by their many crimes provoked his wrath. Here then God shews how perverse the Israelites had been; for he had tried to restore them, if possible, to himself, but had spent all his labor in vain. I thus explain, I said, of the prophetic instruction: |Though then the Israelites had plunged themselves into impieties, I yet ceased not to try whether they could be restored to me.| He intimates, in short, that he had been unlike those husbands, who will not be reconciled to their wives, burning with jealousy, because they see that they had been exposed to so much disgrace. God then shews that though the Israelites had departed from him, he yet sent his prophets, and of his own free will sought reconciliation with them, but that they had refused to return.

He then adds, See did she, that is, the whole kingdom of Judah, that, for al1 this, because the rebellious Israel had played the harlot, etc. We shall hereafter find the design of this comparison; for he amplifies the sin of the kingdom of Judah, inasmuch she had time enough to observe what he now relates, and was able to see it at a distance as it were from a watchtower; yet she saw it without any advantage. God then intended to shew how great was the hardness of the Jews, who had seen the defection of the ten tribes, and had seen how severely they had been reproved by the prophets.

He then says, And I saw As he had said that the kingdom of Judah had seen what happened to Israel, so he now says, that he had seen both, See then did I Now, what does he declare that he had seen? Even that Judah had played the harlot; for he now speaks of Judah as of a woman. Then God says, that it was not a thing hid from him that Judah had surpassed the crimes of her sister, not through ignorance or deception, but through deliberate wickedness: See, he says, did I, that notwithstanding all these things, she played the harlot He thus explains more fully what he had briefly touched upon before. He had said, that Judah had seen, but this on account of its brevity might have appeared ambiguous: he therefore explains it more at large; |See did Judah that I gave a bill of divorcement to her sister, because she had played the harlot; and yet she feared not;| that. is, she thought not of repenting, when she had such a striking example of vengeance set before her eyes.

But it may be here asked, how could it be said that a bill of divorce had been given to the Israelites, when he denies by the Prophet Isaiah that he had given it? (Isaiah 50:1.) But the Prophet here takes another view of the subject; for he does not speak here of the bills of divorce, such as were usually given, when a husband repudiated a wife who had been chaste and faithful; but he speaks of that lawful divorce, when a woman, convicted of adultery, is liable to a capital punishment. God then by his prophet Isaiah denies that he had given a bill of divorcement; but he says here that he had given it, because he had repudiated an adulterous woman. It was not indeed at that time customary among the Jews to divorce an adulteress, for she was led to execution. But we have seen at the beginning of the chapter that there is a difference between God and husbands. As then God did not deal, as he might have justly done, with the Israelites, and did not execute a capital punishment, as he might rightly have done, and what was usually done, he says that he had given a bill of divorce, that is, that he had repudiated that people. But by the bill of divorce he means exile; for when the ten tribes were banished, it was the same as though God openly shewed that he had no connection with that people: as long as they continued in the holy land and in the promised inheritance, some kind of union remained; but when they were dispersed here and there, and every sort of worship had ceased among them, and also when the very kingdom of Israel had no longer an existence, God had then divorced them.

See then did her sister Judah, and she feared not It was indeed an instance of great insensibility, not to learn wisdom at the expense of others; and it is a complaint found everywhere in the prophets, -- that the Jews were not stimulated to repentance, while God spared them, and at the same time set before them examples which ought in all reason to have terrified them. For what ought they to have considered, but that God would punish those many transgressions by which they provoked his wrath, since he had not spared their brethren? They saw that the kingdom of Israel had been abolished, and yet all of them derived their origin from the same father, even Abraham: how was it then that they so heedlessly despised God's judgment, which had been for a long time before their eyes? Hence he complains that they feared not It now follows --

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