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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 3:11

11. And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.

11. Et dixit Jehova ad me, justificavit animam suam aversatrix Israel prae fraudulenta Jehuda (vel, perfida, semper est vgdh.)

We now see more clearly for what purpose Jeremiah compared the ten tribes with the kingdom of Judah; it was done in order to shew that the Jews, who wished to be deemed far more holy than others, were yet more perfidious and deserved a heavier punishment, because they acted so deceitfully with God.

It may be here asked, why he pronounces the Jews worse than the Israelites, while they still continued in a sort of middle state of things. We indeed know that the kingdom of Judah was become so corrupt, that hardly any religion remained there; yet the temple was still standing and the priesthood still existed at Jerusalem. But the Prophet condemns the Jews more than the Israelites for other reasons, even because they ought to have become wise through the calamities of others, and they ought to have been confirmed in true religion when they saw their brethren falling away from the pure worship of God: these things they ought to have maturely considered. It was this supine sottishness that rendered them worse than all their brethren, and also their pride, the chief cause of their condemnation, for they boasted that they remained perfect, while the ten tribes had become degenerated. These were the reasons why he says that Israel, though a perfidious woman, was yet more righteous than her sister Judah.

The language indeed is not to be strictly taken when it is said, that she justified her soul; for God does not here excuse the Israelites, nor does he free or absolve them from guilt, (for he had severely punished them;) but this way of speaking is commonly used by the prophets; -- Sodom was righteous in comparison with Jerusalem; and Tyre and Sidon were just when compared with the Jews. (Ezekiel 16:47, 48.) Justified then has she her soul, even the treacherous or the apostate Israel, in comparison with the perfidious Judah; that is, for the reasons which I have stated. The obstinacy of the Jews was greater and less excusable: the external worship of God, which they had retained, ought to have been a bridle to check them; and they had also seen how severe a judge God had been towards the ten tribes; but the judgments of God they despised, and derived no benefit from them.

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