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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 4:20

20. Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.

20. Afflictio super afflictionem vocata est; quoniam perdita est omnis terra subito; perdita (vel, destructa, est idem verbum) sunt tabernacula mea, repente cortinae meae.

He pursues the same subject, but amplifies the dread by a new circumstance, -- that God would heap evils on evils, so that the Jews would in vain hope for an immediate relief. By saying, A calamity upon a calamity, he means that the end of one evil would be the beginning of another. For it is what especially distresses miserable men, when they think that their evils will continue long. They indeed imagined that God would be satisfied with an evil that would be soon over, like a storm or a tempest: and when an alleviation appeared, they would have thought that they had suffered enough and would have returned again to their old ways and derided God as though they had escaped from his hands. For this reason the Prophet declares, that their calamities would for a long time continue, so that no end to them could be hoped for, until the Jews were wholly destroyed. By saying that calamities were called, or summoned, he briefly reminds them, that God would sit on his tribunal, and that after inflicting light punishment on men for their sins, he would add heavier punishment, and that when he found their wickedness incurable, he would proceed to extremities, so as wholly to destroy those who could not be reclaimed. Called then has been distress upon distress: and how was this? Perished has the whole land; and then, my tabernacles have been suddenly destroyed, in an instant destroyed has been my curtains.

It is thought that the Prophet here compares strongly fortified cities to tents and curtains, in order to expose the foolish confidence with which the Jews were proudly filled, thinking that their cities were a sufficient protection from enemies. It is then supposed that the Prophet here deprives them of their vain confidence by calling these cities tents. There are also those who think that he alludes to his own city Anathoth, or to his own manner of life. It is indeed true that Jeremiah speaks often in other places as a shepherd; that is, he uses common and free modes of speaking. It would not then be unnatural to suppose, that he put on the character of a shepherd when he spoke of tents. Both these views may however be combined, -- that he used a language common among shepherds, -- and that he shews that it was a mere mockery for the Jews to think that they could easily escape, as they had on their borders many fortified cities capable of resisting the attacks of their enemies. But no less suitable view would be this, -- That no corner would be safe; for their enemies would penetrate into the most retired places and destroy the smallest cottages, which might be resorted to as hiding -- places.

He says suddenly, and in an instant, in order that the Jews might not promise themselves any time for negotiating, and thus procrastinate, and think that they would have time enough to make their peace with God. It follows --

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