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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 5:1

1. Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.

1. Circuite per vias (alii vertunt, inquirite, vel, explorate, vel, investigate per vias) Jerusalem, et videte, agedum, (hic enim 'n est hortantis, proximo versu debuit verti nunc, vae nunc mihi,) et cognoscite, et inquirite, in vicis ejus (in compitis ejus,) an invenietis virum, an erit quifaciat judicium (hoc est, rectitudinem,) qui quaerat veritatem, et parcam illi.

In this verse, as in those which follow, God shews that he was not too rigid or too severe in denouncing utter ruin on his people, because their wickedness was wholly incurable, and no other mode of treating them could be found. We, indeed, know that it is often testified in Scripture, that God is patient and waits until sinners repent. Since then God everywhere extols his kindness, and promises to be merciful even to the worst if they repent, and since he of his own accord anticipates sinners, it may appear strange that he rises with so much severity against his own Church. But we know how refractory the ungodly are; and hence they hesitate not to expostulate with God, and willfully accuse him, as though he treated them with cruelty. It is then for this reason, that God now shews that he was not, as it were, at liberty to forgive the people; |Even if I would, |he says, |I could not.| He speaks, indeed, after the manner of men; but in this way, as I have said, he shews that he tried all expedients, before he had recourse to extreme severity, but that there was no remedy, on account of the desperate wickedness of the people. And this is what the words fully express.

Go round, he says, through the streets of Jerusalem, and see, I pray, and know; inquire through all the cross-ways Jeremiah might have said in one sentence, |If one man be found in the city, I am ready to forgive: |but God here permits the whole world to inquire diligently and carefully what was the state of the holy city, which ever gloried in that title. But he now, as also in the next verse, speaks of Jerusalem. He had spoken also of the neighboring cities; but as the holiness of the whole land seemed then to have its seat and habitation at Jerusalem, God here addresses that city, which as yet retained some appearance of sanctity, and excelled other cities. He then says, Inquire, see, know, look, whether there is a man, etc. He allows here all men to form a judgment, as though he had said, |Let all be present, since the Jews seek to create an ill-will towards me, and complain of too much rigor, as though I treated them unhumanly; let all who wish come as judges, let them inquire, ask, make a thorough search; and when it shall be found out that there is not in it even one just man, what else can be done, but that the city must be destroyed? for what can be done to the abandoned and irreclaimable, except I execute my judgment on them?|

We now understand the Prophet's object; for he intended here to shut the mouths of the Jews, and to expose their slanders, that they might not clamor against God or blame his judgment, as though it exceeded the limits of moderation: and he shews also, that though God was disposed to pardon, there was yet no place for pardon, and that his mercy was excluded by their untamable obstinacy, since there was not one man in Jerusalem who had any regard for uprightness.

Here, however, a question may be started, Why does Jeremiah say that no good man could be found, since he himself was at Jerusalem, and his friend Baruch, and some others, an account of whom we shall hereafter find? There were then in the city some true servants of God, and some as yet remained who had true religion, though the number was small. It appears then that the language is hyperbolical.

But we must observe, that the Prophet here speaks of the people to the exclusion of the faithful. That this may appear more evident, we must remember a passage in the eighth chapter of Isaiah,

|Seal the law and bind the testimony for my disciples,| (Isaiah 8:16;)

where it appears that God saw that he sent his Prophet in vain, and that his labors were spent in vain among a people wholly irreclaimable. Hence he says, |Bind the testimony and seal the law among the disciples.| We see that God gathered as it were together the few in whom remained any seed of true religion, yea, in whose hearts any religion was found. They were not then numbered with the people. So now Jeremiah did not consider Baruch and a few others as forming a part of that reprobate people; and he speaks, as it has been stated, of the community in general; for there were some separated from the rest, not only by the secret counsel of God, but according to the judgment that had been pronounced. He hence truly declares, that there was not one just man.

We ought also to consider with whom he was then contending. On the one side were the king and his counselors, who, inflated with the promises, which they perverted, did not think it possible that the throne of David would fall.

|This is my rest for ever -- As long as the sun and moon shall be, they shall be my witnesses in heaven, that thy seed shall never fail.| (Psalm 132:14; Psalm 89:37, 38.)

With such words were they armed. But as hypocrites falsely claim God's promises, so these unprincipled men boasted that God was on their side. Jeremiah had also to fight with another party, as we shall hereafter see, that is, with a host of false prophets; for there was a greater number of them, as is ever to be found in the world. The whole priestly order was corrupt, and openly carrying on war with God; and the people were nothing better. Jeremiah then had to contend with the king and his counselors, with the false prophets, with the ungodly priests, and with the wicked people. So he says, that there was not one man among them who engaged himself in appeasing God's wrath.

To seek judgment is the same thing as to labor for uprightness: for the word mspht, meshephet means rectitude, or equity, or the rule of acting justly. He says then, that there was no one who practiced what was just; that there was no one who sought the truth Truth, as in a verse that follows, is to be taken for integrity, honesty; as though he had said, that all were given to falsehoods and frauds and crafts. It was therefore impossible that God should have been propitious to the city; for the relative h after l, being of the feminine gender, cannot be otherwise applied than to Jerusalem. God then says, that he would be merciful to it, if there could be found a just man among the king's counselors, or among the priests, or among the prophets: but they had all united together in opposition to everything just and right. It follows --

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