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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 5:6

6. Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased.

6. Propterea percussit eos leo e sylva; lupus solitudinum (alii per rvvt intelligunt vesperas, quia deducunt ab rv quod significat vesperum; ita vertunt, lupus vesperinus) vastavit eos; pardus (alii vertunt, pantheram) vigilans super urbes eorum; quisquis egredietur, discerpet (vel, lacerabit;) quoniam multiplices sunt iniquitates eorum, auctae sunt defectiones ceorum.

Here, at length, God shews that he was moderate in his judgments, so that the wicked in vain charged him, as it is usual with them, with too much rigor.

Some render the words in the past tense, and think the sense to be, that the Prophet reminds the Jews that they had not been afflicted without reason by so many evils, as they had deserved heavier punishments. But another view may be taken; for we know that in Hebrew the tenses often change; and I am inclined to regard the future tense as intended; for the Prophet seems not here to record what they had already suffered, but to remind them of the heavy punishment that was awaiting them. Smite them shall the lion from the forest

The wolf is called the wolf of solitudes, because of his coming forth from the desert. Some render the words, |the wolf of the evening;| and this may be allowed. We indeed know, that in other places hungry wolves are called the wolves of the evening; for after having sought their prey in the day -- time, and finding none, they become in the evening almost mad, and their hunger causes them to run furiously in all directions. This explanation, then, may be admitted. But as he says first, that the lion would come from the forest, it is more probable that the wolf is described as coming from the desert. As to the general import of the passage there is not much difference.

He mentions here three wild beasts -- the lion, the wolf, and the leopard. By these wild beasts he understands no doubt the enemies, who would shortly attack them with the greatest cruelty. It is indeed true that the Jews, before the time in which Jeremiah spoke to them, had been afflicted with many evils; for God had not punished them only once, but had given them frequent warnings; and had there been any hope of repentance, they might have still continued in safety, though considerably reduced. But Jeremiah seems to predict future punishment: he therefore refers, not only to the Egyptians and the Assyrians, but also to other enemies. For that people, we know, were hated by all their neighbors, and had suffered grievous wrongs even from their own kindred. Since, then, many nations were hostile to the Jews, it is nothing strange that the Prophet enumerates here three sorts of wild beasts; as though he had said, that enemies would come from every quarter, who would, like lions, wolves, and leopards, vent their fury on them, because they had so often, and for so long a time, provoked God's wrath. At the same time, God does here check those false complaints which are wont to be often alleged by the wicked, and shews that he is a righteous Judge, and that the punishments he inflicted could not be blamed by the Jews: and it was for this purpose that he used the particle, Wherefore -- l-kz, ol-kan.

He also adds, A leopard shall watch, that he may tear all who shall go out of the cities This language is no doubt metaphorical; and what he means is, that when the enemies would occupy the land, the Jews would be shut up in their cities, and would not venture to go forth, for dangers would await them everywhere.

At the end of the verse he repeats again, and speaks more fully of what he meant by |Wherefore -- l-kz, |at the beginning of the verse; for he says, Because multiplied have their transgressions, and increased have their defections By these words he further proves what he had said, that God is a righteous judge, even when he seems to be too severe: for it could not have been otherwise, but that he must have visited with extreme vengeance a people so abandoned and irreclaimable. Nor does he only call them wicked, and apostates, but he says that their iniquities, or evil deeds, were many, and that their defections had increased And by the last expression he amplifies their guilt: for though phs, pesho, does not mean simply to offend, but to act wickedly; yet to fall away from God is a baser and a more atrocious sin. We hence learn, that such was the wickedness of the Jews, that it could not be corrected by common means or moderate punishment. He afterwards adds --

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