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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 5:15

15. Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the Lord: it is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say.

15. Ecce ego adduco super vos gentem e longinquo, domus Israel, dicit Jehova; gentem duram (hoc est, quae dura erit, quia sequitur 'vh,) gentem quae est e seculo, gentem cujus non tenebis (vel, cognosces) linguam (nam relativum est v) et non audies quid loquatur.

The Prophet shews here how the people would become like straw or dry wood; for God would bring a sure calamity which they did not fear. But the context is to be here observed: the Prophet had said, that the word in his mouth would be like fire; he now transfers this to the Assyrians and Chaldeans. Now these things have the appearance of being inconsistent; but we have already shewn that all the scourges of God depended on the power of his word: when, therefore, the city was cut off by the Assyrians and Chaldeans, then the fire from the mouth of Jeremiah broke forth to destroy the city and the people.

In short, Jeremiah intimates, that when the enemies came, no account was to be made of their strength nor of their forces, and that they would not bring with them any aids for the war, but that there would be the execution of what he had said, of what had proceeded from his mouth; for we shall elsewhere see that he was sent by God to besiege the city; but with what forces? He was alone and unarmed; this is true; but this siege was not understood by the wicked and reprobate, yet it was not without its effect; for as the Prophet spoke, so God executed what had proceeded from his mouth. We hence see that the Chaldeans proceeded as it were from the mouth of the Prophet, like willing enemies, who throw darts to demolish the walls of a city, who east stones and upset the walls by warlike engines, or like those who at this day use other warlike machines, by which they demolish cities. What then are all these instruments of war? They are the fire which God casts forth by the mouth of his servants; and the truth which had been declared by them, has accompanying it all those engines of war which can destroy not only one city and one people, but the whole world, when it shall so please him.

I bring then upon you a nation from far We have said elsewhere why the Prophet refers to long distance, even because the Jews thought that there was no danger nigh them from nations so remote, as though we were to speak of the Turks at this day, |Oh! they have to fight with other nations: let those who are near them contend with the Turks, for we may live three or four ages in quietness.| We see such indifference prevailing in the present day. Hence the Prophet, in order to deprive the Jews of this vain confidence, says that this nation was near at hand, though coming from remote quarters.

He says that they were a hard, or a strong nation, and a nation from antiquity He means not simply that it was brave through age, but that it was hard and ferocious; for he says afterwards that they were all gvrym, geberim, that is, valiant. He then calls it a hard nation, because it was cruel, and he afterwards mentions the barbarity of that nation. But he says first that it was from antiquity: for it generates spirits more ferocious, when a nation has ruled for a long time, and from a period out of memory: this very antiquity is wont to inflate the minds of men with pride, and to render them more ferocious. He says then, that it was from antiquity

He afterwards speaks of its barbarity: Thou wilt not, he says, understand its language, nor wilt thou hear what it speaks By language, we know, not only words, but also feelings are communicated. Language is the expression of the mind, as it is commonly said, and it is therefore the bond of society. Had there been no language, in what would men differ from brute beasts? One would barbarously treat another; there would indeed be no humanity among them. As then language conciliates men one towards another, the Prophet, in order to terrify the Jews, says that that nation would be barbarous, for there would be no communication made with it by means of a language. Hence it followed that there would be no pity to spare the conquered, no, not if they implored a hundred times; nor could they be heard, who were miserable, and such as might obtain some favor, if they were understood.

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