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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Jeremiah 7:9-11

Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 7:9-11

9. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not;

9. An furari, occidere, adulterium committere, jurare falso (hoc est, pejerare) suffitum offerre Baal, ambulare post deos alienos, quos non cognoscitis?

10. And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?

10. Et venientes et stantes coram facie mea in domo hac (hoc est, in hoc templo,) super quam (vel, super quod) invocatum est nomen meum, dicetis, Liberati sumus ad faciendum (ut faciamus) omnes abominationes istas.

11. Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD.

11. An spelunca latronum facta est domus haec (vel, templum hoc,) super quam invocatum est nomen meum, in oculis vestris? Etiam ego ecce video, dicit Jehova.

The meaning seems to be suspended in the first verse, when he says, Whether to steal, to kill, and to commit adultery, etc.; but there is nothing ambiguous in the passage. For though there is something abrupt in the words, we yet infer this to be the meaning, |Will you steal, |etc.? Verbs in the infinitive mood, we know, are often to be considered as verbs in the future tense: |Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, burn incense to Baal, |etc.? The Prophet shews how foolishly the Jews sought to make an agreement with God, so that they might with impunity provoke him by their many vices. When they entered the Temple, they thought him to be under a necessity to receive them, as though that was a proper reconciliation. But the Prophet exposes this folly. For what can be more absurd than that God should allow men to commit murders, thefts, and adulteries, with impunity? Hypocrites do not in words express this; but when they make external ceremonies a sort of expiation, and seek by such means to bury their sins, do they not make God their associate? Do they not make him a partaker, as it were, with them, when they would have him to cover their adulteries? When they take sacrifices from their plunders, to expiate their crimes, do they not make him a participator in their robberies? The Prophet, therefore, plainly condemns hypocrites in this place, because they acted most contumeliously towards God, in implicating him in their own vices, as though he was the associate of thieves, murderers, and adulterers.

Will you steal, he says, and then, will you kill, commit adultery, and swear falsely? These four sins are against the Second Table, in which God forbids us to steal, to kill, to commit adultery, and to deceive our neighbors by false swearing. These four vices are mentioned, in order that the Prophet might shew that all the duties of love were wholly disregarded by the Jews. He then adds things which belong to the First Table, even the offering of incense to Baal, and the walking after alien gods, which yet were unknown to them. By these two clauses he proves their impiety. He mentions one kind of idolatry, -- that they offered incense to Baal. The Prophets often refer in the plural number to Baalim, regarded by the Jews as advocates, by whose intercession, as they thought, they gained favor with God; as the case is at this day under the Papacy, whose Baalim are angels and dead men: for they regard them not as gods, but think that by employing these as advocates they conciliate God, and obtain his favor. Such was the superstition which prevailed among the Jews. But the Prophet here includes all idols under the word Baal. There is afterwards a general complaint, -- that God was neglected, and that they had perfidiously departed from him, for they walked after alien gods; and he exaggerates the crime by saying that they were unknown

The Prophet, no doubt, intimates here a contrast with the sure knowledge, which is the basis of true religion: for God had given evident proofs of his glorious power by many miracles, when the Israelites were redeemed; and he had afterwards confirmed the same by many blessings; and the law had been proclaimed, accompanied with many signs and wonders. (Exodus 20:18; Deuteronomy 5:22, 23.) Hence the Jews could not have pleaded involuntary error, for after so many proofs there could have been no excuse on the ground of ignorance. Now, as to alien gods, how came they to know that they were gods? There was no proof, they had no reason to believe them to be so. We hence see how grievously wicked were the Jews; for they had departed from the worship of the true God, who had made himself known to them by many miracles, and who had confirmed the authority of his law, so that it could not be questioned, and they had gone after unknown gods!

The Prophet now adds, Ye come, that is, after ye have allowed yourselves to steal, and to murder, and to commit adultery, and to corrupt the whole worship of God, -- at last, Ye come and stand before me in this temple. God proceeds with the same subject; for it was not only his purpose in this place to condemn the Jews as murderers, and thieves, and adulterers, but he proceeds farther, even to shew their shameless effrontery in coming with an unblushing front and entering the Temple, as though they were the true worshippers of God. |What do you mean, |he says, |by this? Ye bring with you murders, and thefts, and adulteries, and abominable filth; ye are contaminated with the most disgraceful things: by and bye ye enter the Temple, and think that you are at liberty to do anything.| Similar is the language we find in the first chapter of Isaiah, verses 12 and 15 (Isaiah 1:12, 15): God complains there that they trod the pavement of his Temple, and brought hands polluted with blood. So also in this place, Ye come, he says, intimating his detestation, and ye stand before me in this Temple Though God was not inclosed in that Temple, yet we know that the Ark of the Covenant was the symbol of his presence. Hence, we often meet in the law with this expression, |Ye shall stand before me.| Here then, God shews that it was a detestable and monstrous thing, that the Jews dared to rush into his presence, when polluted and contaminated with so many vices.

And he adds, In this house, on which is called my name, that is, which has been dedicated to me; for to call God's name on the Temple, means nothing else, but that the Temple was consecrated to him, so that he was there worshipped. When God is truly worshipped, they who seek him find that he himself is present by his grace and power. As then God had commanded the Temple to be built for him, that he might there be worshipped, he says his name was there called, that is, according to its first and sacred appointment. Absurdly indeed did the Jews call on his name, for there was in them no religion, no piety: but according to God's institution, his name was called upon in the Temple, as he had consecrated it to himself. Hence God reminds them of the first institution, which was holy and ought to have continued inviolable: |Know ye not, that this place has been chosen by me, that my name might be there invoked? Ye stand before me in the holy place, and ye stand polluted; and though polluted, not with one kind of vices, but my whole law has been violated by you, and my Tables despised, ye yet stand!| We hence see the design of the Prophet: for he condemns the effrontery and frowardness of the Jews, because they thus dared to rush into God's presence in all their pollutions.

And ye say, he adds, that is, while standing in the Temple; ye say, O, we are freed to do all these abominations; that is, |Ye think that the Temple is a covert for you to hide all your vices; and so ye think, that you have escaped from my hand, as though no account is any more to be made of your sins, my Temple being regarded by you as an asylum, under whose shade ye take shelter.| It is indeed certain, that the Jews did not thus speak; for had they been asked whether their life was abominable, they would have denied it to be so. He speaks of the fact itself, and he speaks in the person of God, and according to his command. He therefore condemns hypocrites for thinking themselves freed, because they came to the Temple, and for thinking that all those abominations which he had mentioned, their impiety towards God and their injustice towards their neighbors, would be unpunished.

He afterwards adds, Is this house, which is called by my name, a den of robbers? This is the conclusion of the passage, which contains an amplification of their vices. For the Prophet had allowed the Jews to form a judgment, as though he had been discussing an obscure or doubtful subject, |Behold, be ye yourselves judges in your own case; is it right for you to steal, to murder, and to commit adultery? and then to come into this Temple, and to boast that impunity is granted to you as to all your evils?| This indeed ought to have been enough; but as the obstinacy and stupor of the Jews were so great, that they would not have given way without being most fully and in various ways proved guilty, the Prophet adds this sentence, Is this house, which is called by my name, a den of robbers? that is, |Have I chosen this place for myself, that ye might worship me, in order that ye might be more licentious than if there was no religion? For what purpose is religion? Is it not that men may by this bridle restrain themselves, that they may not be libertines? For surely the worship and fear of God are the directors of equity and justice. Now, would it not be better to have no Temple and no sacrifices, than that men should take more liberty to sin by making their ceremonies as an excuse? Away then with your ceremonies: conscience shews that it is a wretched thing to oppress or injure a neighbor; all are constrained by common sense to own that adultery is a filthy and a detestable thing; and men think the same of rapines and murders. As to superstitions, when they are seen as such, all are constrained to allow the worship of God ought to be preserved in its purity. Well then, had there been no Temple among you, this truth must have been impressed on your minds, -- that God ought to be worshipped in purity. Now, because the Temple has been built at Jerusalem, because ye offer sacrifices there, ye are thieves, ye are adulterers, ye are murderers; and ye think that I am in some sort blind, that I am no longer the avenger of so many and of such atrocious evils. A den of robbers then is my house become to you.| But this sentence is to be read interrogatively, |Can it be, that this Temple, this sanctuary, is become a den of robbers?|

But we must consider the import of the comparison: Robbers, though they are most audacious and wholly savage, do not yet dare openly to use their sword; they dare not kill helpless men. Why? they fear the punishment allotted to them by the laws; they are cautious. But when they seize on men in some hidden place, then they take more liberty in their robberies; they kill men, and then take their property. We hence see that dens and hidden places have in them more safety for robbers. The comparison then is most suitable, when the Prophet says that the Jews made the Temple of God the den of robbers: for had there been no Temple, some integrity might have remained, secured by the common feeling of men. But when they covered their baseness with sacrifices, they thought that they thus escaped all judgment.

And hence, Christ applied this prophecy to his time; for the Jews had even then profaned the Temple. Though they presumptuously and falsely called on God's name, they yet sought the Temple as an asylum for impurity. This folly Christ exposed, as the Prophet had done.

He afterwards adds, Even I, behold I see, saith Jehovah Jeremiah here no doubt touches ironically on the false confidence with which the Jews deceived themselves: for hypocrites seem to themselves to know whatever is necessary. And hence also it is, that as they think themselves to be acute, they are bolder and more presumptuous in contriving deceitful schemes, by which they seek to delude God and men. And hence the Prophet here tauntingly touches them to the quick, by intimating that they wished to make God as it were blind, Even I, behold I see, he says. It would not yet be sufficiently evident how emphatical the phrase is, were it not for a similar passage in Isaiah 29:15,

|I also am wise.| The Prophet had said, |Woe to the crafty and the wise, who have dug pits for themselves.|

He there condemns ungodly men, who thought that they could somehow by their falsehoods deceive God; which seems to be and is monstrous: and yet it is an evil which commonly prevails among men. For hardly a man in a hundred can be found who does not seek coverings to hide himself from the eyes of God. This is the case especially with courtiers and clever men, who assume to themselves so much clear-sightedness, that God sees nothing in comparison with them. The Lord therefore, by Isaiah, gives this answer, |I also am wise: if ye are wise, allow me at least some portion of wisdom, and think not that I am altogether foolish.| So also in this place, |Before my eyes, this house is made a den of robbers;| that is, |If there be any sense in you, does it not appear evident that you have made a den of robbers of my Temple? and can I be yet blind? If you think that you are very clear-sighted, I also do see, saith the Lord.|

We hence see what force there is in the particle gm, gam, also, and in the pronoun 'nky, anoki, I, and in hnh, ene, behold; for these three words are heaped together, that God might shew that he was not unobservant, when the people so audaciously ran headlong into all kinds of vices, and sought by their falsehoods to cover his eyes, that he might not see anything.

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