33. And the carcases of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away.
33. Et erit cadaver populi hujus in cibum avi coelorum (avibus) et bestiae terrae (hoc est, bestiis) nec erit qui absterreat (hoc est, qui terrore abigat.)
Jeremiah threatens them with something more grievous than death itself, -- that God would impress the marks of his wrath even on their dead bodies. It is indeed true what a heathen poet says,
|That the loss of a grave is not great,| (Virgil, aeneid;)
but we must on the other hand remember that burying has been held as a sacred custom in all ages; for it was a symbol of the last resurrection. Barbarous then were the words, |Give me a stick, if you fear that birds will eat my dead body;| as the cynic, who had ordered his body to be cast into the field, derided what was said in answer to him, |The wild beasts and birds will devour thee:| |Oh,| said he, |let me have a stick, and I will drive them away;| intimating by such a saying, that he would then be without any feeling; but he shewed that he entertained no hope of immortality. But it was God's will that the custom of burying should prevail among all nations, that in death itself there might be some evidence or intimation of the last resurrection. When therefore the Prophet declares here and in other places that the Jews would be without a burial, he doubtless enhances the vengeance of God.
We indeed know that some of the most holy men had not been buried; for the prophets were sometimes exposed to wild beasts and birds: and the whole Church complains in Psalm 79:2, that the dead bodies of the saints were exposed and became food for birds and wild beasts. This has sometimes happened; for God often mixes the good with the evil in temporal punishments, as he makes his sun to rise on the good and the evil: but yet of itself and for the most part, it is an evidence of a curse, when a man's body is cast away without any burial.
It is this then that the Prophet means when he says, The carcase of this people shall be meat for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth, and there will be none to terrify them; that is, there will be no one to perform the humane office of driving the beasts away, the very thing which nature itself would lead one to do. If any one now objects and says, that in this case the faithful could not be distinguished from the reprobate, the answer is plainly this, -- that when the honor of a burial is denied to the faithful, God will become the avenger. But this does not prove that God does not in this way inflict a visible punishment on the reprobate, and thus expose them to reproach by whom he has been despised. He afterwards adds --