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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 8:19

19. Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the LORD in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities?

19. Ecce vox clamoris filiae populi mei a terra longinqua, An Jehova non est in Sion? an rex ejus non est in ea? Quare provocarunt me ad iram in suis sculptilibus? in vanitati-bus aiieni?

The Prophet in this verse assumes different characters: he first denounces ruin, which, though near, was not yet dreaded by the people; he then represents the people, and relates what they would say; in the third place, he adds an answer in God's name to check the clamors of the people.

When he says that the daughter of his people uttered a cry, he is to be understood as referring to a future time; for the Jews as yet continued perversely in their sins, and ridiculed all threatenings, and regarded as nothing what was said by the prophets. Jeremiah then does not mean that his own nation cried, as though they dreaded future calamities, (for they were heedlessly secure;) but he condemns their indifference, as though he had said, |Ye indeed do now indulge your own delusions, and think that your felicity is to be perpetual; but in a short time your cry will be heard.| The words, From a distant land, interpreters apply to the Chaldeans and Assyrians, as though the Prophet had said, |Ye hope for a perpetual rest, because your enemies are far from you; hence distance and delay in marching produce this security in you; for it seems not to you credible that your enemies shall make such a journey, except with much expense and much trouble; but in this opinion you are deceived; for though the Chaldeans and the Assyrians are far distant from you, yet they shall soon come and constrain you to utter a cry: ye cannot now bear the warnings of the prophets, my voice ye cannot endure; but God will constrain you to utter a different voice, for ye shall cry, but without any avail.|

This meaning is not without reason on its side: if then the Prophet's words be thus taken, I offer no objection; for hypocrites derive confidence from the present appearance of things; when they see that there is quietness on every side, they fear no danger; when God threatens them, and shews not immediately his rods, they ridicule or despise them.: thus have we seen in other places.

But another meaning is not unsuitable, -- that Jeremiah describes the lamentations of the people in exile, after having been driven into Chaldea and Assyria: The voice, then, of the daughter of my people from a distant land; that is, after having been deprived of their country, they will then begin to cry, and for this reason, because they wished the prophets to give them rest, and refused to bear any reproofs. Appropriate also is this view; but I prefer the former, -- that the people would shortly find out how foolishly they deluded themselves, when God by his servants threatened them with ruin and destruction: and hence he uses the demonstrative particle, |Behold:| Behold, he says, the voice of crying; and yet great was the silence then at Jerusalem: for though in their pleasure they uttered some voices, yet as to weepings and lamentations the whole city was silent. The Prophet then refers to what was hidden. But God usually acts in this way, as he afterwards executes suddenly his judgment; for when the wicked say, Peace, peace, destruction comes and suddenly overwhelms them. (1 Thessalonians 5:8.)

He adds in the second place, Is not Jehovah in Sion? Is not her king in her? The Prophet no doubt expresses here the complaints of the people on finding themselves overwhelmed with so many and so great evils, without receiving any aid from heaven. For hypocrites ever expostulate with God; and as they consider that they are unjustly chastised, they reject every instruction, and avoid it as much as they can; in short, they seek stupidity, that they may deceive themselves with vain delusions. As then it is usual with hypocrites to reject every apprehension of God's wrath, Jeremiah strikingly describes their contumacy, |Is not Jehovah in Sion? Is not her king in her?| For they accused God of falsehood, as though he had deceived them, since he had promised to be the defender of the city, and of the whole land. As then they thought that God was bound to them by this promise, they daringly raged against him, |What means this? for God has chosen this place, where Abraham's race might worship him; it has been as it were his earthly kingdom: but now what can this mean, that enemies are coming here? Can God ever permit them to do so? This is not possible, except God himself be overcome.|

We hence see the import of the Prophet's words; for he here imitates the perverse language of the people, and recites the words which he knew most of them used. We have before found him addressing them,

|Trust not in words of falsehood, saying, The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah,| (Jeremiah 7:4;)

for they were wont perversely to allege against God, the temple, and to regard it as a shield to ward off every evil. In the same way the Prophet says now, |Is not God in Sion?| and then, |Is not her king in her?| The Jews were not only persuaded that God would be propitious to them, but they doubted not of their own safety, while they could turn their eyes to their king. They therefore uttered these words, as though they were beyond the chance of danger: for we know what God had declared respecting the kingdom, that it would continue for ever: So long as the sun and moon shall be in heaven, shall remain the seat of David, and his posterity flourish. (Psalm 89:36, 37.) Hence they connected the king with God; as though they had said, |Here is God worshipped, and his power dwells in the temple; the king also, whom he has set over us, is a sure pledge of his favor; and the perpetuity of his kingdom has been promised to us: it then follows, that either God is untrue, and that we have been deceived with vain promises, or that our enemies will come in vain; for when they shall make every effort, God, who is the guardian of our safety, will easily drive them away.|

At the first view this seems to be an evidence of faith, as the people seemed persuaded that they should be safe and secure under the protection of God, and as they turned their eyes to that kingdom, which was a remarkable exhibition of God's presence: for as David was a type of Christ, and also his posterity, no other refuge could have been sought by the faithful than that which is here described. But we know how hypocrites swell with vain confidence, while yet they are wholly destitute of faith, and how they become wantonly insolent whenever God threatens them, as though they held him bound at their will. As then the ungodly are wont thus to abuse the name of God, it is no wonder that they imitate the language of his true servants: but yet they are wholly different. How so? They lay hold on the promises, but they have no faith nor repentance. |This is my rest for ever: it then follows that we shall be ever safe, for God cannot be overcome by any force of arms, by any onset of enemies; since he has taken us under his protection, what have we to fear?| But, at the same time, they despised God and all his teaching.

We hence see how foolish was the boasting of that people, since they wholly despised the holy name of God, and did swell only with wind, inasmuch as they were altogether destitute of faith and piety. We must also ever keep in mind what I have already said, -- that the Jews not only entertained this vain confidence, but also presumptuously rose up against God, as though he had deceived them, having promised that Sion would be his perpetual rest: they now ask him, why he did not defend the city, as he dwelt in Sion? and why was not the king their protection, since it had been said, |So long as the sun and moon shall be in heaven, shall remain the throne of David?| Now follows God's answer.

Why then have they provoked me with their carvings, and the vanities of the foreigner? Here God retorts their false complaints. We hence learn, that in the last clause the contumacy of the people is what is set forth by Jeremiah: they raged against God, because he did not aid them in time. God shews how absurdly they complained against him, and accused him: Why, he says, have they provoked me? |They say now that they are forsaken, because there is no faithfulness in me: I have not betrayed them, nor forsaken them, but they have forsaken me | We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. We observe, indeed, that the passage is abrupt, for the Prophet assumes different characters; but as to what is meant there is nothing doubtful.

God says, that he was provoked with carvings: it hence follows, that the temple was polluted. God had indeed promised to dwell in the temple, but on a certain condition, provided he was faithfully, and in a legitimate manner, worshipped there; but the people with their pollutions had defiled the temple. God then shews that there was a just cause why he had departed, according to what is set forth more fully in the tenth chapter of Ezekiel: God shews to his servant in that vision that he had left the temple, and for this reason, -- because his holiness could not be blended with ungodly and filthy profanations. He first mentions carvings generally, and then he adds, the vanities of the foreigner: and here he amplifies the sin of the people, because they borrowed here and there from foreigners such superstitions as were unknown to their fathers, as though they wished to banish God from the temple, and from the whole land. It follows --

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