12. Who is the wise man, that may understand this? and who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD hath spoken, that he may declare it, for what the land perisheth and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passeth through?
12. Quis vir prudens ut intelligat hoc? (ad verbum, et intelligens,) et ad quem loquutum est os Jehovae, ut annunciet quare perierit terra, vastata sit instar deserti, ut nemo transeat? (mvly vr absque transeunte, ad verbum.)
Here the Prophet reproves more sharply the insensibility of the people, because none attended to the judgments of God; for though they were apparent, no one considered them. The question arose from astonishment; for it was like something dreadfully monstrous, that so few among the people knew that God would be the punisher of crimes so apparent to all. Had they a particle of understanding, they must have known that a dreadful calamity was nigh at hand, since they continued in so many ways to provoke God. And now that the labor of the Prophet, after having said what ought to have roused them all, had been all in vain; was not this doubly monstrous? For he had spent a long time, and had never ceased to cry; and yet all were deaf, nay, his teaching was treated with contempt.
Hence is his astonishment, when he says, Who is a wise man? he intimates that there was hardly one in a hundred whom the fear of God influenced. It must then be remembered, that the Prophet complains of the few number of those who perceived:, that it could not be but that God would shortly put forth his hand to punish the wickedness which then everywhere prevailed. But yet he exhorts all the faithful children of God to disregard the nmltitude, and to gather courage, and to make more account of God's word than of the contumacy of them all. There are then two things in this sentence; for the question means, that few could be found among the people who were wise, and who applied their minds and thoughts to consider the miserable state of the people; but, on the other hand, he intimates that it is true wisdom in God's faithful servants, not to despond, and not to follow the nmltitude. He then intimates that they are alone truly wise who consider God's judgments before He openly executes them. There is a similar sentence in Psalm 107: 43; for the Prophet, after having spoken of God's judgments, which are visible through the whole world, exclaims,
|Who is a wise man, that he may understand these things?|
as though he had said, that though the works of God, which evidence both his goodness and his judgment, might indeed be observed in every part of the world, yet that all were blind. The Prophet then by this exclamation reprobates the insensibility of men, who overlook God's judgments, though they are apparent before their eyes. So also the same thing is meant in this place, Who is a wise man? But we must further notice the second thing, to which I have referred, namely, that all the faithful are here encouraged, as the Prophet teaches us, that this is the rule of wisdom, -- to open our eyes to see God's judgments, which are hid from the world: while others are drawn away by their lusts or sunk in their stupor, the Prophet teaches us, that we are wise, when we duly consider, as I have already said, what the Lord has made known to us in his word. Hence it follows, that all the wise men of this world are foolish, who so harden themselves, that they do not perceive in God's word what is yet open to their eyes. Who then is a wise man, and he will understand these things?
He afterwards adds, To whom has the mouth of Jehovah spoken to declare this? He complains here that there were no prophets. He said, at the beginning of the verse, that there were none wise, because all heedlessly despised the threatenings and judgments of God: now in the second place he adds, there were none to arouse the careless people who were asleep in their sins. But by this sentence he claims authority for himself; for though he was without associates and assistants, he yet intimates that his teaching was not, on that account of less value: |Be it,| he says, (for he speaks by way of concession,) |be it, that there is no prophet to recall the people from their sins, to exhort them to repent, to terrify the ungodly: however this may be, yet the Lord has appointed me to teach and to exhort the people.| We hence see that the Prophet claims for himself full and complete authority, though he alone denounced God's vengeance. Many indeed then boasted that they were prophets; but they were only false flatterers. When the Prophet saw that many abused the name, and did not perform the office faithfully and sincerely, he set himself in opposition to them all; as though he had said, |It is enough that the Lord has commanded me to do this; I therefore denounce on you this calamity, which ye heedlessly disregard, because false teachers deeeive you by their mischievous adulations.|
Who will declare, he says, why the land is to perish, and to be laid waste like the desert, so that there should be no inhabitant? We may apply this to two periods. For when Jeremiah spoke, the kingdom was yet standing, and, as I have said, the Jews were not so subdued as to humble themselves before God: they were therefore still indulging themselves in their sins. Now whence did this indulgence proceed, except from their prosperous condition? Yet the Prophet says that the land had perished, and justly so; but he says this, because he did not judge of the people's state according to what it appeared then to be, but according to the judgment which he saw by the prophetic spirit was impending over them. And we may extend this farther; as though Jeremiah had said, |When God shall have so chastised this people, that there may be as it were a visible monument of celestial wrath; there shall yet be then no prophets to remind them whence these evils have proceeded.| This indeed we know was the case, when the city was partly burnt and partly demolished, and the temple pulled down: the contumacy of the people was so great, that their hearts were stone, and their minds iron. There was then a monstrous hardness in that calamity. They indeed cried for their evils; but no one perceived that God was executing what he had denounced for so many years. For Jeremiah, as we have said, exercised his office of teaching for a long time: but before he began, Isaiah had already been were out; and before Isaiah, Micah had prophesied. Though, however, threatenings had been renewed daily for a hundred years, and terrors had been announced, yet there was no one who attended.
This passage, then, may be thus explained, -- That when threatenings should appear by the effect not to have been announced in vain, yet the people would even then be insensible, for no one would attend to nor consider God's judgment: they would all indeed feel their evils, but no one would regard the hand of him who smote them, as it is said in another place. (Isaiah 9:13.) Either meaning may be allowed; but, as I think, the Prophet here deplores the hardness and contumacy of the people at that time; as though he had said, that there were none who considered God's judgments, and that there was no prophet to rouse those who were torpid. But yet, as it has been stated, he thus intimates, that he had sufficient authority, though he had no associate or assistant; for he had been chosen by God, and had been sent to carry this message. It follows --