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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Lecture Thirty-Seventh

We explained yesterday what the Prophet said respecting the Jews, that though no one considered the reason why God so severely afflicted them, yet they could not escape in this way, and that they in vain set up the shield of iglnorance, for God had often declared that he abominated their superstitions. Though then they were all blind, and no prophet shewed to them the cause of their evils, yet Jeremiah said, that this alone was sufficient -- that God had spoken, and would again speak to them. He said that they were not submissive to God's authority, but walked after the hardness of their own heart, and after Baalim. He added, that they had been thus taught by their fathers By this clause he exaggerated their sin; for they did not then begin for the first time to sin, but became obstinate in their vices.

We may learn from this passage how foolishly the Papists now glory in imitating the fathers: for they think that examples stand for laws; nay, they hesitate not to oppose. God's authority by what has been done by men. But we see that such an excuse is not only frivolous, but that thereby the crime is doubled; for more excusable is the ignorance of one year, or of a short time, than when there is a long obstinate persistency in it, and when children, after having embraced abominations, received from their fathers, hand them down to their posterity.

He at length concludes that God would take vengeance, but speaks in a figurativle language, I will feed them with bitterness The word lnh lone, is rendered |wormwood;| but as this is a wholesome herb, I prefer to render it |bitterness.| It is never found in a good sense, and therefore unsuitable to the nature of wormwood, which is often mentioned by Moses: and the other prophets (Deuteronomy 19:18; Deuteronomy 32:32; Hebrews 2:15.) Hence I am inclined to adopt a general term, |bitterness.| He then adds, I will give them poisonous waters to drink; as though God had said that he would execute a dreadful vengeance, so that it would appear in the meat and drink given them, which yet were remarkable testimonies of his paternal kindness towards them: for we cannot eat a crumb of bread nor drink a drop of water, except God's goodness, and the care which he takes for our safety, shines upon us. Hence is that awful imprecation in Psalm 69:22, 23,

|Turned let their table be into an offense.|

David also complained, when describing the barbarous cruelty of his enemies, that they gave him gall to drink: and we shall hereafter see what Jeremiah says; for in speaking. of his enemies, he says that they had conspired to put him to death, and said,

|Let us set wood for his bread.| (Jeremiah 11:19)

By these words then Jeremiah intended to express the dreadful vengeance of God; for he would not onty deprive the Jews of his benefits, but also turn their bread into poison, and their water into bitterness.

We now then perceive the Prophet's meaning; and at the same time we must observe the expression, the God of Israel The foolish boasting, that they were the descendants of Abraham, and that they were a holy people, chosen by God, always deluded the Jews. In order then to check their glorying, the Prophet says, float the God who spoke to them was the God whose name they falsely professed, and that he was the God who had chosen the children of Abraham as his peculiar people. It follows --

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