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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Jeremiah 9:25-26

Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 9:25-26

25. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;

25. Ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, ut visitem (ad verbum, et visitabo) super omnem circumcisum in praeputio.

26. Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.

26. Super Egyptium (vel, super Egyptum; tam de terra quam de hominibus potest accipi) et super Jehudah, et super Edom, et super omnes filios Amon, et super Moab, et super omnes finitos in angulo (alii vertunt, attonsos comam, sed nulla ratio apparet) habitantes in deserto; quia omnes gentes incircumcisae (vel, praeputiatae) et tota domus Israel praeputiati sunt corde (vel, incircumcisi.)

The Prophet, after having removed the obstacle which he saw hindered the Jews from reverently receiving the truth of God, now speaks more sharply, and performs the office of a herald in denouncing the vengeance which was at hand: Behold, he says, come shall the days, in which I will visit all the uncircumcised in uncircumcision

This passage admits of two meanings. Some interpreters take as distinct these two words, mvl mul, the circumcised, vrlh, beorle, in uncircumcision; as though Jeremiah had said, |I will visit the Jews, who are circumcised, as well as the heathen nations, who are uncircumcised,| Others read them jointly, -- that God threatens vengeance on the Jews and Gentiles, because they were circumcised, and still retained uncircumcision. The passage may however be thus suitably explained, -- that there was a mixture, which corrupted the sacredness of circumcision, and made it like the uncircumcision of the Gentiles; as though it were thus expressed, |I will visit the circumcised with the uncircumcision,| that is, promiscuously and without any difference, as we say in our language, Pele mele. For it follows afterwards, that all were uncircumcised in heart; that is, all the Jews. We hence see that the Prophet makes circumcision and uncireumcision the same, and that he intended to render profane the sacred symbol of adoption;but he had reference to the Jews, who, being degenerated, thus adulterated God's covenant, and at the same time violated circumcision, so that in differed nothing from uncircumcision. I therefore think, that the Jews are classed with the Gentiles, so that he ascribes even to them uncircumcision: I will then visit all the circumcised with the uncircumcision; that is, the circumcision of each is vain, and is like uncircumcision.

However this may be, the Prophet here denounces ruin, not only on the Jews, but also on the Egyptians and on other neighboring nations; but he yet speaks to his own people, for his word was not destined for the Egyptians, nor for the Idumeans and the Moabites. But as the Jews were wont to have recourse to the Egyptians, when any danger arose from the Assyrians and Chaldeans, the Prophet here connects the Egyptians with the Jews, and for the same reason, the other nations. We indeed know that the Idumeans and the Moabites were most hostile enemies to the Jews; but as the state of things changed, they were at one time their enemies, at another their friends; and when they saw that the Chaldeans extended their power, they saw also that they were exposed to plunder, and hence it happened that they willingly helped the Jews. Since then the Hebrews hoped that their neighbors on every side would aid them, the Prophet says that a visitation was nigh them all: and hence is confirmed what I have already said; for he distinguishes not the Jews from the Egyptians and other nations; but, on the contrary, as they had made alliances with them, he intends to unite them in one body: I will visit, he says, the circumcised with the uncircumcision For the Jews did not bear in mind that God was the protector of their safety, and that they had been set apart by him from other nations. He names the circumcised together with the uncircumcision, because the Egyptians, the Idumeans, the Ammonites, and the Moabites, were deemed circumcised on account of the covenant they had made with the Jews; and the Jews were deemed uncircumcised, because they had forsaken God, and thus profarted themselves.

It is indeed true that the Idumeans were circumcised, for they were the descendants of Esau, and had no doubt retained this external symbol; but their circumcision was altogether a mockery, as Esau had departed from the Church of God. The circumcision of the elect people was in itself efficacious; but as they had alike fallen into superstitions, they were like the uncircumcised, according to what Paul says, -- that the letter of the circumcision, that is, the external rite, was nothing. We hence see that there is no common propriety in the Prophet's words, when he denounces vengeance on the Jews as well as on the Egyptians, and names the circumcised with the uneircumcision; for the latter had uncircumcision, the former circumcision, and thus they had blended profane and sacred things together, so that there was nothing pure or uncorrupted: and hence he mentions Egypt, Judah, Edom, the children of Ammon, and Moab We have before stated why he enumerated all these nations; he did so, because they expected help from one another, so that they all despised God.

He afterwards adds, And all the extreme ones in a corner The word qph, kots, means the end; hence they take qtsvtsym, kotsutsim, here for extremities: and ph'h pae, signifies a corner, and an end. We might then, if propriety of language would bear it, render the words thus, |the cornered in the corner.| But the meaning is by no means ambiguous, which is, that though the Moabites and others had hidden recesses, they could not be exempt from the calamity. God's vengeance shall come, says Jeremiah, into their farthest corners, where they think that they dwell in safety. And what follows is explanatory, the inhabitants of the wilderness, or, those who dwell in the wilderness. He thus shews what he meant by qtsvtsy ph'h kotsutsi pae, the extremities, of the corner. For when people inhabit remote places, they regard themselves on that account safer, being secure in their hiding -- places: this confidence the Prophet derides; and he says that punishment would reach them also.

He then adds, For all the nations are uncircumcised, and the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart By saying, that all nations were uncircumcised, he doubtless includes the Israelites, and thus by way of reproach he takes away from the chosen people their peculiar distinction; as though he had said, that Israel was so mixed with the nations, that they only made a part of them: the Jews would have otherwise denied, that they deserved to be classed with the Gentiles; but the Prophet deprives them of every excuse, and says that they were but one nation, having no difference: All these nations then are uncircumcised And so h He, before gvym guim, nations, may be taken as a demonstrative pronoun, and not a relative, |All these nations.| He had spoken not only of the Egyptians and the Idumeans and of other neighboring nations, but had also mentioned Judah. He then says, |All these nations are uncircumcised:| and as I have already said, he condemns Israel, because they differed nothing from the nations, though God had consecrated them to himself; for there was an entire mingling, which made them all equal.

But as some objection might still be alleged, he says, the Jews are uncircumcised in heart He had indeed already included them in the nations; but it was necessary to insist more on this point, for circumcision might have been pleaded by them. Hence the Prophet says, that though they had the visible symbol in the flesh, they were yet uncircumcised in heart, and ought therefore to be classed with the nations. We see how sharply he reproves them: though he separates them from other nations, he yet shews that they justly deserved to be numbered with them; for God cares not for the external symbol, but regards the chief thing, the circumcision of the heart.

It is a common thing with Moses and the Prophets to call an unrenewed heart, uncircumcision, and to say that the people are uncircumcised in heart: for circumcision, while an evidence of free salvation in Christ, at the same time initiated the Jews into the worship and service of God, and proved the necessity of a new life; it was in short a sign both of repentance and of faith. When, therefore, the Jews presented only the sign, they were justly derided by Moses and the prophets; for they seemed as though they sought to pacify God by a thing of nought, without regarding the end. The same is the case now when we boast of baptism alone, and are at the same time destitute of repentance and faith: our boasting is absurd and ridiculous. And hence Paul calls the external rite, when the sign is separated from its reality and substance, the letter of the circumcision; and on the other hand he calls that the true circumcision, which is in secret and in the spirit. We may also say the same of baptism, -- that the literal baptism avails hypocrites nothing, for they receive only the naked sign: and therefore we must come to the spirit of baptism, to the thing itself; for the interior power is renovation, when our old man is crucified in us, and when we rise again with Christ into newness of life.

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