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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Lecture Forty-Seventh

We mentioned yesterday why the Prophet reminded the Jews, that they had been planted by God; it was, that they might know that they did not stand through their own power, and that they had their roots elsewhere, even in the good pleasure of God. The import of the whole is, that whenever God pleased they would instantly perish; for they stood not through their own power, but only through his favor: and this is what he confirms elsewhere, by comparing God to a potter and the people to vessels of clay. Similar is the argument which Quintilian quotes from the Medea of Ovid, |I was able to save thee, and dost thou ask whether I can destroy thee?| As then the Jews, relying on their long tranquinity and on their forces, thought themselves beyond the reach of danger, the Prophet ridicules this confidence; he shews how vain it was, for God had planted them, and so he could easily root them up again.

But this metaphor is very common in Scripture: yet the comparison is the more suitable when the Church is said to have been planted by God; for as a tree draws juice and strength from a hidden root, so the faithful draw their life from the hidden election of God: but this refers to the hope of eternal life. The same is meant by Christ in Matthew 15:13, when he says,

|Every planting,| that is, every tree, |which my Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.|

He then says, that the elect alone are planted by God, for they have their roots in the hidden life of God. But this is also extended much farther, even to the external state of the Church, according to what is said in Psalm 44:2,

|Thou hast rooted out the nations, and planted our fathers;|

as we find also in the eightieth Psalm and in other places. As God then plants his own elect, so also in gathering an external Church to himself, he is said to plant it: but they who are thus planted may be again rooted up, as the Prophet here testifies; while secret election cannot be changed.

We must then observe this difference, -- that God's children have their roots in his eternal election, respecting which there can be no repentance and no change. But the external state of the Church is also compared to a planting: yet they who flourish for a time and are full of leaves and seem also to produce some fruit, are rooted up by God's hand, when they become degenerate. And this mode of speaking is to be taken sometimes still more generally, according to what we shall see in the next chapter, and also in other parts of Scripture.

The Prophet says that God had spoken concerning the wickedness of Israel This refers to what had been taught: for though the Jews had already in part felt the just judgment of God, yet they still continued in safety. He then says that ruin was nigh them, for God had announced it by his servants. And he adds, that it was on account of the wickedness of both kingdoms; and this was said in order to dissipate all their complaints; for we know that men are ever ready to clamor whenever God chastises them, as though they wished to contend with him. But the Prophet shews here, that God would deal thus severely with the Jews, because they had never ceased to provoke his wrath by their evil deeds. Hence he says, that they had done it for themselves Some render the words, |And it shall therefore happen to them.| But there seems to be much more force in the Prophet's words, when we say, that they had done evil for themselves, that is, to their own ruin. He adds, To provoke me, that is, their object; is to provoke me. In short, God intimates, that he would justly punish the Jews, because they had procured evil for themselves; and at the same time he points out the fountain of evil, for they had designedly provoked God by offering incense to Baal It follows --

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