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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 11:19

19. But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.

19. Ego autem quasi agnus, bos ductus ad immolandum (ad mactandum) et non cognovi quod contra me cogitarent cogitationes (hoc est, inirent consilia, nempe) corrumpamus ligno panera ejus (ad verbum est, corrumpamus lignum in pane; sed dicemus post de sensu verborum) et excidamus eum e terra vivorum, et nomen ejus non memoretur amplius.

The Prophet adds here, as I think, that he did not retaliate private wrongs: for the Jews might, under this pretext, have rejected his doctrine, and have said, that he was moved by anger to treat them sharply and severely. And doubtless, whosoever allows his own reelings to prevail in the least degree, cannot teach in sincerity; for he who prepares himself for the prophetic office, ought to put off all the affections of the flesh, and to manifest a pure, and, so to speak, a limpid zeal, and also a calm mind, so that he may seek nothing, and have no object but the glory of God and the salvation of those to whom he is sent a teacher. Whosoever then is under the influence of private feelings cannot act otherwise than violently, so that he cannot either faithfully or profitably discharge the office of a prophet or a teacher.

Hence the Prophet now adds, in the second place, that he did not plead his own cause, nor had respect, as they say, to his own person; for he knew not what the Jews had devised against him. They who join the two verses think that they have some reason for doing so, as they suppose that the Prophet now expresses more fully what he had before briefly touched upon: but if any maturely considers the whole passage, he will easily see that Jeremiah had another object in view, and that was, to secure authority to his doctrine. The Jews probably employed two ways to discredit the holy Prophet: |O, thou divinest! -- the same thing, as we have said, is done now by many.| He therefore summons the Jews here before God's tribunal, and shews that it was nothing strange, that he brought to light what they thought to be hidden, because it had been revealed to him by the Spirit of God. Even Christ said the same,

|The Spirit, when he comes, shall judge the world.| (John 16:8)

The Spirit did not appear except in the doctrine of the Apostles; but he exercised by the Apostles his own functions. The Apostle also seems to have this in view in Hebrews 4:12, when he says, that the word of God is like a two -- edged sword, which penetrates into the inmost thoughts and hidden feelings, even to the marrow and bones, so as to distinguish between thoughts and feelings.

Then the Prophet, in the first place, shews that it was nothing strange that he ascended above all human judgments, for he was endued with the authority of the Holy Spirit. And he adds, in the second place, that he was not influenced by carnal feelings, but by a pure zeal for God, for he knew not their wicked designs; and he says that he was like a lamb and an ox, or a calf. There is here no conjunction, and hence some join the two words, |And I am like a lamb a year old:| for the Hebrews, they say, call a lamb a year old kvs, cabesh, and then a ram; but this is, in my view, a forced meaning, and a copulative or a disjunctive may be supposed to be understood. I am then as a lamb or as a calf, which is led to the slaughter (to be sacrificed or kined) Here the Prophet intimates that he was not violent, as angry men are wont to be, who are excited either by indignation or great grief. He then testifies that he was moved by no such feeling, for he differed nothing from a lamb or a calf that is led to the slaughter.

For the sake of amplifying, he adds, I knew not that they devised devices against me, that is, this did not come to my mind. The Prophet, indeed, might have suspected or even have known this; but as he disregarded himself, and even his own life, he testifies here that he had acted with so much simplicity as not to regard what they planned and contrived.

He then adds, Let us spoil wood in his bread They think rightly, according to my judgment, who consider that there is here a change of case; for it ought rather to be, |Let us spoil with wood his bread:| for that exposition is too unmeaning, |Let us spoil or destroy wood,| as though they spoke of a thing of no value: for what has this to do with the subject? On the contrary, if we retain, as they say, the letter, the Prophet might think that wood would be spoiled in bread, as it would become rotten: but wood in bread, except by becoming rotten, would do no harm. But doubtless the Prophet speaks here metaphorically, as David does in Psalm 69:22, when he says,

|They have put gall in my bread, and vinegar in my drink.|

Jeremiah also, in Lamentations 3:15, complains that his food was mingled with poison. Similitudes of this kind often occur; for when the very food of man is corrupted, there is no more any support for life. The meaning then is, that his enemies had acted cruelly towards the Prophet, as they sought in every way to destroy him, even by poison.

Some take wood for poison, but I know not whether that can be done. They indeed imagine that a poisonous wood is what is here meant; but this is too refined. I take the meaning to be simply this, as though they had said, |Let us spoil with wood his food,| that is, |Let us give him wood instead of bread; and this, by its hardness, will hurt his teeth, ulcerate his throat, and cannot be digested so as to become nourishment.| To spoil this bread with wood is to cause the wood to spoil the food either by its hardness or by its putridity. In this sense there is nothing ambiguous.

The ancients perverted this passage in the most childish manner when they applied it to the body of Christ. The Papists too, at this day, boast wonderfully of this allegory, though they make the most absurd use of it; for they seek to prove by it that bread is converted, or, as they say, transubstantiated into the body of Christ; and they quote Origen and Irenaeus, and others like them: |Behold, explained is that passage of Jeremiah, let us send wood for his bread, (such is the meaning of the Vulgate) for the body of Christ has been crucified;| and then they add, |For he said, Take and eat, this is my body.'|We see how extremely absurd this is; and it must appear ridiculous even to children. But so great is the dishonesty and wantonness of the Papists, that they cast off all shame, and only boastfully pretend the authority of the ancients; and whatever Origen may have foolishly and falsely said, they will have it to be regarded as something oracular, provided their errors are thereby confirmed. But if we grant that the Prophet was a type of Christ, what has this to do with the similitude of his body, since he speaks here only of food? It is as though he had said, that his aliment was corrupted, as it were, with poison, and that he was so cruelly treated by his enemies, that they sought to destroy him by the means of his food.

It then follows, Let us cut him off from the land of the living This kind of speaking often occurs: the land or region of the living means the state of the present life. He at last adds, That his name may not be in remembrance any more In short, the Prophet meant in these words to set forth the extreme savageness with which his enemies were inflamed; for they were not content with intrigues or with open violence, but wished to destroy him by poison, and wholly to obliterate his name. it follows --

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