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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 12:9

9. Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.

9. An avis picta (vel, tineta, aut, colorata) hrereditas mea mihi? an avis in circuitu super earn? Venite, colligite vos (alii transitive acdipiunt, congregate omnes bestias, sed subaudiendum est, congregate vos) omnes bestiae agri (hoc est, onmes bestiae agrestes) venite ad devorandum ipsam.

The beginning of this verse is variously explained, Some think that a kind of bird is here meant, which has various colors, one variegated, which excites all other birds against itself; but this is without meaning. Others are of the opinion, and the greater part too, that birds tinged with blood were against his heritage. They hence thus explain the words, |Is a bird, tinged,| that is; with blood, |my heritage,| that is, about my heritage; |is there a bird around it? They consider both clauses to be of the same meaning; and hence they think that the same thing is repeated in different words, that birds were flying against the Jews, like those which are drawn by the smell of carcases, and which come in great numbers, that each may have a part; and then, wild beasts follow them. But I approve of neither of these explanations; nor indeed have they even the appearance of being correct.

I therefore think that the people are now compared to foreign birds, as they were before to lions; as though he had said, -- |I had chosen this people for myself, that they might be my friends, as birds which are wont to be gathered into their own cages, as sheep into their own folds, and as oxen, and other animals which are tamed, keep within their own enclosures. So when I gathered this people, I thought that they would be to me like domesticated sheep; but now they are like speckled birds; that is, like wild birds, or birds of the wood.| For I have no doubt but that by a speckled or colored bird is to be understood a strange bird, which by its novel appearance excites the attention of men. Is then a variegated bird, or a bird of the wood, become mine heritage? Questions, we know, were often used by the Hebrews; and the Prophet here simply affirms the fact; and as God had said before, that his heritage was become like a lion in the forest, so he adds now, that his heritage was like a speckled bird. A question has much more power and force than a simple declaration; for God assumes here the character of one in astonishment, -- |What does this mean, that my heritage should become to me like some bird from the wood, or a foreign bird?| He then adds, All birds then shall be around and all beasts of the field

We now see how fitly the words of the Prophet run; God had complained that his heritage was like a lion in the forest, and also like a wild and foreign bird; and now he says, Then all birds wiIl fly to the prey and all the beasts of the field; as though he had said, -- |Since they have dared to act thus wantonly, and have dared to assail my servants like wild beasts, and have also become wild birds which cannot be tamed, I will shew what they will gain by their ferocity; for I will now send for all the birds of the air, and the wild beasts of the wood:, that they may fly together quickly, and that they may come together to the prey.| That we must thus understand the Prophet's meaning, we learn from the very words; for God not only says, |A speckled bird has mine heritage become,| but he adds, to me, as he had before said, that his heritage had become to him as a lion, so he says now, Is not mine heritage become to me? etc This pronoun then ought to be carefully noticed; for we hence learn, as I have said already, that the intractable disposition of the people is here condemned, for they could by no means be tamed.

But the latter clause ought also to be especially observed; for it imports as much as though God had said, |As then your wickedness is such that ye are to me lions and wild birds, take your course; but I will yet check this your barbarous and untameable ferocity; for I have under my command all the birds of the air and all the wild beasts of the field; let them then come together to this one bird, and to this one beast. Ye are but one bird; ye are indeed terrible at the first view, for ye are worse than all the hawks; but ye are only one bird, and around you shall come all birds, which shall make war on you. Ye are as one lion in a forest, or one boar, or one wolf; but all the savage beasts of the wood shall come together against you, and shall come together to devour you.|

This place deserves special notice; for we hence learn how foolishly men deceive themselves when they oppose God and perversely shake off his yoke, and suffer not, themselves to be corrected by his word; they are lions, they are savage birds; but the Lord can easily destroy them, for all birds and all wild beasts are ready to obey him; and hence it follows: --

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