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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 13:1-9

1. Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.

1. Sic dicit Jehova mihi, Vade et compara tibi cingulum lineum, et pone illud super renes tuos, et in aquas ne inferas illud.

2. So I got a girdle, according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins,

2. Et comparavi mihi cingulum (paravi, ad verbum) sicuti mandave-rat Jehova, et posui (vel, applicavi) illud ad renes meos.

3. And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying,

3. Et factus est sermo Jehovae ad me secundo, dicendo,

4. Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.

4. Tolle cingulum quod comparasti, quod est super renes tuos, et surge, proficiscere (vel, surgens proficiscere) ad Euphratem, et absconde illic in foramine petrae.

5. So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.

5. Et profectus sum et abscondi Euphrate, quemadmodum praeceperat Jehova mihi.

6. And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.

6. Et accidit post finem (a fine ad verbum) dierum multorum, et dixit (hoc est, ut diceret) Jehova mihi, Surge et proficiscere ad Euphratem, et tolle illinc cingulum, de quo praecepi tibi ut absconderes illic.

7. Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.

7. Et profectus sum ad Euphratem, et fodi et sustuli cingulum e loco ubi illic absconderam; et ecce corruptum erat cingulum, non proderat ad omne (hoc est, ad quicquam)

8. Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

8. Et factus est sermo Jehovae ad me, dicendo,

9. Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.

9. Sic dicit Jehova, In hune modum corrumpam excellentiam Jehudah et excellentiam Jerusalem magnam (vel, altitudinem)

I have said that there is here a new prophecy; for the Prophet is said to buy for himself a girdle or a belt, or, according to some, a truss or breeches; and as mention is made of linen, this opinion may be probable; but 'zvr, asur, means not only the breeches which they then wore, but also a girdle or belt, according to what Isaiah says, when, speaking figuratively of Christ's kingdom, that faithfulness would be the girdle of his loins. (Isaiah 11:5) It, may here, however, be taken for breeches as well as for a girdle.

As to the matter in hand, it makes no great difference. The Prophet then is bidden to buy for himself a linen girdle or a linen breeches, and he is also bidden to go to Euphrates, and to hide the girdle in a hole. He is again bidden to go the second time to Euphrates, and to draw the girdle from the hole, and he found it marred. The application follows; for God declares that he would thus deal with the Jews; though he had had them as a belt, he would yet cast them away. As he had adorned them, so he designed them to be an ornament to him; for the glory of God shines forth in his ChurJeremiah The Jews then, as Isaiah says, were a crown of glory and a royal diadem in God's hand. (Isaiah 62:3) Hence he compares them here most fitly to a belt or a girdle. Though then their condition was honorable, yet God threatens that he would cast them away; so that, being hidden, they might contract rottenness in a cavern of the Euphrates, that is, in Assyria and Chaldea. This is the meaning of the prophecy.

But no doubt a vision is here narrated, and not a real transaction, as some think, who regard Jeremiah as having gone there; but what can be imagined more absurd? He was, we know, continually engaged in his office of a teacher among his own people. Had he undertaken so long a journey, and that twice, it would have taken him some months. Hence contentious must he be, who urges the words of the Prophet, and holds that he must have gone to the Euphrates and hidden there his girdle. We know that this form of speaking is common and often used by the prophets: they narrate visions as facts.

We must also observe, that God might have spoken plainly and without any similitude; but as they were not only ignorant, but also stupid, it was found necessary to reprove their torpidity by an external symbol. This was the reason why God confirmed the doctrine of his Prophet by an external representation. Had God said, |Ye have been to me hitherto as a belt, ye were my ornament and my glory, not indeed through your merit or worthiness, but because I have united you to myself, that ye might be a holy people and a priestly kingdom; but now I am constrained to cast you away; and as a person throws from him and casts a girdle into some hole, so that after a long time he finds it rotten, so it will be with you, after having been hidden a long time beyond Euphrates; ye shall there contract rottenness, which will mar you altogether, so that your appearance will be very different, when a remnant of you shall come from thence:| This indeed might have been sufficient; but in that state of security and dullness in which we know the Jews were, such a simple statement would not have so effectually penetrated into their hearts, as when this symbol was presented to them. The Prophet, therefore, says, that he was girded with a belt, that the belt was hid in a hole near Euphrates, and that there it became marred; and then he adds, so shall it be done to you. This statement, as I have said, more sharply touched the Jews, so that they saw that the judgment of God was at hand.

With regard to the similitude of girdle or breeches, we know how proudly the Jews gloried in the thought that God was bound to them; and he would have really been so, had they been in return faithful to him: but as they had become so disobedient and ungrateful, how could God be bound to them? He had indeed chosen them to be a people to himself, but this condition was added, that they were to be as a chaste wife, as he had become, according to what we have seen, a husband to them. But they had prostituted themselves and had become shamefully polluted with idols. As then they had perfidiously departed from their marriage engagement, was not God freed from his obligations? according to what is said by Isaiah,

|There is no need to give you a bill of divorcement, for your mother is an adulteress.| (Isaiah 1:1)

The Prophet then, in this place, meant in a few words to shake off from the Jews those vain boastings in which they indulged, when they said that they were God's people and the holy seed of Abraham. |True,| he says, |and I will concede more to you, that you were to God even as a belt, by which men usually adorn themselves; but God adopted you, that you might serve him chastely and faithfully; but now, as ye have made void his covenant, he will cast away this belt, which is a disgrace to him and not an ornament, and will throw it into a cavern where it will rot.| Such is the view we are to take of this belt, as we shall hereafter see more clearly.

The Prophet, by saying that he went to the Euphrates, confirms what he had narrated: he did not indeed mean that he actually went there, but his object was to give the Jews a vivid representation. It is then what Rhetorians call a scene presented to the view; though the place is not changed, yet the thing is set before the eyes by a lively description. Thus the Prophet, as the Jews were deaf, exhibited to their view what they would not hear. This is the reason why he says that he went. For the same purpose is what follows, that at the end of many days God had bidden him to take out the girdle Here also is signified the length of the exile. As to the hole in a rock, what is meant is disgrace; for without honor and esteem the Jews lived in banishment, in the same manner as though they were cast into a cavern. Hence by the hole is signified their ignoble and base condition, that they were like persons removed from the sight of all men and from the common light of day. By the end of many days, is meant, as I have said, the length of their exile, for in a short time they would not have become putrified, and except indeed this had been distinctly expressed, they would have never been convinced of the grievousness of the calamity which was nigh them. Hence he says that the days would be many, so that they might contract putridity while hidden in the hole.

As to the application of the Prophecy, the Prophet then distinctly describes it; but he sets forth with sufficient clearness the main point, when he says, Thus will I mar the stateliness (altitudinem, the altitude or height) of Judah and the great stateliness of Jerusalem Other interpreters unanimously render the word, pride; but as g'vn gaun, may be taken in two senses, it means here, I have no doubt, excellency, and this will appear more fully from what follows. The word then signifies here that dignity with which God had favored the seed of Abraham, when he intended them to be an ornament to himself. So it is said in Exodus 15:7,

|In thy greatness thou wilt destroy the nations.|

And in Isaiah he says,

|I will make thee the excellency of ages.| (Isaiah 60:15)

There no doubt it is to be taken in a good sense. And these things harmonize together, -- that God had prepared the Jews for himself as a belt, and then that he cast them from him into a cavern, where they would be for a time without any light and without any glory.

The import of this clause then is, |Though the dignity of Judah and Jerusalem has been great, (for the people whom God had adopted were renowned according to what is said in Deuteronomy 4) though then the stateliness of Judah and Jerusalem has been great, yet I will mar it.| We see how the Prophet takes from the Jews that false confidence by which they deceived themselves. They might indeed have gloried in God, had they acted truly and from the heart: but when they arrogated all things to themselves, and deprived God of his authority, whose subjects they were, how great was their vanity and folly, and how ridiculous always to profess his sacred name, and to say, We are God's people? for he was no God to them, as they esteemed him as nothing; nay, they disdainfully and reproachfully rejected his yoke. We hence see that the word g'vn gaun, is to be taken here in a good sense. The Prophet at the same time reproachfully taunts them, that they abused the name of God and falsely pretended to be his people and heritage. The rest we cannot finish; we shall go on with the subject to-morrow.

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