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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 16:6-7

6. Both the great and the small shall die in this land: they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them:

6. Et morientur magni et parvi in terra hac; non sepelient eos, et non plangent super eos, et non incidet se quisquam, et non fiet calvitium illis;

7. Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.

7. Et non eomplodent (vel, extendent) illis (quidam legentes tststs pro tststs vertunt, non frangent panem; tststs significat frangere, et interdum dividere, vel ostendere, vel dispergere: non dubium est quin Propheta, sicut alio loco vidimus intelligat complosionem manuum, vel contorsionem, ubi in vehementi luctu ita brachia huc et illuc projiciuntur, deinde comploduntur manus: hunc gestum hoc quoque loco exprimit cum dicit, Et non frangent, vel, non complodent manus) ad consolandum (hoc est, ad unumquenque consolandum) super mortuo, et non propinabunt illis calicem consolationum super patre suo et super matre sua

He pursues the same subject: he says that all would die indiscriminately, the common people as well as the chief men, that none would be exempt from destruction; for God would make a great slaughter, both of the lower orders and also of the higher, who excelled in wealth, in honor, and dignity; Die shall the great and the small. It often happens in changes that the great are punished; and sometimes the case is that the common people perish, while the nobles are spared: but God declares, that such would be the destruction, that their enemies would make no difference between the common people and the higher ranks, and that if they escaped the hands of their enemies, the pestilence or the famine would prove their ruin.

He adds, They shall not bury them, nor beat their breast for them; and then, they shall not eat themselves, nor make themselves bald for them This is not mentioned by the Prophet to commend what the people did; nor did he consider that in this respect they observed the command of the law; for God had forbidden them to imitate the corrupt customs of the heathens. (Leviticus 21:1) We have already said, that the orientals were much given to external ceremonies, so that there was no moderation in their lamentations: therefore God intended to correct this excess. But the Prophet here has no respect to the command, that the Jews were to moderate their grief, -- what then? He meant to shew, as I have already reminded you, that the slaughters would be so great, that they -- would cause hardness and insensibility, being so immense as to stun the feelings of men. When any one dies, friends and neighbors meet, and shew respect to his memory; but when pestilence prevails, or when all perish by famine, the greater part become hardened and unmindful of themselves and others, and the offices of humanity are no longer observed. God then shews, that such would be the devastation of the land, that the Jews, as though callous and hardened, would no longer lament for one another. In short, he shews, that together with these dreadful slaughters, such insensibility and hardness would prevail among the Jews, that no husband would think of his wife, and no father of his children; but that all of them would be so astonied by their own evils as to become like the wild beasts.

He says further, They shall not cut themselves nor pull off their hairs, as they had used to do. These things are mentioned, as they were commonly done; it cannot be hence concluded, that they were approved by God; for God's design was not to pronounce a judgment on their lamentation, on the tearing off of the hair, or on their incisions. It is indeed certain that these practices proceeded from the impetuous feelings of men, and were tokens of impatience; but as I have said, God does not speak here of what was lawful, but of what men were wont to do.

As to that part, where he says, that he had taken away his kindness and his mercies, he does not mean that he had changed his nature, but his object was to cut off occasion from all who might complain; for men, we know, whenever God's hand presses hard on them, to make them to deplore rightly their miseries, are stifficiently ready to say, that God visits them with too much severity. He therefore shews that they were unworthy of kindness and mercies. At the same time he reminded them that there was no reason for hypocrites to entertain any hope, because Scripture so often commends the kindness of God and his mercy; for since they accumulated sins on sins, God could not do otherwise than come to an extremity with them.

With regard to the seventh verse, we may learn from it what I have already referred to, -- that the Jews made funeral feasts, that children and widows might receive some relief to their sorrow; for the Prophet calls it the cup of consolations, when friends kindly attended; they had also some ridiculous gesticulations; for no doubt laughter was often excited by mourners among the Jews. But we see that men vied with one another in lamenting for the dead; for it was deemed a shame not to shew grief at the death of their friends. When tears did not flow, when the nearest relations did not howl for the dead, they thought them inhuman; hence it was, that there was much dissimulation in their mourning; and it was foolishly regarded an alleviation to extend the cup of consolation. But as I have said before, the Prophet here did not point out what was right, but borrowed his words from what was commonly practiced. It follows --

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