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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 17:27

27. But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.

27. Quod si non audietis me ad sanctificandum diem sabbathi, et non tollendo onus, et ingrediendo per portas Jerusalem die sabbathi; tunc accendam ignem in portis ejus, et vorabit palatia Jerusalem, et non extinguetur.

Now, on the other hand, the Prophet terrifies them, if they hearkened not to the promises of God. God first kindly allures us; but when he sees us to be refractory, he deals with us according to the hardness of our hearts. He therefore now adds threatenings to promises. He had said, that the Jews would be happy, if they worshipped and served God faithfully; for their priesthood and their kingdom would be continued to them.

But he now adds, If ye will not obey, so as to sanctify the sabbath-day, and not to carry a burden on it, and not to enter through the gates of Jerusalem, that is, for the purpose of doing business (for it was lawful for them, as it is well known, to go out of the city, but by entering he means the transaction of business) -- If then ye will not hearken to me in this respect, then, he says, I will kindle a fire in the gates of this city. We see the design of the Prophet, -- that he would have the Jews to entertain a sure hope of their safety, provided they repented, and provided the pure and uncorrupted worship of God prevailed among them; but that, on the other hand, he wished to fill them with terror, if they went on in their obstinacy.

No doubt this commination greatly offended them; for we know how self-confident they were, and how foolishly they boasted that the city, in which God had his habitation, could not be demolished; and yet the Prophet declares here that the destruction of the holy city was nigh at hand, if they violated the sabbath-day as they had been accustomed to do. But that this punishment might not seem to be too severe, he shews that the people were inexcusable, if they rejected these plain warnings: he says, If ye will not hearken to me; for they might have otherwise objected and said, that they had been deceived, as they did not think that there was so great a sin in violating the Sabbath. Jeremiah now excludes all such evasions, for he says in effect, |Behold I am present with you by God's authority; if ye will violate the Sabbath as hitherto, what excuse can you make? Have you not been proved guilty of open impiety? for God has spoken; and how is it that ye reject his teaching?| We thus see that this, If ye will not hearken to me so as to sanctify the Sabbath, was said to anticipate an objection.

He then adds, Devour shall the fire the gates of the city, and shall not be extinguished, that is, shall not be extinguished until it shall consume the whole city and its gates. We indeed know that assemblies were then held at the gates, and that they were therefore places of great importance. As to the fire it is to be taken metaphorically for destruction; and yet we know that even fire was kindled by the Chaldeans; for they deemed it not enough to demolish the city, but proceeded still farther: hence the Temple was burnt, and the houses were consumed by fire. We ought however to explain the word of the Prophet as meaning simply this -- that God's vengeance would be like fire, destroying and consuming all things, so that not even the gates would remain. Something usually remains when cities are demolished to the foundations; but God threatens the Jews with something more grievous -- that the city would not be in a common way destroyed, but be so wholly consumed that nothing would remain. We shall proceed to-morrow.

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