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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 3 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 22:14

14. That saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion.

14. Qui dicit, AEdificabo mihi domum amplam (mensuram, ad verbum, subaudiunt quidam Interpretes, magnarum; sed illud frigidum est, simpliciter enim domus mensurarum tantundem valet ac domus spatiosa,) et coenacula dilatationum (ad verbum, vel, respirationum, aut perflationum, nam hvr significat tam respirare quam dilatare; unde deducitur hvr quod significat spiritum et ventum,) et perforat sibi fenestras, et tecta (vel, cooperta) est domus cedro et uncta minio.

Some render the last words, |and painted with red;| but vermilion is a kind of red. They, indeed, mention three kinds of red, -- deep red, brownish, and the third mixed with various colors; but vermilion is a brighter color. As to the main point there is no difficulty; the Prophet reproves the ambition and pride of King Jehoiakim, that he was not content with the moderation of his fathers, but indulged in extravagant display, and built for himself a palace as it were in the clouds, as though he did not wish to have a dwelling on the earth. Splendor in houses cannot in itself be condemned; but, as it can hardly be, nay, as it seldom happens, but that such insatiable ambition proceeds from pride, hence the Prophets vehemently denounced sumptuous houses; and they pronounced a curse on such displays, because they had a regard to the motive and the end. Such was the design of the Prophet in this passage.

He therefore thus introduces King Jehoiakim, who says, I will build for myself a large house and chambers of respirations That he said this proved the foolish ambition with which Jehoiakim had been inebriated, so that he regarded as nothing whatever was splendid before in Jerusalem. There were palaces, we know, very sumptuous there; and we also know that the king of Judah lived in great splendor. For though the palaces of Solomon were not then standing in their original grandeur, yet what remained was abundantly sufficient to satisfy a man who was not filled with pride. It hence appears that a fondness for excess prevailed in Jehoiakim, for he despised the royal palace, and whatever remained after the death of Solomon. For God, we know, had blessed with prosperity Hezekiah, and Josiah, and other kings; but they had continued within proper bounds. Since, then, such haughtiness had crept into the heart of Jehoiakim, it is evident, that he was filled with vain pride, nay, was drunk with folly. This was the reason why the Prophet severely reproved him for saying, |I will build for myself a large house and chambers of respirations,| or of perflations.

He then adds, and he perforates for himself windows It was a proof of luxury, when men began to indulge in superfluities. In old times the windows were small; for use only was regarded by frugal men; but afterwards a sort of madness possessed the minds of many, so that they sought to be suspended as it were in the air. And hence they began to have wider windows. The thing in itself, as I have said, is not what God condemns; but we must ever remember, as I have reminded you, that men never go to excesses in external things, except when their hearts are infected with pride, so that they do not regard what is useful, what is becoming, but are carried away by fondness for excess.

It is then added, and it is covered with cedar, that is, the house is covered with cedar boards. For in my judgment the Prophet means here the wainscotting, when he says that the house was covered with cedar; as though he had said, that King Jehoiakim esteemed the squared and polished stones as nothing, unless a covering was added of cedar boards to ornament the walls. And for the same purpose was the painting with vermilion; for justly might paintings be deemed excessive superfluities. As, then, it was a part of luxury to adorn the walls with various paintings, as though men wished to change the simple nature of things, the Prophet here is indignant against King Jehoiakim. Nor is it to be doubted, but that God had regard also to the circumstances of the times; for God had already warned him and all the Jews respecting their future calamities. This, then, was in a manner to treat with mockery the threatenings of God. And we know how intolerable was this regarded by him; for he thus declares by Isaiah,

|Live do I, never shall this iniquity be blotted out,| (Isaiah 22:14)

for when he had exhorted them to put on sackcloth and ashes, they said, |Let us eat and drink, tomorrow we shall die.| Similar, then, was the perverseness of King Jehoiakim; for he ought to have seen the coming calamity which was set as it were before his eyes; but he, like one infatuated, increased the royal splendor, so that the wealth of David and of Solomon appeared as nothing compared with what he had expended. It now follows, --

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