33. And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD.
33. Quod si interrogaverint to populus hic, vel Propheta, vel Sacerdos, dicendo. Quod onus Jehovae? Tunc dices illis, Quod onus? Derelinquam vos, inquit Jehova.
It appears sufficiently evident from this passage, -- that the contumacy of the Jews was so great, that they sought from every quarter some excuse for their insensibility, as though they could with impunity despise God when they rejected his word. For the devil by his artifice fascinates the reprobate, when he renders God's word either hateful or contemptible; and whenever he can exasperate their minds, so that they hear not God's word except with disdain and bitterness, he gains fully his object. The Jews, then, were led into such a state of mind, that they regarded God's word with hatred; and they were thus alienated from all docility and from every care for religion. In short, the prophets, as it is well known, everywhere employ the word ms', mesha, which means a burden.
Now, a burden means a prophecy, which terrifies the despisers of God by threatening them with vengeance. As, then, their minds were exasperated, they called through hatred the word of God a burden, and used it as a proverbial saying, |It is a burden, a burden.| They ought to have been moved by God's threatenings, and to have trembled on hearing that he was angry with them. The word burden, then, ought to have humbled them; but, on the contrary, they became exasperated, first, through haughtiness, then through an indomitable contumacy, and thirdly, they kindled into rage. We hence see how the expression arose, that the prophets called their prophecies burdens. God now severely condemns this fury, because they hesitated not thus openly to shew their insolence. It was surely a most shameful thing, that the word of God should be thus called in disdain and contempt, in the ways and streets; for they thus acted disdainfully and insolently against God; for it was the same as though they treated his word with open contempt. It was then no wonder that he reproved this fury with so much vehemence, by saying, But if this people ask thee, What is the burden of Jehovah?
This manner of asking was altogether derisive, when they said to Jeremiah and to other servants of God, |What is the burden?| that is, |What dost thou bring to us, what trouble is to come on us?| They thus not only spoke contemptuously of God's word, but, as though this wickedness was not sufficient, they became, as I have said, irritated and exasperated. If, then, they ask thee, What is the burden? And he speaks not only of the common people, but of the very prophets and priests.
We hence learn how great a contempt for God then prevailed, so that there was no integrity either in the priestly or the prophetic order. It is indeed wonderful with what impudence they dared to boast themselves to be God's servants, while they spoke with so much insolence! But the same thing happens in the world in our day; for we see that the ministers of Satan in no other way hold the world under their power, than by alluring the minds of the ungodly; and at the same time they cause God's word to be hated, and say that it brings not only troubles, but also torments. Since, then, these unprincipled men, who thus lead with hatred and disdain the true doctrine, occupy pulpits, we need not wonder that the same evil prevailed in the ancient Church.
It follows: If a prophet or a priest ask thee, What is the burden of Jehovah? thou shalt say to them, What burden? I will forsake thee, saith Jehovah. This was a most grievous threatening, but it has not been well considered and rightly understood; for interpreters have overlooked the implied contrast between the presence and the absence of God. Nothing could have been more acceptable to the Jews than God's silence. And yet in no other way does he more clearly show that he is a Father to us, caring for our salvation, than by familiarly addressing us. Whenever, then, the prophetic word is announced, we have a sure and a clear evidence of God's presence, as though he wished to be connected with us. But when the ungodly not only reject so remarkable a benefit, but also furiously repel, as far as they can, such a favor, they desire and seek the absence of God. Therefore God says, |Ye cannot bear my word, by which symbol I shew that I am present with you; I will forsake you;| that is, |I will no longer endure this indignity, but I will depart from you; there shall be hereafter no prophecy.|
At the first view this was not deemed grievous to the Jews; for as I have said, the ungodly desire nothing more than that God should be silent, and they thought that they had gained their greatest happiness, when with consciences lulled to sleep they indulged themselves in their filth. It was then their chief wish that God should depart from them. But yet there was nothing more to be dreaded. The Prophet then shews here that they were extremely infatuated and wholly fascinated by the devil, for they could desire nothing more dreadful than that God should depart from them; as though he had said, |My word is a weariness to you, and I in my turn will now avenge myself, for I am weary of forbearing you, when I see that you can by no means be healed; and as I have been hitherto assiduous in instructing you, and have found you unteachable, I will now in my turn leave you.| It follows, --