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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 3 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 23:36

36. And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man's word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God

36. Et oneris, Jehovae non recordabimini amplius, quia onus erit cuique sermo ejus; et pervertistis sermones Dei vivi, Jehovae exercituum, Dei nostri.

Jeremiah goes on with the same subject, that every one ought calmly and meekly to hear God speaking, he said, as we saw yesterday, that the prophets were to be asked as to what God had spoken and what he had answered; he thereby intimated that there must be docility, in order that God's word may obtain credit, authority, and favor among us. He again repeats, that the word burden could not be endured by God; for, as we explained yesterday, this word was used commonly by the Jews as expressive of hatred or disdain, being as they were unwilling to receive sound doctrine.

In forbidding them to mention the word burden, it was the same thing as though he had said, |Let not this form of speaking be any longer in use among you.| He then adds, For to every one his word shall be his burden. By these words he shews that what is bitter in prophecies is as it were accidental; for God has nothing else in view in addressing men, but to call them to salvation. The word of God then in itself ought to be deemed sweet and delightful. Whence then is this bitterness and hatred towards it? even from the wickedness of men alone. As when a sick person, eating the most wholesome food finds it turned into poison, the cause being in himself; so it is with us, it is our own fault that the word of God becomes a burden. It was, moreover, the Prophet's design to shew that the Jews had no reason to complain that prophecies were grievous to them, and always announced some trouble; for God wishes to address men with lenity and kindness, but he is forced by their wickedness to deal sharply with them. The Prophet seems, however, to go still farther, as though he had said, |Though prophecies should cease, yet every one shall be a prophet to himself; for as they murmur against God, and cannot bear his judgment, however silent God's ministers may be, they will yet afford a sufficient cause for condemnation, who dare thus to rise up against God.|

We now see the design of the Prophet in saying, Ye shall no more mention the burden of Jehovah; that is, |This shameful proverb, which brands God's word with disgrace, shall no more be used by you; this wicked practice shall cease, for else to every one of you; his word shall be a burden;| so the causal particle ky, ki, is to be rendered. But if another sense be preferred, I feel no objection, that is, that they ought to have considered the reason why God did not deal more mildly with them; which was, because they were of a perverse disposition, and thus they refused the paternal kindness which he was prepared to shew, provided they received it.

This passage is entitled to special notice, for we see how the greater part cannot bear threatenings and terrors when announced to them. Hence they entertain contempt and hatred towards heavenly doctrine; and yet none consider why God so often threatens and terrifies them in his word. For if men ceased to sin, God would cease to contend with them; but when they continually provoke him, is he to be silent? and further, are his prophets to suffer everything just to be violated, and God himself to be despised? Let us then know that the fault is in us when God seems to deal rigidly with us, for we do not allow him to use such a paternal language as he always would, were it not that we put a hinderance in the way.

The Prophet also adds, For ye have corrupted the words of the living God, of Jehovah of hosts our God So ought the words to be rendered. Here he justly accuses them, that they perverted the words of God, and in two ways, because they constrained God by their wickedness to speak otherwise than he wished, and also, because they were preposterous interpreters of his dealings. For though God may severely chastise us, yet it is our duty to receive his reproofs with a meek spirit, as they are necessary for us; but when we murmur and become refractory, we pervert the word of God. We hence see that the word of God is not only perverted in one way, but when we furiously oppose him, we prevent him to deal gently and kindly with us; and we do the same when we submit not to his reproofs, but rage against him whenever he summons us to judgment. And as their wantonness was in this instance so great, the Prophet here sets up against them in express terms the power of God.

He says first, that he is the living God; and by this term he reminded them that the ungodly, who vomited thus their blasphemies against him, would not go unpunished; |See,| he says, |with whom ye have to do; for you contend with the living God; this audacity will rebound on your own heads; ye then carry on a fatal war.| He, secondly, adds, that he is Jehovah of hosts; by which expression he again shews his power. And, thirdly, he says, that he is the God of that people; as though he had said, that not only their impiety was madness in daring to contend with God, but that it was also connected with ingratitude; for God had adopted them as his people, and had promised to be their God.

We now then see the design of the Prophet; he first warned them not to entertain hatred in their hearts to prophetic doctrine; secondly, he shewed that the whole fault was in themselves, as they constrained God to deal severely with them; and further, that they perverted the word of God, being false interpreters of it, and closing the door against his kindness when he invited all the pious and the teachable; and lastly, he exalts God's power and commends his goodness, that he might thus aggravate the sin of the people in daring to carry on war with God himself, and in despising the favor conferred on them. It follows, --

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