We began yesterday to explain God's complaint against the Jews, -- that he had found them wholly refractory and rebellious. He says, in one word, that they did not hear him; but he afterwards adds, that they did not incline their ear to hear him; by which mode of speaking, is set forth more fully their perverseness, as they closed their ears as it were designedly; for not to incline the ear is more than not to hear. Jeremiah then means, that they had so hardened themselves against all that was taught by the prophets, that they designedly rejected everything that was set before them by God's authority.
He afterwards explains what God required them to do, Turn ye, I pray, every one from his evil way and from the wickedness of your doings, and dwell in the land which Jehovah has given to you and your fathers from age even to age What God required was doubtless most just; for he demanded nothing from the Jews but to repent. There was also a promise added; God not only exhorted them to repent, but wished also to be reconciled to them, and having blotted out all memory of their sins, to shew them kindness: had they not been harder than stones, they must have been turned to his service by so kind a treatment. God might have indeed sharply reproved them, he might have threatened them, he might, in short, have cut off every hope of pardon; but he only required them to repent, and at the same time added a promise of free forgiveness. As then they had despised so great a favor, it follows that they must have been men of reprobate minds and of irreclaimable habits.
When they were bidden to repent of their evil way and of the wickedness of their doings, it was done for sake of amplifying; for the Prophet wished to take away from them every pretense for evasion, lest they should ask what was the wickedness or what was the evil way. He then intimates that they were fully proved guilty; and for this purpose he made the repetition. By way is designated a continued course of life; but as they had fully shewed themselves perverse in many ways, he refers to their fruits, as though he had said, that they in vain contended with God, by inquiring what had been their evil way, for their whole life sufficiently testified that they were wholly given to wickedness.
Now there is a striking alliteration in the verbs svv and vsvv: the verb svv, shebu, means sometimes to rebel, it means to return to the right way, and it means to rest or dwell in. He uses the same verb, though the sense is different when he says, |Return ye,| and |ye shall dwell.|
He also emphatically uses the word 'ys, aish |every one:| it means properly |man;| but it is taken in Hebrew for every one or each one, |each one from his evil way.| The Prophet exempted none, lest they thought that their fault was extenuated, had not the evil been universal. He hence says, that every one was given to wickedness; as though he had said, that impiety not only prevailed among the whole people, as the case commonly is, but that every one had become corrupt, so that there was not one sound or upright among the whole people.
And this is what ought to be observed; for we are wont, in a cold manner, to confess our sins, and to pray to God when we are proved guilty, except when each one is touched with the sense of his own guilt, and owns himself to be justly exposed to God's judgment; for while every one mingles with the multitude, it so happens that no one acknowledges the heinousness of his own sins. Therefore, for true and sincere repentance this peculiar examination is necessary, so that every one may repent and not regard his friends.
When he says, Dwell ye in the land, though it be the imperative mood, yet it is a promise, by which God declared that he was ready to receive the Jews into favor, provided they returned from the heart to him: he proposed to them, as a symbol of his paternal layout, the possession of the land; for that land was as it were the pledge of their adoption; and the Jews, while they dwelt there, might have felt assured that God was their Father. He adds, From age even to age; as though he had said, |I am prepared to do you good not only for one day, or for a short time, but also to shew you kindness from age to age. It will then be your fault if ye be not happy, and if this happiness will not pass on from you to your children and grandchildren.| But the more delightful the invitation was, the more detestable became the impiety of the people, as it will be stated hereafter. He now adds, --