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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 3 by Jean Calvin

Lecture Ninety-Fifth

We explained in the last Lecture the verse in which God declared that he would punish the king of Babylon and his people for their cruelty towards the Israelites. We said that this was addressed peculiarly to the elect, for many of the people perished without the hope of salvation. But God intended in the meantime to shew his care for the remnant; and for this reason he defined the time of exile, and predicted that he would be an enemy to the Babylonians, for he would undertake the cause of his people.

One thing I did not explain, that is, what the Prophet says of eternal reproaches. Now, it seems that this was not fulfilled; for though after seventy years Babylon was taken and was reduced to a state of subjection, yet the city itself remained safe, and for many ages was celebrated for its great splendor. The Prophet, then, seems to have exceeded the limits of truth in speaking of these desolations; for such did not take place when the city was taken by the Medes and Persians. But, as we have said elsewhere, we ought not to restrict to one time what is said in many places by the prophets respecting the destruction of Babylon; for it pleased God, in various ways and at different times, to execute his vengeance on that people; and it appears evident from history that it would have been better for the Babylonians to have perished at once than to have undergone so many calamities. For in a short time after the people revolted from the Persians, the city was recovered by the contrivance and craft of Zopyrus; the nobles were then reduced into slavery, so that no dignity remained. It was afterwards taken by Alexander; and after that Seleucus obtained possession of it. On its ruins were then built the city Ctesiphon, and at length it gradually decayed. But no change occurred without a great diminution of the city's opulence; and nothing more disgraceful could have happened to it than for those who were in authority to be taken and hung on gibbets, as Zenophon and other historians relate.

We now, then, see how this passage, and others like it, are to be understood; for God does not speak only of one time of vengeance, but he includes all those judgments by which he vindicated the wrongs done to his people. It now follows, --

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