33. And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.
33. Et erunt interfecti Jehovae, in die illa ab extremitate terrae ad extremitatem terrae: non plangentur, et non colligentur, et non sepelientur; stercus in supereficie terrae erunt (id est, pro stercore.)
This verse explains what I have just said; and hence it also appears that the Prophet did not speak of mutual slaughters inflicted by one nation on another, but that he only declared that God's wrath would spread like a storm so as to extend to all nations and lands. The Prophet no doubt continues the same subject; and we see why he says here, And the slain, of Jehovah shall be in that day, etc.; he calls our attention to God alone; he will speak otherwise hereafter, he does not set here before us the ministers of God's vengeance, but God himself as acting by himself.
Hence he says, the slain of Jehovah; some read, |the wounded;| and chll, chelal, means to wound and to kill; but |the slain| is more suitable here. The slain then of Jehovah shall be from one extremity of the earth to the other; as though he had said, that God would not be satisfied with punishing three or four nations, but would shew himself the judge of all the countries of the earth.
Now this passage is worthy of special notice; for we often wonder why God connives at so many crimes committed by men, which none of us would tolerate. But if we consider how dreadful was the tempest of which the Prophet now speaks, we ought to know that God rests for a time, in order that the ungodly and the wicked might be the less excusable. It was at the same time doubtless a sad spectacle, when so many regions and provinces were unceasingly suffering various calamities, when one nation thought itself better off than its neighbors, but presently found itself more cruelly treated. And yet this was generally the case, for God's wrath extended to the extremities of the earth.
He amplifies the atrocity of the evil by mentioning three things, -- They shall not be lamented, nor gathered, nor buried; but they shall be as dung, and shall thus lie on the face of the earth We have said in other places that lamentation does no good to the dead; but as it is what humanity requires, the want of it is rightly deemed a temporal punishment. So when any one is deprived of burial, it is certainly nothing to the dead if his body is not laid in a grave; for we know that God's holy servants have often been either burnt or hung or exposed to wild beasts; and the whole Church complains that dead bodies were lying around Jerusalem and became food to the birds of heaven and to the beasts of the earth. But these things do not disprove the fact, that burial is an evidence of God's paternal kindness towards men. For why has he appointed that men should be buried rather than brute animals, except that he designed it to be an intimation of an immortal life? As, then, burial is a sign of God's favor, it is no wonder that he often declares to the reprobate that their dead bodies would be cast away, so as not to be honored, with a grave.
But we must remember this truth, -- that temporal punishments happen in common to God's children and to aliens; God extends without any difference temporal punishments to his own children and to the unbelieving, and that in order that it may be made evident that our hope ought not to be fixed on this world. But however this may be, it is yet true that when God punishes the unbelieving in this way, he adds at the same time some remark by which it may be understood, that it happens not in vain nor undesignedly, that those are deprived of burial, who deserve that God should exterminate them from the earth, and that their memory should be obliterated, so that they should not be connected among men. But we have said also in another place, that such expressions admit of another meaning, which yet is not at variance with the former, but connected with it, and that is, that so great would be the slaughter, that none would be left to shew this kindness to his friend or to his neighbor or to his brother. For when four or ten or a hundred die, they may be buried; but when God slays by the sword a great number in one day, none are found to take care of burying the dead, as few remain alive, and even they dread their enemies. When therefore the prophets say that those whom God slew would be without lamentation and burial, they intimate that so great would be the number, that all would lie on the ground; for no one would dare to perform this humane act towards the dead, and were all to do their utmost, they would not be able, as the number would be so great.
Thus Jeremiah confirms what we have said, -- that God's vengeance would extend to all lands and all nations, so as to involve in ruin the nobles as well as the common people, and to leave remaining but a small number.
For the same purpose he adds what follows, that they would be as dung on the face of the earth This is added by way of contempt. It was then hardly credible, that so many illustrious, wealthy, and powerful nations could thus in so short a time be destroyed. But the Prophet, in order to shake off this false conceit, says that they would become like dung, that however great their dignity and power, their wealth and strength, might be, they could not yet escape the hand of God, for he would reduce to nothing the glory of the whole world. We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet. It then follows --