1. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying,
1. Principio regni Joakim filii Josiae, regis Jehudah, fuit sermo hic a Jehova, dicendo,
2. Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD'S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD'S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word:
2. Sic dicit Jehova, Sta in atrio templi Jehovae, et loquere ad omnes urbes Jehudah (id est, omnes cives urbium Jehudah) quae veniunt ad orandum in templum Jehovae hos omnes sermones quas mandavero tibi ad loquendum ad ipsos (hoc est, loquaris ipsis;) ne diminuas verbum.
This chapter contains a remarkable history, to which a very useful doctrine is annexed, for Jeremiah speaks of repentance, which forms one of the main points of true religion, and he shews at the same time that the people were rejected by God, because they perversely despised all warnings, and could by no means be brought to a right mind. We shall find these two things in this chapter.
He says that this word came to him at the beginning of the reign, of Jehoiakim, of which king we have spoken in other places, where Jeremiah related other discourses delivered in his reign. We hence conclude that this book was not put together in a regular order, but that the chapters were collected, and from them the volume was formed.
The time, however, is not here repeated in vain, for we know that the miserable derive some hope from new events. When men have been long afflicted and well-nigh have rotted in their evils, they yet think, when a change takes place, that they shall be happy, and they promise themselves vain hopes. Such was probably the confidence of the people when Jehoiakim began to reign; for they might have thought that things would be restored by him to a better state. There is also another circumstance to be noticed; though their condition was nigh past hope, they yet hardened themselves against God, so that they obstinately resisted the prophets. It hence appears that the reprobate were become more and more exasperated by the scourges of God, and had never been truly and really humbled. This was the reason why Jeremiah, according to God's command, spoke so sharply.
I pass by other things and come to the words, that the word of Jehovah came to him. He thus arrogated nothing to himself; but he testifies how necessary it was, especially among a people so refractory, that he should bring nothing of his own, but announce a truth that came from heaven. A general subject might be here handled, which is, that God alone is to be heard in the Church, and also that no one ought to assume to himself the name of a prophet or teacher, except he whom the Lord has formed and appointed, and to whom he has committed his message; but these things have been treated elsewhere and often and much at large; and I do not willingly dwell long on general subjects. It is then enough to bear in mind the purpose for which Jeremiah says that the word of Jehovah came to him, even that he might secure authority to himself; he does not boast of his own wisdom nor of anything human or earthly, but says only that he spoke what the Lord had commanded him.
He adds, Thus saith Jehovah, Stand in the court of the house (literally, but house means the Temple) of Jehovah It was not allowed the people to enter into the Temple; hence the Prophet was bidden to abide in the court where he might be heard by all. He was, as we have seen, of the priestly order; but it would have been but of little avail to address the Levites. It was therefore necessary for him to go forth and to announce to the whole people the commands of God which are here recited; and he was to do this not only to the citizens of Jerusalem, but also to all the Jews; and this is expressly required, speak to all the cities of Judah; and then it is added, who come to worship in the Temple of Jehovah God seems to have designedly anticipated the presumption of those who thought that wrong was done to them, when they were so severely reproved; |What! we have left our wives and children, and have come here to worship God; we have laid aside every attention to our private advantage, and have come here, though inconveniently; we might have lived quietly at home and enjoyed our blessings; we have incurred great expenses, undertaken a tedious journey, brought sacrifices, and denied ourselves as to our daily food, that God might be worshipped; and yet thou inveighest severely against us, and we hear nothing from thy mouth but terrors; is this right? Does God render such a reward to his servants?|
Thus then they might have contended with the Prophet; but he anticipates these objections, and allows what they might have pleaded, that they came to the Temple to offer sacrifices; but he intimates that another thing was required by God, and that they did not discharge their duties in coming to the Temple, except they faithfully obeyed God and his Law. We now see why the Prophet said, that he was sent to those who came up to Jerusalem to worship God. The deed itself could not indeed have been blamed; nay, it was highly worthy of praise, that they thus frequented the worship of God; but as the Jews regarded not the end for which God had commanded sacrifices to be offered to him, and also the end for which he had instituted all these external rites, it was necessary to remove this error in which they were involved.
Speak, he says, all the words which I have commanded thee to speak to them The Prophet again confirms, that he was not the author of what he taught, but only a minister, who faithfully announced what God had committed to him; and so the people could not have objected to him by saying, that he brought forward his own devices, for he repelled such a calumny. The false prophets might have also alleged similar things; but Jeremiah had certain evidences as to his calling, that the Jews, by rejecting him, condemned themselves, for their own consciences fully convicted them. But from this passage, and from many like passages, we may draw this conclusion, -- that no one, however he may excel in powers of mind, or knowledge, or wisdom, or station, ought to be attended to, except he proves that he is God's minister.
He afterwards adds, Thou shalt not diminish a word Some read, |Thou shall not restrain,| which is harsh. The verb, gr, garo, properly means to be lessened and to be consumed. And Moses makes use of the same word in Deuteronomy 12:32, when he says,
|Thou shalt not add, nor diminish,|
in reference to the Law, in which the people were to acquiesce, without corrupting it with any human devices. To diminish then was to take away something from the word. But we ought to consider the reason why this was said to Jeremiah; it never entered the mind of the holy man to adulterate God's word; but God here encourages him to confidence, so that he might boldly execute his commands. To diminish then something from the word, was to soften what appeared sharp, or to suppress what might have offended, or to express indirectly or coldly what could not produce effect without being forcibly expressed. There is then no doubt but that God anticipates here this evil, under which even faithful teachers in a great measure labor; for when they find the ears of men tender and delicate, they dare not vehemently to reprove, threaten, and condemn their vices. This is the reason why God added this, Diminish not a word; as though he had said, |Declare thou with closed eyes and with boldness whatever thou hast heard from my mouth, and disregard whatever may tend to lessen thy courage.|
We may now easily learn the use of this doctrine; the Prophet was not sent to profane men, who openly avowed their impiety, or lived in gross sins; but he was sent to the very worshippers of God, who highly regarded his external worship, and for this reason had left wives and children, came to the Temple and spared neither labor nor expense. As, then, he was sent to them, we must beware, lest we sleep in our vices and think that we have done our duty to God, when we have apparently given some evidences of piety; for except we really and sincerely obey God, all other things are esteemed of no value by him. It then follows --