4. And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you,
4. Dices ergo ad eos, Sic dicit Jehova, Si non audieritis me, ut ambuletis in lege mea, quam posui coram conspectu vestro,
5. To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened;
5. Ad audiendum sermonem (hoc est, ut audiatis sermones) servorum meorum prophetarum, quos ego mitto ad vos, et mane surgendo et mittendo, neque tamen audistis (hoc postremum lego parenthesin;)
6. Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.
6. Et (id est, tunc) ponam domum hanc (id est, templum) sicuti Silo, et urbem hanc ponam maledictionem cunctis gentibus terrae.
The Prophet now briefly includes what he had been teaching, what he had been commanded to declare to the people. No doubt he spoke to them more at large; but he deemed it enough to shew in a few words what had been committed to him. And the sum of it was, that except the Jews so hearkend as to walk in God's Law, and were submissive to the prophets, final ruin was nigh the Temple and the city. This is the meaning: but it may be useful to consider every particular.
By these words, Except ye hearken to me, to walk in my law, God intimates, that he mainly requires obedience, and esteems nothing as much, according to what he says, that it is better than all sacrifices. (1 Samuel 15:22.) This subject was largely treated in the seventh chapter, where he said,
|Did I command your fathers when they came out of Egypt to offer sacrifices to me? this only I required, even to hear my voice.| (Jeremiah 7:22, 23)
We hence see, that the only way of living piously, justly, holily, and uprightly, is to allow ourselves to be ruled by the Lord. This is one thing. Then what follows is worthy of being noticed, To walk in my law God here testifies that his will is not ambiguous or doubtful, for he has prescribed what is right in his law. Were God then to descend a hundred times from heaven, he would bring nothing but this message, that he has spoken what is necessary to be known, and that his Law is the most perfect wisdom. Had he said only, |Hear me,| men might have still evaded and avowed themselves ready to learn. God therefore does here silence hypocrites, and says that he required nothing else but to follow his Law. And for the same purpose he adds what follows, which I have set before you: for this kind of speaking intimates that the doctrine of the Law was by no means obscure or doubtful, as Moses said,
|I this day call heaven and earth to witness, that I have set life and death before your eyes.| (Deuteronomy 30:19)
And in another place he said,
|Say not, Who shall ascend above the clouds? or, Who shall descend into the abyss? or, Who shall pass beyond the sea? The word is in thy heart and in thy mouth,| (Deuteronomy 30:12-14; Romans 10:6-8)
as though he had said, |God has deprived you of every excuse, for there is no reason for doubting, since he has spoken so familiarly to you, and has explained everything necessary to be known.|
And hereby is confuted the impious blasphemy of the Papists, who impudently assert that not only the Law is obscure, but also the Gospel. And Paul also loudly declares, that the Gospel is not obscure except to those who perish, and who have a veil over their hearts, being visited with judicial blindness. But as to the Law, in which there is no such plainness as in the Gospel, we see what Jeremiah affirms here, that it was set before the eyes of all, that they might learn from it what pleased God, and what was just and right.
But what follows in the next verse ought to be especially observed; for these two things are necessarily connected, -- that God required nothing but obedience to his Law, -- and that his will was that his prophets should be heard, -- To hearken, he says, to the words of my servants, the prophets, whom I send to you, (it is in the second person.) Here there seems to be some inconsistency; for if God's Law was sufficient, why were the prophets to be heard? But these two things well agree together: the Law alone was to be attended to, and also the prophets, for they were its interpreters. For God sent not his prophets to correct the Law, to change anything in it, to add or to take away; as it was an unalterable decree, not to add to it nor to diminish from it. What then was the benefit of sending the prophets? even to make more manifest the Law, and to apply it to the circumstances of the people. As then the prophets devised no new doctrine, but were faithful interpreters of the Law, God joined, not without reason, these two things together, -- that his Law was to be heard and also his prophets; for the majesty of the Law derogated nothing from the authority of the prophets; and as the prophets confirmed the Law, it could not have been that they took away anything from the Law.
Nay, this passage teaches us, that all those who repudiate the daily duty of learning, are profane men, and extinguish as far as they can the grace of the Spirit; many such fanatics among the Anabaptists have been in our time, who despised learning of every kind. They boasted that the doctrine of the Law was the Alphabet; and they also indulged in this dream, that wrong is done to the Holy Spirit when men attend to learning. And some dare, in a grosser manner, to vomit forth their blasphemies; they say that Scripture is enough for us, yea, even these two things, |Fear God and love thy neighbor.| But as I have already said, we must consider how God has spoken by his Law; whether he has closed up the way, so as not to explain his will more clearly by the prophets, nor to apply to present use what would have otherwise been less effectual? or that he purposed to draw continually by various channels the doctrine which flows from that fountain? But now, since God had given his own Law, and had added to the Law his prophets, every one who rejected the prophets must surely ascribe no authority to the Law. Even so now, they who think it not their duty at this day to seek knowledge in the school of Christ, and to avail themselves of the hearing of his word, no doubt despise God in their hearts, and set no value either on the Law, or on the prophets, or on the Gospel. Remarkable then is this passage; it shews that the Lord would have his Law to be our leader and teacher, and yet he adds his own prophets.
He says further, Whom I have sent to you, rising early and sending Here he upbraids the Jews with their slowness and insensibility; for he roused them early, and that not once but often, and yet he spent his labor in vain. Rising early, when applied to God, means that he called these men in due time, as though he had said, that it was not his fault that the Jews had departed from the right way of safety, for he had been sedulously careful of their well-being, and had in due time warned them. We hence see how the Prophet condemned their tardiness and indifference, and then their hardness, by saying, and sending; for this intimates a repetition or assiduity. He had said before, |whom I sent to you, rising early;| now, when he says and sending, he means that he had not sent one prophet, or many at one time, but one after another continually, and that yet it had been without any benefit. The end of the verse I read in a parenthesis, (but ye have not hearkened.) Indeed what follows stands connected with the previous verses.
Then will I make, etc.: the copulative is to be rendered here as an adverb of time. What had been just said, |but ye have not hearkened,| was by way of anticipation; for the Jews, swelling with great arrogance, might have immediately said, |Oh! what new thing dost thou bring? Except ye hearken to my voice, saith Jehovah, to walk in my Law, which I have set before you, as though all this were not well known even to children among us; and yet thou pretendest to be the herald of some extraordinary prophecy; certainly such boasting will be deemed puerile by all wise men.| Thus then they might have spoken, but the Prophet here briefly checks the insolence of such a foolish censure, but ye have not hearkened; as though he had said, that he had not been sent in vain to speak of a thing as it were new and unusual, because the Jews had corrupted the whole Law, had become disobedient, unteachable, and unbelieving, and had despised both the Law of God and his Prophets.