4. And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah.
4. Hi vero sunt sermones quos loquutus est Jehova de Israele et Jehudah (vel, ad Israelera et ad Jehudah:)
5. For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.
5. Certe ita dicit Jehova, Vocem trepidationis audivimus, pavorem et non pacem (vel, pavoris et non pacis)
6. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?
6. Inquirite et aspicite an pariat masculus? quare video cunctos viros manibus suis super lumbos tanquam parturiens (solet mulier, subaudiendum est, vel, sicuti solet mulier parturiens) et conversae sunt omnes facies in pallorem (vel, in auriginem, ut alii vertunt, sed nomen palloris melius convenit?)
Both Jews and Christians pervert this passage, for they apply it to the time of the Messiah; and when they hardly agree as to any other part of Scripture, they are wonderfully united here; but, as I have said, they depart very far from the real meaning of the Prophet.
They all consider this as a prophecy referring to the time of the Messiah; but were any one wisely to view the whole context, he would readily agree with me that the Prophet includes here the sum of the doctrine which the people had previously heard from his mouth. In the first clause he shews that he had spoken of God's vengeance, which rested on the people. But it is briefly that this clause touches on that point, because the object was chiefly to alleviate the sorrow of the afflicted people; for the reason ought ever to be borne in mind why the Prophet had been ordered to commit to writing the substance of what he had taught, which was, to supply with some comfort the exiles, when they had found out by experience that they had been extremely perverse, having for so long a time never changed nor turned to repentance. The Prophet had before spoken at large of the vices of the people, and many times condemned their obstinacy, and also pointed out the grievous and dreadful punishment that awaited them. The Prophet then had in many a discourse reproved the people, and had been commanded daily to repeat the same thing, though not for his own sake, nor mainly for the sake of those of his own age, or of the old. But after God had destroyed the Temple and the city, his object was to sustain their distressed minds, which must have otherwise been overwhelmed with despair. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet here touches but slightly on the vengeance which awaited the people. There is, however, as we shall see, great force in this brevity; but he is much fuller as to the second part, and for this end, that the people might not succumb under their calamities, but hope in the midst of death, and even begin to hope while suffering the punishment which they deserved.
Now he says, Thus saith Jehovah, A cry, or, the voice of trembling, or of fear, have we heard. The word chrdh, cherede, is thought to mean properly that dread which makes the whole body to tremble, and is therefore rendered trembling. God speaks, and yet in the person of the people. Why? In order to expose their insensibility; for as they were obstinate in their wickedness, so they were not terrified by threatenings, however many and dreadful. God dictated words for them, for they were altogether void of feeling. We now see why God assumed the person of those who were secure, though Jeremiah daily represented to them God's vengeance as near at hand. The meaning is, that though the people were asleep in their sins, and thought themselves beyond the reach of danger, even when God was displeased with them, yet the threatenings by which God sought to lead them to repentance would not be in vain. Hence God says, We have heard the voice of fear; that is, |Deride and scoff as you please, or remain insensible in your delusions, so as to disregard as the drunken what is said, being destitute of feeling, reason, and memory, yet God will extort from you this confession, this voice of trembling and fear.|
He then adds, and not of peace This is emphatically subjoined, that the Prophet might shake off from the people those foolish delusions with which they were imbued by the false prophets. He then says, that they in vain hoped for peace, for they could not flee from terror and fear. He enhances this fear by saying, Inquire and see whether a man is in labor? Some one renders this absurdly, |Whether a man begets?| by which mistake he has betrayed a defect of judgment as well as ignorance; he was indeed learned in Hebrew, but ignorant of Latin, and also void of judgment. For the Prophet here speaks of something monstrous; but it is natural for a man to beget. he asks here ironically, |Can a man be in labor?| because God would put all men in such pains and agonies, as though they were women travailing with child. As, then, women exert every nerve and writhe in anguish when bringing forth draws nigh, so also men, all the men, would have their hands laid on their loins, on account of their terror and dread. Then he says, and all faces are turned into paleness; that is, God would terrify them all.
We now understand the meaning of the Prophet; for as the Jews did not believe God's judgment, it was necessary, as the Prophet does here, to storm their hardness. If he had used a common mode of speaking, they would not have been moved. Hence he had respect to their perverseness; and it was on this account that he was so vehement. Inquire, then, he says, and see whether a man is in labor? God would bring all the men to a condition not manly, such as that of a woman in labor, when in her last effort to bring forth, when her pain is the greatest and the most bitter. Men would then be driven into a state the most unbecoming, strange, and monstrous. It follows: --