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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 31:38-40

38. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD, from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner.

38. Ecce dies (addunt alii v'ym, veniunt) dicit Jehova, et edificabitur urbs Jehovae e turri Chananeel usque ad portam anguli:

39. And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath.

39. Et exibit adhuc funiculus mensurae coram ipso (vel, coram ipsa porta) et usque ad collem Gazeb, et circumdabit Goathath,

40. And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse-gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.

40. Et omnem vallem (alii legunt in nominativeocasu, et omnis vailis) cadaverum et cineris, et omnes regiones (vel, agri) ad torrentem Kedron usque ad angulum portae equorum versus orientem, sanctitas Jehovae; non evelletur, et non destructur amplius in perpetuum.

Here the Prophet speaks of the rebuilding of the city. I doubt not but that his object was to shew them that the largeness and splendor of the city after the return of the people would not be less than it had been under David in its most flourishing condition. We must, however, first speak of the words before we proceed to the subject.

Behold, the days are coming, saith Jehovah, and built shall be the city It was not as yet destroyed; but the Prophet intimated that its utter ruin was nigh at hand; he therefore makes now their hope to depend on God's mercy alone, as to the deliverance of the people from exile: Built then shall be the city to Jehovah from the tower of Hananeel, etc. This tower was, no doubt, placed in the wall of the city. Almost the same prediction is found in Zechariah 14:10, though there is some diversity in the words; but both the Prophets refer to the same thing. Zechariah's object was to animate the people under this circumstance, because the beauty, greatness, and extent of the city did not at first correspond with what it had formerly been. He then promises that its glory would at length be the same as it had been; and he names there the tower of Hananeel Jeremiah adds, to the gate of the corner The corner, hphnh ephene, is in the singular number; but in Zechariah it is hphnym ephenim, in the plural; and it is thought that corners or corner is thus called metaphorically, because a corner shews two faces while it stands out, and thus two parts appear; but whether it be the gate of the corner or of the corners, it makes but little difference.

He afterwards adds, Yet go forth shall the line of measure before him Some apply this to the gate, because from the gate the line was to be extended to the hill Gareb, and go round to Goath Of these names of places I cannot say much, for we do not know the ancient situation of the city; and the Jews themselves, when they make conjectures about these uncertain things, shew only their own ignorance. However, the greater part of interpreters understand this, -- that the city was to be large, as though God promised that he would extend it beyond the walls; and this they illicit from the verb yts' itsa, go forth shall the line, or cord, of measure But when the Prophet says yet, he compares the ancient greatness of the city with that which he perceives it to be hereafter. Then Zechariah seems to promise that it would be such a city as would contain the same measure; for he says,

|Inhabited shall the city be under itself,|

or in its own place. (Zechariah 12:6) As then Zechariah promises that the city would occupy the same place as formerly, I do not conclude anything else from the words of our Prophet, especially as the particle yet intimates the same thing. When it is said before him, I apply this to God and not to the gate; for mention is previously made of God, Built shall be the city to Jehovah; and then he adds, before him I have no doubt but that the Prophet here bids the Israelites to raise up their eyes to God, that they might expect from him what was incredible according to the comprehension of men and of the flesh: then before him, that is, when God restores the city, then Go forth shall the line, that is, he will extend the line to the hill Gareb, and surround Goath

He then adds, And the whole valley Some read, |the whole valley shall be holiness to Jehovah:| and it may be suitably taken, that all the places near to the city were to be holy to God; but this verse may be connected with the preceding, as though he said, extended shall be the line to the whole valley of the carcases and of the ashes The word dsn, dashin, means ashes and fatness; but here it is to be taken for ashes; and it is thought that the place was so called, where they were wont to throw the ashes gathered from the altar, after the sacrifices were burnt: as then there was there a great heap of ashes, the place had this name given to it. Another place was also called the place of carcases, because there a host of enemies had been slain by an angel, in the reign of Hezekiah. As then a great and a memorable slaughter had taken place there, it is thought that it received this name, in order that God's favor might remain known to posterity. If then this name became the monument of God's favor, Hezekiah, I have no doubt, was the cause of it.

It is then added, and all the regions to the brook Kidron It is probable enough that the places here named were outside of the city, for we know that the brook Kidron was not within the city. Then he adds, to the corner of the gate of the horses It is thought that through this gate went forth the chariots of the king when he wished to exercise his horses. It might have been the market-place for horses. Conjectures only have place here; for no one knows of a certainty whether the king had a place of exercise for his horses. But this gate looked towards the east. He says that all the places would be holiness to Jehovah; and then he promises them a quiet and a perpetual condition, It shall not be cut off nor destroyed any more for ever; for which it is said by Zechariah, |there shall be no more chrm cherim, destruction.|

We now see the design of the Prophet: after having spoken of the return of the people, he adds that the city would again become splendid and large, as it had been; for the land continued in a state of disorder until the restoration of the city, as God had there chosen a habitation for himself. And as the Temple had been built there, it behoved the Israelites, wherever they dwelt, ever to direct their eyes to the Temple and the sanctuary of God, that they might live under his protection. Except, then, the city had been built again, the goodness of God could not have been really enjoyed; for a sort of desolation would have otherwise ever presented itself to the eyes of the people, as the city was as it were the banner under which God protected them. This then is the reason why the Prophet expressly announced this prophecy respecting the future restoration of the city.

Now, when he says that the city would be built to Jehovah, he intimates what was especially expected by the Jews, that that city would again be holy; for if it only flourished in wealth and power like other cities, it would have been but a small comfort to the Israelites. But he points out here a difference between Jerusalem and all heathen cities; for God was, as it were, the architect of that city, as it is said in the Psalms,

|He himself founded it,| (Psalm 87:5)

and further,

|His foundations are on the holy mountains,|

and this ought to be understood of himself. (Psalm 87:1) The meaning is, that God would again care for that city, as the Temple would become as it were his royal throne and earthly sanctuary. At the same time when the Prophet affirms that the extent of the city would not be less than it had been, we see that this prophecy must necessarily be referred to the kingdom of Christ: for though Jerusalem before Christ's coming was eminent and surrounded by a triple wall, and though it was celebrated through all the East, as even heathen writers say that it excelled every other city, yet it was never accomplished, that the city flourished as under David and Solomon. We must then necessarily come to the spiritual state of the city, and explain the promise as the grace which came through Christ.

But we must especially notice what is said, that it would be holiness to Jehovah, and also that no ruin or destruction would be dreaded any more. Had the condition of the elect people been the same as that of other nations, the promise of restoration would have been small and of no great moment; for it would have been better for them to dwell in exile where they inhabited a pleasant and fertile country. But the Prophet here commends a privilege with which God had favored the children of Abraham above all other nations, when he adopted them as his peculiar people. There is however to be understood an implied contrast between the profanation which then prevailed, and the sanctification which is here promised. The Jews had so polluted the land that it differed nothing from other countries; and God, as Ezekiel says, had thence migrated, (Ezekiel 8:6) and we know that the Temple was called by the prophets the den of robbers, (Jeremiah 7:11) and that the city was also compared to Sodom and Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:10) Hence the Prophet here promises that the city, with its whole vicinity, would be holy to God, because God would cleanse it from all the defilements by which it had been polluted: and he also claims this as his own work, for to sanctify is a work peculiar to himself.

The promise of perpetual favor is added, as it is also done by Zechariah; for it would not be sufficient to have God's mercy promised to us for a short time, except its perpetuity were secured. The Prophet then promises now that the course of God's benefits would be permanent;. The city indeed was again destroyed by Titus, and at length wholly demolished by Adrian; but this fact does not militate against this promise; for as we have said, God gave some taste of his favor in the external aspect of the city until Christ came; but after Christ was manifested, the heavenly Jerusalem became the object to be sought, for all the types and shadows then ceased. The perpetuity then of which the Prophet speaks, is that which corresponds with the character of Christ's kingdom, and is therefore spiritual. Moreover, this passage teaches us that the Church will be perpetual, and that though God may permit it to be terribly shaken and tossed here and there, there will yet be ever some seed remaining, as long as the sun and the moon shall shine in the heavens, and the order of nature shall continue; so that all the elements, everything we see with our eyes, bear evidence to the perpetuity of the Church, even that it will ever continue: for though Satan and all the world daily threaten its ruin, yet the Lord will in a wonderful manner preserve it to the end, so that it will never perish. This is the import of the passage. Another prophecy follows.

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