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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 38:16

16. So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the LORD liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.

16. Et juravit rex Zedechias Jeremiae in secreto, dicens, Vivit Jehova, qui fecit nobis animam hanc, si interfecero te, et si tradidero te in manum istorum qui quaerunt animam tuam.

The king, desirous of having a new revelation, promised safety to the Prophet by an oath. He then swore that he would not take revenge, though he might be displeased with the Prophet's answer he might indeed have conjectured, though Jeremiah had not expressly said anything, that the answer would be unfavorable, and by no means agreeable to his wishes. For if some pleasant and joyful oracle had been given to the Prophet, he would not have made a preface respecting his own danger, and the wrath of the king, and also respecting his obstinacy. Zedekiah then could have concluded, that nothing but what was sad could be expected. For this reason he made an oath, that whatever might be the answer, he would not be so offended as to cause any harm to the Prophet.

He said, I will not kill thee, nor deliver thee into the hand of those who seek thy life, that is, who are enemies to thy life: for to seek life is the same thing as to pursue man to death. It is a way of speaking that often occurs, especially in the Psalms. (Psalm 38:12; Psalm 40:14, 15.) Then he refers to the mortal enemies of Jeremiah: and he promises at the same time that he would, with undisturbed mind, receive whatever he might hear from the Prophet.

Let us notice the form of the oath, Live does Jehovah, who made for us this soul He first made an oath by the life of God, that is, by the immortal God. The word chy, chi, when applied to God, denotes a life different from what is in men or in brute animals; for men live by the will of another, that is, while God gives them life. It belongs then to God alone to live, for we do not live, nor move, nor have any being but in him, as Paul says, in Acts 17:28; and hence he teaches us in another place, that God alone is immortal. (1 Timothy 6:16) At the same time comprehended in this word is everything that peculiarly belongs to God; for God does not live to enjoy ease and indulge in idleness, but to govern the universe, to exercise his power throughout heaven and earth, to judge men, to render to every one his own just reward. Then life in God is not an idle life, as ungodly men imagine, but includes his infinite power, justice, wisdom, and all that peculiarly belongs to him. Whenever then we speak of the life of God, let us know that we do not live but through him, and also that he does not sit idly and carelessly in heaven, but that he governs the whole world, and is the judge of men.

According to this meaning, then, Zedekiah said, Live does Jehovah, and then he added, who made for us this soul. He expresses more clearly what I have already stated, and it is the same as though he had offered his own life before God as a pledge. He then prayed for the punishment of perjury on himself; for when he made an oath by God, the giver of life, it was the same as though he had said, |Let my life be forfeited, if I deceive thee, or turn false.| We hence see what is the end of an oath, even that God's sacred name may be for us a pledge, that our word may be relied on. It hence follows, that God's name, whenever we swear, cannot be taken with impunity: for we expose our life to his judgement, that he may revenge the wrong done to him; for his name, as it is sufficiently known, is profaned by perjuries. It now follows --

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