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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 38:20-22

20. But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live.

20. Tunc dixit Jeremias, Non tradent te, audi agedum vocem Jehovae quam tibi profero (quam ego loquar ad te,) et tibi erit bene (tibi bene cedat,) et vivet anima tua:

21. But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the LORD hath shewed me:

21. Quod si tu abnueris ad egrediendum (hoc est, recusaveris egredi,) hic est sermo quem ostendit mihi Jehova;

22. And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah's house shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon's princes, and those women shall say, Thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee: thy feet are sunk in the mire, and they are turned away back.

22. Et ecce omnes mulieres, quae relictae fuerint in domo regis Jehudah egrediuntur ad proceres regis Babylonis, et ecce ipsae dicent, Suaserunt tibi (alii, deceperunt te, vel, subduxerunt) et praevaluerunt tibi viri pacis tuae; defixi sunt in luto pedes tui, conversi sunt retrorsum.

Here again Jeremiah strengthens Zedekiah, that he might not hesitate to make the trial, since God would yet give him pardon, so that at least his chastisement would be paternal and light He then promised to Zedekiah that he would be safe from all the insults about which he was anxious. They will not deliver thee, he says; as though he had said, |Leave this to God's providence, resign thyself to God, and doubt not but that he will keep thee safe.| God, in his kindness, as I have said, allows the faithful to cast their cares into his bosom: but at the same time, if any disobey, when he confirms them, it is a sign of deliberate wickedness, and such perverseness extinguishes all the light of grace. Such was the stupidity of Zedekiah, that he did not accept of this second promise. He might indeed have confessed his fear, but he ought also to have received the remedy. The Prophet assured him that his life would be safe in God's hand; what more could he have wished? But this was said to no purpose, because fear fully occupied his mind, so that there was no entrance for the promise. Now this ought to be carefully noticed; for there are none of us whom many cares do not disturb, and many fears do not perplex; but a place ought to be given to a remedy. God succors us when he sees us distressed by anxious thoughts; but if fear so prevails, that all the promises by which God raises us up avail nothing, it is a sign of hopeless unbelief.

It afterwards follows, Hear the voice of Jehovah, which I utter to you, that it may be well with thee, and that thy soul, may live The promise is again added, to lead Zedekiah to submit more willingly to God. For though we know that we cannot escape his power, it will yet be dreaded by us, except he favors us with the promises of grace. In this way, then, the Prophet endeavored to lead Zedekiah to render obedience to God: Hear, he says, the voice of Jehovah, that it may be well with thee He shewed that it was yet in the power of Zedekiah to provide for his own safety, if only he obeyed the word of God. And this passage teaches us, that the Prophet had not spoken thoughtlessly and in vain, but under the guidance and teaching of God's Spirit For though it may not have been, that he had received a new command, he yet knew that it was God's will, that he should confirm and reassert the previous oracles; for he did not falsely assume God's name, when he bade Zedekiah to hear God's voice which he had made known.

Now, though this discourse was especially directed to Zedekiah, we may yet conclude, that it is always for our good to embrace whatever God declares to us, though it may apparently be hard and unpleasant, as it was to Zedekiah; for it was by no means an agreeable thing to him to deliver up himself to his enemies, to be deprived of his regal power, to be drawn into exile, and from a king to become a slave; and yet nothing was better for him, in order to save his life, than to obey God. Though, then, the words of God contain what is contrary and grievous to our flesh, yet let us feel persuaded that God always speaks what is good for our salvation. It would then have been well for Zedekiah, had he obeyed the counsel of the Prophet; for he would have found in captivity that God would be propitious to him, and this would have been an invaluable comfort; and then he might have been brought back from exile, at least he would have preserved the city and the Temple: but by his obstinacy he betrayed the city to his enemies, and hence it was also that the Temple was burnt.

He then adds, If thou refuse to go forth, this is the word which God hath shewed to me Jeremiah again declares that Zedekiah resisted in vain, because he kicked, as it is said, against the goad, for he could not possibly escape from coming into the hand of his enemies; which, when done, then neither the city nor the Temple would be spared. But the Prophet repeats again, that it had been shewn to him what to speak, he then spoke not in his own name, but by God's command; which, it may be, was not then given him: but the Prophet knew that God's decree, of which he had been the herald, could not be abolished. He then says, that this word had been shewed to him by God, even what follows --

Behold, the women who as yet remain in the palace of the king, shall go forth to the princes of the king of Babylon, that is, having left the city they will betray thee to thine enemies; and they shall say, The men of thy peace have deceived thee, or persuaded thee, and have prevailed; thus fixed in the mire are thy feet, and they have turned backward There is here a part stated for the whole, for under one thing is included the whole calamity of the city. We indeed know that the female sex do not stand in the ranks to fight, and that when a city is taken, women are commonly spared. When, therefore, the Prophet says, Go forth shall women who are yet remaining in the king's palace, it is the same thing as if he had said, |Even the women shall be compelled to go forth to the enemies, and give themselves up into their power; what then will become of the men, when such shall be the hard condition of the women?|

We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet: Go forth then shall women, that is, when the city is taken, the women in the palace shall be drawn forth from their hiding-places, and be constrained to appear before their enemies. And then he adds, and, behold, they shall say, etc. He used the particle hnh, ene, twice, in order to lead Zedekiah into the very scene itself; for it is necessary thus to rouse those who are torpid in their apathy. And, behold, he says, they will say Here Jeremiah declares that women would be witnesses to bear testimony to the folly of the king, and also to the wickedness and obstinacy of the princes, as though he had said, |Thou wilt not obey me to-day, and thy counsel-lors also pertinaciously resist; God has already pronounced judgment on you: ye despise, and regard it as nothing: God will at length rouse up women, who will openly proclaim thy folly, O king, and the perverseness of thy counselors, for having despised all the prophecies.|

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