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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 4:30

30. And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life.

30. Et tu perdita (aut, vastata) quid facies? Quamvis to induas coccino, quamvis to ornes ornamentis auri (vel, monilibus aureis, ut alii vertunt,) quamvis distinguas fuco (aut, stybio, ut alii vertunt,) oculos tuos, frustra to decorabis (ad verbum, pulchrificabis;) abominabuntur to amatores tui, animam tuam quaerent.

The Prophet boldly ridicules the Jews, in order to cast down their pride and haughtiness. It was indeed his object to check that pride with which they were elated against God. The Prophet could not have done this without assuming a higher strain than usual, and by rendering his discourse more striking by using metaphorical words. It is indeed the language of derision; he exclaims, What wilt thou do, thou wretched one? The Jews had hitherto been inflated with contempt towards God, and their high spirits had not been subdued. Since, then, their haughtiness continued untamed, the Prophet cries out and says, |Thou wretched, what wilt thou do?| as though he had said, |In vain do they flatter themselves and promise themselves aid from this and from that quarter, for their condition is past any remedy.|

He afterwards adds, Though, etc.; for so I consider the connection of the verse; and they seem right to me who do not separate the words of the Prophet. But the view which others take appears frigid, |Who now adornest thyself, who now clothest thyself in scarlet, who adornest thyself with ornaments of gold, who paintest thy eyes black.| To no purpose do they introduce the relative, for it renders the meaning of the Prophet different from what it really is.

These parts follow one another, and the principal verb is found in these words, In vain dost thou adorn thyself; and the particle kyis to be rendered |though.|

There are those who consider ceremonies to be intended, as hypocrites think that they are by these protected against God's judgment: but this view is unsuitable and wholly alien to what is here set forth. It is indeed true, that ceremonies are to hypocrites dens of thieves, as we shall hereafter see, (Jeremiah 7:11;) but the Prophet in this place refers to meretricious ornaments; for the people, as it had before appeared, were become like an adulterous woman. God had formed with them as it were a marriage -- contract; they had violated it; and this perfidy was like the defection of an adulteress, who leaves her husband and wanders here and there, and lives as a prostitute. As then harlots, for the purpose of enticement, are wont to dress themselves elegantly, to paint their faces, and to use other allurements, the Prophet says, |In vain wilt thou adorn thyself; though thou puttest on scarlet, though thou shinest with gold even from the head to the feet, yet all this will be superfluous and useless; and though, in addition to all this, thou paintest thy face, it will yet avail thee nothing.|

Now, we know whom he understands by lovers, even the Egyptians and the Assyrians. For the Jews, when oppressed by the Egyptians, were wont to seek help from the Assyrians; and again, when attacked by the Assyrians, they became suppliants to the Egyptians. The prophets compared this sort of conduct to that of strumpets; for whenever they courted the aid of either of these parties, they broke the bond of marriage, by which they were connected with God, and perfidiously violated their pledged faith. Hence, the Prophet says, |Even if the Egyptians promise wonderful things to thee, as a lover allured by thy beauty and by thy meretricious ornaments, yet they will deceive thee; and if the Assyrians shew themselves ready to bring aid, they also will disappoint thy hope: so that thou shalt be like a destitute strumpet, reduced to extreme want.| I cannot finish today: I must therefore defer the rest until to-morrow.

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