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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 12:14

14. Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them.

14. Sic dicit Jehova, Super omnes vicinos meos malos qui tangunt haereditatem meam, quam haereditare obtinui, populum meum Israel; ecce ego evellam ipsos e terra ipsorum, et demum Jehudah evellam e medio ipsorum.

The Prophet now begins to mitigate what might have beyond measure exasperated the minds of the people; and this he did, not so much for the sake of the people in general, as for the sake of the elect, a few of whom still remained. We have indeed seen that it was all over with the body of the people; for it had been said to Jeremiah,

|Pray not for them, for I will not hear them,|
(Jeremiah 11:14)

The Prophet then knew the immutable purpose of God as to the mass of the people. Nor did he intend here to soften what might have appeared grievous in what he had taught. But as we have said elsewhere, and indeed often repeated, the prophets used reproofs only as to the whole community, and then spoke as it were apart to the elect; for there ever was a remnant among that people, inasmuch as God never suffered his covenant to be made void. As then the Church was still existing, the Prophet had regard to the hidden seed, and therefore blended consolation with those grievous and dreadful predictions which we have noticed.

This is the reason why he now says that God would be the avenger of that cruelty which their neighbors had exercised towards the Jews. For this temptation might have greatly disturbed the minds of the godly, -- |What means this, that God rages so violently against us, while he spares the heathens? Have the Moabites, or the Ammonites, or the Idumeans, deserved nothing? Why then does God bear with them, while he deals so severely with us?| The Prophet then meets this objection, and says, that punishment was nigh those nations, and such as they deserved, and that for the sake of the chosen people. If indeed he had only said that the Moabites and the Idumeans, and the rest, would be summoned before God's tribunal, that they in their turn might be punished, it would have given no relief to the miserable Jews; for it would have been a very empty consolation to have only so many associates in their misery: but the Prophet also adds, that God would be thus propitious to his elect; for it was a sign of his paternal favor, when he inflicted punishment on all those neighhors by whom they had been so cruelly treated.

He begins by saying, Thus saith Jehovah; and he says, against all my evil neighbors, etc. He speaks here in the person of God, who calls the Moabites and the Idumeans, as well as others, his neighbors, because he had chosen the land of Canaan as an habitation for himself; for it was, as it appears often from the prophets, an evidence above all other things of God's favor, that he dwelt among that people. He was not indeed confined either to the Temple or to the land of Canaan; but he had taken the people under his safeguard and protection, as though he had his hands extended for the purpose of defending them all. We now see why he calls the nations near to the Jews his evil neighbors: for though the Jews deserved extreme evils, yet that promise remained valid,

|He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye.| (Zechariah 2:8)

Then he adds, who touch my heritage Here he speaks not ironically as before, but regards simply his own election, as though he had said, -- |Whatever the Jews may be, I will yet be consistent with myself, and my covenant shall not fall to the ground; for my faithfulness shall surpass their perfidy.| We must yet bear in mind what I have already stated, -- that the whole of this is to be confined to the elect, who were few in number and were hid like twenty or a hundred grains in a large heap of chaff As then the Prophet addresses here especially the elect of God, it is no wonder that he calls them God's heritage, not for the sake of upbraiding them., as he had done before, but because God really loved them and would have them to be saved. There is another thing to be noticed, -- that God had in view the Idumeans as well as the Ammonites, Sidonians, and Tyrians, who had unjustly oppressed his people. The Ammonites and the Moabites were by kindred connected, for they both derived their origin from Lot, the nephew of Abraham. As to the Idumeans, they were the descendants of Esau, all of the same family; and they knew that the Jews had been chosen by God. Hence God here shews that he himself was injured, when such wrongs were done to his people.

We hence see why God calls here Israel his heritage; which, he says, by heritage I have possessed Here he takes away from the neighboring nations every handle for evasion; as though he had said, -- |Though the Jews have sinned, yet these are not their judges; nor have they any right to punish them for their unfaithfulness: it has been my will to choose them for mine heritage.| We thus see that these words are emphatical, their import being, that God would punish the wrongs done to his people, because his own majesty was insulted, inasmuch as no regard was shewn to his adoption: nor had the heathells any right to inquire whether the Jews were worthy or not; for it had pleased God to take them under his protection.

He then adds, Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and the house of Judah will I pluck up from the midst of them He mentions here two kinds of plucking up. He says first, that he would by force expel the Idumeans and drive them far into exile; for this is the meaning, when he says, I will pluck them up, as nts nutash, is to draw out by force. The word is often found in the prophets, especially in reference to the Church,

|I have planted and will pluck up,| (Jeremiah 45:4:)

We have also seen the following,

|I have set thee to plant and to pluck up,| (Jeremiah 1:10)

this was to shew the power of prophetic truth. And he says here, |I will pluck up,| or eradicate them, as some render it; but as this word (eradicabo) is not Latin, let us retain evellam -- I will pluck up; only you must understand that what it properly means is, to draw up by the roots, and that by force: I will pluck up, he says, the Idumeans, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and all other neighboring nations, from their land, because they have violated mine heritage, even the people chosen by me: therefore they themselves shall be driven into remote exile and into captivity, according to what is said elsewhere,

|Remember the children of Edom, who said in the day of Jerusalem,| etc., (Psalm 137:7)

and we shall hereafter see that this was fulfined; for the Prophet will presently speak of all these nations, in order that the Jews might perceive that God's judgment would extend to all parts of the earth. But here the Prophet briefly threatens these nations with vengeance, that he might alleviate the sorrow of the small portion which remained. For as we have said, the body of the people was without hope, as God had given them up, according to what they deserved, to final destruction.

But as God ever reserved a remnant, the Prophet says in this place, The house of Judah will I pluck up from the midst of them: for some had fled to the Moabites and to others, and some had indeed been taken captives and were held in bondage. The Jews, as we know, had been miserably plundered, and some of them had been exposed to sale by these nations. Hence God here promises that he would be at length entreated by his people, so as to gather the remnant from the Moabites as well as from the Idumeans and other heathen nations. This second plucking up is therefore to be taken in a good sense; for the Prophet promises deliverance here to God's elect: and yet he suitably employs the same word, in order to set forth the cruelty of these nations, who would have never winingly given them up, had not God by force rescued from their tyranny the innocent Israelites -- that is, innocent with regard to them. |I will,| he says, |draw them out by force;| as though he had said, -- |However obstinate may be the cruelty of all these nations, by whom my people shall be taken captive, I will yet be stronger than they, so that I shall bring forth the captives, though they who consider them as perpetual slaves may resist with all their power.|

And this also have we found in our time; for how hard was our bondage under the Papacy? and was not also its tyranny almost unconquerable? But God put forth his power and drew forth a few from under its cruel domination. In the same manner he promised formerly to the remnant of his people, that he would be so merciful to them as to rescue them from the yoke of tyranny. It follows --

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