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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 17:19-21

19. Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;

19. Sic dixit mihi Jehova, Vade et sta in porta filiorum populi; per quam ingrediuntur reges Jehudah, et per quam egrediuntur, (ad verbum, e qua egrediuntur in ipsa; sed vv est supervacuum,) et onmibus portis Jerusalem:

20. And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:

20. Et dic illis, Audite sermonem Jehovae, reges Jehudah, et totus Jehudah, et omnes incolae Jerusalem, qui ingredimini per has portas

21. Thus saith the LORD, Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem.

21. Sic dicit Jehova, Custodite vos, (vel, cavete vobis,) in animabus vestris, ne inferatis onus die sabbathi, (ne tollatis,) et inferatis per portas Jerusalem.

This discourse is no doubt to be separated from the preceding one, and whosoever divided the chapters was deficient in judgment as to many other places as well as here. Now the meaning is, that so great and so gross was the contempt of the law, that they neglected even the observance of the Sabbath; and yet we know that hypocrites are in this respect very careful, nay, Isaiah upbraided the men of his day that they made so much of their sanctity to consist in the outward observance of days. (Isaiah 1:13.) But, as I have already said, the Jews were so audacious in the time of Jeremiah that they openly violated the Sabbath, men were become so lost, as we commonly say, as not to pretend any religion. The licentiousness of the people was so great that they had no shame; nay, they all openly shewed that they had wholly cast away the yoke of God and of his law. When this was the case at Jerusalem, wlmt can we think was done in obscure villages where so much religion did not exist? for if there was any right teaching, if there was any appearance of religion, it must have been at Jerusalem.

We now then see that the Prophet was sent by God to charge the people with this gross and base contempt of the law; as though he had said, |Go to now, and pretend that you retain at least some religion: yet even in this small matter, the observance of the Sabbath, ye are deficient, for ye bring burdens, that is, ye carry on business on the Sabbath as on other days. As then there is not among you even an external sanctity as to the Sabbath, why do you go on with your evasions? for your impiety is sufficiently proved.| We now see what the Prophet means, and what the import of this discourse is which we are now to explain.

He says first, that he was sent, go, to bring this message. He had been indeed chosen before a prophet; but he speaks here of a special thing which he was commissioned to do: and he says that he was sent to the chief gate of the city, through which the kings entered in and went out and the whole people and then that he was sent to all the gates. By these words he means, that it was not God's will that the profanation of the Sabbath should be partially made known, but be everywhere proclaimed, in order that he might shame not only the king but also the whole people. The prophets usually spoke first in the Temple, and then they went to the gates, where there was a larger concourse of people. But Jeremiah had here something unusual; for God intended most clearly to condemn the Jews for their base and inexcusable contempt of the Sabbath.

He then adds, Thou shalt say to them, Hear the word of Jehovah, ye kings of Judah, and let all the people hear, and let all the citizens of Jerusalem hear, who enter in at these gates. The Prophet was commanded to begin with the king himself, who ought to have repressed so great a licentiousness. It was therefore an intolerable indifference in the king silently to bear this contempt of religion, especially in a matter so easy and so evident; for he could not have pretended that he was unacquainted with it: it was indeed the same as though the Jews intended to triumph against God, and to shew that his law was deemed of no value. Hence the profanation of the Sabbath was a proof of their shamelessness, as they thereby shewed that they cared nothing either for God or for his law. We shall hereafter see how great that wickedness was; but; I shall defer the subject, as I cannot now discuss it at large, and a more convenient opportunity will offer itself.

He bids them to attend, or to beware in their souls. Some render the words, |As your souls are precious to you.| But I take souls, not for their lives, but for the affections of their hearts; as though he had said, |Take heed carefully of yourselves, that this may be laid up in your inmost heart.| The word nphs nuphesh, means often the heart, the seat of the affections. It is said in Deuteronomy 4:15,

|Take heed to yourselves, lnphsvtykm lanupheshuticam, to your souls.|

here it is, vnphsvtykm, benupheshuticam, |in your souls;| but there, |to| or |for your souls,| as also in Joshua 23:11. But the same thing is meant, and that is, that they were to take great heed, to take every care, to exert every effort, and, in short, every faculty of their souls. Take heed then carefully, he says, take heed with every thought and faculty of your soul, that ye carry no burden on the Sabbath-day, and that ye bring it not through the gates of Jerusalem. It was a thing not difficult to be observed; and further, it was a most shameless transgression of the law; for, as I have said, by this slight matter they shewed that they despised the law of God, while yet the observance of the Sabbath was a thing of great importance: it was important in itself, but to observe it was easy. Hence appeared the twofold impiety of the people, -- because they despised God's singular favor, of which the seventh day was an evidence; and, because they were unwilling to take rest on that day, and in so easy a matter, they hesitated not, as it were, to insult God, as it has been before said.

Hence we ought to notice also what he says in these words, Carry no burden, and bring it not through the gatesof Jerusalem: and this was emphatically added; for it was not lawful even in the fields or in desert places to do anything on the Sabbath; but it was extremely shameful to carry a burden through the gates of Jerusalem; it was as though they wished publicly to reproach and despise God. Jerusalem was a public place; and it was as though one was not content privately to do dishonor to his neighbor or his brother, but must shew his ill-nature openly and in the light of day. Thus the Jews were not only reproachful towards God, but also dared to shew their impiety in his own renowned city, and, in short, in his very sanctuary. The rest we must defer.

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