22. And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey;
22. Et dedisti illis terram hanc quam juraveras patribus eorum ad dandum ipsis (hoc est, to daturum ipsis) terram fluentem lacte et melle;
Here the fruitfulness of the land is commended, so that the ingratitude of the people for their redemption might appear less excusable. God had already bound them, as it were, more than enough to himself, but when the wealth and fruitfulness of the land were added, the bounty of God was doubled, which, by a stronger and more sacred chain, bound the people to obedience. But when they buried, as it were, both their benefits, their impiety was extreme, and so much baser was their ingratitude. We hence see why the Prophet said that the land was given to the people.
He at the same time mentions the reason, even because it had been promised to their fathers. It is not, however, right to suppose that the fathers had any merits, as Jerome says, who ignorantly perverts this passage; for he says, that nothing was due to the people on the ground of merit; but that the fathers were yet worthy on account of their great virtues. But we know that God's covenant was from the beginning gratuitous. The Prophet then means here, that the land was not given as a reward rendered to the people for their works, but that it was given them because it had been gratuitously promised. And he mentions the oath, because God, regarding the infirmity of Abraham and the fathers, confirmed by an oath his own promise. But as I have spoken elsewhere more at large on this subject, I touch on it but slightly now. However, whenever there is mention made of an oath, let us know that reproof is indirectly given to the inconstancy of men, who always vacillate, and can never recumb on God's promise, except they are helped by this confirmation.
However this may be, the Prophet here reminds us that God confirmed the pledge which he had given to the fathers when the people entered into the land, because they could not have obtained it by their valor, or by any other means. In short, Jeremiah calls the attention of the people to God's gratuitous covenant, that they might understand that they became possessors of the land by no other right than this, -- that God of his own free will had promised to Abraham and his seed that he would give them that land. He speaks, as I have just said, of the fruitfulness of the land, because it was God's design to allure the people in every way, that they might continue in his service. And when the people, thus bountifully dealt with, did not acknowledge God's favor, their extreme and base stupidity was fully proved. What the Prophet then means is, that the land was most fruitful, in which the people had all abundance, and that yet they despised God the giver of so much bounty, according to what immediately follows --