36. And now therefore thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence;
36. Et nunc propterea sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, ad urbem hanc (vel, de urbe hac) de qua vos dicitis, Tradita est in manum regis Babylonii in gladio et fame et peste;
37. Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely:
37. Ecce ego congrego cos ex omnibus terris, ad quas expulero eos in ira mea, et excandescentia mea, et indignatione magna; et reducam eos ad locum hunc, et habitare faciam secure.
God has hitherto been shewing that the Jews were worthy of that extreme punishment with which he had already visited the kingdom of Israel, and that they could not complain of extreme severity, though they were to rot in exile after the ruin of the city and the Temple, for they had polluted the land which ought to have been sacred to God, and had everywhere spread abroad their abominations, so that even the Temple was not free from their filth and defilements, and they had not thus offended for a short time, but, as we have seen, they had despised all warnings; and though God had been solicitous for their safety, they had yet proudly rejected and even extinguished his favor. As then they were of a disposition so wicked, and their impiety had become altogether incurable through so much hardness, God shews that he would render to them the reward due to their works, by wholly rejecting them. But now he adds the promise of favor, in order to shew that he would in such a manner be the avenger of wickedness, as ever to have a regard for the gratuitous covenant which he had made with Abraham.
We have already said often, that whenever God mitigates the bitterness of punishment with some hope of mercy, he has a peculiar respect to his chosen people. The word then is not indiscriminately addressed to all, when God declares that he will be at length merciful and propitious, for he encourages his chosen people alone, as I have said, to entertain hope. As then there were some godly seed remaining among the people, God intended to relieve them, so that they might not wholly despond.
We now see the Prophet's object; and this truth ought to be carefully observed; for we shall be mistaken as to the doctrine taught by the Prophets, except we know, that after having threatened the wicked and the despisers of God, they then turn their discourse to the elect, to encourage them to bear patiently and with calm minds the punishment laid on them, as Jeremiah did in his own case when he exhorted the faithful to lay their mouth in the dust, and then patiently to wait for God, though he would for a time hide his face from Jacob, that is, from his Church. Jeremiah then, after having shewn that the Jews could not be too severely treated, because they had been wholly intractable, now adds,-
And now therefore, thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, concerning this city, or, to this city. The preposition 'l al, signifies both, but it is more suitable to take it here in the sense of |concerning:| of which, it is added, ye say that it has been delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon This does not seem to be consistent with facts, for the Jews themselves had not announced this sentence respecting Jerusalem, but on the contrary they sturdily rose up against the Prophets, and made a clamor whenever the ruin of the city was announced. What then is meant when God upbraids them with speaking in this manner? To this I answer, that this had indeed proceeded from the Spirit of God, and also that the Prophets had been the testifiers and heralds of this punishment; but when the Jews saw that they could not escape, they then had such a dreadful apprehension of God's judgment, that they became wholly stunned with fear; and thus it always happens to the despisers of God, for except he presses hard on them, they scorn all his threatenings; or they think that fables are told them, when God announces that he will execute on them his vengeance. But when they come to extremities, they are filled with amazement, and without any hope confess only that God is angry with them; hence their despair. The Prophet then does not without reason upbraid them with this -- that they said that the city was delivered up to the Chaldean king, even while he was not only assailing it with a strong army, but was also assisted by the sword, the famine, and the pestilence as his associates. For before the siege pressed hard on them, they esteemed as nothing, according to what we have seen, all that Jeremiah declared to them; for he lost all his labor for nearly forty years, though the prophecy concerning the ruin of the city, exile, the rejection of the people, and the abolition of all holy things, was proclaimed daily. But now when they saw that the affair was serious, and that they could not escape God's vengeance, they went to another extreme, and said, that God was false in his promises, that his covenant was void and useless, that they had in vain worshipped him, that he had deceived them and had given them false hopes, when he promised that he would dwell in the midst of them. It is, then, in this sense that they said, that the city was delivered up into the hand of the king of Babylon; it was the same as though they had said, that the hope of return had been cut off. For they wholly cast away the favor held forth by God, and said that all that Jeremiah had promised was vain, because terrors had laid such hold on their minds and feelings, that they could not entertain any hope of God's mercy.
I have said that the case with all the reprobate is, that they deride God while he spares and bears with them; but when they find that he is a judge, then they do not look to his mercy, but he prostrate in despair as though they were lifeless.
We now understand what the design of the Prophet was, when he spoke of the Jews as saying, that the city was delivered up to the Chaldeans and the Babylonians, even because the promised deliverance could afford them no comfort, inasmuch as they fully believed that their salvation was hopeless. Ye then say, he says, that the city has been delivered up; but I, he adds, will gather them from all the lands to which I shall drive them in my wrath and hot displeasure and great indignation
Here God promises that the exile would only be temporary, because he would at length gather, as it is said in Psalm 147:2, the dispersed of Israel. No name is here expressed, but a pronoun; there is however no ambiguity, for it is sufficiently evident that he speaks of the Jews when he says, I will gather them As they had been scattered here and there, the gathering of them might have appeared incredible; for had they been only driven from their own country, and a place of exile had been granted them where they might have lived together, they might have hoped some time to return: but the scattering took away every hope, for they had been driven into different countries, and far distant from each other. In order then to obviate this difficulty, God expressly says that he would restore them from all the lands into which he had driven them And the Prophet no doubt alludes to a passage in Deuteronomy 30:4,
|Though they be scattered to the four quarters of the world, I will thence gather them.|
As then God had through Moses promised, that though they were banished into the farthest parts of the world, yet their restoration would not be difficult to him; so the Prophet applies this declaration of Moses to his own prophecy, even that God would gather from the whole of the East those who had been scattered.
He adds, in my wrath, hot displeasure, and great indignation God does not here speak of his wrath, but in order that the Jews might perceive that they deserved so great a punishment: for we know that as God is the judge of the world, nothing unjust can belong to him. When therefore God's wrath is said to be great, we may with certainty conclude that the vices of men are great; for he is never angry with us, except when he is offended by the greatness of our sins. We hence perceive the reason why the Prophet mentions here the wrath, the hot displeasure and great indignation of God, even that the faithful might feel assured that God would be propitious to them, though they were worthy of eternal ruin. In short, Jeremiah shews that there would be a place for God's mercy, though the Jews had merited destruction a hundred times through their obstinacy.
And he adds that his favor would be continued, And I will cause them to dwell safely After having promised to them a return, he promises now a tranquil condition: for it would have been better for the Jews to remain always in exile and in foreign lands, than to return to their own country and to live there in misery. This was the reason why the Prophet expressly added, that there would be a quiet habitation for them.
But we know that this was not fulfilled when the Jews returned to their own country; for they were greatly harassed by their neighbors, and the building of the Temple was at first hindered, and they endured many troubles from all quarters, and at length they were oppressed with tyranny by the Syrian kings, and reduced to such extremities, that exile would not only have been more tolerable, but even pleasanter and more desirable, in comparison with the many miseries with which they were oppressed. But, as it has been said elsewhere, whenever the Prophets prophesied of the return of the people, they extended what they taught to the whole kingdom of Christ. For liberation from exile was no more than the beginning of God's favor: God began the work of true and real redemption when he restored his people to their own country; but he gave them but a slight taste of his mercy. This prophecy, then, with those which are like it, ought to be extended to the kingdom of Christ. He afterwards adds, --