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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 36:24

24. Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.

24. Et non timuerunt et non sciderunt vestes suas rex et cuncti servi ejus, cum audissent cunctos sermones istos.

The Prophet now connects doctrine with the narrative, for what we have hitherto seen would be frigid were no instruction added. The Prophet then shews why he had related what we have read of the king's impious obstinacy. But there is more force in a simple statement than if the Prophet in high-sounding words inveighed against the king and his counsellors; for he speaks here as one astonished; They rent not, he says, their garments, nor feared when they heard threatenings so dreadful. And doubtless it may be justly deemed as the most monstrous of things, that miserable men should with such contempt disregard the threatenings of God, which yet they ought to have dreaded no less than instant destruction. That mortals then should not be moved when God fulminates by his threatenings against them, but on the contrary become more hardened -- this is an evidence of a diabolical madness. It is hence not without reason that the Prophet says, as one astonished, that neither the king nor his counsellors feared nor rent their garments.

Now, we are taught in this passage that it is a sign of reprobation when we are not terrified when God threatens and declares that he will become our judge, and when he brings forward our sins, and also shews what we deserve. When, therefore, all those things produce no effect on us, it is a sure sign of hopeless madness. This is what the Prophet means when he says, they feared not, for his object was to shew that all, as well as himself, ought to stand amazed, that the king and his counsellors could thus fearlessly withstand the threatenings of God.

As to the garments, the sign is put for the thing itself; and then a statement of a part is made for the whole: in the first place, to rend the garments is of no great moment, unless the heart be first rent, as Joel says in the second chapter; but though hypocrites make a shew of repentance by fallacious signs, yet when true and sincere repentance is treated of, the sign is put in the place of the thing signified, as in this passage, they rent not their garments, that is, they manifested no fear. And as the rending of garments was usually done, he says that they rent not their garments, when God by the mouth of Jeremiah and by the hand of Baruch fulminated against them. There is, in the second place, a part stated for the whole, because they were wont to put on sackcloth, and to sprinkle ashes on their heads. There is here a mention made only of garments; but other signs were also included.

He says, When they heard all these words; not that the king heard the whole volume, but three or four chapters were sufficient to condenm him; for there is no doubt but that he was abundantly convicted, and that he threw himself into such a rage as to cut the roll and not to rend his garments, because he dreaded God's judgment. And there is a striking alliteration in the words qr koro, to cut, and qr' kora, to read, the first ending with , oin, and the other with ', aleph,. He had previously said, that when Jehudah read a part of the roll, the king cut it; the one read and the other cut; and he says here, that the king did not cut (it is the same word) or rend his garments. The king had before cut the roll and torn it in pieces, when, on the contrary, he and the rest ought to have cut or torn their garments, and were it lawful, even themselves, when God terrified them with such dreadful threatenings. It follows --

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