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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 41:8

8. But ten men were found among them that said unto Ishmael, Slay us not: for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey. So he forbare, and slew them not among their brethren.

8. Decem autem homines inventi sunt in ipsis qui dixerunt (et dixerunt, copula resolvi debet hoc modo; dixerunt ergo) ad Ismael, Ne interficias nos, quia sunt nobis opes reconditae in agro, triticum et hordeum (sunt pluralis numeri, sed durum esset Latine dicere, tritica et hordea) et oleum et mel: et cessavit (vel, destitit,) et non occidit eos in medio fratrum suorum.

We here see that the barbarity of Ishmael was connected with avarice, he was indeed inflamed with ferocious madness when he slew simple and innocent men; but when the hope of gain was presented to him, he spared some of them. Thus then we see that he was a lion, a wolf, or a bear in savageness, but that he was also a hungry man, for as soon as he smelt the odor of prey, he spared ten out of the eighty, who, it is probable, thus redeemed their life and returned home. So in one man we see there were many monsters; for if he hated all those who favored Gedaliah, why did he suffer these to escape? even because avarice and rapacity prevailed in him.

It is then added, that he slew them not in the midst of their brethren, that is, when they were exposed to death and were mixed with the others, so that their condition seems to have been the same. The Prophet says, that they were spared, even because Ishmael sought nothing else but gain. And it is probable that in a state of things so disturbed he was not furnished with provisions and other things. As, then, want urged him, so he became moderate, lest his cruelty should cause a loss to him.

Here also is set before us the inscrutable purpose of God, that he suffered unhappy men to have been thus slain by robbers. They had left. their houses to lament the burning of the Temple. As then the ardor of their piety led them to Jerusalem, how unworthy it was that they should become a prey to the barbarity of Ishmael and his associates? But as we said yesterday, God has hidden ways by which he provides for the salvation of his people. He took away Gedaliah; his end indeed was sad, having been slain by Ishmael whom he had hospitably entertained. Thus God did not suffer him to be tossed about in the midst of great troubles. For John, the son of Kareah, who yet was a most faithful man, would have become soon troublesome to the holy man; for he became soon after the head and ringleader of an impious faction, and ferociously opposed Jeremiah. Had then Gedaliah lived, he would have been assailed on every side by his own people. It was then God's purpose to free him at once from all these miserable troubles. The same thing also happened to the seventy who were slain; for the Lord removed them to their rest, that they might; not be exposed to the grievous evils and calamities which afterwards soon followed; for none could have been in a more miserable state than the remnant whom Nebuchadnezzar had spared. We have then reason in this instance to admire the secret purpose of God, when we see that these unhappy men were killed, who yet had gone to Jerusalem for the sake of testifying their piety. It was, in short, better for them to have been removed than to have been under the necessity of suffering again many miseries. It now follows, --

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