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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 42:7-10

7. And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah.

7. Et fuit a fine decem dierum datus est sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam.

8. Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces which were with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest,

8. Et vocavit Joannem filium Kareah et omnes duces copiarum, qui cum eo erant, et totum populum a parvo usque ad magnum,

9. And said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him;

9. Et dixit illis, Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, ad quem misistis me (ad verbum, ad quem misistis me ad ipsum,) ut prosternerem preca-tionem vestram coram facie ejus, --

10. If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.

10. Si habitando habitaveritis in terra hac, tunc, aedificabo vos, et non diruam, et plantabo vos et non evellam; quia poenitet me mali quod intuli vobis (vel, satiatus sum malo.)

Here Jeremiah declares what answer he received from God; and he gave it in his name to the leaders of the forces and to the whole people. The answer was, that they were to continue in the land; for this would be for their good. We shall hereafter see, that they had falsely asked counsel of God, whom they had resolved not to obey, as it has been already stated. But the Prophet shews again more clearly how perversely they acted after God had commanded them to remain quiet, and especially not to proceed to Egypt.

Now he says, that at the tenth day God answered him. He might have done so immediately, but he deferred, that the prophecy might have more weight. Had the Prophet been asked any question respecting the common rule of life, as a faithful expounder of the Law, he might have explained to them what their duty was; but as he had been asked on a special subject, he could not have immediately answered them. And God, as I have said, kept them for a time in suspense; not only that the Prophet's answer might be made without ostentation, but also that. the people might embrace as coming from God what the Prophet would say; for his doctrine could not have been doubted, for he did not instantly bring forth what had arisen in his own head, but prayerfully waited to know what pleased God, and at length announced his commands. We now then perceive the cause of delay, why God did not immediately convey to his servant the answer required.

Let us at the same time learn from this passage, that if God does not immediately extricate us from all perplexity and doubt, we ought patiently to wait, according to the direction of Paul, who, when speaking of doctrine, admonished the faithful to remain contented until what they knew not should be revealed to them. (Philippians 3:15.) Much more should we do so, when we ask counsel as to any particular thing. When God does not immediately make known to us what we ask, we ought, as I have already said, to wait with calm and resigned minds for the time and the season when it shall be made known to us.

Jeremiah says, that he called John and the other leaders of the forces and all the people, from the least to the greatest This is expressed that we may know that it happened, not through the fault of one or two, that this prophecy was disregarded, but that all the people were united together. The people themselves, then, could not have pretended that they were free from blame; for we see that they were all implicated. The leaders are particularly mentioned, and on the other hand the people, so that the leaders could not object and say that they were forced by a popular tumult, nor could the people throw the blame on the leaders. The Prophet then shews that they all rebelled against God, and that there was no exception.

He then says that he faithfully related to them what God had commanded, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me By this circumstance he shews that they were more bound to obey; for if God had sent his Prophet to them,' they ought to have obeyed his voice; but when they of their own accord came to him and prayed for a favor, and wished God's will to be made known to them, they became doubly culpable when they refused the answer given them in God's name. And he adds, That I might prostrate, or make to fall, your prayer before God We have stated what is meant by this mode of speaking; but there is a difference to be noticed, for he had been requested sup-pliantly to ask God; and he says here that he had not only prayed, but had presented the prayer of the whole people, because he acted for the public; and then he was a middle person between God and the people. On this account he says, that he had been seat to present the prayer of the people to God, for he asked nothing for himself, but acted for them all, and asked God to answer the people.

He now adds, If remaining ye will remain in this land, I will build you up and plant you, I will not pull you down nor root you up Here the Prophet testifies that the counsel he gave them in God's name would be for their good; and what is good or useful is deemed by men, when they theorize, as they say, to be of great value. The simple authority of God ought, indeed, to be sufficient; and had God only commanded them in one word to remain, they ought to have acquiesced. But God here accommodated himself to their infirmity, and was pleased, in a manner, to let himself down in order to promote their well being, and did not require obedience according to his authority and sovereign power, as he might have justly done. We hence see how kindly God dealt with this people, as he did not demand what he might, but gave his counsel, and testified that it would be good and useful to them.

Now when orators adduce what is useful in order to persuade, they have recourse to conjectures, they state human reasons; but the Prophet here promised in God's name, that that if they remained it would be for their good. God's promise, then, is brought forward here instead of conjectures and reasons. Therefore the obstinacy of the people was without excuse, when they rejected the authority of God; and then despised his counsel, and also disbelieved his promise. Then to the contempt of God was added unbelief: and we know that no greater reproach can be offered to God than when men do not believe him.

The metaphors here used occur often in Scripture. God is said to build up men when he confirms them in a settled state; and in the same sense he is said to plant them. This we have already seen, and it is especially evident from Psalm 44:2, where God is said to have |planted| in the land of Canaan the people he had brought out of Egypt. He then promised that the condition of the people would be secure, and safe, and perpetual, if only they did not change their place. When he adds, I will not pull down nor pluck up, he: follows what is done commonly in Hebrew. Neither the Latins nor the Greeks speak in this manner; but negatives of this kind in Hebrew are confirmations, as though the Prophet had said, |God will so plant you that your root will remain. There will then be no danger of being plucked up when you have been planted by God's hand; nor will he suffer you to be subverted or pulled down when he has built you up by his own hand.| What then they ought to have especially sought, God freely promised them, even to be safe and secure in the land; for this especially was what the Prophet meant.

It afterwards follows, For I repent of the evil which I have brought on you. The verb nchm, nuchem, sometimes means to repent, and often to comfort; but the former sense comports better with this passage, that God repented of the evil. If, however, we prefer this rendering, |For I have received comfort,| then the meaning would be, |I am satisfied with the punishment with which I have visited your sins;| for they to whom satisfaction is given are said to receive comfort. As then God was content with the punishment he had inflicted on the Jews, the words may be rendered thus, |For I have received satisfaction from the evil,| or, |I am satisfied with the evil,| etc. The other meaning, however, is more generally taken, that God repented of the evil. But this mode of speaking is, indeed, somewhat harsh, yet it contains nothing contrary to the truth; for we know that God often transfers to himself what peculiarly belongs to man. Then repentance in God is nothing else than that having been pacified, he does not pursue men to an extremity, so as to demand the punishment which they justly deserve. Thus, then, God repented of the evil which he had brought on the people, after having sufficiently chastised their sins, according to what we read in Isaiah, when God says, that he had exacted double for their sins. (Isaiah 40:2.) He called the punishment he had inflicted double, not that it exceeded a just measure, but he spoke according to his paternal feeling, that he had treated his people in a harder way than he wished, as a father, who is even displeased with himself when he has been very severe towards his children.

We now, then, perceive what is meant by the reason here given, that the Jews were not to fear if they dwelt in the land, because God had sufficiently chastised them, and that he was so pacified that he would not further pursue them with severity. Jeremiah at the same time reminds us, that whatever evils happen to us, they ought to be ascribed to God's judgment, and not to adverse fortune. We hence see that by these words the people were exhorted to repent; for as they were bidden to entertain good hope, because their safety was in God's hand, so also the Prophet shews that as to the time past they had suffered nothing by chance, but that they had been punished because they had provoked God's wrath. It follows, --

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