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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 42:11-12

11. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand.

11. Ne timearis a facie regis Babylonis, quem vos timetis a facie ejus (hoc est, a cujus facie vos timetis) ne timeatis ab ipso, dicit Jehova; quia vobiscum ego sum ad servandum vos, et ad eripiendum vos e manu ejus;

12. And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.

12. Et dabo vobis misericordias, et miserabitur vestri et habitare faciet in terra vestra.

The Prophet obviates the doubt which might have grieved or agitated the minds of the people. They ought, indeed, to have recumbed on God's promise alone; but it was difficult to be without doubts in a state of things so uncertain and confused; for the king of Babylon, as it has been stated, was grievously offended when the governor of the land was slain. The king had received wrong from the people, and the heat of war since the late victory had not cooled. They then justly feared, being conscious of the evil that had been done; and then they had to do with a proud and cruel enemy. God therefore removed from them this doubt; and thus he confirmed the paternal care which he had shewn towards them by kindly freeing them from every fear, and taking away every ground of terror.

Though Nebuchadnezzar had been offended, and might avenge the wrong done to him, yet God promised to prevent this, and declared that he would not suffer him to do any evil to the Jews. |Ye fear,| he says, |Nebuchadnezzar, but cease to do so; let this fear be dismissed, for he will not hurt you.| And the reason is added, Because I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand Here he bade the Jews to entertain good hope, because, while relying on his protection they would be safe: for there is no more any reason for doubting, when God declares that he will stand on our side. For if he is ours, we may be confident, as David was, when he said,

|I will not fear what man may do to me; for thou, God,| he says, |art with me;|

and also,

|I will not fear though hosts surrounded me oft every side.| (Psalm 23:4; Psalm 27:3)

We ought then to feel wholly assured, that the help of God is above that of all creatures. Thus were the whole world to rise up against us, we might as from a secure and safe place look down with indifference on all attempts, forces, and preparations. This is then the sum of what is here said; and it is according to what Christ says,

|My Father, who has given you to me, is greater than all.| (John 10:29)

Had there then been a grain of faith in the Jews, they would have laid hold on this promise; and then had they tenaciously held it, as though it were a plank in a shipwreck, it would have led them safe to the harbor. It ought then to be sufficient to shake off all cares, to drive away all fears, and to put to flight every diffidence, when God promises to stand on our side. I am, he says, with you to save you, and he adds, to deliver you He expresses the way and manner of saving them; for they might still have objected and said, |What will be this salvation? for Nebuchadnezzar is like a furious lion; how then can we be saved, since we cannot think otherwise than that he will be enraged against us?| To this God answers, by pointing out the manner, for he would deliver them from his hand.

He confirms the same thing in other words, I will shew mercies to you Some explain this as meaning, that God would be merciful towards them; and I allow that this is the first reason why they ought to have entertained hope; but I doubt not but that the Prophet refers here to Nebuchadnezzar, as though he had said, |I will turn the heart of the king of Babylon to mercy, so that he will deal mercifully with you.| For God is said to shew mercies, when he forgives, and when he reconciles those who have sinned to himself; but he is said also to shew mercies, when he inclines the hearts of men to mercy. For this reason Jacob says,

|God will shew you mercies before the man.|
(Genesis 43:14)

But I abstain from other proofs on a point which ought to be well known.

The sum of what is said then is, that Nebuchadnezzar would be humane and merciful towards the Jews, because it was in God's power to change his heart. For we know that God turns as he pleases the hearts of men; and he often changes wolves into sheep. The meaning then is, that though Nebuchadnezzar boiled with hatred towards the people, and was prepared wholly to destroy the remnant, there yet would be a remedy in God's hand, for he could soften his hardness, pacify his wrath, and from a savage wild beast make him a father, merciful, as it were, towards his children.

Now this passage teaches us, that the hearts and purposes of men are governed by a power from above, so that enemies, even the worst, while they rage against us, are moved not only by their own feelings, but also by the hidden working of God, and according to his counsel, as he would have them thus to try our faith. For if God moderates those who boil with anger and wrath, and renders them placable to us; so also he lets loose the reins to those who rage against us, and not only so, but he also stirs them up, when his purpose is to punish us for our sins, according to the doctrine taught us everywhere in Scripture. So in Psalm 106, it is said that God turned the hearts of the heathens to hate his people. But here, on the other hand, God promises, that Nebuchadnezzar would be kind and humane, so as to spare the Jews, because he would control his heart, and shew them mercy by inclining the king to forgive the people.

This then ought to be carefully noticed; for when we see ourselves surrounded on every side by the ungodly whom Satan drives to madness, so that they seek no other thing than to tread us under their feet, especially when they have the power to destroy us, except we feel fully assured, that their hearts, feelings, and all their thoughts are in God's hands, we must necessarily be wholly disheartened. Hence to mitigate all our fears, it avails us much to hear that men's hearts are turned and ruled according to the will of God. It now follows, --

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