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Commentary On Jeremiah And Lamentations Volume 4 by Jean Calvin

Jeremiah 43:8-10

8. Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying,

8. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam in Taphnees, dicendo,

9. Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in the clay in the brickkiln, which is at the entry of Pharaoh's house in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah;

9. Sume in manu tua (accipe in manu tua) lapides grandes (vel, magnas,) et absconde eos in luto (vel, caemento,) in fornace laterum, (vel, lacuna, unde sumitur materia ad formandos lapides,) qui locus (vel, quae fornax) est in porta domus Pharaonis in Taphnees, in oculis hominum Judaeorum;

10. And say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them.

10. Et dices ad eos, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce ego mitto (mittam,) et assumam Nabuchadnezer regem Babylonis, servum meum, et ponam solium ejus super lapides istos, quos abscondi, et extendet tenterium suum super ipsos.

This passage shews that the Prophet was by force drawn away with others, so that he became an exile in Egypt contrary to his own wishes; for he did not go there of his own accord, inasmuch as we have seen how strictly he forbade them all to go down to Egypt. He was, however, compelled to go there, as though he had been bound with chains. He did not then go there designedly, nor did he through despair follow those miserable men; for he would have preferred to die a hundred times through famine and want in the land of Judah rather than to have sought in this way the lengthening of his life. It then appears that he was driven there as it were by enemies.

But as nothing happens except through God's purpose, so from this prophecy it appears that God ordered the going down of his servant, and that he was not so subjected to the will of the wicked, but that he was always guided by the hidden influence of God; for it was God's will to have his herald even in the midst of Egypt, that he might declare to the Jews what, was to be. His doctrine, indeed, was not of any benefit to them; but it was God's purpose to drive them as it were into madness, inasmuch as their wickedness was wholly irreclaimable; for it is a harder thing for the wicked to hear God's voice when he threatens vengeance, than to feel his hand. When, therefore, the unbelieving avoid the word of God, they are still constrained, willing or unwilling, to hear what they willfully reject, even that God will be their judge. The Prophet then was sent, according to the hidden purpose of God, into Egypt, that he might there perform his wonted vocation and proceed in the discharge of his office, and there carry on his prophetic work.

But this prophecy was greatly disliked; for as the Jews had been already much exasperated, this threatening was still more calculated to kindle up their fury; and Jeremiah did also create danger to himself from the Egyptians, for he not only threatened the Jews, but also the whole kingdom of Egypt. We hence perceive how invincible was his courage, for he marched through certain deaths, and was yet terrified by no dangers, but performed the office entrusted to him by God. Some think that he was on this account stoned by the Jews; but this is not probable, nay, it may be gathered from other places that he died a natural death. However this may have been, his perseverance and firmness were wonderful, for he struggled to the end, and without weariness, with those wild beasts, whose savageness he had more than enough experienced.

Let us now see what this prophecy is: The word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah; and the sum of it is, that the Prophet was bidden not only to proclaim the vengeance of God, but also to confirm it by a visible symbol, as it was necessary to arouse unbelieving men. For so great was their stupidity, that unless God roused all their senses, they would have never attended; they were deaf. Then the Lord set before their eyes what they were unwilling and refused to hear. For this reason the Prophet was bidden to add an outward sign to his prophecy; according to what we have stated in other places, signs were often connected with the doctrine on account of the tardiness, or rather the stupidity of men.

He was then commanded to take great stones, and to hide them in the clay, or cement, in a brick-kiln, that is, in a kiln where bricks were burnt, or in a place where they were usually made, or where materials were taken to form them. And this place was not far from the palace of the king in the city of Taphnees, as the Prophet expressly declares; nay, he says that it was nigh the gate. As, then, this place was near the palace, the Prophet was bidden to hide there the stones, and in the sight of the Jews. This was the symbol. Now, it is shewn for what end God would have the stones to be fixed in the clay or cement; for if the stones were only rolled there with great labor by the Prophet, there would have been no instruction; and all signs we know are unmeaning and without any importance without the word. It is God's word, then, that in a manner gives life to signs, and applies them for the benefit and instruction of men. Therefore God's command is added, that he was to speak to the Jews: Thou shalt say to them, Thus saith Jehovah. He brings in God as the speaker, that the threatening might be more effectual, as it has been stated elsewhere; for if he had only related the words of God, he could not have thus arrested their attention, which was very tardy. This, then, is the reason why he speaks in the person of God himself.

Behold, I, -- the particle demonstrative and the pronoun are both emphatical, hnny, enni; Behold, I send, he says, to bring Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne on these stones We now understand the drift of the whole, even that these stones were thrown into the cement, that God might build up a throne for Nebuchadnezzar. The time, indeed, for building the throne had not yet come; but God's purpose was to lay the foundations, so that they might be hid until the time arrived. The Prophet, then, built a throne for Nebuchadnezzar, when he cast; these stones into the place of the brick-kiln.

We must now examine each particular in order. God says that he would send to bring Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. This mission must not be understood otherwise than that of the secret providence of God; for he had no attendants by whom he might send for Nebuchadnezzar, but he called him, as it were, by his nod only. Moreover, this mode of speaking is borrowed, taken from men, who, when they wish anything to be done, intimate what their object is; and then, when they give orders, they issue their commands. This is what earthly kings do, because they can by a nod only accomplish whatever comes to their minds. But God, who needs no external aids, is said to send when he executes his own purpose, and that by his incomprehensible power. And further, God intimates that when Nebuchadnezzar came, it would by no means be by chance, but to take vengeance on the perverse Jews, who hoped for a safe retirement in Egypt, when yet God promised them a quiet habitation in the land of Judah, had they remained there. Then God declares that he would be the leader of that march when Nebuchadnezzar came into Egypt, as though he had said that the war would be carried on under his banner. Nebuchadnezzar did not from design render obedience to God; for ambition and pride led him to Egypt when he came, and for this reason, because the Egyptians had so often provoked him, so that without dishonor to himself he could no longer defer vengeance. It was, then, for this reason he came, if we look to his object. But God declares that he overruled the king as well as all the Babylonians, so that he would arm them when he pleased, and bring them into Egypt, and by their means carry on war with the Egyptians.

For the same reason he calls him his servant; not that Nebuchadnezzar was worthy of so honorable a name, for he had nothing less, as we have said, than a design to serve God; but he is called God's servant, because he executed what God himself had decreed: for the Scripture sometimes calls even the devils the servants of God; but in strict language, angels and the faithful are alone his servants. Kings and prophets are also, for a special reason, called God's servants, to whom is committed the authority to rule or to teach. But in this place, as in many other places, the Scripture calls those God's servants whom he employs to effect his purpose, even when they themselves have no such design. But the Prophet, no doubt, had also in view the Jews, so that they might know that this war was approved by God; for Nebuchadnezzar would not have come except he had been brought there by God.

It then follows, and I will set his throne This, also, is what God claims for himself, even the erecting of the throne of the King Nebuchadnezzar before the palace of the king of Egypt. The king of Babylon, doubtless, thought that the war was carried on through his own efforts and valor, and the courage of his soldiers; moreover, he sacrificed to his own fortune, as heathens use to do; and hence it is said in Isaiah of the Assyrian,

|He will not think so.| (Isaiah 10:7)

But God designed this to be declared to the Jews before the time, that they might then know that the just reward of their obstinacy would be rendered to them, for they were to be taught, as we have said, for their good and benefit. But as they were already inexcusable, it was God's purpose to shame them more and more, so that they might know that a just punishment would be inflicted on them, because they had so obstinately rejected all the counsel of God.

I will, then, erect his throne on the stones which I have hidden The Prophet here speaks irregularly, now in God's name, then in his own; but this was not done without reason. We have stated why he introduced God as the speaker, even that he might make the Jews more attentive; for he knew that all his threatenings would be derided except God's majesty was set before them: but now he connects himself with God, as though he had said that he had nothing apart from God. This is the reason why he said, upon the stones which I have hid God had not hidden the stones, but the Prophet speaks, nevertheless, in the person of God. But, as I have already said, this connection shews that the prophetic word is so connected with the hand and power of God, that when the Prophet speaks, it ought to be counted the same, as though God openly thundered from heaven. And this mode of speaking ought to be carefully noticed, so that we may learn reverently to receive whatever faithful teachers declare in his name, while performing the duties of their office; for they are not to be looked upon as men, for otherwise whatever proceeds from them may be disregarded; but we ought to receive the doctrine proclaimed by their mouth as though God himself had descended from heaven to speak to us.

He afterwards adds, and he shall extend his tabernacle or his tent; for sphryr, shepherir, is taken from a word which means beauty, and properly means here a royal tent. The hebrews do not give this name to the tents of shepherds, but only to those tents which excel in magnificence and splendor, according to what we say in French, Le pavillon du Roy. It now follows --

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