16. And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burnt incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.
16. Et loquar (vel, proferam) judicia mea cum ipsis super omni malitia eorum; quia (nam rsa hic ponitur vice yk valet causalem particulam, quia) dereliquerunt me, et suffitum fecerunt diis alienis et prostrati fuerunt (vel, se prostraverunt) coram operibus manuum suarum.
God now assigns the reason why he had resolved to deal so severely with the Jews. It was necessary to teach them two things, -- first, that the Chaldeans would not of themselves come upon them, but through God, who would gather and arm them; and secondly, that God Would not act in a cruel manner, nor forget his covenant, in becoming a rigid avenger, but that he would thus be angry, because there was extreme iniquity in the Jews, so that it was needful to distress and wholly to break them down, as moderate corrections had availed nothing. God, then, after having testified that he would be the leader in that war, now explains the reasons why he would chastise the Jews, and shews that his conduct towards them could not be ascribed to cruelty, inasmuch as that they had provoked him by their impious superstitions.
Hence he says, I will speak my judgments with them. This is referred by many interpreters to the Chaldeans and Assyrians, as though God would prescribe to them what was to be decreed, as chief judges are wont to do to those who are under them: but this exposition is strained, and confuted by what follows, on account of their wickedness. What, then, is to speak judgments? It is done, when God summons the wicked before his tribunal, and executes the office of a judge. And this mode of speaking is common in Scripture, according to what we read at the end of this book, -- The king of Babylon spoke judgments with the King Zedekiah, (Jeremiah 52:9) that is, he dealt judicially with him, as we commonly say.1 So now God declares that he would be the judge of the people, as though he had said, that hitherto he had been silent, not that the sins of the people were not known, but because he had borne with them, in order to try whether there was any hope of repentance. But he says now that he would become their judge, as he had found by long experience that they were past remedy.
There is, then, to be understood a contrast between the forbearance of God, which he had long exercised while he dealt with the people, not as he might have justly done, but deferred his vengeance, and the time of vengeance which was now at hand; I will then speak my judgments with the Jews; that is, "I will now ascend my tribunal: I have hitherto abstained from exercising my right, and waited for them to return to me; but as there is no return, and I see that they are men wholly irreclaimable, and their disposition is so depraved that they continually add evils to evils, I will now begin to undertake mine office, the office of a judge." But we must bear in mind, as I have already said, the design of God in this declaration; for it was his object to clear himself from every charge, and from all calumnies, inasmuch as even the worst of men usually clamor against his judgments when he chastises them. Hence he presented before them his own judgments, as though he had said, "They shall not be able to blame me for dealing with them in a severe and cruel manner; for however severe I may be, I shall yet be an equitable judge." Hence he adds, on account of all their wickedness.
He afterwards shews what kind of wickedness it was, They have forsaken me, and burnt incense to strange gods. The Jews had, indeed, in various ways, provoked his vengeance; but he mentions here one kind of wickedness, because it was the very fountain of evils, -- they had departed from the law and the pure worship of God; and yet he mentions generally all wickedness. The word all is not here without meaning, "on account of all their wickedness:" for he intimates that they were not only in one way wicked, but that they had heaped together various sins. And then he adds, for they have forsaken me. Here God introduces their defection; for it may be, as we daily see, that one offends in this thing, and another in that, and each one for different causes may expose himself to God's judgment; but God shews here that the Jews were become so depraved, that there was nothing sound or pure in them: hence he charges them with all wickedness; and then he mentions their defection, they have forsaken me; as though he had said, "They have wholly denied me; I say not that one is a thief, another an adulterer, and another a drunkard; but they are all become apostates, they are all perjurers and violators of the covenant: thus I am wholly forsaken by them, and they are in every respect alienated from me." We hence see how greatly the Prophet enhances the guilt of his own nation.
It is afterwards added, for the sake of illustration, that they burnt incense to strange gods. They had fallen away from God, and joined themselves to idolatry. He also adds this, -- that they bowed down before the works of their own hands. The Prophet divests the Jews of every excuse, and more fully discovers their shame and baseness, -- "they prostrated themselves before the works of their own hands." Whenever Scripture uses these expressions, it intimates that there is extreme madness in those men, who worship in the place of God not only the sun and moon, and other created things, but also the idols which they form for themselves. For how is it that they worship their own idols, except that they have formed for them a nose, and hands, and ears? A log of wood no one worships; a piece of brass or of silver all disregard; no one thinks a stone to be God: but when a thing is sculptured and artificially formed by the hand of man, miserable and blind idolaters immediately prostrate themselves; -- how is this? Because they have formed for their statues and pictures noses, eyes, and ears! hence they themselves have made gods. We now see the meaning of the Prophet, when he says, that the Jews bowed down before the works of their own hands. But I pass over such things as these lightly, as ye must be well informed on the subject generally. It now follows --
16. And I will speak by my judgments to them, On account of all their wickedness, Because they have forsaken me, And have burnt incense to strange gods, And have bowed down to the work of their own hands.
It is better to retain the outward act as expressed by the last verb, " bowed down." or, more literally, " bowed down themselves, " as the verb is in the reflective mood, than to adopt the abstract term " worshipped." So the verb is rendered in the second commandment, Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9.
The first, line is rendered by Grotius, "Proedicam illis decreta mea-I will declare to them my decrees, " that is, by Jeremiah and others, -by Jun. and Trem., "I will speak my judgments against them," that is, by the prophets, -by Henry. " I will pass sentence upon them,"-by Blayney, "I will pronounce my judgments against them;" and Scott gives the same view. But Gataker says, "It seems rather to import an efficacious and actual decree that God would, in his own appointed time, pass upon them, and put in execution by the Chaldeans." Hence he renders the phrase like Henry, "I will pass sentence, " or, " give judgment, upon them."-Ed.