18. And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?
18. Et nunc quid tibi ad viam Egypti, ut bibas aquas Nili? et quid tibi ad viam Assur, ut bibas aquam fluminis? (Nempe, Eeuphratis.)
As I have just stated, the Prophet confirms what I said, -- that the people could not ascribe the cause of their evils to others; for they ought to have imputed to themselves whatever they suffered; and at the same time their sin was doubled, because they looked here and there for vain remedies, and thus accumulated for themselves new causes of misery; for they ought to have acknowledged no other remedy for their evils except reconciliation with God. If, for instance, any one being ill knew the cause of his disease, and instead of adopting the true remedy had recourse to some vain expedients injurious to his recovery, is he not deemed worthy to die for having willfully despised what might have healed him, and for indulging himself in what is deceptive and fallacious? The same thing does Jeremiah now reprove in the people of Israel. "If you carefully inquire," saith God, "how it is that you are so miserable, you will find that this cannot be ascribed to me, but to your own sins. Now, then, what ought you to have done? what remedy ought you to have sought, except to reconcile yourselves to me, to seek pardon from me, and to strive to correct your wickedness? I would then have immediately healed you; and had you come to me, you would have found me the best physician. And why do you now act in a way quite contrary? for you run after vain helps; now you flee to Egypt, then you flee to Assyria; but you will gain nothing by these expedients." We now understand the object of the Prophet. For after having proved the people to be guilty of impiety, and shewn that the evils which they suffered could be ascribed neither to God nor to chance, nor to any such causes, he now shews to them, that the one true remedy was to return into favor with God; but that it was an evidence of extreme madness to run now to Egypt, and then to Assyria.
Now this reproof is supported by history; for the people had at one time the Assyrians as their enemies, and at another the Egyptians; and the changes were many. God employed different scourges to awaken the sottishness of the people; at one time, he whistled for the Egyptians, as we shall presently see; at another, he blew the trumpet in Assyria: so that the Israelites might know that they could never be safe without being under the government of God. But all these things being overlooked, such was the blindness of the people, that when they were assailed by the Assyrians, they fled to Egypt and sought aid from the Egyptians, and entered into a treaty with them; afterwards, when a change occurred, they sought a treaty with the Assyrians, and also bought it at a high price.
This madness is what the Prophet now reprobates, when he says,
Now we may learn from this passage, that whenever God chastises us for our sins, we ought to seek a remedy, and not to rest in those vain comforts which Satan often suggests; for such charms introduce drowsiness, and healable diseases are by such means rendered fatal. What then ought we to do? We ought, as soon as we feel the scourges of God, to seek to return into favor with him; and not in vain shall be our effort. But if we look around us in all directions for help, our evils shall not be lessened but increased. To drink the waters of the Nile, and to drink the waters of Euphrates, is nothing else but to seek aids here and there.
He indeed alludes to the legations which had been sent; for they who went to Egypt drank of the waters of the Nile, and others of Euphrates. He yet speaks metaphorically, as though he had said, "God was ready to help thee, hadst thou betaken thyself to his mercy as thine asylum; but having neglected him, thou thoughtest it more advantageous to have such aids as Egypt and Assyria could bring. Thou thus seekest drink in remote countries, while God could give thee waters." And he seems to refer to the similitude which he had shortly before used: he had called God the fountain of living waters; as though he had said, "God is to thee a refreshing and perennial fountain, and there would be abundance of waters for thee wert thou satisfied with him; but thy desire is to drink the waters of the Nile, and the waters of the Euphrates."1 We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet.
He, no doubt, speaks of the waters of the Nile and of the Euphrates, because both those nations abounded apparently in wealth and power and in military forces. As, then, the people of Israel trusted in such auxiliaries, the Prophet here reproves their ingratitude, because they were not content with God's help, though that was not so visible and conspicuous. God, indeed, has help sufficient for us; and were we content with him alone, no doubt an abundance of good things would to a full satisfaction be given to us; and as he is not wearied in doing good, he would supply us with whatever is desirable: but as we cannot see his beneficence with carnal eyes, we are therefore carried away after the allurements of the world. We may hence learn that we are not to seek drink either from the Nile or from the Euphrates, that is, from the enticing things of the world, which make a great shew and display; but that we are, on the contrary, to drink from the hidden fountain which is concealed from us, in order that we may seek it by faith. It now follows --
1 No doubt this is the peculiar import of the passage, as though the Prophet had said, "What good to thee is to travel to Egypt to drink the waters of Sihor, a muddy river, (as the word imports;) and what good to thee is to travel to Assyria to drink the waters of the river, while thou hast at home a fountain of living, pure and perennial waters?" So Gataker considers the drift of the passage:-"To drink the water of Nilus in Egypt is put here for to seek help and relief there: but he delivereth it in these terms, as if he should say, that they could have nothing to do there, or no errand thither, unless it were to drink of the puddle water of that river, when they had, or might have had, as good, yea, far better than that, nearer at hand, at home. See Jeremiah 18:14; so 2 Kings 1:3." Then the plainest version would be thus,-
And now, what hast thou to do with a journey to Egypt, That thou mightest drink the waters of Sihor? And what hast thou to do with a journey to Assyria, That thou mightest drink the waters of the river?
The comparison evidently is between the waters of Sihor and of the river Euphrates, and the living waters. As in other parts of Scripture the Euphrates is no doubt meant by the river, though here, as in Psalm 80:11, and Isaiah 7:20, the article
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