31. O generation, see ye the word of the Lord. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? Wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?
31. Generatio, vos vidite verbum Jehovae, an deserturn fui Israel? an terra caliginis? Quare dixerunt populus meus (hoc est, dixit, sed plurali utitur, quia est nomen collectivum) dominati sumus (alii, recessimus,) non veniemus amplius ad to.
The prophet assumes the character, no doubt, of one in astonishment, that he might render the sin of the people more detestable: for he speaks as one astonished, generation! The word, rwd, dur; as it is well known, means an age. It is then the same as if he had said, "On what time are we fallen? or in what an age do we now live?" We now then perceive the import of the word. Then he adds, See ye the word of Jehovah. The word, see, seems not to be suitable; for he ought to have said, "Attend to, "or "hear." But he bids them to see, and most appropriate is the term; for he does not require the people to hear, but, on the contrary, to know, as though he had said, "See ye yourselves what this is which the Lord declares." And he emphatically says, Mta atem, "ye yourselves." For the Jews might have been deservedly condemned by all nations, were they brought into judgment. But the Prophet shews, that however blind they were, they might see with their own eyes what the Lord now says. He does not refer to instruction, but to a fact, as though he had said, "The Lord by me expostulates with you; and though there should not be present any witnesses or a judge or an umpire, ye yourselves are able to understand and know the whole matter." We hence see how fitly the Prophet speaks, when he bids them to see the word of Jehovah.1
For he immediately adds, Have I been a desert to Israel? He makes the Jews themselves the umpires and judges of the cause, whether they had not experienced the bounty of God and had forsaken him, according to his former complaint, when he said that God was the fountain of living waters, and that they had dug for themselves broken cisterns. Hence he says, "How has it happened that ye have departed from me? Have I in vain promised to be bountiful and kind to you? Did I disappoint you or your expectation, while ye served me? Since then I had not been to you a dark and a gloomy land, a land without the light of the sun; but as abundance of blessings had ever been found in me, how has it been that you have departed from me?"
He afterwards mentions another crime, Why has my people said, We are lords. The verb wndr, redenu, is variously explained by interpreters. Some derive it from rdy, ired, to descend, and think that the y, iod, is supplied by a point. But these differ in their views: some refer to the calamities with which the Jews had been visited, and others to their apostasy. The first give this explanation, "We have descended;" that is, "We have been oppressed with calamities, what then can we gain by calling on God, since our affairs are in so hopeless a state?" The second draw forth another meaning, "We have gone back;" that is, "There is no reason for the prophets to stun our ears by their clamors, for we have once for all resolved never to return to God; we have wholly renounced him; away with him, let him begone together with his exhortations, for we will not attend to them." Both these expounders think it to be the language of despair: but we perceive how they differ; the first apply "descend" to the calamities of the people, and the second to their perfidy, because they had bidden adieu, as it were, to God, and wished not to have any farther intercourse with him.
But there are others who take the word more grammatically: for hdr, rede, and dwr, rud, signifies to be lord, or to rule. I therefore prefer the view of those who render the word, We are lords. Some take the verb in a passive sense, but I know not for what reason: and the comment of others is very diluted, "We have kings and counselors." I consider it to be the language of pride and of vain boasting: for the Jews thought themselves to be kings, according to what Paul says of the Corinthians,
"Ye are rich, ye have reigned without us, and I would ye did reign." (1 Corinthians 4:8.)
The Corinthians, being inflated with pride on account of the opulence of their city, despised the simplicity of the Gospel; they looked for refined things, and were much addicted to novelties. Hence Paul, seeing that they despised the grace of God, ironically reproved them, and said, that they wished to be rich and to be kings without him, to whom yet as an instrument they owed everything. The same vice is what Jeremiah now condemns in that people, We are lords, we will not come to thee; as though he had said, "Your happiness has hitherto proceeded from me; for whatever you have been, and whatever has been given you, ought to be ascribed to me and to my bounty: but now without me (for God himself speaks) ye are kings, but by what right and by what title? What have you as your own? Why then has my people said, We will come no more to thee?" We now understand the real meaning of the Prophet.
As to the subject itself, he in the first place, as I have already said, is in a manner astonished at the wickedness of the people, as at something monstrous. Hence he exclaims, O generation! as though he had said, that what he saw was incredible. Then he immediately adds, see ye yourselves the word of Jehovah, This was much more severe, than if he had summoned them before God's tribunal; for he thus proved that their wickedness was extremely gross; for they had, without any cause, nay, without any pretext, and without shame, renounced God, who had been so bountiful towards them. He also in an indirect manner reproved them, because they refused to be instructed; for he commanded them to look on the fact itself, inasmuch as they were deaf, or having ears they closed them against all instruction; for, as we have said, he calls away their attention from the word to the fact itself, and this is what interpreters have not observed.
Then follows an upbraiding, -- that God had not been a desert to them; but, as the Prophet had before shewed, abundance of all blessings had flowed to them so as fully to satisfy them. Since then God had enriched them through his blessing, their sin in departing from him was thereby more increased.
In the last part of the verse God expostulates with them on their ingratitude, because they thought themselves to be lords. They were indeed a royal priesthood, but it was through God's favor. They did not reign through their own right, they did not reign because they had attained power through their own valor or efforts, or through their own merits or their own good fortune; how then? only through the favor of another. Though then they were kings only on the condition of being subject to the supreme King, yet they wished to reign alone, that is, according to their own pleasure; and thus trod under their feet the favor of God. It is with this wickedness then that the Prophet charges them. And the end of the verse is of the same import, we will come no more to thee; as though they stood in no need of God's aid; for they thought that they could supply themselves with whatever was necessary to support them. As then they were inflated with much pride, they despised the favor of God, as though they stood in no need of the aid of another. It follows --
Ye of this age, see, spoken hath Jehovah,- Have I been a wilderness to Israel, Or a land of darkness? Why have they said, even my people, "We have ruled, we will no more come to thee?"
The above rendering of the latter part of the first line is favored by the Septuagint, "Hear ye the word of the Lord; thus saith the Lord." The Arabic is the same. The Vulgate has, "See the word of the Lord,"-and the Syriac, "Hear the word of the Lord.' Blayney renders thus, "Behold ye the cause of Jehovah." Gataker takes "see" in the sense of considering, "See, "or seriously consider, "the word of the Lord." The particle Ma after h, may be rendered "or," as in the Syriac. See Joshua 5:13. The word hylpam is found in two MSS., hlypam, which seems to be the true reading, countenanced by the Targum, and all the early versions, except the Vulgate, which has "serotina-lateward." Darkness is a common metaphor for wretchedness and misery "We have ruled" is the literal rendering of wndr, and there is no other reading. The Septuagint gives the same meaning, though the form is different, "We shall not be lorded over-ouj kurieuqhso>meqa." The Arabic is the same. It is the language of proud independence. The Targum, the Vulgate, and the Syriac have mistaken the verb for wndry, which means, to descend, to come down, to bring down. Blayney gives the correct idea, "We are our own masters, "which Horsley approves. The preterite in Hebrew often includes the present; so the full meaning is, "We have ruled and do rule."-Ed.