3. And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies; but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the Lord.
3. Et jaculati sunt lingua (quidam vertunt, Et jaculare fecerunt; alii, intenderunt linguas suas) arcum suum ad mendacia (alii vertunt, arcum mendacii; sed male;) et non ad veritatem roborati sunt (aut, invaluerunt) in terra; quia a malo ad malum egressi sunt, et me non cognoscunt, dicit Jehova.
Jeremiah confirms what he had said of the near destruction of the people; for, as we have said, the Jews ridiculed threatenings while they thought themselves far from every danger. But the Prophet shews, from the nature of God himself, that they must necessarily perish in a short time; for since God is the judge of the world, and as they were continually advancing in impiety and wickedness, they could no longer be tolerated. This is the meaning.
He first says, that they stretched their tongues as a bow for falsehoods. The verb Krd, darek, means to walk, and often occurs in this sense; but; it means also to stretch, to bend, and is frequently applied to bows. As it is here in Hiphil, some take it in a transitive sense. It ought in this case to have y, iod; but such defect is often found in other places. This sense is the most suitable; that is, that they shot with their tongues falsehood as with a bow. Others improperly construe rqs, shikor, in the genitive case, as though he had said, "the bow of falsehood, but this gives no meaning; and therefore "the bow of falsehood" cannot be admitted here. The sense is, that they shot falsehood with their tongue as with a bow, or that they made their tongue to go to falsehood, or that they stretched their tongue like a bow for falsehood. If the last rendering be approved, -- that they stretched their tongue, etc., then the Prophet compares their tongues to bows and falsehoods to arrows. As to the subject itself, there is no difference, whether we read that they shot lies with their tongues, or that they stretched their tongues for lies: for the Prophet simply means that their tongues, as he will hereafter tell us, were so pointed that they pierced one another with slanders and falsehoods, as though one stretched a bow and shot an arrow. He then intimates, that all their words were deadly, for they were intent on slanders and falsehoods, so that there was no intercourse without a mortal wound.
He then adds, that they were not strong for the truth. Some read, "They have been strong, but not for the truth;" others, "They have been strong as to the truth," or for the truth: but I think that the Prophet's meaning is different, -- that having checked the truth, they took more liberty for themselves, as though he had said that they triumphed when all faithfulness and rectitude were destroyed; for by the word, hnwma amune, the Prophet no doubt means that fidelity by which men ought to carry on their concerns one with another. Since, then, there was no uprightness among them, he says, that they marched forth as victorious when they trod under foot what was just and right. It is indeed a proof of extreme impiety, when men, trampling upon faithfulness and equity, allow themselves every kind of licentiousness. Some give this explanation, -- that they ruled, not through their faithfulness or virtues, for they had crept into and obtained honors by wicked and deceitful arts. And it. is indeed certain that the Prophet directs his discourse, not against the common people, but against the chief men, who had attained their power by frauds. But I am satisfied with the view that I have already given, -- that they had become strong because there was no truth, as when we say that the blind rule in darkness, when everything is in confusion. The meaning is, that they were not only given up to their sins, but that they also triumphed over fidelity and justice, by allowing themselves every liberty, as there was no one who dared to say a word to restrain them. He says, that they thus became strong through the whole land; for he sets forth here the deplorable state of the people in general; as though he had said, "There is no hope of deliverance left, for truth and faithfulness are everywhere oppressed."1
An explanation follows, -- that they proceeded from evil to evil; that is, they obstinately went on in their evil doings; for to go forth means the same as to pass. They then passed from evil to evil; that is, when they had done one evil, no repentance entered their hearts, so as to turn back; but they continued their wickedness, and aceunrelated evils on evils. We now then understand what the Prophet means; for he sets forth their pertinacity in evil deeds, and at the same time shews that there was no evidence of amendment, for they passed from one bad deed to another like it.
And me have they not known, saith Jehovah. He shews here what is the source of all evils; they had cast aside every knowledge and every thought of God. We indeed know that when God is really known, his fear must necessarily influence our hearts; and the knowledge of God begets reverence and a regard for religion. It is indeed true, that God is somewhat known by even the ungodly and the wicked, and that they have some notions respecting him; but it is no more than an empty knowledge. When indeed we are fully persuaded that God is the judge of the world, and when we have also a knowledge of his goodness and paternal favor, we necessarily fear him and spontaneously and willingly worship and serve him. Ignorance of God, then, is a kind of madness which carries men headlong to every sort of impiety. On this account, God complains that he was not known by the people, for the fear of him was not in them. It follows --
And they bend their tongue, their lying bow; And not for truth are they strong in the land.
"Their lying bow," or "their bow of falsehood;" it was a bow by which they shot lies; they employed their tongues for this purpose. -- Ed.