Jeremiah 9:5

5. And they will deceive every one his neighbor, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity.

5. Et vir proximo sue (socio) mentitur (hoc est, quisque; nam sya ponitur indefinite apud Hebroeos pro nota universali; quisque ergo proximum suum circumvenit, nempe mendacio; nam lth significat mentiri,) et veritatem non loquitur; docuerunt linguas suas loqui mendacium (hoc est, linguas suas formarunt ad mendacia,) male agere fatigati sunt (hoc est, male agendo fatigantur.)


Jeremiah goes on with the same subject. He says that fidelity had so disappeared among the Jews, that every one endeavored to deceive his neighbor. Hence it followed, that they were withhout any shame. Some sense of shame at least remains among men, when they have to do with their own friends; for though they may be wholly given to gain, and to indulge in falsehoods, yet when they transact business with friends, they retain some regard for equity, and shame checks their wickedness: but when there is no difference made between friends and strangers, it follows that their character is become altogether brutal. This is what the Prophet meant.

And he adds, that they spoke not the truth. He now says that they were liars, not in this or that particular business; but that they were perfidious and deceitful in everything. This clause then is not to be limited to some special acts of fraud; but it is the same as though he had said, that they knew not what truth was, or what it was to act with good faith and to speak honestly to their neighhours; for they were wholly imbued with deceits, and no truth could come out of their mouth.

And for the same purpose he says, that they had taught their tongues to speak falsehood. The expression in this clause is stronger; for he means that they were wholly given to deceit, as by long use they had formed their tongues for this work. The tongue ought to be the representative of the mind, according to the old saying; for why was the tongue formed, but in order that men may communicate with one another? For the thoughts are hidden, and they come forth when we speak with each other. But the Prophet says that the order of nature was by them inverted, for they had taught their tongues to lie. We also hence learn that they had no fidelity whatever; for their very tongues had been taught to deceive: as when one by practice has learnt anything, it is what he does readily; so when the tongues are formed by continual use and inured to lying, they can do nothing else.

He says at last, that they wearied themselves with evil deeds. This is indeed an hyperbolical language; but yet the Prophet very fitly sets forth the deplorable state of the people, -- that they practiced the doing of evil even to weariness. As when any one is seized with some foolish lust, he spares no labor and does himself much harm, but feels not his wearied state as long as he is engaged, for his ardor dementares him: so he says now, that they were wearied in doing evil. When a hunter pursues the game, he undergoes much more labor than any common workman, or any husbandman. We see that even kings and courtiers, while hunting, are so blinded, that they see no danger nor feel any weariness. So we find that men given to pleasure, when lust draws them here and there, feel no concern for the greatest weariness. According to this sense then the Prophet says, that they were wearied in doing evil, as though he had said, that they were so devoted to wickedness, that the pleasure of doing evil wholly blinded them and made them mad.1

We now perceive the Prophet's meaning: He confirms, as I have said, what he had stated before. He had threatened the people with utter ruin; they were secure and heedless, and despised all his denuncitations. He now shews, from God's nature and office, that ruin was nigh them, though they feared it not and thought themselves abundantly safe. But if God be the judge of the world, as it will be hereafter proved, how is it possible for him to connive perpetually at so great wickedness? And to shew this he also adds --

1 The whole verse may he thus rendered, --

And they deceive, every one his neighbor, And the truth they speak not; They have taught their tongue the word of falsehood; With perverting have they wearied themselves.

The verb for "deceive" means to mock, to trifle with, to play the fool with. Their object was to befool their neighbors by cheating and deceiving them. "The word," or the matter, "of falsehood," is falsehood itself, or sheer falsehood. The Vulgate and the Syriac's version is, "They have taught their tongue to speak falsehood." To teach the tongue false-hood, was to habituate it to tell lies. The last line is differently rendered. The Septuagint deviates far from the original. The version of the Vulgate is, "They have labored to act unjustly;" and this comes near the meaning; only "to act unjustly" is rather to act pervertingly: they wrested and turned everything from its right course and meaning; and they labored in perverting things, until they wearied themselves. Falsehood requires more labor than truth. -- Ed.


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