29. The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away.
29. Exaruit (consumptum est) sufflatorium (vel, follis) ab igne; integrum plumbum, frustra conflavit conflator (vel, excoxit excoctor) quia (nam copula hic pro causali particula ponitur, quia) mali non sunt purgati (vel, et, tamen adversative, non sunt consumpti; uterque sensus non male quadrabit.)
He says, that the bellows was consumed by the fire and without any advantage. The whole sentence is metaphorical. Interpreters refer it simply to what was taught; and hence they consider the mouth of the Prophet to be the bellows, by which the fire was kindled. So the meaning would be, -- that the Prophet was as it were burnt, through his incessant crying, like the bellows, which by being continually used is at length consumed, especially when the fire burns fiercely. They then suppose that the Prophet complains that his throat had dried up, like the bellows, which being burnt by the fire can no longer do its work. But what if we refer this to the punishments and judgments by which God had chastised his people, and yet without benefit? For so he complains in the first chapter of Isaiah, and in other places.
"In vain, "he says, "have I chastised thee:"
and Jeremiah has before said,
"In vain have I chastised my children; they have not received correction." (Jeremiah 2:30)
So also it is said by Isaiah,
"Alas! vengeance must I take on my enemies," (Isaiah 1:24)
but to what purpose? He afterwards adds, that it was without any benefit, because their wickedness was incurable.
The first meaning, however, is not to be rejected, for it was not unsuitable to say, that the tongue of the Prophet was worn out with constant crying, that his throat was nearly dried up. But I approve more of what I have just stated. Let each make his own choice. If we consider prophetic teaching to be here intended, we may also draw another meaning, -- that the Prophet's mouth was consumed by God's terrors; for it was like burning, whenever God threatened the people with final destruction. The Prophet then does not without reason say, that his throat was burnt by fire, even the threatenings of God.
He afterwards adds, that the lead was entire. This sentence rather favors the view, that Jeremiah is speaking of the judgments by which God sought to humble the people and to lead them to repentance; for it cannot be suitably applied to doctrine or teaching, that the lead was unmixt. By lead I understand dross. Some consider it to be silver, and say that lead was mixed with silver, in order that the silver might more easily be melted. As I am not skillful in that art, I cannot say whether this is done or not. But the Prophet says that the lead was unmixt; that is, that nothing was found but dross and filth.
He then adds, In vain has the melter melted, for evils have not been purged away; that is, the dross had not been removed so as to leave behind the pure metal. He means, in short, that there was nothing but dross and filth in the people, and not a particle of pure silver. It hence followed, that they had been as it were in vain melted. Now, this applies more fitly to punishment than to teaching, as all must see. I hence do not doubt but that the Prophet shews here, that the Jews were not only wicked and apostates and despisers of God, but were also so obstinate that God had often tried in vain to purify them. And it is a kind of speaking, we know, which occurs often in the prophets and throughout Scripture, that God is said to melt, to purge, to refine men, when he chastises them. But the Prophet says that there was only filth in that people, that lead was found, and that they were not melted. And hence we learn how great was their hardness: though they were tried by fire, they yet melted not, but continued in their perverseness.1 He afterwards adds --
Burnt has been the bellows by the fire, Consumed has been the lead; In vain has been the melting of the melted, For their evils have not been separated.
They had been in the furnace, but the lead intended to separate the dross from the silver, was consumed, and the melting did not succeed, for their evils, or their vices, were not separated from them. Hence in the next verse they are called reprobate silver.-Ed.