21. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh.
21. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Holocausta vestra addite super victimas vestras et comedite carnem.
22. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices:
22. Quia non loquutus sum cum patribus vestris, et non praecepi illis quo die eduxi eos e terra Egypti super verbis (hoc est, rationibus, nam rbd proprie significat rationem Latine; Hebraei enim ita passim usurpant hanc vocem, sicuti Latini rationem, super rationibus ergo) holocaustorum et victimae:
23. But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.
23. Quin potius (sed
24. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.
24. Et non audierunt, et non inclinarunt aurem suam, et ambulaverunt in perplexis consiliis (proprie accipitur in malam partem) et in pravitate (vel, duritia) cordis sui mali, et fuerunt retro, et non ad faciem.
The Prophet here taunts the Jews for being so sedulous in their attention to sacrifices, while they had no care for piety. Hence he says by way of ridicule, "Offer your sacrifices, and accumulate burnt-offerings and victims, and eat flesh." The last clause proves that God regarded as nothing their sacrifices, and that nothing was acceptable to him, though the Jews spent much money and spared no labors. God then shews that all these things were nothing to him;
The import of the whole is, -- that the feasts which the Jews celebrated were profane, though they pretended the name of God, and wished them to be deemed sacred.
The Prophet therefore adds,
We know that it was God's will from the beginning to be worshipped in a spiritual manner; and he has not changed his nature in our day. As then at this day he approves of no other than a spiritual worship, as He is a Spirit, (John 4:24) so also under the Law he was to be worshipped with a sincere heart. Absurdly then did the Jews offer their sacrifices, as though they could thereby appease God: and this is the reason why the prophets inveighed so pointedly against sacrifices. God says that he nauseated them, that he was wearied with them, that his name was thereby polluted, (Isaiah 1:14) he says also, that to sacrifice was the same as though one killed a dog, an unclean animal, and as though one killed a man. (Isaiah 66:3.)
"What are your offerings and sacrifices to me."
he says by Amos. Such declarations occur everywhere in the Prophets; we are told that sacrifices were not only of no account before God, but that they were filthy things which he abominated; that is, when the things signified were separated from the signs. This then is the reason why Jeremiah here wholly rejects sacrifices: he complains that God's worship was violated and profaned; and it was so, because the Jews presented to God mere shadows instead of realities.
But still he seems to have exceeded due limits; as he says of God, that he gave no command respecting sacrifices: for before the law was published, God had ordered sacrifices to be offered to him; as, for instance, the passover; for the pascal lamb, as it is well known, was a sacrifice; and he had also spoken of sacrifices before the people were liberated. Moreover, after the law was given, a priesthood was established among the people, as Moses clearly shews. Further still, we see with what care regulations have been given as to sacrifices. Why then is it here said, that he spoke nothing respecting sacrifices? Even because God regards not sacrifices in themselves. He therefore makes a distinction between external signs and spiritual worship; for the Jews, as it has been already said, had by their corruptions so subverted what God had instituted, that he would not acknowledge what they did as having been commanded by him. And if we take the words as they are, they are wholly true, -- that God had commanded nothing respecting mere sacrifices, or sacrifices for their own sake. This distinction solves every difficulty; that is, that God never delighted in sacrifices themselves, that it was never his will to be served with mere external rites, that burnt -- offerings, victims, incense, and things of this kind, were of themselves regarded by him of no value. Since, then, sacrifices did not please God, except on account of the end designed, it remains a clear truth, that God commanded nothing respecting sacrifices: for his design only was to remind the Jews of their sin, and also to shew to them the way of reconciliation. We hence see that God had not from the beginning required mere sacrifices, for he required them for a certain end. It is the same as though we should say at this day, that God regards not fasting. We yet know that fasting is commended to us, but not on account of itself. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet.2
Now, this passage contains a very useful doctrine, and which ought the more to be observed by us, as the neglect of it introduces dreadful darkness. They under the Papacy think that God is duly and in the best manner worshipped, when they accumulate many pompous exhibitions of ceremonies; nor can they be persuaded that all this is altogether frivolous. How so? Because they think of God according to their own fancies and disposition. And yet all the Papal ceremonies are the inventions of men: for they derive no authority either from the Law or from the Gospel. And since God has so severely reprobated ceremonies, which yet he had appointed for a purpose which was overlooked, what can be thought at this day of the foolish inventions of men, when there is the some impiety in the people as was formerly in the Jews? For when the Papists perform their trumperies, when the monks and the sacrificing priests fill the churches with their noises, when they practice their childish mummeries, and when they delight themselves with music and incense, they think that God is satisfied, however full of obscenities and filthiness their whole life may be: they are hardened in that false confidence, by which the Jews were inebriated. We ought, therefore, with special care, to notice this doctrine, -- that God so approves of spiritual worship, that he esteems all other things as nothing; that is, when unconnected with sincerity of heart.
That we may now more fully comprehend this doctrine, we must remember this principle -- that the basis of true religion is obedience. For unless God shines on us with his word, there is no religion, but only hypocrisy and superstition; as the case is with heathens, who, though they busy themselves much and with great diligence, yet loose all their labor, and uselessly weary themselves, for God has not shewn to them the right way. In short, true religion may always be distinguished from superstition by this mark -- If the truth of God guides us, then our religion is true; but if any one follows his own reason, or is led by the opinion and consent of men, he forms for himself superstition; and nothing that he does will please God. This is one thing.
Now, in the second place, let us see what God chiefly requires from those who are his servants. Being fully convinced of this truth -- that God cannot be truly served, except we obey his voice, we must consider, as I have said, what God commands us to do. Now, as he is a Spirit, so he demands sincerity of heart. (John 4:24.) We also know that God so comes to us, that he would have us to trust wholly in his gratuitous goodness, that he would have us to depend altogether on his paternal kindness, that he would have us to call on him, and to offer him the sacrifice of praise. Since, then, God has expressly required these things in his word, it is certain, that all other modes of worship are rejected by him as vitious; that is, when there is no faith, when there is no prayer and praise: for these hold the first place in true and legitimate worship.
This one passage is sufficient to put an end to all the contentions which are now in the world. For if the Papists admitted that obedience is of more account with God than all sacrifices, (1 Samuel 15:22,) we might easily agree. They might afterwards debate every article of faith; but there would be in the main an agreement between us, were they to submit simply and unreservedly to the word of God. But we see how pertinaciously they insist on this point -- that we are not to stand on God's word, nor acquiesce in it, because there is in it nothing certain. Hence they regard the doctrine of the Fathers, and what they call the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church, as of more value than the Law and the Prophets and the Gospel. They dare not indeed to contend on this ground; and so far they act wisely: for if the disputes between us are capable of being removed, as I have said, by God's word, we could easily overcome them. But while they, fostering their own blindness, strive to extinguish the light, and willfully envelop themselves in darkness, let us follow what God's Spirit shews to us here, -- that the main part of true and right worship and service is to hear God speaking, and to regard obedience of more account than all offerings and sacrifices, according to the passage we have quoted from 1 Samuel 15:22.
He afterwards adds,
And at the same time he adds, that this condition was mentioned to the Jews, that it
He afterwards adds, that they
We ought to take particular notice of this passage; for the majority of men at this day set up their own fictions against God's word. The Papists indeed pretend antiquity; they say that they have been taught by their ancestors; and at the same time they plead councils and the ordinances of the fathers: but yet there is not one of them, who is not addicted to his own figments, and who does not take the liberty, nay, an unbridled license, to reject whatever he pleases. Moreover, if the origin of the whole Papal worship be considered, it will appear, that those who first devised so many strange superstitions, were only impelled by audacity and presumption, in order that they might trample under foot the word of God. Hence it is, that all things are become corrupt; for they brought in all the strange figments of their own brains. And we see that the Papists at this day are so perversely fixed in their own errors, that they prefer themselves and their own trumperies to God. And the same is the case also with all heretics. What then is to be done? Obedience, as I have said, is to be held as the basis of all true religion. If, then, on the other hand, we wish to render our worship approved by God, let us learn to cast aside whatever is our own, so that his authority may prevail over all our reasons.
Let us further notice how detestable a sacrilege it is, to follow the wickedness of our heart rather than to obey God, when he shews to us, as by the finger, the way of salvation. Let us also observe, that nothing will then do us good, though we may seem to ourselves to be very wise, and praise ourselves in our folly; for God declares here that our heart is evil whenever we turn aside from his pure word.
He says, that they
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast at this day so clearly revealed to us thy will that there can remain no pretense of ignorance, we may on that account submit to thee with a freer and more ready mind, and that we may not only incline our ears to thee, but also so attend to thee with all our hearts, that we may desire no other thing than to make our whole life approved by thee: and as we cannot but turn aside, through our obstinacy and wickedness, from the right way, do thou so enlighten us by the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, that we may strive to embrace whatever thou hast been pleased to prescribe to us in thy word, so that when the course of this life shall be finished, we may at length reach the goal, and partake of the fruit of our obedience, and enjoy that eternal inheritance, which thine only -- begotten Son has procured for us by his own blood. -- Amen.
1 The meaning is not so plain as it might have been made: the burnt-offerings were all consumed by fire; but a part of the peace-offerings and of other offerings was eaten. See Leviticus 1:9; and Leviticus 7:11-16. Then God says, by way of contempt, "Add your burnt-offerings to your other offerings, and thus you will have your appetites gratified." Some derive the verb rendered "Add, "from
Your burnt-offerings sweep together To your sacrifices, and eat flesh.-Ed.
2 This exposition is ingenious and plausible, and all that is said is perfectly true: but it may be doubted whether it be the way to account for the mode of speaking here adopted. It is usual in Scripture, when two things are mentioned, and the one is of little or no importance in comparison with the other, to state the first negatively.
"Labor not, "says our Savior, "for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life."
But it may be, that the reference here is specifically to the day in which the Israelites were delivered; for on that day, or at that particular time, (for the word day is not to be taken in its strict meaning,) obedience to his voice was the only thing which God required. See Exodus 15:26.
Venema thinks that reference is here made, not to the institution of sacrifices, but to the ground of the covenant. Sacrifices were not the condition of the covenant, but obedience. God did not say, "If you sacrifice to me, I will be your God;" but, "If you obey my voice, I will be your God, and you shall be my people." When the law was delivered on Mount Sinai, there was no mention of sacrifices.-Ed.
3 The words are literally,-
And they walked in the counsels,-
In the resolutions of their evil heart.
They not only devised their own ways, but resolved to walk in them. They formed their own counsels, and made resolutions to follow them, and they were the counsels and resolutions of a disordered and perverted heart. In rendering the last word "wickedness, "Calvin has followed the Vulgate; and our version, "imagination, "is the Targum. It is omitted in the Septuagint, and "desires" in Syriac. See note on Jeremiah 3:17.-Ed.
4 The words are,-
And they were for behind, and not for before them;
which seem to mean, that they were bent on turning back to their own ways rather than to go on in the ways of God. The version of the Septuagint is, They were for things behind, and not for things before; the Syriac and Arabic, "They retrograded and did not advance, "or go forward. The allusion seems not to be, as Blayney thinks, to refractory oxen under the yoke; but to those travelers who, when shewn the right way, go back instead of going forward. And this was especially true of the Israelites, who, after having left Egypt, wished often to return, instead of going forward to Canaan. Hence it is said, that they were going back to their old ways, and not going forward in the way which God bad pointed out to them. The phrase in Jeremiah 2:27, is of another kind, and ought not to be confounded with this.-Ed.
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