Lecture Forty-Second

Jeremiah 10:17-18

17. Gather up thy wares out of the land, O inhabitant of the fortress:

17. Collige e terra merces tuas, quae habitas in munitione:

18. For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this once, and will distress them, that they may find it so.

18. Quia sic dicit Iehova, Ecce ego funda projiciens habitatores terrae vice hac, et coarctabo eos (vel, faciam ut obsideant eos) ut inveniant.


The first verse which we have recited, the Rabbins think, is addressed to the Chaldeans, but in my view very incorrectly. Jeremiah had indeed said that all the nations who devised gods of stone and of other corruptible materials, were very foolish; but we have seen for what purpose he said this, even to confirm the Israelites, who were captives, and in addition to the disgrace of exile were greatly hated by the Chaldeans and the Assyrians; it was, I say, to confirm them, lest they should depart from the true worship of God, but constantly defend the honor of their God, from whom they expected restoration. It is, therefore, absurd for the Rabbins to explain this verse of the Chaldeans; for the two verses ought to be connected, gather thy merchandise, because thus saith Jehovah. It is then strange that these interpreters apply the second verse to the Israelites, while they read the first by itself, as though they were not connected: yet a reason is given why he bids all wages to be gathered.

But the meaning is simply this, -- that the whole country would be exposed to the will of their enemies, that they might plunder it: as then devastation was nigh at hand, the Prophet bids those in fortified places to gather their wages, or to gather a gathering, (we shall hereafter speak of this expression.) Now, we have already stated in several places, that the Prophets ironically touched on the torpidity of the people; for plain truth would have had no effect, except it was urged on them as it were vehemently The Prophet then undertakes the character of a man, who brings warlike tidings, as we shall more clearly see presently. But in this place, as in some other places, he declares that nowhere in Judea would there be safety, except in fortresses; which yet would not be able to resist the attacks of enemies, as we shall hereafter see.

As to the words, some give this rendering, "gather thy humiliation," as enk cano, means to be humble; but they apply the words to Babylon, as though the Prophet had said, "Now cease to subdue the remaining nations." Thus they take the verb Poa asaph, in the sense of contraction, when some moderation is observed. But I have already said that this verse cannot refer to Babylon or to the Chaldeans. As then the Prophet addresses the Jews, and speaks of their effects, or of their merchandise, or precious things, which were wont to be gathered and laid up; as though he had said, "Gather thy gathering;" for the word enk cano, means also to collect or to gather: and this is a suitable meaning, it being taken afterwards for doing business. But as to the subject itself there is no obscurity; for the Prophet shews that in a short time the whole of Judea would be laid waste by enemies; and as it was to be exposed to plunder, what is usual was to be done, that is, to gather whatever was valuable into fortified cities. In short, the Prophet here declares that war and ruin would come on the Jews, which would extend through the whole land; for by land he means the country, as distinguished from fortified towns.

Then follows the reason, For thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will with a sling cast out the inhabitants of the land. Land here is to be taken in another sense, even for the whole country. Wherever then the Jews dwelt, the Lord, says the Prophet, will draw them forth, yea, east them out as with a sling. We now then see that the vengeance which the Jews despised is denounced on them, because they remained securely in their own delusions; and what still more provoked God's wrath, they regarded all that Jeremiah said of his judgment as a fable. But he compares their violent exile to slinging, and represents the Lord as the slinger. We know that when a sling is flung and a stone is cast, the motion is very violent. Such a casting away is then what God here threatens the people with, -- that he would violently throw them here and there, like stones when cast by a sling.

And he says at this term or time, in order that the Jews might know that their calamity would be like a sudden storm. For they had often been subject to the assaults of enemies; but at one time they had delivered themselves, at another the Chaldeans and Assyrians had been constrained to turn aside to other quarters; or they had been miraculously delivered by God's aid. They hoped that it would be the same always; and they thought also that by protracting the war they could disappoint their enemies, as they had often done; and further still, they expected aid from various quarters. Hence the Prophet says, that they would be so taken away, that God would at once cast them all out of the land, and east them out as it were in one day: at this time they, will I fling out the inhabitants of the land.

Then he says, And I will straiten them. Some render the verb transitively, as it is in Hiphil, "I will cause them to be besieged by their enemies," and then, "that their enemies may find them." But this seems forced. Others more correctly give this explanation of the last clause, "that they may find," that is, as true, what had been so often foretold them. For, as we have said, the Prophets and their threatenings had been despised, as the Jews had hardened themselves in their impiety: therefore this interpretation may be allowed. But I prefer a more general meaning, -- that they may find, even what they had sought; for they had in many and various ways provoked the wrath of God: it was therefore right that they should at last find that which they had by their perverse doings procured for themselves, according to what is said in Isaiah 57:10,

"They shall find the fruit of their own ways."

The Jews sought nothing less than the calamity which Jeremiah denounced on them: but they had really long sought it; for it was right that they should receive the wages due to their wickedness. Then it is, that they may find, that is, the reward of their own works.1 It follows --

1 As to these two verses the early versions all differ from one another, as well as from our version and that of Calvin. The Targum comes the nighest to our version. I offer the following rendering, --

17.Gather from the land thy gains, Thou who dwellest in a fortress!

18.For thus saith Jehovah, -- Behold I will sling out The inhabitants of the land at this time, And will fortress them, that they may be taken.

The first verse is spoken ironically, recommending what they were doing. Then the Lord says what he would do: They were gathering their goods into fortresses in order to secure them, and the Lord says that he would violently fortress (as the word means literally) or drive into fortresses all the inhabitants of the land, and would do so, that they might be found or taken, that is, captives; there would be no need of collecting the people, for they would be driven into fortified cities, where the enemies would find them. This seems to be the meaning of this verse, which Horsley deemed "very obscure," and elucidated "by no expositor." -- Ed.


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