Jeremiah 11:16-17

16. The Lord called thy name, A green olive -- tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.

16. Olivam viridem, pulchram fructu, forma, vocavit Jehova nomen tuum; ad vocem sermonis (alii vertunt, tumultus) magni accendit (accendere fecit) super eam, et fracti sunt rami ejus (alii vertunt transitive, et fregerunt ramos ejus)

17. For the Lord of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel, and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves, to provoke me to anger, in offering incense unto Baal.

17. Nam Jehovah (copula enim hic accipitur vice causalis; quia Jehova) exercituum, quite plantavit, loquutus est (vel, pronunciavit) super to malum propter malitiam domus Israel et domus Jehudah, quam fecerunt sibi ad provocandum me, ad faciendum suffitum Baal.


The Prophet says first that the Jews had indeed been for a time like a fruitful and a fair olive; then he adds, that this beauty would not prevent God from breaking its branches and entirely eradicating it. He afterwards confirms this declaration, and says, For God who had planted it, can also root it up whenever it pleases him. This is the import of the two verses.

The Prophet no doubt derides here the vain confidence by which he knew the Jews were deceived: for they were so inebriated with their privileges that they dared to despise the very giver of them. Hence the Prophet thus addressed them, "Do ye think that so many vices will be unpunished? Ye omit nothing to kindle God's wrath against you, -- ye have polluted his Temple, ye have corrupted the whole of Divine worship, ye have despised the law; and can you think that the Lord will perpetually spare you?" But when the prophets thus assailed them, they had this answer, "What! will God leave his own Temple, concerning which he has sworn, This is my rest for ever? Is not this the Holy Land? And is not this also his heritage and his rest? And further, are we not his flock? Are we not his children? Are we not a holy people?" What then the Jews were wont arrogantly to claim, the Prophet concedes to them. "So," he says, "ye are a green olive, a fair and tall olive, a fruitful olive; all this I grant; but cannot God kindle a fire to burn the branches and to reduce to nothing the whole tree?" We now then understand the design of the Prophet.

But the next verse must be joined, For Jehovah of hosts, who hath planted thee, etc.; as though he had said, "Your beauty and whatever that is valuable in you, is it from you? Surely, all your dignity and excellency have proceeded from the gratuitous kindness of God: know ye then that nothing comes from you, but from God and from his good pleasure. Then Jehovah, who has planted you, can, when he pleases, pull up by the roots a tree which he has himself planted."

He says that it was a green olive, fair in fruit and form. How so? Because God had favored them with much honor. This similitude is found in many other places, but yet it is various as to its meaning. It might indeed with regard to God's dealings be applied to the whole people; but as hypocrites deserved to be spoiled and stripped of their privileges, so that which was offered to all in common, could only be really applied to the faithful, according to what David says,

"I am a fruitful olive in the house of God." (Psalm 52:8)

He then no doubt separated himself from hypocrites, as though he had said, "Even hypocrites seek to have a place in God's Temple, and are as it were tall trees, but they are unfruitful: I shall then be a green olive in the house of God; but they will wither." But the Prophet, as I have said, compares the Jews to a green olive on account of their adoption and the free favor shewn to them; for God had raised them unto a high state of excellency and honor.

But after having thus spoken by way of concession, he then adds, At the sound of a great tumult, or of a great word, he will kindle his fire upon it, and broken shall be its branches. Some, as I have said, render the last clause, "and they have broken its branches." As to what is intended, there is nothing dubious; but if we take the verb in an active sense, something must be understood, that is, that enemies, who will be like fire, shall break its branches.1 Then follows what I have said to be a confirmation, -- that Jehovah, who had planted it, had spoken of or pronounced an evil, or a calamity against it. He thus shews that there was no reason for them to trust in their present beauty; for they had it not from themselves, but possessed it only at the will of another; for God who had planted them, could also destroy them. But on this subject more shall be said.


Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast deigned to gather us into thy Church, we may never turn aside in the least from the purity of thy worship, but always regard what pleases thee, and learn to direct our doings and our thoughts in obedience to thy truth, and worship thee so purely both in spirit and in external forms, that thy name may be glorified by us, and that we may especially retain that purity which thou everywhere commendest to ,is, so that we may be indeed the members of thy only -- begotten Son; and that as he has sanctified himself on our account, we may also through his Spirit be made partakers of the same sanctification, until he at length will gather us into his celestial kingdom, which he has obtained for us by his own blood. -- Amen.

Lecture Forty-Seventh

We mentioned yesterday why the Prophet reminded the Jews, that they had been planted by God; it was, that they might know that they did not stand through their own power, and that they had their roots elsewhere, even in the good pleasure of God. The import of the whole is, that whenever God pleased they would instantly perish; for they stood not through their own power, but only through his favor: and this is what he confirms elsewhere, by comparing God to a potter and the people to vessels of clay. Similar is the argument which Quintilian quotes from the Medea of Ovid, "I was able to save thee, and dost thou ask whether I can destroy thee?" As then the Jews, relying on their long tranquinity and on their forces, thought themselves beyond the reach of danger, the Prophet ridicules this confidence; he shews how vain it was, for God had planted them, and so he could easily root them up again.

But this metaphor is very common in Scripture: yet the comparison is the more suitable when the Church is said to have been planted by God; for as a tree draws juice and strength from a hidden root, so the faithful draw their life from the hidden election of God: but this refers to the hope of eternal life. The same is meant by Christ in Matthew 15:13, when he says,

"Every planting," that is, every tree, "which my Father hath not planted shall be rooted up."

He then says, that the elect alone are planted by God, for they have their roots in the hidden life of God. But this is also extended much farther, even to the external state of the Church, according to what is said in Psalm 44:2,

"Thou hast rooted out the nations, and planted our fathers;"

as we find also in the eightieth Psalm and in other places. As God then plants his own elect, so also in gathering an external Church to himself, he is said to plant it: but they who are thus planted may be again rooted up, as the Prophet here testifies; while secret election cannot be changed.

We must then observe this difference, -- that God's children have their roots in his eternal election, respecting which there can be no repentance and no change. But the external state of the Church is also compared to a planting: yet they who flourish for a time and are full of leaves and seem also to produce some fruit, are rooted up by God's hand, when they become degenerate. And this mode of speaking is to be taken sometimes still more generally, according to what we shall see in the next chapter, and also in other parts of Scripture.

The Prophet says that God had spoken concerning the wickedness of Israel. This refers to what had been taught: for though the Jews had already in part felt the just judgment of God, yet they still continued in safety. He then says that ruin was nigh them, for God had announced it by his servants. And he adds, that it was on account of the wickedness2of both kingdoms; and this was said in order to dissipate all their complaints; for we know that men are ever ready to clamor whenever God chastises them, as though they wished to contend with him. But the Prophet shews here, that God would deal thus severely with the Jews, because they had never ceased to provoke his wrath by their evil deeds. Hence he says, that they had done it for themselves. Some render the words, "And it shall therefore happen to them." But there seems to be much more force in the Prophet's words, when we say, that they had done evil for themselves, that is, to their own ruin. He adds, To provoke me, that is, their object; is to provoke me. In short, God intimates, that he would justly punish the Jews, because they had procured evil for themselves; and at the same time he points out the fountain of evil, for they had designedly provoked God by offering incense to Baal. It follows --

1 This clause is difficult. The versions give no assistance. The word hlwmh, or rather hlmh, is rendered "circumcision" by the Septuagint, "speech' by the Vulgate, "decree" by the Syriac, "tumult" by our version, and clamor by Blayney. It occurs only in one other place, Ezekiel l:24; where it stands in apposition with the "voice of the Almighty," which means there, and often elsewhere, " thunder:" and its meaning there is evidently the breaking of thunder or the thunderclap. It comes from lm, to cut, to break, to shiver. Then the noun is literally breaking, or crashing; it is the bursting noise of thunder. The other difficulty is hyle, rendered "upon it" in our version as well as in the early versions: but "it" is feminine in Hebrew, and "of it" after branches is masculine, the same gender with "olive." None have accounted for this anomaly. Blayney has indeed made the word a participle to agree with fire, -- "a fire mounting upwards;" but this can hardly be admitted. I would render the verse thus, --

An olive, flourishing, beautiful in fruit, in form, Hath Jehovah called thy name: At the sound of a great thunderclap, -- Kindled hath he a fire by it,; And shivered have been its branches.

The verb for "kindled" is in Hiphil, and "by it" is the "thunderclap," which is feminine, and "its" is the "olive," which is masculine. Houbigant refers this passage to thunder.

The past tense is used for the future. He compares the nation to a flourishing tree, and then he speaks of its destraction by a fire kindled by the breaking of a thunder: the fire is the lightning. -- Ed.

2 It is literally "evil." There is here a striking instance of the same word used in two different senses -- the evil of punishment and the evil of sin. The verse is thus, --

And Jehovah of hosts, who hath planted thee, Hath spoken against thee an evil, For the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah · Which they have done for themselves, By provoking me in burning incense to Baal.

"For the evil," etc., is unintelligibly rendered by Blayney, "In prosecution of the evil," etc.; llgb is a preposition, and is so rendered in all the early versions and the Targum: it is also so found in many other parts of Scripture. "Which they have done? etc., may be rendered, Which they have procured for themselves; for the verb hse may sometimes be thus rendered. See Genesis 12:5; Genesis 31:1. But "which" refers to the first "evil," of which God had spoken, the evil of punishment -- Ed.


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