Lecture Forty-Ninth

Jeremiah 12:5

5. If thou hast run with the foot -- men, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?

5. Quia (vel, si) eumpeditibus (significat proprie pedes, sed translative significat etiam pedites; si ergo cum peditibus) cucurristi et fatigarunt te, quomodo miscebis te equitibus? et in terra pacis tu confisus es, quid facies (vel, quomodo facies, vel faceres) in altitudine Jordanis?


Many think that God here checks the boldness of Jeremiah, as though he had exceeded the limits of moderation when he contended with God, as we have seen, because he patiently endured the reprobate and did not immediately punish them. Hence they elicit this meaning from rite words, "Thou hast hitherto been contending with mortals, and hast confessed that thou didst maintain an unequal contest; dost thou dare now to assail me, who am far greater than the whole world? Footmen have wearied thee, who walk on earth; but thou engagest now with horsemen, that is, with me."

But I have already shewn that the Prophet did not undertake this cause presumptuously, nor was he carried away by blind zeal when he disputed with God, but that he thus spoke through a divine fervor: he was indeed influenced by God, in order that he might by this mode of speaking more fully rouse an obstinate people. There was therefore no need to check hint; for his object was no other than to shew by a lively representation, that God would be the Judge of the Jews, who had despised his teaching and esteemed it as nothing.

Some think that a comparison is made between the citizens of Anathoth and the citizens of Jerusalem: they hence suppose that Jeremiah is encouraged, lest he should succumb under the temptations which awaited him; as though it was said, "Thy citizens or thy people are like footmen; thou seest now how much they have wearied thee, for thou canst not bear their insolence: what then will become of thee, when thou comest to Jerusalem? for as there is more power there, so there is more arrogance; thou wilt have to contend with the king and his court, with the priests and with the people, who are blinded by their own splendor: horsemen will be there, and thou wilt have all equestrian contest. Thou mayest hence see how thou art to prepare thyself; for these things are only the beginnings, and yet thou complainest of them."

But when I maturely weigh all things, I come to another opinion, which both Jerome snd Jonathan1 have suggested, and yet obscurely, and so confusedly that the meaning cannot be correctly understood, and especially for this reason, because they did not state the exposition which we have hitherto given; hence the meaning of what they have said does not seem suitable. But the Prophet, I doubt not, here reproves the people and condemns their presumption, because they thought themselves furnished with so many defences that they despised the judgment of God. I regard then this verse as spoken in the person of God, for hitherto Jeremiah has been the accuser, and arraigned the whole people as guilty before God, and was also the herald of his judgment. Now that what he says might have more weight, God himself comes forth and says, Thou hast hitherto run with footmen, and thou hast been wearied, how will it be when thou comest to an equestrian contest? he intimates by these words that a much greater outrage was at hand than what the Jews had already experienced. Their country had been oppressed, their city had been exposed to extreme peril, there had been as it were a pedestrian conflict; but God now intimates that a heavier storm was nigh at hand, for horsemen would assail them, because the Chaldeans and the Assyrians were to come with much greater violence to lay waste the whole country and to destroy the city itself.

This then is not addressed to the Prophet, but to the people; as though it was said, that the Jews had but a slight contest with the Assyrians, and yet were conquered and oppressed by many calamities; but that they would have now to fight more seriously, as a greater violence was impending over them: how then, he says, canst thou contend with horsemen? 2

He then adds, In the land of peace thou trustest, and how wilt thou do in the rising of Jordan? The land of peace is commonly taken for the town of Anathoth, where the Prophet ought to have enjoyed a quiet life, as he lived there among his relations and friends. The rising of Jordan is also taken as signifying violent waves; but this has nothing to do with the subject. Were I to approve of this view, I would rather take the rising of Jordan as meaning its fountain, for we know that Jordan rose from Mount Lebanon, north of Jerusalem: so then would I interpret the words, and the explanation would be plausible. But as I feel assured that the words are not addressed to the Prophet, but to the people, I doubt not but that the land of peace is the land open to plunder, that is, not protected. As that is called the land of war, which is surrounded by alefences, and fortified by towers, moats, and ramparts; so that is called the land of peace, which is not capable of repelling enemies. The Prophet derided the Jews, because they swelled with so much arrogance, though they possessed no fortresses: "Ye are," he says, "in the land of peace, having no means to carry on war, and possessing no forces to resist your enemies: as then ye swell with so much pride in your penury and want, what would become of you, were you in the rising of Jordan? that is, were your cities on the banks of Jordan, where it widely spreads, so as to prevent any access?" Rising here means height or largeness: for Nwag gaun, signifies pride, and metaphorically it means the highest or chief glory. "What wouldest thou do," he says, "in the largeness of Jordan? that is, were that river a defense to you against enemies? for there is nothing that can hinder your enemies from coming to your gates, from breaking down your walls by warlike instruments; and ye glory: how great is your madness, for ye do not consider how weak you are?" We hence see that in the whole of this verse the foolish boastings of the people are beaten down; for they were proud without a cause, as they were destitute of all defences and auxiliaries. This then is what I consider to be the real meaning.3 It afterwards follows --

1 The author of the Targum -- the Chaldee Paraphrase. -- Ed.

2 Most commentators agree in the previous exposition, -- that a comparison is made between the persecution which Jeremiah experienced from his countrymen at Anathoth, and the persecution he was to expect at Jerusalem. So thought the Jewish commentators, Grotius, Venema, Gataker, Henry, Scott, Adam Clarke, and Blayney. It must. however, be added, that Jerome and Horsley were of the same opinion with Calvin: but the most obvious and natural meaning seems to be the former.

The rendering of Blayney is as follows, --

If thou hast run with footmen, and they have wearied thee, Then how wilt thou chafe thyself with horses?

More literally, --

If with footmen thou hast run, and they have tired thee, Then how wilt thou heat thyself with horses?

"Horses" may indeed be rendered horsemen, as "feet" in the previous line is rendered footmen. As to the verb "heat thyself," the versions and the Targum differ, but the word in Hebrew is plain enough; it is hrx to heat, to burn, or to be warm or hot, in Hithpael. To "contend" has been taken from the Vulgate. -- Ed..

3 As in the previous clause, so in this, most interpreters are opposed to Calvin. The contrast here is between a quiet state and great troubles. If Jeremiah complained, when among his connections at Anathoth, what could he do when troubles, like the swelling of Jordan, overflowed the land? And this view is confirmed by the verse which follows, --

Blayney, following the Vulgate, renders the passage thus, --

And though in the land of peace thou mayest have confidence, Yet how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?

But rather as follows, --

And in the land of peace thou art secure; But how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?

That is, "Thou complainest though living secure in a land which enjoys peace and is not harassed with war: what then wilt thou do when the troubles of war shall come over the land like the overflowings of Jordan?" or, according to some, "Thou complainest though living in retirement among thine own people, where thou didst expect rest and peace, what wilt thou do when exposed to the violent persecutions of the great and powerful?" the swelling of Jordan being considered a proverbial expression, designating great and overwhelming troubles. -- Ed.


Back to

These files are public domain. This electronic edition was downloaded from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.