Lecture Fifty-Fifth



Jeremiah 14:1

1. The word of the Lord that carne to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.

1. Quod fuit verbum Jehovte ad Jeremiam super verbis prohibitionum.


Though the Prophet does not distinctly express that what had not yet happened was divinely revealed to him, yet it may be easily gathered that it was a prophecy with reference to what was future. Of this sterility nothing is recorded in sacred history: there is, however, no doubt but God had in an unusual manner afflicted the Jews, as previously in the days of Ahab. As then a drought was near at hand which would cause great scarcity, his purpose was to forewarn the Jews of it before the time, that they might know that the dryness did not happen by chance, but was an evidence of God's vengeance. And we know that whenever any adversity happens, the causes of it are sought in the world, so that hardly any one regards the hand of him who smites. But when there is a year of sterility, we consult astrology, and think that it is owing to the influence of the stars: thus God's judgment is overlooked. As then men contrive so many expedients by which they throw aside the consideration of Divine judgment, it was necessary that the Prophet should speak of the sterility mentioned here before it happened, and point it out as it were by the finger, though it was yet not made manifest.

He therefore says that the word of God came to him respecting the words of restraints.1 Though rbd, deber, signifies a thing or a business or concern, yet, what seems here to be intended is the contrast between rbd, deber, the word of God, and Myrbd deberim, the words of men; for he says, twrubh yrbd le ol deberi ebetserut, because the Jews, as it is usual, would have many words of different kinds among themselves respecting the sterility: when anything uncommon or unexpected happens, every one has his own opinion. But the Prophet sets up the word of Jehovah in opposition to the words of men; as though he had said, "They will inquire here and there as to the causes of the scarcity; there will yet be but one cause, and that is, God is punishing them for their wickedness."

He calls sterility prohibitions or restraints: for though God could in an instant destroy and mar whatever has come to maturity, yet, in order to shew that all the elements are ready to obey him, he restrains the heavens whenever he pleases; and hence he says,

"In that day the heavens will hear the earth, and the earth will hear the corn, and the corn will hear men." (Hosea 2:21, 22)

For as this order of things is set before us, it cannot be otherwise but that, whenever we are hungry, our eyes turn to the corn and bread; but corn does not come except the earth be fruitful; and the earth cannot of itself bring forth anything, and except it de:rives moisture and strength from the heavens. So also, on the other hand, he says,

"I will make for you the heaven brass and the earth iron."2 (Leviticus 26:19)

We hence see the reason for this word, prohibitions, by which the Prophet designates the dryness of the heavens and the sterility of the earth; for the earth in a manner opens to us its bowels when it brings forth food for our nourishment; and the heavens also pour forth rain, by which the earth is irrigated. So also God prohibits or restrains the heavens and the earth, and closes up his bounty, so as to prevent it to come to us. It now follows --

1 The Septuagint express it in one,word, "ajzroci>a -- the want of rain;" the Vulgate, by words of dryness, or drought: and the Syriac, by "defect of rain." We may take "words" here in the sense of effects; so we may render the Hebrew, "concerning the effects of restraints;" and the last word is put in the plural number because there was a twofold restraint, -- that of the heavens from rain, and that of the earth from producing fruit. The "effects" of these restraints are described in the following verses. -- Ed.

2 There is a little inadvertence here: "iron," in this text, is applied to heaven, and "brass" to the earth, -- Ed.


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