10. Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast born me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.
10. Hei mihi! mater, mea, quod genueris me virum rixae et virum litis toti terrae: non foeneratus sum et non foenerati sunt mecum; quisque maledicit mihi.
The Prophet, when he saw that his labor availed nothing, or was not so fruitful as he wished, no doubt felt somewhat like a man, and shewed his own weakness. It must however be observed, that he was so restrained by the secret power of the Holy Spirit, that he did not break forth intemperately, as is the case with many; but, he kept the right end so in view, that his sorrows had ever a regard to his object, even to render his labor useful to the people. A clear example of which is seen in these words.
But he addresses his mother, as though he counted his own life a curse; what does this mean? "Why," he says, "hast thou begotten me, my mother? Woe to me, that I have been born a man of strife and of contention!" We learn from these words, that the Prophet was not so composed and calm in his mind, but that he felt angry when he saw that he effected less than he wished; and yet it is evident from the context, that all this was expressed for the benefit of the public, even that the Jews might know, that their hardness of heart in despising God's devoted servant, yea, in maliciously opposing him, would not turn out to their benefit. This is the purport of the whole.
He calls himself a man of strife, not only because he was constrained to contend with the people, for this he had in common with all prophets. God does not send them to flatter or to please the world; they must therefore contend with the world, for no one is brought to a right state, so as to undertake the yoke of God winingly and submissively, until he is proved guilty. Hence men will never obey God, they will never submit to his word, until they know that they are in a manner condemned; and for this reason have I said, that this evil is common to all prophets, -- that they have to contend with the world. But Jeremiah calls himself a man of strife and contention, because he was slanderously spoken of throughout Judea, as one who through his moroseness drove the whole people to contentions and strifes. This then is to be referred to the false judgments formed by the people; for there was hardly any one who did not say that he was a turbulent man, and that if he was removed, there would have been tranquinity in the city and throughout the whole land. The same objection is at this day made by the enemies of the truth and godliness; they say, that we needlessly create disturbances, and that if we were quiet, there would be the most delightful peace throughout the whole world, and that dissensions and strifes arise only from us, that we are the fans by which the whole world is kindled into contentions. It was then for this reason that Jeremiah complained that he was born a man of strife and contention; not that he was contentious -- not that that he gave any occasion to the people to speak so slanderously of him; for the subject here is not respecting the character of the Prophet, as he knew that his courage was approved by God; but as he saw that he was urged and charged with these false accusations, he calls himself a man of strife and a man of contention; the last word is from Nd, den, which means to contend.
But as to the exclamation respecting his mother, I have already reminded you that it was an evidence of an intemperate feeling; for had he spoken in a composed state of mind, what had he to do with his mother, so as to make her an associate in the evil he complains of? He indeed seems to ascribe a part of the blame to his mother, because she had given him birth. Now this appears unreasonable. But it may at the same time be easily gathered, that the Prophet was not led away by so great a vehemence, except for the sake of promoting the public good, and that it was for this end that he uttered his complaint; for it was not his purpose to condemn his mother, though at the first view it appears so; but though she was innocent, he still shews that he was unjustly loaded with such calumnies, as that he was a man of strife and contention; as though he had said, "Enquire of my mother, who hath begotten me, whether I was contentious from the womb? has my mother been the cause why ye say that I am a turbulent man and the author of strifes? Doubtless nothing can be imputed to my mother; and I am as innocent as she is." We now then see that the Prophet indirectly condemns the wickedness of the people, because they calumniated him, as though he moved tumults and strifes through the whole land; and this he more fully confirms by the words which follow: --
I have not given on usury, nor have they borrowed of me on usury;1 yet every one curses me. He shews here that it was not for a private reason that he was hated by the whole people and loaded with calumnies: for whence come hatreds, and strifes, and complaints, and quarrels, and contentions among men, except through unfair dealing in their intercourse with one another? When, therefore, every one is bent on his own private advantage, he in bears anything to be taken from him. It is indeed a rare thing in the world, that they who carry on business with one another are really friends, and that they wholly approve of each other's conduct; for, as I have already said, covetousness so prevails, that justice and equity disappear among most men. Hence the Prophet says, that he had not lent on usury. Under one kind he includes all transactions of life, as though he had said, Je n'ay point traffique, I have had no contention about money affairs, for I have neither lent nor borrowed money, so that I have had no contention with the people on a private concern, nor have they quarrelled with me as though I had injured them or defrauded them, as though they had suffered any loss on my account: yet they all curse me."2
We see that the Prophet here testifies that he had not incurred the displeasure of the people through his own fault, or on account of any private concern, but because he had faithfully discharged his duty to God and to his ChurJeremiah He then brings against the people a most awful accusation, that they carried on war, not with a mortal man, but rather with God himself. We now understand what the Prophet had in view.
But all faithful teachers are here reminded, that if they perform their office strenuously and wisely, they will surely be loaded with many calumnies, and be called tumultuous, or morose, or disturbers of the peace. They ought then to be fortified against such stumbling -- blocks, so that they may persevere in the course of their calling. They ought at the same time to take heed lest they create enemies through any private concerns. For when the pastors of the Church abstain from every public business, yet when they contend, as they ought with the world, all immediately cry out that they are contentious and turbulent; but if the other be added, if they quarrel with this or that man about worldly things, then it cannot be but that the word of God will be evil spoken of through their fault. Hence great care ought to be taken that those who sustain the office of public teaching should not engage in worldly business, and be thus exposed to the necessity of contending about worldly things: they have enough to do, and more than enough, in the warfare in which the Lord has engaged them.
Now when the Prophet says that they all cursed him, it was a sad instance of impiety; for he speaks not of heathens but of the seed of Abraham. There was no Church then in the world but at Jerusalem, and yet the Prophet was regarded there as contentious and a man of strife. It ought not then to appear strange to us, that not only professed enemies of Christ load us with reproaches, but that they also curse us who deem themselves to be members of the ChurJeremiah It now follows --
I have not lent, nor have they lent to me.
There had been no money transactions between them, which are commonly the causes of disputes and contentions. - Ed.
The whole of it (the land) is reviling (or cursing) me.
As there is something anomalous in the form of the participle, Blayney proposes an emendation, and thinks the right reading to be wnwllq Mhlk, "All of them curse me." The versions and the Targum favor this reading, which is also adopted by the commonly too venturous Houbigant, and approved by Horsley, one equally venturous and bold. By dropping the w, as in many copies, the anomoly is removed. - Ed.