Jeremiah 15:12

12. Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?

12. An conteret ferrum ferrum ab aquilone et aes (vel, chalybem?)


This verse also has been taken in different ways by interpreters: some take the word iron, when repeated in a different case, "Will iron break iron?" but others think the subject wanting in the clause, and consider people to be understood, "Will the Jews break the iron, even the iron from the north, and not only the iron but the brass also, or, the the brass mixed with iron?" There is in reality no difference, but in words only. If we read, "Will the iron break the iron from the north?" the meaning will be, "Though there be great hardness in you, can it yet break that which is in the Assyrians? but ye are not equal to them: make your strength as great as you please, still the Chaldeans will be harder to break you; for if ye are iron, they are brass or steel, and so it will not be possible for you to sustain their violent attacks."

As the meaning of the Prophet is sufficiently evident, I will not insist on words, though the rendering I most approve is this, "Will iron break the iron (the repetition is emphatical) from the north and the brass?"

We here also see that the design of the holy man was, to divest the Jews of that false confidence in which they boasted: for how was it, that they were so refractory, except that they did not dread any misfortune? As then they were secure, predictions had but little weight with them. Hence the Prophet, in order to beat down this ferocity, says, that there would be greater hardness in the Chaldeans, for they would be like iron, yea, and steel also.1 It follows --

1 If we consider what is said to the Prophet in Jeremiah 1:18, and in the twentieth verse of this chapter (Jeremiah 15:20), we shall see the meaning of this verse: he was no doubt the iron and the brass: and the opinion of Blayney is probable, that the "enemy" in the previous verse (which is a poetical singular for the plural enemies) is the nominative case to the verb "break." God, having before refered to what he had done for the Prophet, now says, --

Can he break the iron, The iron from the north and the brass?

God had made him an "iron pillar, and a wall of brass:" and he asks now, was it possible for his enemies to destroy him whom God had thus made. The hardest iron came from the north of Judea. The future tense is to be read here potentially. - Ed.


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