18. Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?
18. Ut quid erit dolor meus fortis, (vel, durus) et plaga mea aegra (aut, valida, aut, insanabilis, doloris plena; dicemus postea de voce,) renuit curari? (hoc est, non admittit remedium:) eris mihi sicut mendacium aquarum non fidelium. (alli vetrunt, eris mihi mendax, aquae infideles, hoc est, tanquam aquae infideles.)
Before we proceed, we shall shortly refer to the meaning of the passage. Jeremiah has before shewn that he possessed an heroic courage in despising all the splendor of the world, and in regarding as nothing those proud men who boasted that they were the rulers of the Church: but he now confesses his infirmity; and there is no doubt but that he was often agitated by different thoughts and feelings; and this necessarily happens to us, because the flesh always fights against the spirit. For though the Prophet announced nothing human when he declared the truth of God, yet he was not wholly exempt from sorrow and fear and other feelings of the flesh. For we must always distinguish, when we speak of the prophets and the apostles, between the truth, which was pure, free from every imperfection, and their own persons, as they commonly say, or themselves. Nor were, they so perfectly renewed but that some remnant of the flesh still continued in them. So then Jeremiah was in himself disturbed with anxiety and fear, and affected with weariness, and wished to shake off the burden which he felt so heavy on his shoulders. He was then subject to these feelings, that is, as to himself; yet his doctrine was free from every defect, for the Holy Spirit guided his mind, his thoughts, and his tongue, so that there was in it nothing human. The Prophet then has hitherto testified that he was called from above, and that he had cordially undertaken the office deputed to him by God, and had faithfully obeyed him: but now he comes to himself, and confesses that he was agitated by many thoughts, which betokened the infirmity of the flesh, and were not free from blame. This then is the meaning.
We now see the import of this comparison: but the words are apparently very singular; for the Prophet expostulates with God as though he had been deceived by him, "Thou wilt be to me," he says, "as a vain hope, and as deceptive waters, which fail during great heat, when they are mostly wanted." If we take the words as they appear to mean, they seem to border on blasphemy; for God had not without reason testified before, that he is the Fountain of living water; and he had condemned the Jews for having dug for themselves broken cisterns, and for having forsaken him, the Fountain of living water. Such, no doubt, had He been found by all who trusted in him. What then does Jeremiah mean here by saying, that God was to him as a vain hope, and as waters which continue not to flow? The Prophet, no doubt, referred to others rather than to himself; for his faith had never been shaken nor removed from his heart. He then knew that he could never be deceived; for relying on God's word he greatly magnified his calling, not only before the world, but also with regard to himself: and his glorytug, which we have already seen, did not proceed except from the inward feeling of his heart. The Prophet then was ever fully confident, because he relied on God, that he could not be made ashamed; but here, as I have said, he had regard to others. And we have already seen similar passages, and the like expressions will hereafter follow.
There is no doubt but that it was often exultingly alleged that the Prophet was a deceiver: "Let him go on and set before us the words of his God; it has already appeared that his boasting is vain in saying that he has hitherto spoken as a prophet." Since then the ungodly thus harassed the Prophet, he might have justly complained that God was not to him like perennial springs, because they all thought that he was deceived. And we must always bear in mind what I said yesterday, -- that the Prophet does not speak here for his own sake, but raffler that he might reprove the impiety of the people. It therefore follows --
1 It is better to retain throughout the figurative language, --
Why has my sore become perpetual, And my stroke incurable, refusing to be healed?
He mentions "sore" first, the effect; then the "stroke" which casued it. He refers doubtless to the state of his mind: therefor "the sore" and "the stroke" were the sorrow and the grief which he experienced. - Ed.
2 The Septuagint and the Vulgate strangely refer to this stroke or the wound in the previous clause, "It has become like the deception of inconstant water:" but the gender of the infinitive added to the verb will not admit of this rendering. It is literally as follows, --
Becoming thou hast become like a deceiveer, Like waters which are not constant.
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