Jeremiah 16:1-4

1. The word of the Lord came also unto me, saying,

1. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad me, dicendo,

2. Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.

2. Non accipies tibi uxorem, et non erunt tibi filii et filiae in hoc loco;

3. For thus saith the Lord concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land;

3. Quia sic dicit Jehova super filios et super filias, qui nascentur in loco hoc, et super matres, quae pepererint illos, et super patres, qui genuerint illos in terra hac;

4. They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented, neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.

4. Mortibus aegritudinum (vel, agrotationum) morientur, non plangentur, et non sepelientur; in stercus (id est, pro stercore) super faciem terrae erunt, et in gladio et fame consumentur (id est, per gladium et famem,) et erit cadaver eorum in cibum volucri coelorum et bestiae terrae


This is a new discourse, which yet is not unlike many others, except in this particular, that the Prophet was not to marry a wife nor beget children in the land. But as to the general subject, he repeats now what he had often said before and confirmed in many places. But the prohibition to marry was full of meaning; it was to shew that the people were wholly given up to destruction. The law of man's creation, we know, was this,

"Increase and multiply." (Genesis 1:22; Genesis 8:17; Genesis 9:1, 7)

As then mankind are perpetuated by marriage, here on the contrary God shews that that land was unworthy of this common and even general blessing enjoyed by the whole race of man. It is the same as if he had said, "They indeed as yet live, but a quick destruction awaits them, for I will deprive them of the universal favor which I have hitherto shewed to all mankind."

Marriage is the preservation of the human race: Take not to thee a wife and beget no children. We hence see that in the person of Jeremiah God intended to shew the Jews that they deserved to be exterminated from the earth. This is the import of this prophecy.

It may however be asked, whether the Prophet was unmarried? But this has nothing to do with the subject, for he received this command in a vision; and though he might not have been unmarried, he might still have proclaimed this prophecy, that God had forbidden him to marry and to beget children. At the same time, I think it were probable that the Prophet. was not married, for as he walked naked, and as he carried on his neck a yoke, so also his celibacy might have been intended to be, as it were, a living representation, in order to produce an effect on the Jews. But, as I have already said, we need not contend about this matter. Every one then is at liberty to judge as he pleases, only I suggest what I deem most probable.

But the reason why God forbad his Prophet to marry, follows, because they were all consigned to destruction. We hence learn that celibacy is not here commended, as some foolish men have imagined from what is here said; but it is the same as though God had said, "There is no reason for any one to set his mind on begetting an offspring, or to think that this would be to his advantage: whosoever is wise will abstain from raarriage, as he has death before his eyes, and is as it were near to his grave." The destruction then of the whole people, and the desolation and solitude of the whole land, are the things which God in these words sets forth.

At the same time, they are not threatened with a common kind of death, for he says that they were to die by the deaths of sicknesses. He then denounces on them continual languor, which would cause them to pine away with the greatest pain: sudden death would have been more tolerable; and hence David says, while complaining of the prosperity of the ungodly, that there

"were no bands in their death." (Psalm 73:4)

And the same thing is found in the book of Job, that

"in a moment of time they descend to the grave,"

that is, that they flourish and prosper during life, and then die without any pain. (Job 21:1.3) Hence Julius Caesar, shortly before he was killed, called this kind a happy death, (eujqanasi>an,) for he thought it a happy thing to expire suddenly. And this is what is implanted in men by nature. Therefore Jeremiah, in order to amplify God's vengeance, says that they would die by the deaths of sicknesses;1 that is, that they would be worn out by daily pains, and pine away until they died.

He adds, They shall not be lamented nor buried. We have seen elsewhere, and we shall hereafter see, (Jeremiah 22) that it is a proof of a curse when the dead are not buried, and when no one laments their death: for it is the common duty of humanity for relations and friends who survive, to mourn for the dead and to bury them. But the Prophet seems to mean also something further. I do not indeed exclude this, that God would deprive them of the honor of sepukure and of mourning; but he seems also to intimate, that the destruction of men would be so great that there would be none to perform these offices of humanity. For we lament the dead when leisure is allowed us; but when many are slain in war they are not individually lamented, and then their carcases he confused, and one grave is not sufficient for such a number. The Prophet there means, that so great would be the slaughter in Judea, that none would be buried, that none would be lamented. The verb which he uses means properly to lament, which is more than to weep: and we have said elsewhere, that in those countries there were more ceremonies than with us; for all the orientals were much given to various gesticulations; and hence they were not satisfied with tears, but they added lamentation, as though they were in despair.

But the Prophet speaks according to the customs of the age, without approving of this excess of grief. As they were wont not simply to bewail the dead, but also to shew their grief by lamentation, he says, "Their offices shall now cease, for there will not be graves enough for so many thousands: and then if any one wish to mourn, where would he begin?" We also know that men's hearts become hardened, when many thus die through pestilence or war. The import of the whole is, that God's wrath would not be moderate, for he would in a manner empty the land by driving them all away, so that there would be none remaining. God did indeed preserve the elect, though as it were by a miracle; and he afterwards preserved them in exile as in a grave, when they were removed from their own country.

He then adds, That they would be as dung on the face of the land. He speaks reproachfully of their carcasses, as though he had said, "They shall be the putridity of the land." As then they had by their faith contaminated the land during life, God declares that after death they would become foetid like dung. Hence we learn, as I have before said, that it was an evidence of God's curse, when carcases were left unburied; for as God has created us in his own image, so in death he would have some evidence of the dignity and excellency with which he has favored us beyond brute animals, still to remain. We however know that temporal punishments happen even to the faithful, but they are turned to their good, for the Psalmist complains that the bodies of the godly were cast forth and became food to the birds of heaven. (Psalm 79:2) Though this is true, yet these two things are by no means inconsistent, that it is a sign of God's wrath when the dead are not buried, and that a temporal punishment does no harm to God's elect; for all evils, as it is well known, turn out to them for good.

It is added, By the sword and by famine shall they be consumed; that is, some shall perish by the sword, and some by famine, according to what, we have before seen,

"Those for the sword, to the sword;
those for the famine, to the famine." (Jeremiah 15:2)

Then he mentions what we have already referred to, Their carcases shall be for food to the beasts of the earth and to the birds of heaven.2 He here intimates, that it would be a manifest sign of his vengeance, when the Jews pined away in their miseries, when the sword consumed some of them, and famine destroyed others, and not only so, but when another curse after death followed them, for the Lord would inflict judgment on their carcases by not allowing them to be buried. How this is to be understood I have already stated; for God's judgments as to the reprobate are evident; but when the godly and the righteous fall under similar punishment, God turns to good what seems in itself to be the sign of a curse. Though famine is a sign of a curse, and also the sword, yet we know that many of God's children perish by famine and by the sword. But in temporal punishments this modification is ever to be remembered, -- that God shews himself to be a righteous Judge as to the ungodly and wicked; -- and that while he humbles his own people, he is not yet angry with them, but consults their benefit, so that what is in itself adverse to them is turned to their advantage.


Grant, Almighty God, that as thou anticipatest us by thy word, so that we may not experience thy eternal severity, -- O grant, that we may become teachable, and be so displeased with our vices, that we may not provoke more and more thy vengeance, but hasten to seek reconciliation with thee, and that relying on the Mediator whom thou hast given us, we may flee to thy mercy, until having been cleansed from all our filth, we shall at length be received into thy celestial kingdom, and there appear before thee in that parity from which we are as yet very distant, and shall enjoy that glory which thine only-begotten Son has obtained for us by his own blood. -- Amen.

1 More literally, "By the deaths of wastings." The reference is to the famine and also to the sword. Calvin has followed the Vulgate; "by a pestilential death" is the Septuagint by the death of those who languish by famine" the Syriac; and "by a dreadful death" the Arabic. The "mortal diseases" of Blayney is not proper, for they were not "diseases" but wastings or devastations by the famine and the sword, as stated afterwards. -- Ed.

2 I would render the fourth verse thus, --

By deaths of wastings shall they die; They shall not be lamented, nor buried; As dung on the face of the ground shall they be: Yea, by the sword and by the famine shall they be consumed, And their carcase shall be for meat To the bird of heaven and to the beast of the earth.

The latter part is a fuller explanation of what was to take place. "As dung," so the Syriac; they were scattered like dung. They were to be cast here and there, to be devoured by rapacious birds and beasts. -- Ed.


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