19. O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.
19. Jehova, robur meum et munitio mea, et refugium in die angustiae, (vel, afflictionis) ad te Gentes venient e finibus terrae ac dicent, Certe mendacium possederunt patres nostri, vanitas (vanitatem) et nihil in ipsis utile.
What the Prophet has said hitherto might appear contrary to the promises of God, and wholly subversive of the covenant which he had made with Abraham. God had chosen to himself one people from the whole world, now when this people were trodden under foot what could the most perfect of the faithful suppose but that that covenant was rendered void, since God had resolved to destroy the Jews and to obliterate their name? This was then a most grievous trial, and sufficient, to shake the strongest minds. The Prophet therefore now returns to the subject, and obviates this temptation; and seeing men in despair he turns to God, and speaks of the calling of the Gentiles, which was sufficient wholly to remove that stumbling -- block, which I have mentioned respecting the apostasy and ruin of the chosen people. We now perceive the Prophet's meaning.
When any one reads the whole chapter, he may think that Jeremiah abruptly turns to address God; but what I have stated ought to be borne in mind, for his purpose was to fortify himself and the faithful against the thought I have mentioned, which would have otherwise shaken the faith of them all. And he shews what is best to be done in a troubled and dark state of things, for Satan hunts for nothing more than to involve us in various and intricate disputes, and he is an acute disputant, yea, and a sophist; we are also very ready to receive what he may suggest, and thus it happens that the thoughts which we either attain ourselves or too readily receive when offered by the artifice of Satan, often overwhelm us. There is then no better remedy than to break off such disputes and to turn our eyes and all our thoughts to God. This the Prophet did when he said,
We now see that Jeremiah sets the conversion of the Gentiles in opposition to the destruction which he had before denounced; for the truth of God and his mercy were so connected with the salvation of the chosen people, that their destruction seemed to obliterate them. Therefore the Prophet sets forth in opposition to this the conversion of the Gentiles, as though he had said, "Though the race of Abraham perishes, yet God's covenant fails not, nor is there any diminution of his grace, for he will convert all the Gentiles to himself." If any one objects and says, that though the Gentiles be converted, yet the covenant of God could not have been valid and perpetual, except the posterity of Abraham were heirs of that grace which God had promised to him. To this there is a ready answer, for when God turned the Gentiles to himself he was mindful of his promise, so as to gather a Church to himself both from the Jews and the Gentiles, as we also know that Christ came to proclaim peace to those afar off and to them who were nigh, according to what Paul teaches. (Ephesians 2:17) Jeremiah then includes in the calling of the Gentiles what is said elsewhere,
"A remnant according to the election of grace."
It is an argument from the greater to the less; "God will not retain a few men only, but will gather to himself those who now seem dispersed through the whole world; much more then shall all those of the race of Abraham, who are chosen by God, be saved; and though the great body of the people perish, yet the Lord, who knows his own people, will not suffer them to perish even in the worst state of things."
But as the struggle was difficult, he calls God his strength, and fortress, and refuge. He says
But he says, that
But it is not to be doubted but that the Prophet here indirectly condemns the Jews, because they had not departed from the sins of their fathers, though they had been often admonished.
1 Though the word rendered here "Gentiles" may be often so translated, yet it does not necessarily mean the heathens. It signifies a people associated together; and it may mean here the Jewish people in their dispersion, formed into companies or tribes, as Grotius thinks; and a due consideration of the context will lead us to this opinion. They are spoken of in Jeremiah 16:15 as "brought from all the lands" whither God had driven them; and as the idolatry of their fathers is continually mentioned in connection with their own, the confession in this verse seems appropriate to them; and the last verse, Jeremiah 16:21, clearly refers to the people of Israel. There is nothing in the whole passage (except it be this clause) that has any reference to the conversion of the heathens. I am aware that commentators take the same view of this clause with Calvin, yet I fully believe that the "nations" here were the Jews, scattered here and there, as distinct portions of the community, in various parts of the heathen world. The prophet, after having received an assurance of a restoration, makes a thankful acknowledgment to God, and tells us what would be the confession of the returned exiles, which includes the next verse. Then God assures him in the last verse, that such would be the effect of exile as to make them ever afterwards to acknowledge his power and his majesty, which has been remarkably fulfilled; for the Jews have never been guilty -- of idolatry since their return from Babylon. -- Ed.
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