Lecture Eightieth

Jeremiah 21:13-14

13. Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of in the plain, saith the Lord; which say, Who shall come down us? or who shall enter into our habitations?

13. Ecce ego contra to, quae habitas in valle, petra in planitie (vel, patrae planitiei, alii vertunt) dicit Jehova; qui dicitis, Quis descendet contra nos? et quis ingrediatur habitacula nostra?

l4. But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the Lord; and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.

14. Et visitabo super vos secundum fructum studiorum vestrorum, dicit Jehova; et accendam ignem in sylva ejus, et consumet quiequid est in circuitu ejus.


Though the whole nation was corrupt in the time of the Prophet, yet Jerusalem was the head and seat of all evils, especially as there was there more licentiousness; and then they thought that the Prophets had no liberty there, as though the citizens were, by a peculiar privilege, exempt from all reproof; and, lastly, the very situation of the city gave them courage, for when they regarded the height of their walls, their towers, and fortresses, they thought themselves beyond the reach of danger. Hence was the security which the Prophet now condemns; and, therefore, he calls it the inhabitant of the valley.

Jerusalem, we know, was situated on small hills: the Mount Sion had two tops; and then there were hills contiguous, especially towards Lebanon; there was, however, a plain on every side. And then if we except Mount Sion, Jerusalem was in a valley; for it was surrounded, we know, by mountains. There were mountains around it, as it is said in Psalm 125:2. Now, its very situation gave confidence to the citizens, as access to it was difficult. They, therefore, thought that enemies could not come into that valley, which kept them inclosed, as in a fortified place. This is the reason why the Prophet called not the city by its own name, but said that it dwelt in the valley; and afterwards he called it a rock in the plain; for rsy, isher, is straight, and hence rwsym, mishur, means a level ground. The whole region was then a continued plain as far as the mountains. Jerusalem itself had also, as we have said, its small hills; it was therefore, as it were, a rock in a Plain.1

We now see for what purpose the Prophet used this circumlocution, even because the Jews gloried in the position of their city, as though it was impregnable; and also, because the vicinity of the mountains, as well as the plain, gave them great advantages. And we know how disposed men are to take to a false security when there is apparently no danger; but on the contrary, they think of various defences and aids from which they expect to derive help. It is, therefore, this false boasting that the Prophet condemns, when he calls Jerusalem the inhabitant of the valley, and then says, that it was a rock in the plain.

What follows makes this more clear, Who say, Who shall come down against us? and, Who shall enter into our habitations? The verb txy, ichet, some take in the sense of tearing, "Who shall make a breach on us?" They derive the word from ttx, chetat; but it is rather from txn, nechat, to descend; for the first meaning would be too strained. The Prophet speaks according to the opinion of the people, who thought themselves sufficiently fortified against all the attacks of their enemies. It may have been, indeed, that they did not speak thus openly; but the Prophet had regard to the hidden thoughts of their hearts, when he ascribed to them this boasting, -- that they dwelt in an impregnable place, as the access to it was formidable; for they spoke boldly, "Who shall descend to us?2 who will enter our houses?" as though they had their nest in the clouds. They intimated that their state would be safe, because their enemies would not dare to come nigh them, or would be disgracefully repelled if they dared, as it would be enough for them to close their gates.

But God, on the contrary, says, Behold I will come to thee, or against thee, and will visit thee. There is, indeed, a change of number; for he says, I will visit you, for he had begun by saying, "Ye who say," Myrmah, eamrim. I will visit upon you, he says, the fruit of your doings; that is,

"I will deal with you according to what you have done, as your works deserve." Merit is to be taken for reward. Then God threatens that he would render to the Jews what they merited, because they had not ceased to provoke his wrath.

He adds, lastly, I will kindle a fire in its forest. Some take "forest" metaphorically for the neighboring towns; but this seems foreign to the Prophet's meaning. I do not, indeed, deny but that there is a metaphor in the words; but then the word forest is not to be applied to towns and villages, but to the buildings of the city itself, according to a mode of speaking elsewhere used by the Prophets. As their houses were built of a large quantity of wood, of tall and most choice trees, the Prophet compares this mass of wood to a forest. We may, however, give a simpler explanation, and I know not whether it be more suitable that the Prophet points out Lebanon. He then means by the forest of the city the trees of Lebanon, which we know were particularly fine, for their loftiness were everywhere known; and we know also that they were very large. As, then, a part of their false glory was Mount Lebanon, the Prophet distinctly intimates that it would serve as a help to burn the city itself; for when God burned Jerusalem, he would take from the vicinity materials for the purpose.3

Now, as we understand the meaning of the Prophet, let us learn how to apply this passage. We have said elsewhere that nothing is more hateful to God than false confidence; when men, relying on their own resources, promise to themselves a happy and a safe condition, they become torpid in their own security. Thus it comes, that they despise God, and never flee to him; they scorn his judgments, and at length are carried away by a mad impulse to every kind of insolence. This is the reason why the Prophets so often and so sharply reprove secure men, for they become presumptuous towards God when they are touched by no regard for him, and with no fear of him. They then not only dishonor God by transferring the hope of their safety to mere means or such helps as they foolishly depend on, but they also think that they are not under the authority of God. Hence it is, that they promise themselves impunity, and thus become wholly hardened in their sins. Now follows --

1 Of all explanations of this passage, this is the most satisfactory. Mount Sion was surrounded by a valley, and that valley by contiguous mountains. The city, therefore, was a valley with a rock or a mountain in the midst, called here the rock of the level ground. The sentence may, indeed, be thus rendered, "The inhabitant of the valley of the rock of the level ground." "The valley of the rock" means, in this case, the valley around the rock or the mountain; then the valley is farther designated as the level ground.

The Versions vary; that of Sept. is, "who inhabitest the valley of Sor, the plain;" the Vulg., "the inhabitress of the solid valley and of the plain;" the Syr., "who dwellest in valleys, who hast a large plain;" and the Targ., "who dwellest in strength, in fortified cities." The nearest to the original is the Sept. version; which has been followed by Venema, who thought that there was a valley called Sor in Jerusalem, which, from its situation, was the most secure part of the city: hence the word "descend," in the following sentence.

Blayney's version is, "O thou inhabitant of the levelled hollow of a rock." He considered that Mount Sion is meant, the residence of the house of David, and so called, because the top was levelled. Then he rendered the following sentence, "Who shall make a breach on us?" But the difficulty is to understand "the levelled hollow," and how to make the original to bear such a rendering. Doubtless, the version of Calvin or that of Venema, which is not very different, is the best. -- Ed.

2 The Sept. and Arab. are, "Who will alarm us?" the Vulg., "Who will smite us?" Syr., "Who can come against us?" and the Targ., "Who will descend against us?" The verb ttx, is intransitive, and if it be here in Hiphil, it will not admit of the preposition le, which comes here after it. This sufficiently proves that it is txn, to come down, to descend, which requires this very preposition. See Psalm 38:2. This being clearly the case, the view of Blayney, as to "the levelled hollow of a rock," must be wrong, for to "descend" into Mount Sion, would be no suitable expression. -- Ed.

3 "The Word 'forest' is often metaphorically taken for a city in the prophetical writings, because its stately buildings, or its principal inhabitants, resemble tall cedars standing in their several ranks. See Jeremiah 22:7; Isaiah 27:24; Ezekiel 20:46; Zecheriah. 11:1." -- Lowth.


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