17. Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying,
17. Et surrexerunt viri ex senioribus terrae, (ex senibus terrae,) ac dixerunt ad totum coetum populi (vel, locuuti sunt dicendo; est quidem semper verbum,
18. Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.
18. Micha Morasthites fuit prophetans diebus Ezechiae regis Jehudah, et dixit ad totum populum Jehudah, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Sion ager (sed subaudienda est particula similitudinis, Sion ut ager) arabitur, et Jerusalem solitudines (vel, acervi) erit (hoc est, erit in solitudines, vel, in acervos, vel, in ruinas,) et mons domus (id est templi) in excelsa sylvae.
19. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls.
19. An occidendo occidit eum Ezechias rex Jehudah, et totus Jehudah? an non timuit Jehovam? et deprecatus est faciem Jehovae, et poenituit Jehovam mali, quod loquutus fuerat contra eos: et nos facimus malum grande adversus animas nostras.
It is uncertain whether what is here recited was spoken before the acquittal of Jeremiah or not; for the Scripture does not always exactly preserve order in narrating things. It is yet probable, that while they were still deliberating and the minds of the people were not sufficiently pacified, the elders interposed, in order to calm the multitude and to soften their irritated minds, and to reconcile those to Jeremiah who had previously become foolishly incensed against him; for no doubt the priests and the false prophets had endeavored by every artifice to irritate the silly people against the Prophet; and hence more than one kind of remedy was necessary. When therefore the elders saw that wrath was still burning in the people, and that their minds were not disposed to shew kindness, they made use of this discourse. They took their argument from example, -- that Jeremiah was not the first witness and herald of dreadful vengeance, for God had before that time, and in time past, been wont to speak by his other prophets against the city and the temple.
The priests and the prophets had indeed charged Jeremiah with novelty, and further pretended that they thus fiercely opposed him on the ground of common justice. Jeremiah had said, that God would spare neither the holy city nor the Temple. This was intolerable, for it had been said of the Temple,
"This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell."
We hence see that Jeremiah was overwhelmed as it were by this one expression, while the priests and the false prophets objected and said,
"Thou then makest void God's promises; thou regardest as nothing the sanctity of the Temple."
And they further pretended that not one of the prophets had ever thus spoken. But what do the elders now answer? even that there had been other prophets who had denounced ruin on the city and the Temple, and that, was falsely charged with this disgrace, that he was the first to announce God's judgment. We now understand the state of the case: Jeremiah is defended, because he had not alone threatened the city and the first, but he had others as the originators, from whose mouths he had spoken, who were also the acknowledged servants of God, from whom credit could not be withholden, such as Micah.
Now, what is here related is found in Micah 3:12. The Prophet Micah had the same contest with the priests and prophets as Jeremiah had; for they said that it was impossible that God should pour his vengeance on the holy city and the Temple. They said,
"Is not Jehovah in the midst of us?"
and they said also, "No evil shall come on us." They were inebriated with such a security, that they thought themselves beyond the reach of danger; and they disregarded all the threatenings of the prophets, because they imagined that God was bound to them. We indeed know that hypocrites ever relied on that promise, "Here will I dwell;" and they also took and borrowed words from God's mouth and perverted them like cheats: "God resides in the midst of us; therefore nothing adverse can happen to us." But the Prophet said, (the same are the words which we have just repeated,)
"For you Sion shall be plowed as a field,1 and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of this house as the heights of a forest."
But let us now consider each clause. It is first said, that the
We ought to notice the time, for it might seem strange, that when that holy king was anxiously engaged in promoting the true worship of God, things were in so disordered a state as to call for so severe a denunciation. If there ever was a king really and seriously devoted to the cause of religion, doubtless he was the first and chief exemplar; he spared no labor, he never seemed to shun any danger or trouble, whenever religion required this; but we find that however strenuously he labored, he could not by his zeal and perseverance succeed in making the whole people to follow him as their leader. What then must happen, when those who ought to shew the right way to others are indifferent and slothful? In the meantime the good princes were confirmed by the example of Hezekiah, so that they did not faint or fail in their minds when they saw that success did not immediately follow his labors, nor any fruit. For it is a grievous trial, and what shakes even the most courageous, when they think that their efforts are vain, that their labors are useless, yea, that they spend their time to no purpose, and thus it happens that many retrograde. But this example of Hezekiah ought to be remembered by them, so that they may still go on, though no hope of a prosperous issue appears; for Hezekiah did not desist, though Satan in various ways put many hinderances in the way, and even apparently upset all his labors, so that they produced no fruit. So much as to the time that is mentioned.
The elders said, that Micah had spoken to the whole people, saying,
Having now related what Micah had denounced, they added,
But they added, that they supplicated, etc. Though Jeremiah uses the singular number, he yet includes both the people and the king; he seems however to have used the singular number designedly, in order to commend the king, whose piety was extraordinary and almost incomparable. There is no doubt but that he pointed out the right way to others, that they might repent, and also that he humbly deprecated that vengeance, which justly filled their minds with terror. He, indeed, ascribed this especially to the pious king; but the same concern is also to be extended to the chief men and the whole body of the people, as we shall presently see;
This second clause deserves special notice; for a sinner will never return to God except he has the hope of pardon and salvation, as we shall ever dread the presence of God, except the hope of reconciliation be offered to us. Hence the Scripture, whenever it speaks of repentance, at the same time adds faith. They are indeed things wholly distinct, and yet not contrary, and ought never to be separated, as some inconsiderately do. For repentance is a change of the whole life, and as it were a renovation; and faith teaches the guilty to flee to the mercy of God. But still we must observe that there is a difference between repentance and faith; and yet they so unite together, that he who tears the one from the other, entirely loses both. This is the order which the Prophet now follows in saying that Hezekiah
Hence it follows, that Jehovah
"There is in him no shadow of turning." (James 1:17.)
But a question may again be raised, How did God then repent of the evil which he had threatened both to the king and to the people? even because he deferred his vengeance; for God did not abrogate his decree or his proclamation, but spared Hezekiah and the people then living. Then the deferring of God's vengeance is called his repentance; for Hezekiah did not experience what he had feared, inasmuch as he saw not the ruin of the city nor the sad and dreadful event which Micah had predicted.
Now this also is to be noticed, -- that the pious king is here commended by the Holy Spirit, that he suffered himself to be severely reproved, though, as I have already said, he was not himself guilty. He had, indeed, a burning zeal, and was prepared to undergo any troubles in promoting the true worship of God; and yet he calmly and quietly bore with the Prophet, when he spoke of the destruction of the city and Temple, for he saw that he had need of such a helper. For however wisely may pious princes exert themselves in promoting the glory of God, yet Satan resists them. Hence they ever desire, as a matter of no small importance, to have true and faithful teachers to help, to assist and to strengthen them, and also to oppose their adversaries; for if teachers are silent or dissemble, a greater ill-will is entertained towards good princes and magistrates; for when with the drawn sword they defend the glory of God and his worship, while the teachers themselves are dumb dogs, all will cry out, "Oh! what does this severity mean? Our teachers spare our ears, but these do not spare even our blood." It is, therefore, ever a desirable thing for good and pious kings to have bold and earnest teachers, who cry aloud and confirm the efforts of their princes. Such was the feeling of pious Hezekiah, as we may conclude from this passage. The rest I must defer.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to gather us as a people to thyself, and to promise that we should be like a spiritual temple for thee to dwell in, -- O grant that we may consecrate among us a perpetual habitation for time, and so strive through the whole course of our life to devote ourselves to thee, that thy grace and blessing may never depart from us, but that we may experience more and more that those are never destitute of thy protection who truly and undissemblingly rely on thee, so that thy name may be more and more glorified in us through thine only-begotten Son. -- Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Second
We saw yesterday the example which the elders had alleged to deliver Jeremiah from death, -- that he was not the first who had threatened the city and the Temple with ruin, for Micah under the reign of Hezekiah had done the same and was not put to death. They hence concluded that it would be a heinous crime were they to slay Jeremiah, and that it would not remain unpunished. They then intimated that the people would commit a most grievous offense, if they killed Jeremiah; and they also added, that vengeance would follow, for the Lord would render them their due reward, if they thus cruelly treated the holy Prophet. It now follows, --
1 Some render the phrase thus, "Sion, being a field, shall be plowed;" having become a field, it would be plowed. There is in this case no need of
2 The words literally are, "Then rose up men from the elders of the land." -- Ed.
3 The Keri reads
4 Both the Sept. and the Syr. and also the Targ. give the meaning, but not the proper word, "And the Lord abstained from the evils," etc. -- Ed.
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