Jeremiah 22:13

13. Woe unto him that buildeth his by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work.

13. Ileus qui aedificat domum suam in non justitia, (hoc est, injuste,) et coenacula sua in non judicio (hoc est, sine rectitudine et aequitate;) proximum suum servire facit gratis, et opus ejus non reddit ei (vel, quod ille operatus fuerit non reddit ei; (vel, quod ille operatus fuerit non reddit ei; quidam enim volunt esse verbum, alii nomen, sed idem manebit sensus).


The Prophet begins here to shew that it could not be otherwise but that the king's palace as well as Jerusalem must be destroyed, for their wickedness had arrived to the highest pitch; but he now, as it will appear presently, reprehends the father of Jeconiah.

He then says that the city was full of robberies, and especially the palace of the king. Yet I do not think that the Prophet speaks only of the king, but also of the courtiers and chief men. We must also bear in mind what I said yesterday, that the common people were not absolved while the king was condemned. But as dignity and honor among the people belonged both to the king and the princes, the Prophet exposes them publicly, that, it might be made evident how deplorable the state of things was throughout the whole community. We must at the same time add, that the chief among them were first summoned to judgment, not only because every one had privately offended, but because they had by their bad examples corrupted the whole body of the people; and also, because they had taken more liberty, as they feared nothing. We indeed know that the rich exercise tyranny, because they deem themselves exempt from all laws. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet here denounces, in a special manner, a curse on the king and the chief men.

He says, that they built unjustly; his words are, with no justice and with no judgment, by which he designates cruelty, frauds, and robberies; he, in short, includes under these words all kinds of iniquity. The way in which these things were done is stated; they wronged their neighbors, by demanding and extorting labors without rewarding them. Here, indeed, the Prophet only refers to one kind of injustice; but it may hence be easily concluded, how unjustly and wickedly they ruled who were then in authority; for they employed their neighbors, as though they were slaves, in building houses and palaces, for they denied them their wages. But nothing can be more cruel than to deprive the poor of the fruit of their labor, who from their labor derive their daily support. It is, indeed, commanded in the Law, that the wages of the laborer should not sleep with us, (Leviticus 19:13) for that would be the same as to kill him.1 There is also another indignity; when a robber kills a man, his object is the spoil; but he who extorts labor from a poor man, and sucks, so to speak, his blood, afterwards sends him away naked and needy; this is more atrocious than by violence to kill him. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. But as he continues the same subject, I shall defer any further remarks till to-morrow.


Grant, Almighty God, that since thou continuest both by chastising us, and by kindly alluring us to thyself, to deal with us in such a way as to find out whether we are healable, -- O grant, that we may not he hardened either against thy threatenings or thy promises, but follow in a teachable spirit what thou shewest is pleasing to thee, and make progress in holy living, and become daily more watchful and diligent, until we shall at length reach the goal which is set before us, and receive the reward of our faith in thy celestial kingdom, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. -- Amen.

Lecture Eighty-Second

In the last Lecture we began to explain the reproof given by the Prophet to King Jehoiakim for his cruelty and oppression; for in building his splendid palaces, he constrained the people to labor for nothing. This was the crime which the Prophet pointed out when he said, He! he builds unjustly, and his chambers by iniquity; literally, "not in judgement."

As Jehoiakim might have objected and said, that this was lawful for him, for kings think that the whole world has been created for their sake, the Prophet called his attention to the common rights of men, for all the Israelites were his relations; as though he had said, "Though thou excellest in dignity, yet thou art one of the race of Abraham, and taken from the midst of thy brethren; there is, therefore, no reason for thee to take so much liberty as though they were to be thy vassals." We hence see the design of the Prophet, when he condemned the cruelty of King Jehoiakim, who in building magnificent palaces treated the people arbitrarily and unjustly, and extorted more labor than what was right. It now follows, --

1 This verse is not correctly rendered by Calvin nor by any of the early versions. The two last clauses are made by them all in a great measure tantological, while they are perfectly distinct in their meaning. I render the verse thus, --

Wo to him who builds his house by means of injustice, And his chambers by means of wrong judgment: Of his neighbor he makes a slave for no reason, And for his work he gives nothing to him.

The verb rbe when followed by b, means to enslave, or to make a slave. See Jeremiah 25:14. We hence see the force of the word, onx gratuitously, for no reason, because the Jews might under certain circumstances be reduced to a state of slavery; but Jehoiakim did this when there was no cause. This was the "wrong judgment" And then he gave them no support, nothing for their work; this was the "injustice." He reduced them to slavery, and did not maintain them. The real import of the passage is completely lost in the loose rendering of the Versions; but the Targ. rightly expresses the meaning of the third line, "To slavery he reduces for no cause his neighbor." -- Ed.


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