21. And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord.
21. Et erit fortis ejus (vel, magnificus) ab ipso, et dominator ejus e medio ejus exibit, et appropinquare eum faciam, et aceedet ad me; nam (vel, certe) quisnam hic qui applicet, (vel, qui adaptet) cor suum ut accedat ad me? (alii vertunt, qui alliciat cor suum; dicemus postea de sensu) dicit Jehova.
The Prophet, no doubt, explains here more at large what he had said of the restoration of the Church; for we know that the Jews had been so taught, that they were to place their whole confidence as to their salvation on David, that is, on the king whom God had set over them. Then the happiness and safety of the Church was always founded on the king; he being taken away, it was all over with the Church, as the Anointed is said to be the Lord, in whose spirit is our spirit. (Lamentations 4:20) Hence God has even from the beginning directed the attention of his people to their king, that they might depend on him, not that David was able by his own power to save the people, but because he typically personated Christ. We have not now an earthly king who is Christ's image; but it is Christ alone who vivifies the Church. But it was at that time set forth figuratively, that the king was, as it were, the soul of the community; and we have before seen, that when the Prophet animated the Jews with hope, he set before them David, and afterwards the Son of David.
For the same reason, he says here,
But Isaiah had foretold what his successor here confirms, saying,
"Come forth shall a shoot from the root (or stem) of Jesse, and a rod shall spring up from the root of his tree." (Isaiah 11:1)
He calls it there the house of Jesse, which was a private house: he would have dignified the favor with a more glorious name, had he mentioned David; but as there was then no kingdom, he refers to Jesse; for as David came forth as an unknown rustic from the folds of the sheep, so also the Lord would raise up a shoot from the stem of a tree that had been cut down. We hence see in what sense Jeremiah uses the expression, "Come forth;" for Christ rose up beyond the expectation of men, and rose up as a shoot when a tree is cut down, that is, when there was no resemblance of majesty among the people.
He afterwards adds,
Now, we are taught from this passage, that whenever God speaks of the restoration of the Church, he ever declares that he will be entreated by us; in short, that whenever he invites us to the hope of favor and salvation, we ought always to look to Christ; for except we direct all our thoughts to him, all the promises will vanish away, for they cannot be valid except through him; because in Christ only, as Paul says, they are yea and amen. (2 Corinthians 1:19, 20) But as this truth often occurs in the Prophets, it is enough here to touch on it by the way, as I have handled it more fully elsewhere.
As to the latter part of the verse, there is some ambiguity, --
He said before, "I will cause him to draw nigh; that he may come to me." I have already explained this of the people, who had been long rejected. God then promises here a gathering, as though he had said, "For a time I scattered the people here and there like chaff; I will now gather them again together, and they shall be under my care and protection as formerly." Having said this, he now touches on the ingratitude of the people by this question, "Who is there who comes to me? who will frame his heart that he may be reconciled to me?" It is, then, an expression of wonder, intended to make the Jews know that their hardness and insensibility are condemned; for when God kindly invited them, they rejected his favor, when he sought to embrace them, they fled far off from him.
But an objection may be here made, "Why then did God promise that he would cause the Jews to come to him?" To this I answer, that God performs or fulfils this promise in various ways: he might have called the Jews to himself by an outward invitation, as he did when the liberty of returning was given them: and then, indeed, a few of the Jews accepted his favor; but all the Israelites, already habituated to the pleasures and enjoyments of those countries, regarded as nothing what God had promised. Thus very few returned to their own country, and restoration was despised by them, though they had once been very anxious about it. God, however, even then made the people to draw nigh; for he stretched forth his hand as though he would gather them and cherish them under his wings. But as the greatest part despised his invaluable favor, God here justly complains of so great an impiety, and exclaims as through wonder or astonishment,
Had it been simply said, "Who is he who comes to me?" the meaning, through brevity, would have been obscure. But God here clearly distinguishes between the two kinds of access: the first was, when liberty was given to the people, by the decree of Cyrus, and a permission given to build the city and the temple. God, therefore, caused them then to draw nigh that they might come to him; this was the first access. But he now adds, that the Jews did not form or prepare their heart. He indeed speaks of future time, but yet he charges them with ingratitude, which afterwards was fully manifested. Hence he says, "Who is this, that he may come to me?" that is, "I will contrive means that they may unite again in one body, call on me and enjoy their inheritance: this will I do that they may come to me; but many will still live in their own dregs, and prefer Chaldea and other countries to the temple and religion. Many, then, will be they who will not form their heart to come to me."
We now understand the meaning of the Prophet. But we must at the same time bear in mind, that by saying above, "I will cause him to draw near that he may come to me," God does not speak of the hidden working of his Spirit; for it is in his power, as we shall presently remark, to draw the hearts of men to himself whenever he pleases. But when he said,
Now, the Papists lay hold on this passage to prove that there is a free-will in man to come to God; but to do so is indeed very absurd. For whenever God condemns the hardness of the people, he doubtless does not argue the question, what power there is in men, whether they can turn to do what is good, whether they can guide their own hearts. To hold this would be extremely foolish. When it is said in Psalm 45:8,
"To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as your fathers in the wilderness,"
shall we say that as they hardened their hearts they were capable of turning, so that they could by the power of free-will choose either good or evil? To say this would be puerile and extremely sottish. We hence see that the Papists are unworthy of being reasoned with, when they seek to prove free-will by such arguments. They would, indeed, adduce something plausible were their exposition adopted; for they render the words thus, "Who is this," etc., as though God praised the promptitude of the faithful, who willingly offer themselves and prepare their hearts. But opposed to this view is the whole context. It hence appears that it was very far from the Prophet's design to represent God as commending the obedience of the godly; but, on the contrary, he exclaims with wonder, as Isaiah does when he says,
"Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" (Isaiah 53:1)
He surely does not set forth the obedience of the faithful in receiving promptly and gladly the Gospel; but, on the contrary, (as though something monstrous terrified him) that the world would not believe the Gospel, when yet it offered to them salvation and eternal life. So also in this place,
We may add, that David uses the same verb in Psalm 119:73, 125, when he says,
"Cause thy servant to approach thee, that he may learn thy commandments."2
Some render the words, "Be a surety for thy servant," etc.; for the verb:
1 The Vulg. favors the meaning advocated by Calvin, "For who is this (iste) that will apply his heart to draw nigh to me, saith the Lord?" The Sept. is nearly the same, "For who is this (
Many explanations have been given which are wholly inadmissible, having nothing in the context to support them, such as the application of these words to our Savior. They are evidently connected with the previous clause, being joined with it by "for:" they in a manner explain and qualify that clause, and may be deemed parenthetic, for the former clause and that which follows these words, are connected together, --
And I will bring him nigh that he may come near to me, (For who is he who pledges his heart To come near to me, saith Jehovah!)
22. And ye shall be to me a people, And I will be to you a God.
By "him" we are to understand "Jacob," the subject of the whole passage, and not the "governor," who was to come from "the midst of him," i.e., Jacob, a name by which the whole nation is here called. The promise is to bring Jacob, or the people, nigh; and then to shew that this is alone God's work, the words in the parenthesis are introduced, and by a question, which implies the negative in the strongest manner, as though he had said, "This work, to bring you nigh, is mine alone, for no one among you pledges or engages his heart to come near to me."
Both the Sept. and the Targ. render "him" in the first line in the plural number, "them," i.e., the people. And the Syr., though the form of the expression is changed, yet gives the meaning of the words within the parenthesis, for the work of turning the heart is ascribed to the Lord. -- Ed.
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