LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SECOND
22. How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.
22. Quousque vagaberis (aut, cir cuibis) filia rebellis (immorigera)? quia creavit Jehova rem novam in terra, Foemina circundabit virum.
As the Prophet had promised a return to the people, he now reproves especially the Israelites, who looked here and there, and never could acquiesce in the word of God alone: for it is a common thing with almost all the unbelieving, that they torment themselves, and, as it were, designedly contrive for themselves many inquietudes. Since then the Israelites were looking forward to what might happen, and could not entertain any hope as to their return, except when some appearance of hope was presented to them, the Prophet now on this account reproves them.
He first calls the people disobedient or rebellions, for they had often been terrified by threatenings, and God had also offered them the hope of pardon. As they had been perverse whenever God spared them, and as they had also rejected all his promises, the Prophet does not without reason call them disobedient or rebellious. And by circuits or wanderings, he means those vain speculations with which the unbelieving are wont to weary themselves; for the word means properly to go around. We may indeed take it in the sense of wandering, and it is the same thing: but as I have said, the Prophet most fitly gives the name of circuits to those crooked and tortuous speculations in which the unbelieving indulged. And there seems to be understood a contrast between the straight way set before theIn by God, and those circuitous courses in which miserable men entangle themselves, when they do not follow God, but are led astray by their own vain devices. Isaiah also makes use of the same similitude, for he says, that the people were carried away by their own inventions, so that they fruitlessly wearied themselves, because they did not proceed in the straight way. (Isaiah 57:10)1
We may hence deduce a useful doctrine, -- that we are always within the boundary of safety, when we obey God and walk in the way set before us in his word; but that as soon as we turn aside from the right way, we are only drawn here and there through windings and strayings, so that our labor is at last useless and even ruinous.
We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet: as the unbelief of the people was, as it were, a sealed door, so that they did not receive God's promises as to their liberation and return, his purpose here was to correct this evil, and to reprove the Israelites for wandering and being disobedient.
He afterwards adds,
It ought also to be observed, that what Jeremiah said of the redemption of the people is to be extended to the eternal salvation of the Church; for God in a wonderful manner raises the dead, defends and preserves his Church, and succors her in her troubles. Whenever then the Scripture speaks of the state of the Church, we ought to ascend above the world, and above our own conceptions, and to realize the miracle which is hid from us.
Now follows the miracle,
1 The verb, rendered "going about," only occurs here in Hithpael, and once in Kal, Cant. v. 6; where it means to "withdraw," or recede, or turn aside. And this sense of withdrawing is what is given to it here both by the Sept., the Targ., and the Syr.; but it is the withdrawing from accepting the return offered. We may give this version, --
How long wilt thou decline, (i.e., to return,) O daughter of the restoration? She had been before exhorted to return in the previous verse: she is now blamed for her unwillingness, which seems to have arisen from fear, and a sense of weakness. Then comes in most appropriately what follows, if interpreted according to the explanation of Calvin. The verb
2 Whatever may be the meaning of this clause, it cannot certainly be applied to the miraculous conception of our Saviour, and for this plain reason, as Blayney observes, that the only thing the passage announces, if viewed in this light, is this, -- that a woman shall conceive a male child, which is nothing new, but a common event; for the word here for "woman," is not what signifies a virgin, but what designates only the sex; it means properly a female as distinguished from a male. Henry, as well as Blayney and Adam Clarke, agree materially with Calvin, as to the meaning of this sentence. -- Ed.
3 The principal objection to this interpretation has been, that it was not by overcoming their enemies by force of arms that the Jews returned. The answer to this is, that this is a sort of proverbial expression, intimating that the weakest would prevail over the strongest. Besides, though the Jews returned by virtue of the edict of the king of Persia, yet they had many and strong enemies to oppose them. -- Ed.
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