Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-Third
24. Moreover, Jeremiah said unto all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of the Lord, all Judah that are in the land of Egypt;
24. Et dixit Jeremias ad totum populum et ad mulieres, Audite ser-monem Jehovae, omnis Jehudah, qui estis in terra Aegypti,
25. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.
25. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Dells Israel, dicendo, Vos et uxores vestrae locuti estis ore vestro, et im-plevistis manibus vestris, dicendo, Faciendo faciemus vota vestra, quae vovinus ad suffitum adolendum arti-ficio coeli et ad fundendum ei liba-mina, stabihendo stabilietis vota vestra, et faciendo facietis vota vestra:
26. Therefore hear ye the word of the Lord, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the Lord, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord God liveth.
26. Propterea audite sermonem Jehovae, totus Jehudah, qui habita-tis in terra Aegypti, Ecce juravi per nomen meum magnum, dicit Jehova, si erit posthac nomen meum invoea-tum in ore (per os) viri Judaei dicen-tis, Vivit Adohai Jehova in tota terra Aegypti.
Jeremiah pursues the same subject, and not only bitterly reproves the ungodly men who so pertinaciously despised his doctrine, but also shews that they could gain nothing by their audacity, because they would at length be violently broken down, as they could not bear to be corrected, he says at the beginning, Ye and your wives have spoken; the men are also included, Ye have spoken both men and women, and with your hands have fulfilled it; that is, your obstinacy is complete, for, as you have spoken insolently against God, so there has been a performance; for by hands he designates the work done. he then shews that they had advanced to the highest pitch of impiety, for they hesitated not to vomit forth these impious words, We will not obey God, and they joined their hands to their mouth, for they strenuously executed what they had said. The thought itself was sufficient to condemn them; but when they thus spoke with their tongues, and then employed their hands against God, it was a proof of desperate audacity, as though they willfully designed to provoke him.
But he shews what issue awaited these impious men, who so presumptuously rebelled against God. When he bids them to hear what God on the other hand had sworn, he compares God with themselves, as though he had said, "You may a hundred times increase in your madness, yet God will be the conqueror; for he is an adversary who will surely subvert all schemes and efforts." But before he comes to this, he mentions what they said, Doing we shall do our vows which we have vowed, to burn incense, etc. Here Jeremiah relates what we have before seen, that the Jews, under the pretext of doing what had been before done, continued thus rebellious against God. We perceive this by the word vows; and the superstitious, when they are pressed, are wont always to flee to this pretext, that to persevere in one's resolution is a great virtue. While, then, they avoid the charge of fickleness, they harden themselves against God.
The same thing we see at this day under the Papacy: The older any one is, the more obstinate he is. "What! have I not learned during forty or fifty years what religion is, and how to worship God? I have been thus taught from a child, and have by a long habit followed this way: it would be now a disgraceful thing for me to change my course and to relinquish the faith which I have professed for so many years."
There is, then, no doubt but the Jews made a pretense of this kind against Jeremiah, when they said that they had vowed. For hypocrites make no distinction when they vow anything, but indiscriminately obtrude on God whatever comes to their minds; they afterwards stand fixed in their foolish fancies, and say that a. vow is inviolable, a sacred thing. Such was the excuse of the people. But we see from the Prophet's answer how vainly they did bring forward in opposition to God their vows, which had been made without judgment and without reason.
And this passage ought to be carefully noticed; so that we may especially know, that it is a folly in no way pleasing to God, when men indiscriminately vow whatever they may dream according to their own fancies. God then would have sobriety and regard to his will to be observed as to vows. But when any one has made an inconsiderate vow, pertinaciously to persist in it is no less displeasing to God than the vow itself. The Jews had vowed; the warning of the Prophet ought to have constrained them to change their resolution. But while they avoided every kind of fickleness, we see that instead of constancy they set up their own perverseness and diabolical obstinacy in opposition to God. When, therefore, we rashly make vows, disapproved by God, nothing is better than immediately to retract them; for we have already sinned more than enough in having abused the holy name of God. For this reason the Prophet says, that the Jews spoke thus, Doing we shall do the vows we have vowed; and what were these? To offer incense to the stars and to hosts of Heaven. Had they vowed anything to God, they ought not to have broken their pledged faith; but they had made vows to the devil; then they ought to have immediately changed their purpose. When I say that vows made to God ought to be performed, I mean lawful vows; for he who makes a vow without judgment, does not vow to God; but those vows which God sanctions ought to be deemed sacred; and whatever vows God repudiates, ought to be counted as nothing. We hence see that the Jews were justly condemned, for they pertinaciously paid their vows to their own idols.
He adds by way of irony, Confirming ye will confirm your vows, doing ye will do your vows. Here the Prophet sharply checks their insolence, because they thus set up themselves against God, as though it were a great virtue to persevere in their wicked purpose; ye cannot change, he says, but confirming ye will confirm your vows!
Hear ye now, he says, the word of Jehovah, etc. By these words, as I have already hinted, he intimates, that they could gain nothing by their insolence, except that they would thereby provoke God, who on the other hand did set up his own power against them. Thus, then, saith Jehovah, Behold, I have sworn by my great name, etc. As they had so often disregarded God speaking to them, he confirmed by an oath what he was going to say. Had he only threatened, they might have as usual disregarded him, as though the Prophet spoke what was vain. This is the reason why he now introduces God as making an oath. And it ought to be observed, that whenever God confirms his words by an oath, this he does, either because he sees that he has to do with men who are like stones, who cannot be made to feel by simple truth; or when he is pleased to give aid to our infirmity and sloth: for God confirms threatenings as well as promises by an oath. When he thus confirms threatenings, then he indirectly condemns the obstinate wickedness of those whom he addresses. But when he promises anything by an oath, he shews how great our propensity is to indulge doubts, and what weakness there is in our faith; for were such faith in us as ought to be, we should be contented with one little word. As, then, God interposes his own name as a pledge, it hence appears, that we are naturally unbelieving, or that the weakness of our faith is such that it wants this support. But here, as God threatens, he shews that the Jews were so obstinate in their wickedness, that it was necessary to shake them by terror.
Now, God makes an oath by his own great name. Men, as the Apostle says, swear by God, (Hebrews 6:16;) because he is called as a witness and a judge when his name is interposed. But it is no superfluous addition, when God not only swears by himself, but by his own great name. For he thus intimated, that the Jews were greatly deceived, if they thought that God would not execute vengeance on them, because they indulged themselves. For it is a common thing with hypocrites to measure God by their own judgment; and when they extenuate his power, they think of him as of a child. In order, then, to divest the Jews of this false imagination, he says, by his own great name. There is, then, implied here a contrast between the greatness of God's name, which cannot be diminished at the will of man, and the presumption of the ancient people, who rendered God's name contemptible.
He afterwards adds, If my name, etc. It is an imperfect sentence, which, as we have often said, was frequently used in order that a greater reverence may be observed by us, when we swear by God's name. We must now come to what is said, There shall not be a Jew, who is to swear any more in my name. God himself makes an oath, and what is the oath which he makes? that no one was to profane his name; for they thought that it was some evidence of religion when they swore by Jehovah. It was yet nothing but an awful profanation of God's name. They contaminated themselves, as it appears, with Egyptian superstitions; but that they might differ from the Egyptians themselves and possess something special, that they, in short, might seem to be a holy nation, they still retained a form of swearing, distinct from what was common among the Gentiles. God declares that he would not suffer his name to be any more irreverently used in Egypt. Not invoked, he says, shall be my name any more by the mouth of a Jew. And that he speaks of oaths we gather from the next verse, when he says, Live doth Jehovah in all the land of Egypt. For, as it has been said, the Jews as yet boasted that they kept the Law, because God's name was still in their mouth and on their tongue. But God says that it was to be taken away from them, because it was a disgraceful pollution of his name, when they mingled themselves with the Egyptians in all kinds of superstitions, and yet boasted that they were God's people. It follows, --