Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-Fifth
3. Order ye the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle.
3. Preparate scutum et clypeum et accedite ad praelium.
4. Harness the horses; and get up, ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines.
4. Ligate equos et ascendite equi-tes, et state (statute vos) in galeis vestris, abstergite lanceas, induite loricas.
5. Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back: for fear was round about, saith the Lord.
5. Quare vidi ipsos fractos, aver-sos retrorsum? et fortes eorum per-cutientur (percussi sunt) et fuga fugerunt, et non respexerunt; terror undique, dicit Jehova.
Jeremiah uses now a form of speaking very common in the Prophets though remote from common use. For the Prophets, when they denounce God's judgments and punishments on the ungodly, do not speak in a simple language, as though they were giving a narrative, but they employed figurative expressions, as though they wished to introduce men into the very scene itself. And that their doctrine might more effectually penetrate into the hearts of men, they bring forward various persons; they at one time introduce God as speaking, and at another they pronounce this or that according to the sentiments of others; and again, they declare the commands of God.
Jeremiah begins here by summoning the Egyptians, as though he were the herald of Pharaoh, and thus borrows the name of another person. He says,
But we must observe the design of the Holy Spirit; it was his purpose to remove the veil from the eyes of the faithful, which for the most part prevents us to see as clearly as we ought the power of God; for when we fix our attention on warlike preparations, we do not think that anything is left for God to do; for they who are well prepared seem to be beyond the hazard of losing the day. That the Jews then might know that it would be nothing for God to punish the Egyptians, he records this preparation. And there is a kind of concession when he says, They shall indeed be furnished with a helmet, a coat of mail, a shield, a sword, and a lance; but all this would avail nothing as to the issue. Then from this prophetic word let us learn, that God makes no account of all those things which men prepare when they wish to effect anything. For smoke is everything that dazzles our eyes; so forces and arms have no importance before God; for by a single blast he can dissipate all such clouds. And this truth is very useful; for we look on external things, and when anything specious presents itself to us, we are immediately taken up with it, and rob God of all power; for we transfer his glory to these masks which appear before us. We now then understand why the Prophet speaks here of bucklers, and shields, and lances, and chariots, and helmets, and coats of mail.
For it immediately follows,
But the question, How? is to be taken as emphatical; for it could have been hardly believed that an army so well equipped could have become a prey to the Babylonians, and that it was hastening to its own ruin. As then this seemed incredible to any one attending to the subject, the Prophet asks, How have I seen them? He however says that he saw them, even because God had set him, as we have said, as it were on a watch-tower. This, however, may be applied to the body as well as to the mind.
He at length adds in God's name,
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