Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-fifth
13. For I have sworn by myself, saith the Lord, that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes.
13. Quia per me ipsum juravi, dicit Jehova, quod in vastitatem, in opprobrium, in desertum, et in maledictionem erit Bosra; et omnes urbes ejus erunt in vastitates seeuli (id est, perpetuas.)
Here the Prophet confirms what he had already prophesied respecting the Idumeans; but to remove every doubt, he says, that God had sworn; and he introduces God as the speaker, in order that his word might be emphatical. He then declares that God had made an oath respecting the destruction of Bozrah. What is particular is put for what is general; for he includes the whole nation under the name of this city. Nor does he simply declare that the Idumeans would be laid waste and destroyed, but he accumulates words:
What the Prophet said was no doubt a thing difficult to be believed; for God did not without reason bring forth his own name. For as he would have us to use it seriously and reverently, so he does not interpose so precious a pledge except under the greatest necessity. It is then certain, that there was a weighty reason why God testified by an oath what we read here of the destruction of the people of Edom. Now I have said that what Jeremiah announced was hardly credible; and it was so, because there was no cause for war; and besides, the country was fortified by its own inclosures; for the Idumeans thought, as it seems, that they were impregnable. This, then, was the reason why God interposed an oath. At the same time his purpose was, as I have before reminded you, to consult the benefit of the faithful; for God makes an oath that he might apply a remedy to the weakness of our faith; for as we almost always vacillate, a simple testimony, without being sanctioned by an oath, would not be sufficient for us. This is then the reason for making an oath.
God is said to swear by himself, because there is none greater; as the apostle says, by whom he can swear. (Hebrews 6:13.) Men in doubtful and hidden things flee to God, who knows the heart, who is himself the truth, and from whom nothing is hid. And an oath, as we learn from many places of Scripture, is a part of divine worship. As then this honor peculiarly belongs to him, that is, that we should swear by his name, when he himself swears, he cannot derive authority from another, which may confirm his words: he therefore swears by himself. And we have heard what he declares by Isaiah,
"I will not give my glory to another." (Isaiah 42:8)
God then prescribes to us the form of swearing, when he swears by himself. God is said to swear sometimes by his soul, or by his life, and he is said sometimes to lift up his hand. These expressions are not strictly proper, but transferred to God from men. But the mode of speaking used by Jeremiah ought especially to be observed, for we see how an oath is to be rightly made, even when it is made by an appeal to God's name, for he is alone the fit witness and judge in things doubtful and hidden.
There is therefore under the Papacy a base and an intolerable idolatry, for the Papists swear by dead saints. This is nothing else but to rob God of his right; for since he alone, as it has been stated, is the truth, so he alone is the fit judge when things are hidden and cannot be ascertained by human testimony. And we ought to notice the words used in swearing, that is, when men submit to God's judgment, and implore him as a judge. Whosoever then swears by the saints, it is the same thing as to make them to occupy the place of God, so as to make them the judges of the world, and to ascribe to them all power.
"God is a witness to my soul,"
says Paul, (2 Corinthians 1:23;) and then we have such words as these,
"May God do this to me and add that." (Ruth 1:17;
1 Samuel 14:44; 2 Samuel 3:35, etc.)
By such expressions, as I have said, is set forth the authority and character of an oath. In short, we must bear in mind, that when necessity constrains us to swear, God is ever the sole judge, and that therefore his name is profaned when we swear by another.
Now what it is to be
"Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom, who said in the day of Jerusalem, Let it be erased, let it be wholly erased to its foundation." (Psalm 137:7)
We hence learn that the Idumeans raged most cruelly against their own blood: and this was the reason why God declared that their cities would become perpetual desolations; for the word
1 It is better to render it as in the Syr., "astonishment;" then "reproach" comes after it; and the next word,
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