Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-sixth
19. Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habitation of the strong: but I will suddenly make him run away from her; and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?
19. Ecce tanquam leo ascendet ab elevatione Jordanis ad tabernaculum fortitudinis; postquam quiescere fecero, faciam currere ab ea; et quis electus super eam praeficiam? nam quis sicut ego? et quis contestabitur mecum? et quis hic pastor qui stet coram facie mea (vel, contra faciem meam.)
The Prophet here confirms what he had said, that such would be the violence of the Chaldean army, that the Idumeans would not be able to resist it. He then says, that the Chaldeans would come like lions, who ascend in great fury when compelled to change the place of their habitation; for so I explain what is said of the elevation of Jordan. The explanations are various; but the one I approve is, that Jeremiah compares the Chaldeans to lions, who every year, or at least when there was a great inundation, sought hiding-places on mountains or on elevated grounds, because they could not lie down on the plains. The elevation of Jordan is then to be taken for its swelling, that is, when it overflowed. We learn from many passages that the lions lodged around Jordan. As then they dwelt in the low plains, when the river swelled, they changed the place of their habitation. But this could not be without their rage being excited; for we know how savage these wild beasts are. Jeremiah had also a regard to the situation of Idumea, which was more elevated than Jordan and the country around it. He says the same also, in the next chapter, of the Babylonians. But it may be that he alluded in this place to what was common among the Idumeans, and this is probable.
The meaning then is, as I think, that as lions ascended to higher grounds when Jordan swelled and overflowed, so the Chaldeans would come to the Idumeans, and invade the country like furious wild beasts. This is one thing. Then he adds, to the habitation of strength. Jerome's rendering is, "to valiant beauty;" the word is so explained almost everywhere, but it is to be taken here for a strong dwelling. He alludes to the situation of that land, for it seemed impregnable, because it was surrounded, as it has appeared elsewhere, by mountains. The situation of Babylon was different, it being surrounded by the various streams of the Euphrates.
What follows is obscure, when I shall have made him to rest, I will make him to run from her. Some explain the particle yk, ki, differently. It is indeed a causative, but is often taken, as it is well known, as an adverb of time. But the meaning of the Prophet is ambiguous, and some have imagined that the chosen people are spoken of, as though the Prophet meant, that when the Lord gave rest to his people, he would then cause them to flee from the land of Edom. But this exposition is wholly inadmissible; and I wonder how they came to make such a mistake; for the Prophet, I have no doubt, means here that the Idumeans had a long time been at ease, but that a sudden calamity would come which would scatter them here and there, and force them to seek safety by flight; and this is the best meaning that we can elicit: When, therefore, I shall have made her to rest, or, from the time I shall have made her to rest, I will make him to flee from her; as though he had said, "I have hitherto suffered this nation to rest in its abundance, and thus to remain quiet; but I will suddenly disperse the inhabitants here and there, and they shall see their own land occupied by their enemies." In short, there is here a comparison between two conditions; for the Idumeans had long remained in their own dregs, for there was no one who caused them any trouble. God had then granted them a continual quietness; but now he declares that he would make all of them to flee, and that suddenly. And it was necessary that this should be distinctly expressed, that the Idumeans might not in future trust in their tranquil state, as hypocrites do, who usually abuse God's indulgence, and think, when he bears long with them, that they have escaped every danger. Lest then such confidence should deceive the Idumeans, the Prophet says that they would have to flee after having been long in a state of tranquillity.
The words may at the same time be explained otherwise; for egr, rego, means to rend, to cut, to break; and it may be so taken here, "When I shall have made a rent;" for the Idumeans, as it has been stated, were fortified by defences on every side. God now intimates that he would make an irruption, which he compares to rending; and this explanation is not unsuitable.
It afterwards follows, And who is the chosen one, that I may set him over her? God now summons all the strong ones, that he might set them over Idumea, not as pastors or such as might care for the welfare of the land and provide for its safety, but such as would oppress it with tyrannical cruelty: Who then is the chosen one? At the same time God shews that all men of war are in his hand and at his disposal; as though he had said, "If the Idumeans think that they surpass all others in courage and strength, they are greatly mistaken; for I will find those who possess more courage, for I have ready at hand chosen men to set over them whenever I please, who will easily subdue the Idumeans, however superior they may think themselves to be in martial valor." Then God does not here ask a question as of a doubtful matter, Who is the chosen one, that I may set him over her? but he shews that it would be no difficult thing for him to destroy the Idumeaus, because he would send for the chosen one from any part of the world he pleased, and set him over Idumea, not as a pastor, as I have said, but as a cruel tyrant.
He then adds, For who is as I am? He confirms the last clause; for God extols his own power, which is wont to be despised by the unbelieving. The sentence indeed seems to be a common truth, Who is as I am? for all allow this from the least to the greatest. The Prophet appears then to have announced something trite and ordinary by saying, that none is like God; for even the worst of men acknowledge this, and the least child confesses it, and it is the dictate of nature. But were any one duly to consider how great is the pride of men, he would find that this truth is not so common; for there is hardly one in a hundred who concedes to God what justly belongs to him. For when he comes forth either to promise salvation or to announce punishment, how little is any one moved? nay, they who hold this principle, that God can do all things, are yet carried away, when the least hinderance occurs, to vain imaginations, and at length become wholly lost. When any one is persuaded that God ought to be feared, if any occasion for a false confidence be presented, what he had at first entertained in his mind will be choked, and then wholly extinguished. In short, if we carefully consider how contemptibly men think of God, we shall understand that this truth is not in vain often repeated in Scripture, that God has none like him. For when any one dares to exalt himself against God, he immediately strikes all with terror; and yet the power of God is regarded as nothing. We see that even the faithful themselves deem the least thing stronger than God; nay, they hesitate not to set up flies and insects, so to speak, in opposition to God, and even to make them equal to him. This is indeed very shameful, and yet it is what has usually prevailed perpetually in all ages.
We now, then, understand why God declares here as a great matter and as it were incredible, that there is none like him. And hence also we learn what the last clause means, when it is asked, Where is the chosen one whom I may set over her? for he follows up the subject by saying, There is no one like me. By these words he shews that the whole world is under his power.
He now adds, and who will protest against me? Some read, "Who will prescribe to me the time?" But they who thus render the words, obscure the meaning of the Prophet. The Prophet, I doubt not, means, that there is no one who will dare to dispute with God; or were any one to attempt this, it would be ridiculous, because God could with one breath dissipate all contentions which men might raise. When therefore he says, Who will protest against me? it is the same as though he said, "Who will make himself a party against me?" as it is commonly said. Who then will oppose himself to me? or, Who will dare to contend with me? or, Who will dare to dispute in judgment with me? I have therefore given this rendering, and who will protest against me? and this seems clearly to express the meaning of the Prophet.
He afterwards says, and who is this pastor that stands before my face? By the word pastor, he alludes to the comparison of a lion; for he thus compares the Idumeans to sheep. Though they were very ferocious, yet here their weakness is referred to. As, then, a sheep cannot defend itself against a lion, so the Prophet shews that the Idumeans would not possess sufficient courage to resist the attacks of the Chaldeans. In short, the Prophet means, that though the Idumeans had many protectors, yet there would be no one able to stand against God when he came forth armed to destroy that nation. The sum of what is said is, that there would be no one, by right or by strength, equal to God, to defend the Idumeans; for he said first, Who will protest against me? and then, What shepherd will stand against me? We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet, that as the Idumeans had to carry on war with God, it could not possibly be but that they must perish, for though they might get aids on every side, yet they could not, either by right or by strength, withstand God.1 It follows --
Behold, as a lion from the swelling of Jordan, Will he ascend to the strong habitation; For suddenly will I cause him to run from it: And he who is chosen will I appoint over her; For who is like me? and who can meet me? And who is he, the shepherd, who can stand before me?
The word heygra, as in Proverbs 12:19, is "suddenly," or in a moment. "Him" is the lion, and "from it," the swelling of Jordan. "Over her" is Edom. "Who can meet me?" that is, to contend with me, or resist me, according to the Sept. The verb is dey, though Calvin derived it from dwe. The "shepherd" is mentioned, because of the "lion," whom no shepherd can resist when he attacks the flock. God speaks of himself as identified with his chosen one. -- Ed.