4. In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord their God.
4. Diebus illis et tempore illo (sed
The Prophet now explains more clearly the purpose of God, that in punishing so severely the Chaldeans, his object was to provide for the safety of his Church. For had Jeremiah spoken only of vengeance, the Jews might have still raised an objection and said, "It will not profit us at all, that God should be a severe judge towards our enemies, if we are to remain under their tyranny." Then the Prophet shews that the destruction of Babylon would be connected with the deliverance of the chosen people; and thus he points out, as it were by the finger, the reason why Babylon was to be destroyed, even for the sake of the chosen people, so that the miserable exiles may take courage, and not doubt but that God would at length be propitious, as Jeremiah had testified to them, having, as we have seen, prefixed the term of seventy years. He was derided by the Jews, who had so habituated themselves to hardness of heart, that they counted as nothing, or at least regarded as fables, all the reproofs and threatenings of God, and also gave heed, as we have seen, to the flatteries of the false prophets.
Jeremiah now promises that God would be their liberator after the time of exile had passed, of which he had spoken. Thus we perceive the design of this passage, in which the Prophet, after having referred to the destruction of Babylon, makes a sudden transition, and refers to God's mercy, which he would show to the Jews after they had suffered a just punishment:
But what does our Prophet now say? They shall return together,
"How good and how pleasant it is for brethren
to dwell together in unity." (Psalm 133:1)
For the kingdom and the priesthood, the pledges, as it were, of the people's safety, could not stand together, without the union of the Israelites with the Jews. But they had been long alienated from one another, so that the chief favor of God had been extinguished by this separation. The Prophet says now, that they would come together.
And he adds,
"Going they shall go, and weep as those who sow; but coming they shall come with joy, carrying their handfuls." (Psalm 126:6)
The Prophet says here, that they shall come with tears. How can these two things be consistent? even because weeping may be taken for that which flows from joy or from admiration; for we know that tears gush out not only through sorrow, but also through rejoicing; and further, when anything unexpected happens, tears will flow from our eyes. We can then take the Prophet's words in this sense, that they would come weeping, because they would then find God merciful to them. But it is better to regard sorrow as simply meant; and the two things may be thus reconciled, -- that the Jews would come with joy, and also with sorrow, not only because the memory of their exile could not be immediately obliterated from their minds, but because it behooved them to remember their sins: they saw the Temple overthrown, the land wasted -- sights sufficient to draw tears a hundred times from the hardest. On one side there were reasons for joy; and on the other, reasons for tears. We know that there were tears shed; for the Prophet Haggai expressly tells us, that the old men, who had seen the former Temple, were much cast down, because there was then no such glory as they had seen. (Haggai 2.)
However this may have been, the Prophet means, that though the return would not be without many troubles, yet the Jews would come; coming, he says, they shall come, that is, going they shall go, and weep, as it is said in the Psalms, that they would come through desert and dry places. (Psalm 84:6.) The meaning then is, that though the journey would be hard and laborious, yet the Jews would return with alacrity into their own country, so that no labors would so fatigue them as to make them to desist from their course.
He subjoins the main thing, that they would come to
"How shall we sing songs to our God in a foreign land?" (Psalm 137:4)
Then the Prophet here reminds them, that God's favor would be real and complete, because the Jews would not only return to their own country, so as to possess it, but that they would also set up the worship of God, and dwell as it were under his protection. It follows --
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