7. All that found them have devoured them; and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice; even the Lord, the hope of their fathers.
7. Omnes qui invenerunt eos comederunt, et adversarii eorum dixerunt, Non peccamus, quia scelerati fuerunt contra Jehovam; habitaculum justitiae et expectatio (vel, spes) patrum ipsorum, Jehova.
Jeremiah goes on with the same subject; for he tells us how miserable was the condition of the people until God looked on them to relieve them from their evils. And this comparison, as I have before said, more fully sets forth the favor of God, because he raised up his people as it were from hell at a time when they were reduced to despair.
He says first,
"All who devoured them sinned not, and they who devoured them said, Blessed be the Lord who has enriched us." (Zechariah 11:5)
But we must more closely consider the design of the Holy Spirit. The Prophet indeed shows that the Jews were reduced to extremities, so that they were not only cruelly treated by their enemies, but were also exposed to the greatest contempt. He, however, reminded them at the same time of their duty to repent, for when the whole world condemned them, it was but right that God should call them to an account for their sins. As then he had set over them all men as their judges, he indirectly touched and goaded their consciences, so that they might know that they had to do with God. When therefore Zechariah said,
"All who devoured thee said, Blessed be the Lord,"
he meant, that the sins of the people were so manifest to all, that all the heathens declared that they deserved extreme punishment; for by the words, "Blessed be the Lord who hath enriched us," he intimated that heathens, in spoiling and plundering the Jews, would be so far from feeling any shame, that they would rather glory in being enriched with prey as it were by the hand of God. So also in this place,
What follows, interpreters explain as though the Prophet in the person of enemies intended to exaggerate the sin of the chosen people; they therefore connect the words thus, "They have been wicked against Jehovah, who is the habitation of justice, and has always been the hope of their fathers." If we take this meaning, it is no wonder that their sin is amplified, because the Jews had forsaken not some unknown God, whose favor and power they had not experienced, but because they had been perfidious against the God who had by many proofs testified his paternal love towards them. It was then an impiety the more detestable, because they had thus dared to forsake the only true God.
But I approve of a different meaning, -- that the Prophet answers by God's command, that their enemies deceived themselves, when they thus confidently trod under foot the chosen people, and thought that everything was lawful for them. The Prophet, I doubt not, now checks the wantonness of which he speaks, as though he had said, "Ye think that this people are wholly rejected by me, and hence there are no limits to your cruelty; but I have so adopted them, that my covenant can never be rendered void." We may better understand what Jeremiah means by a similar example: when Isaiah answered King Hezekiah that God would be the defender of the city, when they recited to him the words of Sennacherib or of Rabshakch, who brought his orders, (Isaiah 37:24) he said,
"But he thinks not that I have founded Sion."1
That answer seems to me to be wholly like this passage. Sennacherib said, "I will go up and take the city and the temple;" he, in short, triumphed as though he was a conqueror; but God, on the other hand, restrained his confidence in these words, "But that impious and proud enemy knows not that I have created Sion, and have been from the beginning its maker: can I then now bring upon it such a destruction as would wholly cut off the memory of it? Many cities have indeed perished, and there is no place so illustrious which may not sometime be destroyed; but the condition of the holy city (says God) is different." And he adds the reason, Because he had created it. So in this place,
"The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised and derided thee, and drawn out the tongue against thee; me, the God of hosts, he says, hath he despised."
By these words God shows that he was derided in the person of his Church. For this reason, then, God himself now comes forth and declares that he is the habitation of justice and the hope of his chosen people, in order that the Chaldeans might not promise themselves prosperity perpetually.
We hence see that these sentences are set in opposition one to another rather than connected together, and spoken in the person of the ungodly. The Chaldeans said, "We sin not, because they have acted wickedly against Jehovah;" then the Prophet responds and shows that they deceived themselves if they thought that God's covenant was abolished, because he for a time chastised his people, as it is said by Isaiah,
"What shall the messengers of the nations declare?"
"What shall be told by the messengers of the nations? that God hath founded Sion." (Isaiah 14:32)
When he spoke of the deliverance of the people and city, he added this acclamation, that it would be a memorable benefit, the report of which would be known among all nations, that is, that God had founded Sion, that it had been wonderfully delivered as it were from present destruction.
He first calls God the
He had also been the hope of their fathers, according to what is said by Isaiah, that he had created Sion from the beginning; but he renews the memory of his covenant, as though he had said, "It is not today that I have first received this people into favor, but I made a covenant with their father Abraham, which will remain fixed." So, also, he says in this place, that he was the hope of their fathers, even because he had adopted the whole race of Abraham, and showed them mercy through all ages. Then the Prophet indirectly infers that it would not be possible for their enemies perpetually to possess power over them, because God, after having chastened his people, would again gather the dispersed, and thus heal all their evils.2
A useful doctrine may be hence gathered, that whenever the Church seems to be so oppressed by enemies as to exclude any hope of restoration, this ought always to be borne in mind by us, that as God has once chosen it, it cannot be but that he will manifest his faithfulness even in death itself, and raise from the grave those who seem to have been already reduced to ashes. Let this passage, then, come to our minds, when the calamities of the Church threaten utter ruin, and nothing but despair meets us; and when enemies insolently arrogate everything to themselves, and boastingly declare that we are accursed. But God is a
2 The most approved exposition is the first, which makes the latter words to be in apposition with Jehovah, as given in the Versions, though the last clause seems to be a separate sentence, --
Because they have sinned against Jehovah, The habitation of righteousness; And the hope of their fathers was Jehovah.
By calling God the habitation of righteousness, what is implied is, as Lowth suggests, that they would not have been banished, had they not justly deserved to be so treated, God being the seat or dwelling-place of justice or righteousness. And in addition to this, he had been the hope of their fathers. See Jeremiah 40:3, where we have an example of what their enemies alleged. -- Ed.
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