18. They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror shall cover them; and shame shall be upon all faces, and baldness upon all their heads.
He continues the same sentiment. He says, such was the slaughter of the people that they should all gird themselves with sackcloth. But it seems little in accordance with this, that those who should be astonished should gird themselves with sackcloth, so as not to bewail the dead. But the prophets so vary their discourse because they cannot otherwise affect obstinate minds. Although therefore these things do not seem at first sight to agree, that they should bind themselves in sackcloth, and upon all their heads should be baldness: then that all should perish without grief or sorrow: yet these things suit well enough, because the Prophet does not express what they should do, but what the event should be. Since, therefore, slaughter shall occur on every side, at length God shall consume some by pestilence, others by famine: therefore he adds, there should be material for grief, although in consequence of the multitude of evils they should be lifeless, and torpid, and omit all signs of sorrow. Therefore they shall gird themselves with sackcloth. We know that this was a remarkable symbol of penitence, but it is often transferred to common sorrow, and even profane men clothe themselves in sackcloth, although they do not acknowledge God the author of evils. Hence when the Prophet says, all should take sackcloth in which to clothe themselves, he does not mean that they should feel punishments divinely inflicted that they should repent; but he only expresses the common ceremony of grief in distress which is also common to the wicked and to despisers of God, Now he adds, fear shall cover them, and disgrace, or shame, shall be on all faces: then upon all heads shall be baldness. This was forbidden by the law, (Deuteronomy 14:1 ;) since we know that God restrained too much intemperance in sorrow, when he forbids the people to fall upon their face, or to make themselves bald; for that was preposterous affectation. And we know that men are ambitious in grief. Hence that God may impose restraint upon sorrow, he forbids his people to cut the skin, or to produce baldness. Hence we see that the Prophet does not speak of the true sign of repentance, but only marks, as I have said, that God's vengeance should be so horrible, that dread should cover them, and then that shame and confusion of face should come upon them: then, that they should cut the skin like the Gentiles, and put on sackcloth like men abandoned to destruction,
Grant, Almighty God, since thou hast recalled us to thyself, that we may not grow torpid in our sins, nor yet become hardened by thy chastisements, but prevent in time thy final judgments, and so humble ourselves under thy powerful hand, that we may seriously testify and really prove our repentance, and so study to obey thee, that we may advance in newness of life more and more, until at length we put off all the defilements of the flesh, and arrive at the enjoyment of that eternal rest which thine only-begotten Son has acquired for us by his own blood, -- Amen.
1 Or, "countenance." -- Calvin.
2 Or, "shame." -- Calvin.
Back to BibleStudyGuide.org.