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the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people, sith they return not from their ways. 8 Their widows are increased to me above the sand of the seas: I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a spoiler at noonday: I have caused him to fall
7. / will fan them with a fan] This expression, as denoting not mere defeat but dispersion, renders it improbable that this and the two following verses refer, as some have thought (see above), to the overthrow and death of Josiah at Megiddo, deep as was the impression made upon the nation by that mournful occurrence (see Zech. xii. 11). We should rather read I have fanned.
the gales of the land] The same phrase is used Nah. iii. 13. It means either the borders (the parts by which men enter and leave the country), or by the figure of speech called synecdoche (the part standing for the whole) cities, inasmuch as their gates, like our market places, were the chief resorts.
I will bereave them] I have bereaved them.
I will destroy] I have destroyed.
sith they return not from their ways] better, from their ways they return not. The addition of the conjunction, which does not occur in the Hebrew, only weakens the force of the clause.
sith] In ordinary editions of the Bible this word occurs only Ezek. xxxv. 6. Until the editions of 1762 (Dr Paris) and 1769 (Dr Blayney) however it occurred here and in the margin of Zech. iv. 10, while the later of those two editions was the first to exclude it from Jer. xxiii. 38. This points to the fact that since (a. contraction of the Old English sithence) was then taking its place in ordinary speech. Both sith and sithence are found in Shakespeare.
"Thou hast one son; for his sake pity me,
Hen. VI., Pt. 3, 1. 3. "Sithence, in the loss that may happen, it concerns you something to know it."
AlPs well that ends well, i. 3.
8. to me] to my sorrow.
the mother of the young men] Some have taken the mother to mean the mother city, Jerusalem, and young man (for the word in the original is singular) Nebuchadnezzar, rendering in that case, I have brought against Jerusalem a young and vigorous warrior. It is however more natural to consider that both substantives are used as nouns of multitude, just as 'she that hath borne' in the following verse. Thus the meaning will be that even the mothers of youths, warriors in the prime of their strength, shall not on that account escape.
at noonday] probably not implying daring and a consciousness of overwhelming strength, that needed not secresy, but rather as in chap, vi. 4 (where see note) an unexpected attack.
upon it suddenly, and terrors upon the city. She that hath borne seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it was yet day: she hath been ashamed and confounded: and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword before their enemies, saith the Lord.
10—14. The Prophefs personal lament. God's reply.
Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on
I have caused. ] I have brought suddenly upon her (the mother)
anguish and terrors.
9. She that hath borne seven] and therefore, especially with the Jewish eagerness for offspring, might have thought herself secure and prosperous. Seven was the perfect number. Compare 1 Sam. ii. 5.
while it was yet day] before she had reached the evening of her life. Compare for a similar phrase in the same sense Amos viii. 9. If the passage refer to Megiddo (see note on ver. 7 above), there may be a reference to an eclipse of the sun (the date of which however is far from certain) mentioned by Herodotus (Book i. 74) as suddenly changing day to night and thereby putting a stop to a battle between the Medians and Lydians.
10—14. The Prophet's Personal Lament. God's Reply.
10. Woe is me, my mother] We may compare with this verse Job iii. 1, etc., which latter however is expressed in language of much greater bitterness.
Savonarola, the great Italian reformer (died 1498), while yet the ruling mind in Florence and in possession of full popularity, foresaw the troubles in which he, like the Old Testament prophet, would be involved by his fearless condemnation of vice, and in the midst of one of his striking sermons thus addressed the Almighty, "O Lord, whither hast thou led me? From my desire to save souls for Thee, I can no longer return to my rest. Why hast Thou made me 'a man of strife, and a man of contention to the whole earth ?'" W. R. Clark's Savonarola, p. 230. See also note on xx. 7.
/ have neither lent...] "Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury." Deut. xxiii.20. Compare Ps. xv. 5. Among the Jews the law of jubilee was a check upon mortgages, while commerce with other nations was also discouraged by Moses. In such a state, necessity being almost the sole motive for borrowing, the money lender would naturally be held in extreme disfavour. The same has been the view of other nations and ages. "Interest is money begotten of money; so that of the sources of gain this is the most unnatural" (Aristotle, Politics, Bk. i. chap. 3, end).
, ■ usury; yet every one of them doth curse me. The Lord said, Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil, and in
12 the time of affliction. Shall iron break the northern iron
13 and the steel? Thy substance and thy treasures will I give to the spoil without price, and that for all thy sins, even in
14 all thy. borders. And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you.
"Sources of gain, which incur the hatred of mankind, as those of taxgatherers, of usurers'' Cicero, de Officiis, Bk. I. § 150. Compare
"When did friendship take A breed for barren metal of his friend?"
Mer. of Venice, Act I. Sc. 3, ll. 134—5.
11. it shall be well with thy remnant] rather, thy loosing shall be for good, i.e. in the troublous times that are coming thou shalt be delivered. This seems better than either of two other renderings proposed, viz. (i) I have loosed thee for good, (ii) I have strengthened thee for good. Both these adopt a slightly different reading in the Heb.
to entreat thee well] to supplicate thee. Not only shall the prophet be freed from abuse and cursing, but those who have treated him thus shall come to invoke his aid. This actually occurred on several occasions. See chap. xxi. 1, 2, xxxvii. 3, xlii. 2.
12. the northern iron and the steel] This has been understood of Jeremiah, of the Jews, of Nebuchadnezzar, and of the Chaldaean empire. The last is by far the most probable import of the words. Compare chap. vi. I, xiii. 20, where the Chaldees are spoken of as a power from the North. The connexion of thought in verses 11—13 therefore is, An evil time is approaching, a time in which the Jews will inevitably be vanquished
. by a superior foe, and the land spoiled by her enemies.
steel] brass, i.e. bronze, an alloy of copper and tin. Brass in the ordinary sense (an alloy of copper and zinc) was not known to the ancients.
13. This and the following ver. appear in a modified form in chap, xvii. 3, 4. The Lord addresses the prophet as representing the people, and thus the punishments spoken of are to be understood as having reference to the nation at large.
without price] either, seized by violence, as opposed to the obtaining by purchase, or, better, unvalued, treated by God as nothing worth.
14. / will make thee to pass with thine enemies] If we retain the . reading which stands in the Heb. text, the sense will be as Eng. Vers.,
or the 'substance' and 'treasures' may be understood as the object of the verb ('/ will make them to pass'). The slightest change in a Heb. letter would however give us the somewhat easier sense, / will make thee to serve thine enemies, as in xv. 4. for a fire is kindled in mine anger] a quotation from Deut. xxxii. 22. 15—18. A last appeal to God on tlu part of the prophet.
O Lord, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, 0 Lord God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indigna
The words there announce the punishment which shall come upon Israel for the idolatry into which it shall fall.
16—18. A LAST APPEAL TO GOD ON THE PART OF THE PROPHET.
15. This verse is connected in sense with ver. 10. The Lord's reply to Jeremiah's lament in that verse fails to satisfy him, inasmuch as coupled with it have been mentioned again the coming afflictions of his countrymen, while at the same time his own present condition remains unaltered.
thou knowest] viz. the persecutions to which I am exposed, and my own innocence, and earnestness in Thy work. These thoughts he expands in the next two verses.
take me not away in thy longsuffering] Deprive me not of all joy or of life itself through mercy towards my enemies.
16. He describes the joy with which he first received the divine commission.
were found] This verb occurs in the same connexion in Ezek. iii. 1, as implying in the most general sense the obtaining without particularising the manner.
I did eat them] This remarkable expression seems intended to convey two notions: (i) joyful acceptance, (ii) close union. So in Ezek. ii. 8, iii. 1—3.
am called] rather, was called. The prophet is still speaking of the original summons to preach. Literally the clause would run, for thy name was called upon me.
17. mockers] laughers. Jeremiah is not taking credit to himself for having never joined with the enemies of God, although the Eng. Vers. might seem to imply this. The word simply means those engaged in festivity. It is the word used e.g. of the women who went out to meet Saul and David after the slaughter of Goliath (1 Sam. xviii. 7), and of the procession accompanying the ark (2 Sam. vi. 5).
because of thy hand] For this expression, as betokening a solemn charge in the name of God, compare Is. viii. 11; Ezek. i. 3, and still more distinctly Ezek. xxxvii. 1. Compare the case of David, 1 Chron. xxviii. 19; also the statement of the Apostle, that "men of God spake as they were moved (literally, borne along) by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. i. 21).
18 tion. Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?
19—21. God's reply. Faithful discharge of duty shall bring with it deliverance. '9 Therefore thus saith the Lord, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou 20 unto them. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brasen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to
indignation] The sins of the people had thenceforward been only too manifest to him.
18. Why dost Thou grant me no relief from persecution?
a liar] literally, a lie. The words which follow shew that the prophet is thinking of a watercourse, which as being dry belies the anticipations of the thirsty traveller. So Jeremiah's hopes of joy and success in his work have not been hitherto realized. The same figure, so natural in a hot country, occurs Job vi. 15.
19—21. God's Reply. Faithful Discharge Of Duty Shall Bring With It Deliverance.
19. If thou return] If thou wilt dismiss thy doubts and thy tone of reproach and distrust.
shalt stand before me] shalt be my minister. The phrase is a common one in this sense. (See note on xxxv. 19). It is used of Elijah (e.g. 1 Kings xviii. 15), of Elisha (2 Kings iii. 14): so also in Prov. xxii. 29.
if thou take forth the precious from the vile] The figure is that of the refining of metals, in which by the process of melting there is a separation made of the earthy and other matters that constitute the dross. As to the application of the metaphor various views have been taken:
(i) that the prophet is not to mix with the words which God puts in his mouth any of his own opinions or comments.
(ii) that he is to convert to righteousness certain of the general mass of his ungodly countrymen.
(iii) that he is to cleanse his own heart from the unworthy suspicions as to God's faithfulness, which though mixed with better thoughts he had just shewn to be there entertained. This last view seems the one most in accord with the context.
my mouth] my mouth-piece, spokesman. The same expression is used of Aaron Exod. iv. 16, and compare vii. 1.
let them return...] Do not surrender anything of the truth in order by smooth speeches to win over the people. Stand thou firm, and let them repent and amend.