Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 20: Jeremiah and Lamentations, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,
1. Sermo qui factus fuit ad Jeremiam a Jehova diebus Jehoiakim filii Joziae regis Jehudah, dicendo,
2. Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.
2. Vade ad domum Rechabitarum, et dices illis, (et loquere cum ipsis) et adducas eos in domum Jehovae ad unum cubiculorum, et popina illis vinum.
3. Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites;
3. Et sumpsi Jaazaniah filium Jeremiae, filii Habazaniiae, et fratres ejus, (hoc est, cognatos) et omnes filios ejus, totam domum Rechabitarum;
4. And I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door:
4. Et adduxi eos in domum Jehovae ad cubiculum filiorum Chanan filii Igdaliae, viri Dei, quod erat juxta cubiculum principum, quod erat e super cubiculo Maassaiae filii Selum custodis thesauri (alii vertunt, liminis, sed sine ratione, ut milhividetur)-
5. And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.
5. Et posui in conspectu filiorum domus Rechabitarum (vel, coram filiis domus Rechabitarum) scyphos plenos vino, et calices, et dixi, Bibite vinum.
6. But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever:
6. Et dixerunt, Non bibimus vinum, quia Jonadab filius Rechab, pater noster (vel, patris nostri) praecepit nobis, dicendo, Non bibetis vinum, vos et filii vestri, usque in seculum;
7. Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers.
7. Et domos non aedificabitia, et semen non seretis, et vitem non plantabitis, et non erit vobis quicquam, quia (hoc est, quin potius) habitabitis in tabernaculis, cunctis diebus vestris, ut vivatis dies multos in superficie terrae in qua vos peregrini estis.
It must be first observed, that the order of time in which the prophecies were written has not been retained. In history the regular succession of days and years ought to be preserved, but in prophetic writings this is not so necessary, as I have already reminded you. The Prophets, after having been preaching, reduced to a summary what they had spoken; a copy of this was usually affixed to the doors of the Temple, that every one desirous of knowing celestial doctrine might read the copy; and it was afterwards laid up in the archives. From these were formed the books now extant. And what I say may be gathered from certain and known facts. But that we may not now multiply words, this passage shews that the prophecy of Jeremiah inserted here did not follow the last discourse, for he relates what he had been commanded to say and to do in the time of Jehoiakim, that is, fifteen years before the destruction of the city. Hence what I have said is evident, that Jeremiah did not write the book as it exists now, but that his discourses were collected and formed into a volume, without regard to the order of time. The same may be also gathered from the prophecies which we shall hereafter see, from the forty-fifth to the end of the fiftieth chapter.
The power of the kingdom of Judah was not so weakened under King Jehoiakim, but that they were still inflated with pride. As, then, their security kept them from being attentive to the words of the Prophet, it was necessary to set before them a visible sign, in order to make them ashamed. It was, then, God’s purpose to shew how inexcusable was their perverseness. This was the design of this prophecy. And the Prophet was expressly commanded to call together the Rechabites, and to offer wine to them, in order that the obstinacy of the people might appear more disgraceful, as they could not be induced to render obedience to God, while the Rechabites were so obedient to their father, a mortal man, and who had been dead for nearly three centuries. The Rechabites derived their origin from Obad and from Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. There are those indeed who think that Obad and Jethro were the same; but this conjecture seems not to me probable. However this may be, interpreters think that, the Rechabites were the descendants of Obad, who followed Moses and the Israelites. And their opinion seems to be confirmed, because it is said here that they were commanded by Jonadab to live as sojourners in the land. An inheritance was indeed promised them, but as it appears from many parts of Scripture, they were unfaith-fifily dealt with, for they were scattered here and there throughout the tribes. They then did not enjoy an inheritance as it was right and as they deserved. And we see also that they lived among other nations.
With regard to Jonadab, of whom mention is made, we read in 2Ki 10:15, that he was a man of great name and influence, for when Jehu began to reign, he had him as his friend, though he was an alien. He must, then, have been in high esteem, and a man of power and wealth among the Israelites. And it is certain that it was the same Jonadab of whom sacred history speaks of there, because he is called the son of Rechab; and yet three hundred years, or nearly so, had elapsed from that time to the reign of Jehoiakim. As to the origin of this family or people, the first was Obad; from him came Rechab, whose son was Jonadab, who lived in the time of King Jehu, and was raised up into his chariot to be, as it were, next to him, when Jehu had not as yet his power firmly established. But they went afterwards to Jerusalem on account of the continual calamities of the land of Israel, for it was exposed to constant plunders, and this we shall hereafter see in the narrative. Then the sons of Rechab did once dwell in the kingdom of Israel; but when various incursions laid waste the land, and final ruin was at hand, having left their tents they went to Jerusalem; for they were not allowed to cultivate either fields or vineyards, as we shall hereafter see. The Rechabites, therefore, dwelt in the city Jerusalem, which protected them from the incursions and violence of enemies; but they still retained their ancient mode of living in abstaining from wine, and in not cultivating either fields or vineyards. They thought it indeed right for them to dwell in buildings, because they could not find a vacant place in the city where they might pitch their tents: but this was done from necessity. In the meantime they obeyed the command of their father Jonadab; and though he had been dead three hundred years, they yet so venerated the memory of their father, that they willingly abstained from wine, and led not only a frugal but an austere life.
The Prophet is now bidden to bring these to the Temple, and to offer them wine to drink I have briefly explained the design of God in this matter, even that he purposed to lay before the Jews the example of the Rechabites, in order to shame them; for that family obeyed their father after he was dead, but the Jews could not be induced to submit to the command of the living God, who was also the only Father of all. The Prophet then was bidden to bring them to the Temple, and to lay before them cups full of wine, that they might drink. He says that they refused to drink, and brought as a reason, that Jenadab their father forbade them to do so. We shall hereafter see how this example was applied; for the whole cannot be explained at the same time.
Let us consider the Prophet’s words, he says that the word came to him in the days of Jehoiakim, that is, after he had found out by the trial of many years how untameable the Jews were, and how great was their ferocity. Much labor then had the Prophet undertaken, and yet they were not so subdued as to submit to the yoke of God. When, therefore, they had now for many years given many proofs of their obduracy, God summoned the Rechabites as witnesses, who, by their example, proved that the Jews were inexcusable for being so rebellious and disobedient to the commands of the Prophet.
Go, said he, to the house of Rechab, (we have said that they dwelt then at Jerusalem, and this will appear hereafter) and bring them unto the house of Jehovah But we must inquire why the Prophet was ordered to lay wine before them in the Temple rather than in a private house. The reason, indeed, is evident; for God’s purpose was to shew how wicked and perverse the Jews were, for not even the priests abstained from wine except when they were performing their duties. The Law commanded them to abstain then from wine; but the Levites, who took care of the Temple, and also the priests, when not engaged in the discharge of their office, were fully allowed to drink wine. As, then, the priests were permitted to drink wine even in the Temple, that is, in the chambers adjoining the priests’ court, what excuse could have been made when the Rechabites, who were yet of the common people, and even aliens among the Jews, refused wine according to the command of their father Jenadab? Had God forbidden the whole people the use of wine, the Law might have appeared too rigid; but God not only permitted the people to drink wine, but also the priests; nay, no religious reverence prevented them from drinking wine close to the Temple when they were not engaged in their duties. We now, then, perceive why the place has been mentioned, that is, that the Prophet relates that he brought the Rechabites into the Temple.
Go, then, and bring them into the house of Jehovah, into one of the chambers, and offer them wine to drink We have said that the chambers were nigh the priests’ court; for many of the Levites were always keeping watch, guarding the Temple, and also some of the priests. The priests, while serving their turn, alone abstained from wine; but a permission was given by the Law to the Levites to drink wine, and in those very chambers, which were on both sides a sort of appendages to the Temple.
Now the Prophet adds that he took Jaazaniah, who was a chief man, and as it were the head of the family. And he names his father, even Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah; and he then says, his whole house It is added, that he brought them into the Temple, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God The Prophet no doubt chose a well-known place, that the report of this might spread through the whole city, and even throughout Judea, and also that the dignity of the place might add credit to the report; for we know that when a thing is done in an obscure corner, it may be regarded as doubtful or fabulous. But the Prophet brought the Rechabites into an honorable place, even into the chamber of the sons of Hanan And he afterwards says, that he was the son of Igdaliah, a man of God Doubtless such was the reverence in which this man was held, that no one dared to call into question what had been done there. Then he adds that the chamber was nigh the chamber of the princes, which was over the chamber of the keeper of the treasury Some render the last word, “the entrance,” 99 the word means a vessel; and it signifies here the sacred furniture; and there is a change of number, for this word included all the vessels of the Temple. We hence see that the place was select, superior to other places, so that it might be as a notable theater, and that the prophecy might thus gain more credit among all the Jews.
He says, that he set wine before them and requested them to drink when full cups were placed before them. Then he adds that they refused, We will not drink wine, because Jonadab our father commanded us, saying, Drink ye no wine, nor build houses, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyards, nor have any such thing as your own We see that four things were commanded the Rechabites by their father, to drink no wine, to cultivate no fields, and to plant no vineyards, — these were three; and the fourth was, not to build houses, but to be content with tents. Here is also added a promise, that ye may live long in the land where ye are strangers Then Jonadab promised to his sons and his posterity a long life, if they obeyed his precepts, that is, to live without wine all their life, and not to possess anything, nor build houses. Their saying that they had obeyed their father’s precept, shall be hereafter considered, for we cannot take in everything at once.
But let us now see whether Jenadab did what was right in forbidding his posterity to drink wine and to cultivate land. Agriculture is in itself a mode of living not only honest and innocent, but also remote from ambition, fraud, and plunder: in short, it seems to be of all kinds of living the simplest and the most innocent. Then the advice of Jenadab to keep his sons from agriculture might in this instance be blamed and condemned. But the probability is, that when he saw the Jews and the Israelites despising the Law of their God, he thought of the vengeance, which, though it followed not for a long time, yet ought then to have been dreaded. He also saw the sources of vices, even that the Israelites especially gave themselves up to luxuries, and indulged themselves, as it clearly appears from the Prophets, in all manner of excesses. When, therefore, he saw, on the one hand, the corruptions of the land, and that on the other he dreaded punishment, he wished his posterity to accustom themselves to an austere mode of living, so that they might more easily move here and there, and also that they might with more tranquil minds endure any adversity that might happen, being neither rich nor used to delicacies. Jenadab then did not condemn agriculture, nor the use of wine, nor commodious habitations, when he commanded his posterity to be contented with tents and water, and wished them to buy wheat and to follow only a pastoral life; but as we have said, he had another object in view. This, then, is what we are, in the first place, to bear in mind.
But we must observe, at the same time, that the posterity of Jenadab did not live on plunder, nor spend their time in idleness; for they were shepherds, who with great labor and many watchings gained their own living. But it was their father Jonadab’s wish that they should in a manner be separated from the common affairs of life, on account of the corruptions which prevailed, and which he saw rampant before his eyes; so that he had no doubt as to what was to be, when the Israelites abandoned themselves more and more to all kinds of excesses, and when all integrity was disregarded. This then was the reason why Jenadab restrained his posterity from following the common way of living.
His counsel is, however, not commended, but the obedience which his sons rendered; and this is here proposed as an example, in order to make the Jews ashamed, because they so perversely rejected the Law of God and the doctrine of the Prophets: and it is an argument from the less to the greater; for if the authority of a mortal man prevailed so much with his posterity as to cause them to abstain from wine, and not only to live frugally, but also to endure cold and want and other hard things, how much more it behoved the Jews to do what was right and easy, when God commanded them: This is one thing, even a comparison between God and mortal man. And then there is another, — that this precept continued in force for three hundred years, and kept posterity from neglect; but the Law of God, which continually sounded in the ears of the people, had no power to influence them. Here is another comparison. The third is, that God acted equitably, and did not press too much on the Jews, so as to make the rigor of the law odious and wearisome: as then God used moderation in his Law, so as to require from the people nothing but what was easy to be borne, he says that Jonadab was rigid and austere, for he forbade the use of wine and did not allow his posterity to cultivate fields, nor to dwell in houses.
This threefold comparison ought then to be borne in mind, and these three parts of the contrast ought to be well considered, even that God had not obtained from his people what Jonadab had from his posterity; and also that God, continually admonishing, prevailed nothing, when a regard for a dead man retained posterity in their duty; and further, that the Law of God, which required nothing but what might be easily done, had been perversely rejected by the Jews, when the Rechabites, in honor to their dead father, suffered themselves to be deprived of all luxuries, and dreaded not an austere, rustic, and, as it were, a savage kind of life; for they not only abstained from wine, but also dared not to shelter themselves from cold by dwelling in houses, and were forbidden all the comforts of life.
Now that. the Prophet was ordered to offer them wine, and that they refused, a question here arises, Was their continency in this respect laudable? They seemed thus to prefer Jonadab to God, for they knew that Jeremiah, who offered them wine, was sent by God. But the Rechabites, no doubt, modestly excused themselves, when they said that it was not right for them to drink wine, because they had been forbidden by their father. It was not then their purpose to give more honor to their father than to God or to his Prophet, but they simply answered for the sake of excusing themselves, that they had abstained from wine for three hundred years, that is, that the whole family had done so. This, then, is the solution of the question. But what the Papists do in bringing against us the Rechabites, first to support their tyrannical laws, and secondly, in order to torment miserable consciences at their pleasure, is frivolous in the extreme. As I have already said, the advice of Jonadab is not commended, as though he had rightly forbidden his sons to drink wine; but only his sons are spoken of as having reverently and humbly obeyed the command of their dead father. Then this passage gives no countenance to the Papists, as though the object of it was to bind the consciences of the faithful to their laws; for what is here spoken of is, that the Rechabites proved by their obedience how base and wicked was the obduracy of the people, as they shewed less reverence and honor to God than these did to a man that was dead.
But the Papists, however, dwell much on another point, — that whatever has been handed down from the fathers ought to be observed; and thus they reason, “The authority of the whole Church is greater than that of a private man; now the Rechabites are commended for having followed the command of a private individual, much more then ought we to obey the laws of the Church.” To this I answer, that we ought to obey the fathers and the whole Church: nor have we a controversy with them on this subject; for we do not simply say, that everything which men have delivered to us ought to be rejected; but we deny that we ought to obey the laws of men, when they bind the conscience without any necessity. When, therefore, a religious act is enjoined on us, men arrogate to themselves what is peculiar to God alone; thus the authority of God is violated, when men claim so much for themselves as to bind consciences by their own laws. We must then distinguish between civil laws, such as are introduced to preserve order, or for some other end, and spiritual laws, such as are introduced into God’s worship, and by which religion is enjoined, and necessity is laid on consciences. — But I cannot now finish, for I see that the hour has already passed.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to adopt us for thy children, and also to shew to us what pleases thee, — O grant, that we may in all things be obedient to thee, and never turn aside either to the right hand or to the left; and as thou exhortest us also continually, and stirrest us onward, grant that we may, in quiet meekness of spirit, so surrender ourselves to be ruled by thee, as to prove ourselves to be thy children, and to glorify thee as our Father, until we shall enjoy that eternal inheritance, which is laid up for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Fortieth
We said in the last Lecture that the example of the Rechabites is brought forward, not for the purpose of commending their obedience, as though it were some great virtue, but only that the Prophet might reprove the Jews for rendering less honor to the living God, than the Rechabites did to their dead father. And, doubtless, this comparison must have exhibited the Jews as acting very disgracefully, for they could not be induced to render obedience, though they had before their eyes the Rechabites as an example. We have also said, that Jenadab did not forbid his posterity to drink wine, to sow fields, and to plant vineyards, in order to set up something new in God’s worship; but that he did so, because he deemed it good for his posterity thus to sojourn in the land, so that they might not become attached to their possessions, and that amidst various changes they might be less anxious, and be prepared, as it were, to move elsewhere. We have hence shewn that the Papists ignorantly pervert this passage in order to support their tyrannical laws, in which they pretend to include the spiritual worship of God, and by which they also distress miserable souls; for there is no likeness nor affinity between the command of Jenadab and those laws which are introduced for the purpose of establishing the spiritual worship of God.
For it was not primarily the object of Jonadab’s precept to demand from his posterity an abstinence from wine as a necessary thing, but it had a regard to what was quite different. Now, what is commanded for another end, as it is not necessary, so it is not opposed to the word of God; for their liberty of conscience is not taken away: nor was it Jonadab’s design to claim for himself the right and authority of God, as though he were a spiritual lawgiver; but his precept only referred to what was civil or social. It hence appears how unlike was his command to the tyrannical laws by which liberty is destroyed under the Papacy. Were it allowable to speak jocosely, we might say, that it is a wonder that the Papists make so much of this example, which yet none of them follow; for though the monks have among them rigid and severe laws, as to eating and drinking, yet the most holy among them have never observed them; and there has not been a Carthusian or a Celestian, who submitted to the obligation of abstaining from wine. If then this virtue of the Rechabites pleases them so much, why do they not discontinue the use of wine? But this I have not said seriously.
With regard to the subject itself, the solution is certain and easy, — that the Rechabites are not commended as though they had obeyed their father as God, but that they obediently received what their father had commanded them, because it was only a civil precept: he therefore had in view an ulterior object; and he did not require abstinence from wine and other things for its own sake. And Paul, even by one sentence, has settled this controversy; for when he exhorts children to obey their parents, he modifies his exhortation by saying,
“In the Lord.” (Eph 6:1)
We then see that Paul commands children to obey their parents, not in everything, or without limitation, but so that God, who is the Sovereign and the only Father of all, may still retain his authority, and that earthly parents may not claim for themselves so much authority as to ascend the throne of God, as though they were lawgivers to souls. Let us now proceed —
8. Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters;
8. Et audivimus in voce (hoc est, obedivimus voci) Jenadab, filii Rechab, patris nostri, secundum omnia qute mandavit nobis, ne biberemus vinum cunctus diebus nostris, nos, uxores nostrae, filii nostri, et filiae nostrae;
9. Nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed:
9. Et ne, aedificaremus domes in quibus habitaremus, et ne vitis vel ager vel semen nobis esset (ad verbum, et vitis et ager et semen non erunt nobis)
10. But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.
10. Et habitavimus (quin potius, est enim copula resolvenda in adversativam particulam, quin potius habitavimus) in tabernaculis, et obedivimus, et fecimus secundum omnia quae praecepit nobis Jonadab pater noster.
Jeremiah explains at large what might have been expressed in few words, in order to amplify the constancy of the Rechabites. For one may obey his father, and yet be not so fixed in his purpose, but that he might on some slight occasion fail in his duty. Jeremiah here shews that such was the prompt perseverance of the Rechabites, that they could not be enticed by having wine set before them; but that as though no temptation had been presented to them, they kept the commandment of their father, who, at the same time, had been dead, as it has already appeared, some ages before.
They then said, that they hearkened to the voice of Jonabab the son of Rechab, their father; and also added, according to all the things which he has commanded us tle again relates what Jonadab had commanded, and to this belongs the sentence, According to all things, etc. For had he ordered them only to be abstemious, to obey would not have been difficult or hard; he designed to bind them to a wandering life, that they might be covered only by tents, and that they might not possess anything. As then Jonadab did not in one thing only try the obedience of his family, it appears more clearly how great was their promptitude and perseverance in obeying.
They then said, first, that they were not to drink wine; and also added, all their days We indeed know that the Nazarites were forbidden to drink wine, but it was only for a time, until they had performed their vow; we also know, that when the priest was discharging his duty, he was not allowed, for that time, to take wine. But afterwards the priests as well as the Nazarites, resumed their common mode of living. But to taste no wine throughout life was a thing far more difficult. The Prophet, no doubt, detailed these particulars, that he might load the Jews with greater disgrace, who, in a matter the most just, and by no means hard, were not, as we shall see, obedient to God. They said, We, our wives, our sons, our daughters, as though they had said, “This precept has ever been observed in our family; and what has been delivered to us, by our fathers, we have followed to this day, as also our fathers, who obeyed the command of a dead man, because his will had been explained to them.”
They added, that they were not to build houses, literally, to inhabit them, that is, to dwell in them. It was then lawful for the Rechabites to construct houses, that is, to build them for others; but they were to be contented with tents, and to live in them. They might then assist others in building splendid palaces, and thus by their labor gain a livelihood; but they were not allowed to inhabit them, as this was one of their precepts. They farther added, And a vineyard and a field and a seed we have not If we duly consider how hard was their condition, we shall see reason to commend the constancy of the Rechabites, for they were not frightened from their purpose when they saw that they were brought into miserable straits. But, however, we ought especially to attend to the object the Prophet had in view, even to shew how shameful was the perverseness of the Jews, who dared to despise and regard as nothing the precepts of God, when yet the authority of a mortal man, and one that was dead, was so great with his posterity. They then said, that they dwelt in tents, and did according to all the things which Jonadab their father had commanded them It follows —
11. But it came to pass, when Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans, and for fear of the army of the Syrians: so we dwell at Jerusalem.
11. Et factum est cum ascendit Nebuchadnezer rex Babylonis in terram, tunc diximus, Venite, ingrediamur Jerusalem a facie excreitus Chaldaeorum, eta facie excreitus Assyriorum (alii vertunt, Syriae, sed ארם quamvis aliquando restringatur ad Syriae, comprehendit tamem Mesopotamiam et alias regiones) et habitavimus Jerusalem.
It hence appears that it proved advantageous to the Rechabites to observe what their father had commanded them: for had they been fixed to their possessions, they must have been driven into exile with the rest when the kingdom of Israel was destroyed; what happened to the ten tribes nmst have happened to the Rechabites. But as they had nothing as their own, they were freer to move elsewhere; nor had they the trial of leaving possessions, for they had none. We know that many are so tied to their own houses, fields, vineyards, and meadows, that they would rather be killed a hundred times than to be torn away from them. Then Jenadab consulted well the benefit of his posterity, when he ordered them to dwell in tents; for thus they could collect together in one day all that they had, according to the known saying of Bias. Hence poverty was a great advantage to them: their austerity of life was also a benefit to them; they could without difficulty dwell at Jerusalem, for they had no need of many luxuries. Had they been accustomed to wine and to other delicacies, they might have discussed the point, whether it would have been better for them at once to die than to suffer want in a besieged city. Moreover, as they had lived frugally and had also been accustomed to an austere life, no anxiety prevented them to come with confidence to Jerusalem; for they thought that they could gain a sparing and sordid subsistence by their own labor.
It hence then appears what Jenadab had in view, when he forbade his posterity the use of wine as well as the possession of fields and vineyards; for he could then foresee what dreadful revolutions were at hand. It was therefore his purpose thus to train up his posterity, that when difficulties came they might not succumb under the burden, but patiently bear want or any other inconvenience, which to others would be intolerable, whenever their former delicacies came to mind. We they said, Come, and let us enter into Jerusalem from the face of both armies. When therefore the Israelites were detained by their fields and domestic possessions, the Rechabites went to Jerusalem, and thus were freed from danger. It now follows, —
12. Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,
12. Et fuit serum Jehovae ad Jeremiam, dicendo,
13. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the LORD.
13. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Vade et dic viro Jehudah et incolis Jerusalem, Annon recipietis disciplinam (vel, correctionum) ad obediendum sermonibus meis, dicit Jehova?
14. The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father’s commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me.
14, Stabiliti sunt sermones Jonadab filii Rechab, quos mandavit filiis suis, ne biberent vinum, et non biberunt usque ad hunc diem; quia obedierunt mandato patris sui; ego autem loquutus sum ad vos, mane surgens (vel, mane surgendo) et loquendo, et non obtemperastis mihi:
15. I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.
15. Et misi ad vos omnes servos meos Prophetas, mane surgendo et mitttendo (mane surgens et mittens) dicendo, Convertimini agedum quisque a via sua mala, et bonas facite actiones vestras, et ne ambuletis post deos alienos ad serviendum ipsis (ut serviatis ipsis) et habitabitis in terra quam dedi vobis et patribus vestris, et non inclinastis aurem vestram, et non obedivistis mihi.
Here Jeremiah applies the example which he had related; for subjoined is God’s complaint, — that he was less regarded by his people than Jonadab was by his posterity. He then says, Go and speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants ofJerusalem To make the reproof the more effectual, the Prophet introduces God as the speaker. It was therefore God’s purpose to convey the reproof to the Jews in his own name, and as it were in his own person. Will ye not receive instruction, he says, so as to obey me? The word מוסר musar, means sometimes ruling or governing, and sometimes correction. But God here no doubt reprehends that madness of the Jews in which they had long hardened themselves, as though he had said, “You never think it right to return to a sound mind.” Since, then, they had been for a long time incorrigible and wandered after their own lusts like unbridled wild beasts, a reproof is here given, as though he had said, “Will this people be always ungovernably wanton so as never to submit to the yoke?” And he says, so as to obey me God shews that he required nothing unjust from the Jews, so that a true excuse could be pretended, as though he was too rigid: “I require only,” he says, “that ye obey me: this is all my severity, for lovely is the rule of meekness which I use towards you. Since, then, I demand nothing but what children ought willingly to render to their fathers without being admonished, how is it that this mederation is so displeasing to you, and can by no means be approved by you?”
It is then added, confirmed have been the words of Jonadab by his children; but my people do not obey me. But as we have said in the last lecture, the Prophet touches particularly on this circumstance, — that the Rechabites obeyed the command of their father in not drinking wine: this was hard; they did not drink even to that day But what did God require from his children? only to receive his Law, and not to go astray, as it is here added, after alien gods. There is, then, a contrast between the hard precept of Jonadab and the equity of the Law; for God required nothing from his people except to render him pure worship, he says, They have drunk no wine to this day — and why? because they obeyed; that is, there was no scruple of conscience to prevent them, but the authority of a man who was dead so far prevailed witIt them, that they willingly gave up the use of wine. “As then simple obedience, that is, piety or respect for their father, produced such influence on the Rechabites, how is it that I am not heard? for I have spoken,” he says, “so that the sin of the people is not excusable on the ground of ignorance.”
Then he adds, Early rising and speaking Here assiduity and diligence are mentioned. Jonadab only once gave his command to his children; that command, which might have been forgotten, remained perpetually in the hearts of his sons, so that they taught the same to his grandsons. But God commanded what was right not only once, but rose up early, that is, he sedulously anticipated them; for by this metaphor he intimates that he did not wait until after a continued licentiousness they became more addicted to their vices; for we know that those who have for many years been without restraint, are not easily brought into order, but they become habitually refractory. And hence, also, it comes to be necessary to form those from infancy who are to be ruled by us; for if they be allowed to act as they please, their wantonness cannot afterwards be restrained by any laws. God then says, that he rose up early, that is, that he anticipated the Jews, so that together with their milk they might imbibe religion.
He afterwards adds, that he was assiduous in teaching them, rising early and speaking By speaking, he intimates that he had daily repeated the same things, so that forgetfulness might not be pleaded by the Jews as an excuse: I have spoken to you, rising up early and speaking, and ye obeyed me not Then follows an explanation,wthat God had sent the Prophets: the Jews would have otherwise been ready to object and say, that God had never appeared to them. Hence he says, that he had spoken to them by his Prophets. I have sent, he says, and indeed many — I have sent all my servants, etc.; for if Moses only had commanded the Jews what was right, they might have pretended that the Law was buried and forgotten, and that they had no recollection of what Moses had taught. Hence to meet such evasions, he says shortly, that he had sent all his servants, that is, that he had sent many Prophets, and so many, that he continually proclaimed in their hearing the doctrine of the Law. He again repeats the words, rising early and sending, so that he never ceased to warn and exhort them. Now they who are otherwise tardy and also refractory, yet become gentle when they are recalled to their duty every day and hour. Since God then thus urged them by his Prophets, their mad obstinacy became more evident when they still refused to obey.
Now follows that easy requirement, which still more aggravated their sin, Turn ye now, every one from his evil way, and make right your doings, (literally, make good) Here God shews the difference between his Law and the precepts of Jonadab; for he simply required of the Jews what they ought willingly to have done; for had no Law been written, natural light was sufficient to teach the Jews that it was their duty to obey God; for the law of obedience is so written on our hearts, as a testimony, that no one can justly plead ignorance as an excuse. God then here declares that he required nothing but what nature itself dictated, even that the Jews should repent and form their life according to the rule of obedience; though no Prophet were among them, yet every one ought to have been in this respect his own teacher.
It follows, And walk not after alien gods to serve them This admonition still more clearly proves how moderate was what God required; for he souhlt nothing more than to retain the Jews under his authority and protection, that he might be a Father to them. Jonadab might have demanded obedience from his posterity, and yet have allowed them the free use of wine, and also the possession of fields and vineyards; but he wished to cut them off as it were from mankind, so that their condition became worse than that of all the nations and people among whom they dwelt; for they became, no doubt, objects of ridicule to their neighbors, endured many reproaches, and were grievously harassed. God shews that he had abstained from exercising rigid authority, and from requiring unbearable servitude, and demanded nothing from his people, but that he might be acknowledged by them as a Father. As, then, he did not tyrannically force the Jews to render him service, and his Law was moderate in its demands, it hence appears still more clear, as I have said, how incorrigible was the wickedness and depravity of that people.
He further adds a promise, which ought by its sweetness to have allured them, so as to become more disposed and prompt to obey. Though he might by authority have commanded, “Turn ye from your superstitions, and faithfully serve me,” it would yet have been a command just and equitable; but when he is pleased to add a promise, which ought to have disposed the Jews to obedience, and yet gains nothing from them, their wickedness is rendered again by this circumstance still more detestable. We hence see that there is something important in every clause, and that it is not without meaning that he here adds, Ye shall dwell in the land which I gave to you and to your fathers God here sets forfth his own bounty, and then promises a perpetual fruition of it, provided the Jews obeyed. He says that he gave that land to them, and before to their fathers, had they never partaken of God’s bounty, yet the promise alone ought to have induced them to submit to his authority. But God had been already liberal to them. Then experience ought to have convinced them, for they knew that they had obtained the promised land by no other right than by a promise made by God; they knew that the nations, into whose place they had entered, had been cast out by God’s mighty hand. As, then, they had by experience found God to be bountiful, and as he had promised to be in future the same, how great and how monstrous nmst have been their madness when they would not turn to obedience? Then it is also a circumstance of weighty importance, when God reminded them that it was he who gave the land to them and to their fathers.
He adds, Ye have not inclined your ear, nor obeyed me We have stated elsewhere the import of these words, “Not to incline the ear:” they removed the plea of ignorance or of the want of knowledge. God, then, charges the Jews here with deliberate wickedness; for they had obstinately rejected the doctrine of the Law, and all the warnings given by the Prophets; for when doctrine is set before any people, and God is pleased familiarly to teach them, and nothing is effected, their perverseness is thus more fully made known. God then intimates here that the Jews had not gone astray through ignorance, for they sufficiently understood what was right. Whence, then, was there so great a hardness? even because they had designedly closed their ears, that is, they had wickedly denied obedience to God, and had been refractory, as it were, through a long-cherished resolution, so that they could never be brought to a sound mind. It afterwards follows again, —
16. Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them; but this people hath not hearkened unto me:
16. Quoniam stabilierunt filii Jonadab, filii Rechab, mandatum patris sui, qued mandaverat ipsis, populus antera hic non audierunt ad me, (hoc est, non obediverunt mihi)
The Prophet says nothing new here, but confirms what has been said before; and this he did, that the indignity of the people’s conduct might more fully appear, inasmuch as, on one hand, a mortal man, and he now dead, retained authority over his posterity, having once laid on them a restraint in a matter hard and difficult; while God, on the other hand, effected nothing, though he had constantly addressed and exhorted his people, had sent prophets, and ceased not to invite them to himself, and had not only invited them, but also kindly allured them by setting before them his favors, and gave them hope as to the time to come. Since God, then, had tried all means, but without any success, the hopeless depravity of the people became hence evident. This is the import of the whole.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast made known to us by thy servants, not only once, and even often, the way of salvation, but hast sent also thine only-begotten Son to be to us a teacher of perfect wisdom, — O grant, that we may so submit to thee and so consecrate to thee our whole life, that he who died for our salvation and rose again, may peaceably rule us by the doctrine of his gospel; and that we may strive to glorify thee in this world, so that we may at last be made partakers of that celestial glory which the same thy Son our Lord has obtained for us. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Forty-First
17. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.
17. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Deus exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce ego adducam super Jehudah, et super incolas Jerusalem omne malum quod pronuntiavi contra cos; quia loquutus sum ad eos, et non audierunt; et vocavi eos et non responderunt.
The Prophet, after having shewn that the Jews were so condemned by the example of the Rechabites, that there was no defense for them, now adds, — that as the word of God had been to them useless, it would now be efficacious against them. This is the purport of the verse.
I have spoken to them, says God; I will now speak to them no more, but I will speak against them, that is, I will command the Chaldeans, and they shall be my ministers and the executioners of my vengeance. We hence see the order which the Prophet has observed: he did not bring forward this final sentence, which is like a thunderbolt, until he had proved the Jews guilty. For this purpose was the comparison he made, when he said that the Rechabites had obeyed their father, and that the Jews had disregarded God’s Law and all the warnings given by the Prophets. I will bring, he says, upon Judah, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, all the evil which I have spoken against them; for I have spoken to them, and they heard not
Here the Prophet distinguishes between two sorts of speaking. For God had spoken to the Jews, but he had also spoken against them. Here are two prepositions, not very unlike, the one begins with an א aleph, and the other with ע, oin. By the one the Prophet denotes doctrine, exhortations, and whatever may lead to repentance, so that men may either be recalled to their duty or retained in it. This, then, is one mode of speaking, that is, when God addresses us and invites us to himself. The other mode is that which refers to threatenings, that is, when God, after having found that he can do nothing by teaching, has recourse to threatenings, and shews what vengeance awaits us. This passage, then, is especially worthy of observation, because we hence learn, that when men reject the word of teaching, they cannot escape the other word, which denounces the judgment of God. Teaching appears useless when not received by men; but whosoever despises his word, will find at last, to his own ruin, that the denunciations by which God confirms and ratifies the authority of his word, cannot possibly be made void: as, then, they heard not the word which I had spoken to them, come upon them shall all the evils which I have pronounced against them
By adding, I have called and they answered not, he amplifies the atrocity of their sin; for God had not simply shewn what was necessary for their salvation, but had also called them to himself, and had even loudly called them; but he spoke to the deaf, for they answered not. It follows, —
18. And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you:
18. Domui autem Rechabitarum dixit Jeremias, sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Propterea quod audistis (vel, obedivistis) mandato Jonadab patris vestri, et servastis omnia ejus mandata, et fecistis secundum omnia quae praeceperat vobis,
19. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.
19. Propterea sic dick Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Non excidetur vir ex Jonadab filio Rechab, quin stet coram facie mea cunctis diebus.
Here the Prophet, that he might affect the Jews more deeply, promises a reward to the sons of Jonadab, because they obeyed their father; and he promises them a blessing from God. Nor is it to be wondered at, for this commandment, as Paul says, is the first to which a promise is annexed. (Eph 6:2) God promises generally a reward to all who keep the Law, for every command has in general connected with it the hope of reward; but this is in a special manner added to the Fifth Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest prolong thy life,” etc. It is, then, nothing strange that God promised a reward to the Rechabites, because they followed the command of their father, for he had promised that in the Law.
But what the Papists allege, that the obedience rendered to the Church is on the same account pleasing to God, may, as we have said, be easily confuted; for if the Rechabites had followed the command of their father in a thing unlawfill, they would have been worthy of punishment; but as this precept, as we have shewn, was not inconsistent with God’s Law, God approved of their obedience. But the laws which are made for the purpose of setting up fictitious modes of worship are altogether impious, for they introduce idolatry. God has prescribed how he would have us to worship him; whatever, therefore, men bring in of themselves is wholly impious, for it adulterates the pure worship of God; and further, when necessity is laid on consciences, it is, as we have said, a tyrannical bondage. Such was not the object of Jonadab; for what he commanded his posterity was useful, and referred only to things of this life; and it did not bind their consciences; for when it was necessary they moved to Jerusalem and dwelt as others in houses; for they did not erect tents at Jerusalem, but lived in hired dwellings; and yet they obeyed their father’s command, for his purpose in ordering them to dwell in tents, was, that they might remain unincumbered, so that they might be always ready to move. We hence see how foolishly the Papists pervert this passage in order to support their tyrannical laws.
And thus this truth may stand, that the obedience of the Rechabites pleased God, because nature itself requires that children should obey their parents; and we also know that God often rewards the shadows of virtues in order to shew that virtues themselves are pleasing to him. 100 But there is no doubt but that this promise, as I have before said, was designedly given, in order to stimulate the Jews, according to what is said in the Song of Moses,
“I will provoke them by a foolish nation, because they have provoked me by those who are no gods; and I will take vengeance on them, for I will bring forth nations which were not before.” (De 32:21)
So then God now, in order to excite and rouse the Jews, promises to bless the Rechabites, because they had been obedient to their father, There shall not be cut off a man from Jonadab, that is, from the offspring of Jonadab, standing (literally) before my face; but as the conciseness of the verse renders it obscure and ambiguous, I have introduced an addition, — but that he may stand before my face And he says that they would stand before his face, not that they were to be priests or Levites, as some of the Rabbins have said, who have applied this passage to the priesthood, because it is often said in Scripture both of the Levites and the priests, that they stood before the face of God. They, therefore, think that the same thing is meant here when spoken of the Rechabites. But this is a strained meaning. God simply intimates, that some of Jonadab’s offspring would be always living, and that through his special favor, that their obedience might not appear to be without its just reward. This is the meaning. Now follows, —
So the Sept., the Vulg., and the Syr.; and the word, סף, has commonly this meaning, a porch, an entrance or a threshold. — Ed
We see an instance of this in Ahab, 1Ki 21:27-29. — Ed.