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Jeremiah 18:7-10

7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;

7. Subito loquar contra gentem et contra regnum, ad evellendum et eradicandum (alii vertunt, ad frangendum, vel, conterendum) et ad perdendum.

8. If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

8. Et conversa fuit gens illa a malo suo (hoc est, a malitia sua,) de qua (vel, pro qua) locutus sum adversus illam; et (potius, tunc; copula valet hic adverbium temporis) poenitebit me super malo, quod cogitaveram ut facerem ei.

9. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build, and to plant it;

9. Et repente loquar super gentem et super regnum, ad aedificandum et ad plantandum;

10. If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.

10. Quod si fecerit malum coram oculis meis, ut non audiat vocem meam, tunc poenitebit me super bono, quod locutus fueram ut benefacerem ei.


This is a fuller application of the Prophet’s doctrine; for he had said generally before, that the people were in God’s hand as the clay is in the hand of the potter; but he adds here what is more popular or comprehensive, — that all men are in the hand of God, so that he now favors one nation with his blessing, and then deprives them of it, and that he raises up those whom he had previously brought low.

I have said that this part of the doctrine is more popular or comprehensive, for he refers to repentance. When Paul adduced this similitude, — that we are in the power of God as the clay is in the hand of the potter, he spoke not in so popular a manner: for he did not speak of repentance, but ascended higher and said, that before the world was created, it was in God’s power to determine what he pleased respecting every individual, and that we are now formed according to his will, so that he chooses one and rejects the other. Paul then did not refer to faithfulness nor to repentance, but spoke of the hidden purpose of God, by which he has predestinated some to salvation and some to destruction. (Romans 9:21.) Isaiah also seems to have had the same thing in view; for he says only,

“Woe to them who rise up against their Maker.”
(Isaiah 45:9.)

Cannot I determine, saith God, with regard to men, as the potter, who forms the clay as he pleases? We must then maintain this principle, — that men are thus formed according to God’s will, so that all must become mute;. for uselessly do the reprobate make a clamor, object and say, “Why hast thou formed us thus?” Has not the potter, says Paul, power, etc.? This is what must be said of God’s hidden predestination.

But Jeremiah here accommodates his doctrine to the people, that he might shew, that God had by a gratuitous covenant cliosen and adopted the seed of Abraham in such a way, that he could still repudiate the unworthy, even all those who despised so great a favor.

We now see the various applications of this doctrine; God determined, before the creation of the world, what he pleased respecting each individual; but his counsel is hid, and to us incomprehensible. There is here a more familiar application made, — that, God at one time takes away his blessings, and that at another he raises men as it were from death, that he might set them on high, according as he pities those who truly and from the heart turn to him, or is offended with the ingratitude of such as reject his offered favors.

Hence he says, Suddenly will I speak against a nation and against a kingdom, to pull down, to root up, or to extirpate, and to destroy. By saying suddenly, he reminds the Jews of their origin; for what was their condition when the Lord stretched out his hand to them, and brought them from that wretched bondage in which they lived? as though he had said, “Consider from whence God raised you, and then acknowledge that he raised you in a wonderful manner and beyond human expectation; for in the same day ye were of all the most miserable, and of all the most happy; one night not only brought you from death into life, but carried you from the deepest abyss above all earthly happiness, as though ye rode on the clouds.” God then suddenly spoke. 194194     “At length,” or finally — πέρας, is the Septuagint; “suddenly,” theVulgate; but the Targum renders the word here, “At one time,” and in ver. 9, “At another time;” and this seems to be the meaning of רגע, when repeated, as it is here. Let it be so rendered, and let the future verb which comes after it be viewed as present, which is often the case in Hebrew, and the whole passage may be literally rendered, without giving an unusual meaning to the copulative, ו, —
   7. At one time I speak of a nation and of a kingdom, In order to pluck up and to pull down and to destroy

   8. And that nation returns from its evil, Against which I had spoken, And I repent of the evil Which I had thought of doing to it:

   9. And at another time I speak of a nation and of a kingdom, In order to build and to plant; And it doeth evil in mine eyes, So as not to hear my voice; And I repent of the good Which I had spoken of doing to it, or of making good to it.

   The whole is a striking narrative of God’s dealings with nations and kingdoms. — Ed.

But he refers also to punishment; God speaks of a nation and of a kingdom, to do it good; and he speaks again, in order to pull down, to destroy a nation and a kingdom. How then comes it, that they who seem for a time to flourish and to be most happy, suddenly perish? Because God punishes men for their ingratitude. And how comes it, that they, who were trodden under foot by all, suddenly rise? Because the Lord pities them.

But the Prophet speaks first of punishment; Suddenly, he says, will I speak of a nation and of a kingdom, to pull down, to extirpate and to destroy; that is, even they who seem far from all danger shall find that they are exposed to my judgment. But if a nation, he says, turns from its wickedness, against whom I have spoken, then I will repent of the evil, etc. The Prophet no doubt intended to shut up the mouths of the Jews, who, as we have before seen, continually contended with God; for he could not convince them that the punishments were just which God inflicted on them for their sins. As then they were thus perverse in their wickedness, and hypocrisy also had hardened them the more, the Prophet says here in God’s name, “When I speak against a nation and threaten final ruin, if it repents, I shall be immediately reconciled to it; there is therefore no ground for the Jews to expostulate with me, as though I dealt with them too severely; for they shall find me reconcilable if they repent from the heart.” It follows then, that their obstinacy was the cause why God proceeded in his judgments, for the repentance of God means no other thing than what Scripture says elsewhere, that he is merciful, slow to wrath, and ready to forgive. (Numbers 14:18; Psalm 103:8.) He then here testifies, that nothing hindered the Jews from being in a better state but their own perverseness.

On the other hand, he affirms, that the lost are restored, when the Lord speaks suddenly, of a nation and of a kingdom, to build and to plant; as though it was said, — “I will not only forgive, but I am ready to bestow blessings on those whom I had previously rejected as mine enemies.” Then God amplifies his goodness when he says, that he will not only forgive the sins of men, so as freely to pardon them, but that he is ready to bestow on them all kinds of blessings, if they seek to be reconciled to him.

Now follows the opposite clause, But if it will do evil before mine eyes, so as not to hear my voice; that is, when a nation has been planted through my kindness, (for this is required by the context,) then I will repent, etc. By this denunciation is meant, that God would tread in the dust those whom he had favored with singular benefits, on account of the abuse made of them; although he had said, “When I promise bountifully and freely to a nation or a kingdom everything that can be wished, except my favor and goodness be rightly received, then I repent of the good done to it.” The meaning is, that the way of pardon is always open, when a sinner turns to God, and that it is in vain for men to boast of God’s promises, except, they in fear and obedience submit themselves to him.

Both these things were necessary; that is, that the Jews should know that God would be entreated if they repented, and that his promises could not be extended to those who were guilty of such gross abuse as a total disregard of his law and his prophets. Then the Prophet mentions here the ordinary course, — that as soon as men repented, they might safely and fully expect good things from God, for he is inclined to mercy; and then, that no nation, however it may excel in gifts, ought to indulge a foolish confidence and to use its present glory as means to despise its giver, for God can take away what he has given. The real import of the whole then is, that we cannot expect to enjoy the benefits which God bestows on us, except we persevere in faithfulness and in the fear of him. It is indeed cmtain that God’s blessings do not depend on worthiness in man; but still he will not have his bounty to be despised, as was the case with the Jews, and at this day it is a common thing in the world. It now follows,--

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