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Jeremiah 48:37

37. For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: upon all the hands shall be cuttings, and upon the loins sackcloth.

37. Quia omni capiti calvitium, et omni barbae rasura (ad verbum diminutio; ערג significat diminuere, sed hic accipitur, pro rasura,) et super omnes manus incisiones, et super lumbos saccus.


The Prophet describes at large a very great mourning. They were wont in great sorrow to pull off their hair, to shave their beard, and to put on sackcloth, or to gird it round their loins, and also to cut their hands with a knife or with their nails. As these things were signs of grief; Jeremiah puts them all together, in order to show that the calamity of Moab would not be common, but what would cause to the whole people extreme lamentation. They shall make bald, he says, their heads, their beard they shall pull off, or shave; for the word, to diminish, may signify either. Then he adds, the incisions in the hands; they shall tear their faces and their hands with their nails, or as some say, with a knife or a razor. As to sackcloth, it was also a sign of mourning. It is indeed certain that it was formerly the practice for men, as though it was innate in human nature, in great calamities to spread ashes on the head and to put on sackloth. But he has added other excesses which are not very congenial to nature, for it is not agreeable to humanity to pull off the beard, to make bald the head, or to tear the hands and the face with the nails. These things show excesses, suitable neither to men nor to women, — not to women on the ground of modesty, nor to men on the ground of manliness and strength of mind.

But mankind never control themselves, and whether they mourn or rejoice, they are ever led away to excesses, observing no moderation. There was also another evil connected with sackcloth and ashes; for when it was God’s design to lead men by these symbols to humble themselves, to consider their sins and to flee to his mercy, they were diverted to another end, even that he who mourned might appear miserable to others, and make a display of his weeping and tears. In short, besides excess, there was also this common evil, even hypocrisy. For men ever turn aside to what is vain, and dissemble in all things. But in this place there is no reason to dispute about mourning, for the Prophet means only that the Moabites would become most miserable, exhibiting all the symptoms of sorrow. It follows —

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