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Lamentations 5:7

7. Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.

7. Patres nostri peccarunt, non sunt (non ipsi, ad verbum,) nos vero iniquitatem eorum portavimus.


The Prophet seems here to contend with God, and to utter that blasphemy mentioned by Ezekiel. For when God severely chastised the people, that proverb was commonly used by them,

“Our fathers did eat a sour grape, and our teeth are blunted.” (Ezekiel 18:2.)

Thus they intimated that they were unjustly and cruelly treated, because they suffered the punishment of others, when they themselves were innocent. So the Prophet seems to quarrel with God when he says that the fathers who sinned were no more; but as we shall presently see, the Prophet confesses also the sins of those who were yet alive. As, then, an ingenuous confession is made by the Prophet, he no doubt abstained here from that blasphemy which is so severely reproved by Ezekiel. Jeremiah had nothing farther from his purpose than to free the people from all blame, as though God had dealt cruelly with them, according to what is said by a heathen poet, —

“For the sins of the fathers thou undeservedly sufferest, O Roman!” 226226     Horace, Od. 6:1, —
   “Delicta majorum immeritus lues, Romane.”

Another says, —

“Enough already by our blood
Have we suffered for the perjuries of Laomedonian Troy.”
227227     Virgil, Georg., lib. 1, —
   “Satis jampridem sanguine nostro
Laomedonteae luimus perjuria Troiae

They mean that the people of their age were wholly innocent, and seek in Asia and beyond the sea the cause of evils, as though they never had a sin at Rome. But the meaning of Jeremiah was not this, but he simply intended to say that the people who had been long rebellious against God were already dead, and that it was therefore a suitable time for God to regard the miseries of their posterity. The faithful, then, do not allege here their own innocency before God, as though they were blameless; but only mention that their fathers underwent a just punishment, for that whole generation had perished. Daniel speaks more fully when he says,

“We have sinned, and our fathers, and our kings.”
(Daniel 9:8.)

He involved in the same condemnation both the fathers and their children.

But our Prophet’s object was different, even to turn God to mercy, as it has been stated; and to attain this object he says, “O Lord, thou indeed hast hitherto executed just punishment, because our fathers had very long abused thy goodness and forbearance; but now the time is come for thee to try and prove whether we are like our fathers: as, then, they have perished as they deserved, receive us now into favor.” We hence see that thus no quarrel or contention is carried on with God, but only that the miserable exiles ask God to look on them, since their fathers who had provoked God and had experienced his dreadful vengeance, were already dead. 228228     The words may be thus rendered, —
   Our fathers, they sinned and are not;
We, their iniquities have we borne.

   To bear iniquities, is here evidently to bear their penalty. So when Christ is said to bear our sins, the same thing is meant. — Ed.

And when he says that the sons bore the iniquity of the fathers, though it be a strong expression, yet its meaning is not as though God had without reason punished their children and not their fathers; for unalterable is that declaration,

“The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, nor the father the iniquity of the son; but the soul that sinneth it shall die.”
(Ezekiel 18:20.)

It may yet be said that children are loaded with the sins of their fathers, because God, as he declares by Moses, extends his vengeance to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 20:5.) And he says also in another place,

“I will return into the bosom of children the iniquity of their fathers.”
(Jeremiah 32:18.)

God then continued his vengeance to their posterity. But yet there is no doubt but that the children who had been so severely punished, bore also the punishment of their own iniquity, for they deserved a hundred deaths. But these two things well agree together, that God returns the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children, and yet that the children are chastised for their own sins.

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