Page images
PDF
EPUB

DN

2.-the house of correction] Our translators have rendered "the stocks;" but I think without sufficient ground; for the word, which properly signifies that instrument of punishment, is ; See Job xiii. 27. xxxiii. 11. The word namn occurs twice besides; Ch. xxix, 26. and 2 Chron. xvi. 10. in both which places it is rendered simply "a prison ;" and is mentioned as a punishment due to or inflicted on one, who assumed the character of a prophet without a proper call, or was presumed to have behaved unbecomingly as such. The verb 7, from which it is derived, signifies in Hiphil to cause to turn, alter ox change; that is, in respect of moral conduct, to correct or rẻform; and therefore nan seems not improperly expressed by "the house of correction ;" such places being also often established in the gates of cities, where courts of judicature were anciently held. And it is very natural to understand here, that Pashur, having caused Jeremiah to be beaten or scourged, ordered him into confinement afterwards; from whence he released him the next day.

Ibid. the higher gate of Benjamin] The city of Jerusalem, taken in its full extent, was included within the lot of two tribes; but the north part, the ancient Jebusi, of which mount Moriah, where the temple stood, made a part, was in the lot of Benjamin, as may be seen, Josh. xviii. 16. Admitting this, the upper or higher gate of Benjamin must be one of those that were on the north side; and accordingly Ezekiel, Ch. ix. 2. describes "the higher gate" as "lying toward the north." By the epithet "higher," I suppose regard may be had to the course of the sun, rising in the east, and going down to the west; so that the higher of the gates, that were in the north quarter in the lot of Benjamin, must be the most eastern of them, and consequently one adjoining to the temple. See Ch. xxxvi. 10, 12. This also appears from the beforecited passage, Ezek. ix. 2. where Ezekiel, who stood within the inner court of the temple is said to have seen six men ad vancing directly" from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, to the side of the brasen altar." The gate however, though it must be thus situated, might otherwise be called "higher," from its standing on more elevated ground than the rest in the circuit of the wall.

3.-Magor-missabib] This word sgnifies "Terror all around." And God's calling him by that name implies that he would render him such as he called him. So when God called Abram by the new name of Abraham, he assigns the reason, "For a father of many nations have I made thee." Gen. xvii. 5.

5.-all the strength of this city, and all its industry, and all that is valuable in it] on properly signifies that which strengthens and secures the possession of any thing. Here, no doubt, it means "the men of war," which constitute "the strength" of a city or state; as "its labour," or "industry," does the industrious artisans and mechanics; and p, the honourable and respectable members of the community, not included in the two former classes. With respect to this sense of ya, I think we have an instance in point, Isa. xlv. 14.

where we read, wis ¬770) 3 r, which Bp. Lowth renders, "the wealth of Egypt, and the merchandise of Cush ;" considering as put by metonymy for that wealth, which is gotten by industry. But if we consider the context, we shall plainly perceive, that persons,

וסחר כיש יגיע and not inanimate things, are spoken of; and that by

must be meant "the manufacturers of Egypt, and the merchants of Cush ;" that is, the people of those countries respectively distinguished by their turn for arts and commerce; who with the Sabæans, alike remarkable for the tallness of their stature, it is said, should come over and join the party of him, who was employed and countenanced by the true God.

It will, I think, tend much to illustrate this passage, and the corresponding conduct of the Babylonian monarch, related 2 Kings xxiv. 12 -17. if I here cite the words of a celebrated modern historian, who describes the similar behaviour of those Barbarians, the Moguls or Tartars, who under Zingis overran and conquered Asia, to their captives, in the following manner. "The inhabitants, who had submitted to "their discretion, were ordered to evacuate their houses, and to assem“ble in some plain adjacent to the city, where a division was made of the "vanquished into three parts. The first class consisted of the soldiers of "the garrison, and of the young men capable of bearing arms: and their "fate was instantly decided; they were either inlisted among the Moguls, or they were massacred on the spot by the troops, who, with "pointed spears and bended bows, had formed a circle round the cap❝tive multitude. The second class, composed of the young and beau"tiful women, of the artificers of every rank and profession, and of the more wealthy or honourable citizens, from whom a private ransom "might be expected, was distributed in equal or proportionable lots. "The remainder, whose life or death was alike useless to the conquer" ors, were permitted to return to the city; which in the mean while “had been stripped of its valuable furniture, and a tax was imposed

66

66

66

on those wretched inhabitants for the indulgence of breathing their "native air." Gibbon's Hist. of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, Vol. iii. p. 367. Here we see evidently the distinction of 1, , and p', and also of those poorer and meaner citizens, who were left in the land, but still tributary to the Chaldeans, first under Zedekiah, and next under Gedaliah, Ch. xxxix. 18. xl. 7.

7. Thou didst allure me, &c.] It would be a singular pleasure to me to contribute in any degree towards clearing the character of a much injured servant of God from those imputations, which have, I think, very undeservedly been cast upon it. He has been particularly censured on account of the passage before us, in which he has been represented as profanely and insolently upbraiding God with having falsified his word to him, and having even forced him into his service, without granting him that protection, which he had encouraged him to expect. This would have been profane insolence indeed; but neither do the words used by him necessarily imply any such thing; nor can they be so understood consistently with what the prophet declares, ver. 11. that God was with him, and so effectually took his part, as to baffle all the

designs of his enemies, and make them ashamed of their unsuccessful malice. And again, ver. 13. he breaks forth into a song of praise and thanksgiving to God for his especial preservation of him. Surely these are not the expressions of one, who complained of being deceived and imposed on by God; and the verb may as well signify to persuade or allure by fair means, as by false and indirect ones; in which latter case only it implies seduction and deceit. Now God had invited Jeremiah into his service; and proposed both to qualify him for, and to employ him in, a ministry of the most important and honourable kind. "Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth from the birth, I separated thee; a prophet unto the na tions have I constituted thee." Ch. i. 5. And again, ver. 10. “See I have given thee power this day over nations and over kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to overthrow; and to build, and to plant." Such an offer was sufficiently flattering to human ambition; for if it be accounted highly honourable to serve an earthly prince; how much more to become the special minister and agent of the supreme Lord of heaven and earth? Accordingly Jeremiah says, that he received the commission with joy, and was much pleased for a time with being "called by the name of JEHOVAH God of hosts." Ch. xv. 16. But this was before he had experienced the inconveniences of his new dignity; although he could not pretend that these were altogether concealed from him; for he was apprized from the first, that he should encounter great opposition, which however God would not suffer to prevail against him; Ch. i. 17-19. He could not therefore, nor did he say that he was deceived; the utmost he could mean was, that he was allured by the dazzling splendour of the office to take it upon him, without weighing all its consequences. So that if any reflection be here intended, it is not levelled at God, but at his own rashness and want of consideration.-There is also as little ground for charging the prophet with saying, that God had forced him into a disagreeable office against his will. Yet this seems to be implied in our common translation of pin, "Thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed ;" in which sense all the ancient versions and the generality of commentators seem to agree. But the verb pin in Pihel signifies to fortify or encourage; as may be seen, Deut. i. 38. iii. 28. Isa. xli. 7. &c. And the words in question, I am persuaded, allude to that encouragement, which the prophet received from God, when he told him at first that he would both enable him to discharge the office, and would support him against all opposers; Ch. i. 7, 8. 17 -19. or to that which was afterwards given him, when he began to complain of hardships; Ch. xv. 19-21. This being the case, I see nothing in the prophet's words, but what is consistent with the utmost piety and reverence towards God; who, he says, had prevailed upon him to undertake an honourable, though painful, employment, and had encouraged him to go through with it by assurances, which he acknowledges him to have made good; but that the unmerited scorn and insult he had met with on the part of man had often tempted him to wish, that he could have withdrawn himself fairly out of the way,

GMA

Surely in all this, we may say of him as the scripture says of another eminent sufferer, Jeremiah "sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." Jobi. 22.

Ibid. Ridicule hath spent its whole force upon me], if an adjective, as it is generally understood to be, must either be a feminine, or have a feminine affix ; neither of which could well be accounted for in this place. But it is a verb, and literally signifies, "is perfected," or "carried to its utmost length."

9. Neither will I speak any more in its name] Our English translations, both ancient and modern, make JEHOVAH the antecedent of

to be דבר but I rather take ; בשמו and אזכרנו the affix pronouns in

so, as it is evidently the subject of the following verb mm. To "speak in the name of God's word" is to deliver any thing as bearing the stamp of that authority.

Ibid. Then it becomes in my heart as a burning fire, &c.] I question whether any thing more is meant here, than that his conscience would not let him be easy in suppressing that which he knew it was his duty to speak out. In like manner St Paul says of himself, that "necessity was laid upon him, so that woe would be to him if he preached not the gospel, the dispensation of which had been committed unto him." 1 Cor. ix. 16, 17. The Psalmist makes use of the like expression, "the fire burned," to denote the inward agitation he felt, whilst he endeavoured to stifle the sentiments, which laboured for utterance. Ps. xxxix. 3.

Ibid. being pent up within my bones-] is the reading, instead of y, in nineteen MSS, of which the ancient Bodleian is one; and is right, being the participle Pahul masculine in agreement with Pent up within my bones," that is, confined within my breast.

דבר

10. Report ye terror all'around, and we will report it] The prophet says, that he had overheard, or was not unacquainted with, the conversation of many, who encouraged one another to spread reports of danger that threatened him on all sides, in hopes to intimidate him, or to urge him to take some false step, which they, even his most familiar friends, were ever on the watch to turn to his disadvantage. The expressions are borrowed from Ps. xxxi. 13. Recollect also in what manner our Saviour was continually beset by persons, who often put the like treacherous arts in practice, with a view to entrap and intangle him, so as to furnish a specious accusation against him.

11. With an everlasting shame, that shall not be forgotten] DR DURELL proposes to consider as compounded of and the affix, and to render, "The confusion of their wickedness shall not be forgotten." This is a very plausible conjecture, and would afford a good sense. But we find the same words repeated, Ch. xxiii. 40. only the relative x is there expressed before awn Nh, which here suffers an Ellipsis, according to a very common Hebrew idiom. And the sense is so determined in that place, to leave no room for doubting in this.

12. And O JEHOVAH of hosts, &c.] Compare Ch. xi. 20.

14. Cursed be the day &c.] Here the prophet is again accused of giving proof of the malignity of his heart by uttering the most horrid imprecations against persons and things that had not injured him, nor could have given him the least cause of complaint. But Mr Lowth in his commentary upon the place has very properly urged in his defence, that what we read here is a lamentation written in a poetical strain, like the Lessus or Nania, which the Prefice or mourning women used to sing; wherein strong poetical figures are used, and all the circumstances brought in, that are proper to raise the passions, but which it would be extremely wrong to interpret in a strict and literal sense; and therefore that the imprecations here excepted to are not to be looked upon as so many expressions of indignation and malice, but rather of mourning and sorrow. Divested of this poetical heightening, all that the prophet says amounts only to this; that his birthday had proved a very unlucky one to him; and that the man, who had brought his father the news of his birth, had in reality been the messenger of ill tidings instead of good; for that as things had turned out with him, it would have been a kinder and more charitable office to have strangled him in the womb, than to have assisted in bringing him into the world, to lead a life of so much bitterness and disquietude. So much may be said for it in a moral view.---But with respect to its poetical merit, I know of nothing in its kind more truly and beautifully affecting. What could have painted the distress of the prophet's mind with more strong and lively colouring? The pencil is guided by nature; which delights in multiplying passsion, especially of the violent and tumultuous kind, and expanding it over whatever has any the slightest relation to or connection with the object that first excited it. See Elements of Cri ticism, Ch. II. p. i. sect. 5. Bp. Lowth has also cited similar instances of grief discharging itself in invectives and bitter wishes against objects equally blameless and undeserving with those, which our prophet has singled out. Among the rest is the following exclamation in David's celebrated lamentation over Saul and Jonathan, 2 Sam. i. 21. "Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither rain upon you, nor fields of offerings." Upon which he thus descants," All which "if you were to bring to the standard of cool and dispassionate reason, "what would appear more absurd? But if you have an eye to nature, "and the ordinary flow of the passions, what more genuine, more ex"act, more beautiful? The falling upon a wrong cause instead of the right, though a fault in Logic, is sometimes an excellence in Poetry; because the leading principle in the former is right reason, in the lat"ter it is passion." De Sac. Poes. Heb. Prælect. xxiii.*

46

16. Even hearing an outcry, &c.] That is, subject to continual a larms, as cities beset with enemies; or to mournful cries uttered in his own family on account of repeated misfortunes.

17. Even the womb of her that conceived me----] Instead of na

>

*Quæ omnia, si ad rectæ rationis normam exigas, quid absurdius? si naturam et affectuum motus spectes, quid verius, quid expressius, quid pulchrius Non Causa pro Causa. in Dialectica flagitium, in Poetica interdum est virtus: quia nimirum illic ratio, hic affectus dominantur.

« PreviousContinue »