He confirms the same thing, and employs many words, because it was difficult to raise up minds wholly broken down. For the world labors under two extreme evils, — they sink in despair, or are too much exalted by foolish pride: nay, there is no moderation except when ruled by God’s Spirit we recumb on his word; for when they devise vain hopes for themselves, they are immediately rapt up above the clouds, fly here and there, and in short think that they can climb into heaven; this is the excess of vain and foolish confidence: but when they are dejected, then they fall down wholly frightened, nay, being astonished and lifeless they lose every feeling, receive no comfort, and cannot taste of anything which God promises. And both these evils prevailed evidently among the Jews. We have seen how much the Prophet labored to lay prostrate their pride and arrogance; for they laughed at all threatenings, and remained ever secure; though God, as it were, with an armed hand and a drawn sword menaced them with certain destruction, yet nothing moved them. And when they were driven into exile, they were extremely credulous when the false prophets promised them a quick return; while, in the meantime, God, by his servants, shewed to them that he would be gracious to them, and after seventy years would become their deliverer; but they were deaf to all these things, nay, they rejected with disdain all these promises, and said,
“What! will God, forsooth, raise up the dead!”
This, then, is the reason why the Prophet now speaks so largely of their future redemption: it was difficult to persuade the Jews; for as they thought that they would soon return to their own country, they could not endure delay, nor exercise the patience which God commanded. They were at the same time, as we have said, quite confident, inasmuch as the false prophets filled their minds with vain hopes.
He therefore says, I know the thoughts which I think towards you Some think that God claims here, as what peculiarly belongs to him, the foreknowledge of future things; but this is foreign to the Prophet’s meaning. There is here, on the contrary, an implied contrast between the certain counsel of God, and the vain imaginations in which the Jews indulged themselves. The same thing is meant when Isaiah says,
“As far as the heavens are from the earth, so far are my thoughts from your thoughts,” (Isaiah 55:9)
for they were wont absurdly to measure God by their own ideas. When anything was promised, they reasoned about its validity, and looked on all surrounding circumstances; and thus they consulted only their own brains. Hence God reproved them, and shewed how preposterously they acted, and said, that his thoughts were as remote from their thoughts as heaven is from the earth. So also in this place, though the two parts are not here expressed; the Prophet’s object was no other than to shew, that the Jews ought to have surrendered themselves to God, and not to seek to be so acute as to understand how this or that would be done, but to feel convinced that what God had decreed could not be changed.
It must yet be remarked, that he speaks not here of his hidden and incomprehensible counsel. What then are the thoughts of which Jeremiah now speaks? They were those respecting the people’s deliverance, after the time was completed, for God had promised that he would then be propitious to his Church. We hence see that the question here is not about the hidden counsels of God, but that the reference is simply to the word which was well known to the Jews, even to the prophecy of Jeremiah, by which he had predicted that the Jews would be exiles for seventy years, and would at last find that their punishment would be only a small chastisement, as it would only be for a time: I know then my thoughts But still he indirectly condemns the Jews, because they entertained no hope of deliverance except from what came within the reach of their senses. He then teaches us that true wisdom is to obey God, and to surrender ourselves to him; and that when we understand not his counsel, we ought resignedly to wait until the due time shall come.
He says that they were thoughts of peace, (214) that is, of benevolence. Peace, as it has been often said, is taken for felicity, as in Jeremiah 29:7,
“For the peace of Babylon shall be your peace;”
that is, if Babylon be prosperous, you shall be partakers of the same happiness. So now, in this place, God declares that his thoughts were those of peace, for he designed really to shew by the effect his paternal kindness towards his people.
He afterwards adds, that 1 may give you the end and the expectation By אחרית, achrit, which means in Hebrew the last thing, we are to understand here the end, as though he had said, that it was to be deemed as final ruin, when people had been driven away to a foreign land. For it was no small trial when the Jews were deprived of that land which was the rest and habitation of God; it was the same as though they had been cut off from every hope: it was then a sort of repudiation, and repudiation was a kind of death. But here God declares that he would put an end to their exile, as it was to be only for a time. It is hence to be inferred, that the people did not perish when they were led into exile, but that they were only chastised by God’s hand.
He adds expectation, which Jerome has rendered “patience,” but in a very forced manner. There is, indeed, no doubt but that by this second word the Prophet more fully and clearly expressed what he meant by the first word, אחרית , achrit, even the end that was wished or desired, I will then give you the end, even that ye may enjoy the promises, as ye wish and expect, and ought to hope for, since God has made them. (215) Here I will make an end.
In mentioning purposes and not purpose, the intention probably was to shew its firmness and certainty. The Hebrews sometimes used the plural number in order to enhance the meaning, as “wisdoms” for perfect wisdom, in Proverbs 9:1. Then the meaning of the word would be, “the very sure purpose;” and in a version, the meaning, and not the word literally, ought to be given.