Lecture One Hundred and Fifth
17. Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and live: wherefore should this city be laid waste?
17. Ne audiatis ipsos, servite regi Babylonis, et vivetis: ut quid erit urbs haec desolatio (hoc est, in vastitatem?)
It is not to be wondered at that Jeremiah said the same things so often, for, as we have seen, he had to contend with false prophets. When any one speaks, and there be no dispute and no adversary opposing him, he may calmly deal with the teachable and confine himself to a few words; but when contention arises, and opponents appear, who may seek to subvert what we say, then we must exercise more care, for they who are thus driven different ways, will not be satisfied with a few words. As, then, Jeremiah saw that the people were fluctuating, he found it necessary, in order to confirm them, to use many words; not that prolixity is in itself sufficient to produce conviction; yet there is no doubt but that Jeremiah spoke efficiently so as to influence at least some portion of the people. Besides, it was necessary to dwell more expressly on a subject not very plausible; the false prophets were heard with favor, and the greater part greedily devoured what was set forth by them; for the hope of impunity is always pleasing and sought after by the world.
But what did Jeremiah say? Serve ye the king of Babylon; that is, "No better condition awaits you than to pay tribute to the king of Babylon; be subject to his authority, and patiently endure whatever he may prescribe to you." This was indeed a very hard speech; for subjection was not unaccompanied with reproach; besides, he bade them to surrender themselves to a most cruel enemy, as though they were to expose their life to him; and lastly, they were to risk the danger of being spoiled of all that they had. What Jeremiah taught then was very much disliked, as he thus exhorted the people to endure all things. This was, then, the reason why he had not declared in a few and plain words what God had committed to him; it was difficult to persuade the people to undergo the yoke of the king of Babylon, and to submit to his tyranny.
We hence see that there were two very just reasons why the Prophet insisted so much on this one subject, and confirmed what he might have briefly said without any prolixity; Hearken, ye to them, he says; serve ye the king of Babylon and ye shall live  We must again bear in mind what we said yesterday, that patiently to humble ourselves under God's mighty hand is the best remedy for mitigating punishment, and that in this way punishment is turned into medicine; so on the other hand, when we are like refractory and ferocious horses, whatever punishment God inflicts on us, is only a prelude to endless destruction. Let us then lay hold on this truth and constantly meditate on it, — that our punishment becomes vivifying to us, when we acknowledge God to be a righteous judge and suffer ourselves to be corrected by him. But I refer only briefly to this subject now, for I spoke of it more at large yesterday.
He adds, Why should this city be a desolation? He set before them the city in which God's sanctuary was, and by the sight of it he tried to turn them to repentance; for it was extremely base to harden themselves against the warnings of the prophets, so as to cause the Temple of God to be demolished, and also the holy city to be reduced to a waste, in which God designed to have his dwelling, as he had said,
"This is my rest for ever." (Psalm 132:14)
In short, he declared to the Jews that a most awful condemnation awaited them, if they suffered the city to perish through their own fault, and that they would be the authors of their own ruin, if they undertook not the yoke of the king of Babylon. It follows —
 As in Jeremiah 27:12, so here the verb is in the imperative mood, but in all the early versions as rendered here. -- Ed.