John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

9 (Jeremiah 8:9)

Verse 9

He says now that the wise were ashamed, and astonished, and ensnared By which words he means, that the Jews gained nothing by their craftiness, while they arrogated to themselves wisdom, and under this pretense rejected all admonitions, and sought to be spared.

“This wisdom, “he says, “avails you nothing, for God, as it is said in another place, will take you unawares.” (Isaiah 29:14; 1 Corinthians 1:19.)

Ashamed, then, he says, are they; not that they were then ashamed; for be said before, in Jeremiah 6:15, and will state the same presently, that they were so hardened that they could not be made ashamed, nor be made to blush: (222) but he here denounces a punishment, which was soon to overtake them; as though he had said, “Ye have now an iron front, and think that ye can elude God and his servants with impunity; but God will take you unawares, and will so shake off the masks under which you hide yourselves, that your disgrace shall be made manifest to all.” This is the meaning.

For the same purpose he says, “Ye are now secure, but God will shortly fill you with such terror, that he will make you greatly astonished ” He intimates, then, that nothing would benefit them while they took delight in their vices, and increasingly hardened themselves; for God would deprive them of their craftiness, and cast them down with terror, however secure and perverse they were now.

By the third word he sets forth the manner in which they would be treated: God would have his snares by which he would take them. He alludes to the subterfuges in which those hypocrites trust, who proudly oppose God, while they think that by their arts they can escape in this or that way, and often devise some new schemes by which they may deceive God. Hence the Prophet, alluding to their perverse cunning, says, that God would be as it were a fowler, who would ensnare them, and hold them captive.

He afterwards assigns the reason, Because they had repudiated, or despised or rejected, (223) (for the verb means all these things,) the word of Jehovah And he uses a demonstrative particle, Behold, that they might not, as usual, make any evasions: “The thing, “he says, “is sufficiently known, and even children can be judges of your impiety, that you have rejected the word of Jehovah.” He draws hence this inference, What does wisdom avail them? or, What is their wisdom? Either of these meanings may be admitted, They were wise to no purpose, while they provoked God by their impious contempt. “I hate the wise who is not wise for himself, “is an old proverb. As then the Jews ill consulted their own benefit, by rejecting the word of God, in which their safety was involved, the Prophet justly alleges, that their wisdom availed them nothing. Others read, “What is their wisdom, “when there is no fear of God? And doubtless it ever remains a truth, that the fear of God is the beginning and the chief part of wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10; Psalms 111:10.) Since then they had basely despised God’s word, rightly does the Prophet ask, “What is their wisdom?” But there is a third meaning which is suitable, even this, And wisdom, what to them? So it is literally, — What is wisdom to them? He still speaks to them ironically, as though he said, “They are indeed wise, but in their own esteem; they have therefore no need of being taught: What then is wisdom to them!” The meaning is, that they were so swollen with pride that they received no instruction. How so? They refused wisdom through the false conceit with which they were inflated. Let, however, every one choose for himself; my object is to shew what I mostly approve. There will be no lecture to — morrow, as a consistory is to be held.

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible