Commentary on the Prophet Jeremiah In Ieremiam prophetam expositio Prologue of St. Thomas Prooemium S. Thomae 2 Maccabees 15:14 2 Machabaeorum 15:14 This is the lover of his brethren, and of the people of Israel; this is he who prays much for the people and for the entire holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God. Hic est fratrum amator, et populi Israel; hic est qui multum orat pro populo et universa sancta civitate, Jeremias propheta Dei. These are the words of Onias the high priest to Judas Maccabees, commenting on the vision of Jeremiah. From this it is possible to derive four things regarding the present work, namely, the author, the subject matter, the method, and its usefulness. Verba ista sunt Oniae summi sacerdotis ad Judam Machabaeum, in visione Jeremiam commendantis. Ex quibus quatuor possunt accipi circa praesens opus quod prae manibus habetur; scilicet auctor, materia, modus, et utilitas. Concerning the author, the present record delineates three things: his office, disposition, and activity. Circa auctorem tria designat praesens auctoritas; scilicet officium, affectum et actum. With regard to his office, prophetic dignity is shown, as it says, Jeremiah, the prophet of the Lord. In officio ostenditur prophetalis dignitas: unde dicit: Jeremias propheta Domini. With regard to internal disposition, his brotherly love, as it says, this is the lover of his brethren. In affectu fraterna caritas: unde dicit: hic est fratrum amator. With regard to action, his dutiful compassion, as it says, this is he who prays much for the people and for the entire holy city. In actu compassionis pietas: unde dicit: hic est qui multum orat pro populo, et universa sancta civitate. Now, he is called the prophet of God to distinguish him from others, who are not prophets of God. For there are some who are prophets of the heavens, some who are prophets of the devil, and some who are prophets of God. Dicitur autem propheta Dei ad differentiam aliorum qui non sunt prophetae Dei. Sunt enim quidam prophetae caeli, quidam prophetae diaboli, quidam prophetae Dei. The prophets of the heavens are those who endeavor to tell the future from the figures of the heavens by the motions of the constellations; of these Isaiah speaks: let them stand and save you these augurs of the heavens, who contemplate the constellations and calculate the months, that from them they may announce to you the things which are to come (Isa 47:13). All divination belongs to this type of prophecy, which is accomplished through certain signs found in natural events. Prophetae caeli sunt qui ex figuris caeli in motibus siderum futura conjicere student; et de istis dicitur Isa. 47: stent, et salvet te augures caeli, qui contemplabantur sidera, et supputabant menses, ut ex eis annuntiarent ventura tibi. Et ad hunc modum prophetiae reducitur omnis divinatio, quae fit per aliquas causas vel signa in rebus naturalibus inventa. Prophets of the devil are those who know certain future events from the revelation of demons, who, as Augustine says, gain knowledge by long experience, or perspicuity of nature, or by the revelation of supernal spirits. These are spoken of below: the prophets have prophesied by Baal and follow idols (Jer 2:8). Prophetae diaboli sunt qui ex revelatione daemonum aliqua futura cognoscunt, quae quidem, ut dicit Augustinus, ipsi daemones cognoscunt experientia longi temporis, vel perspicacitate naturae, vel revelatione supernorum spirituum. Et de istis dicitur infra 2: prophetae prophetaverunt in Baal, et idola secuti sunt. The prophets of God are those who, by the mediation of angels, as Dionysius says, receive an illumination from God concerning future events. For this reason, Cassiodorus says that prophecy is a divine inspiration announcing the outcome of events with immoveable truth. For this reason, it is said: you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High (Luke 1:76). Prophetae autem Dei sunt qui mediantibus angelis, ut dicit Dionysius, de futuris a Deo illuminationem accipiunt. Unde Cassiodorus dicit, quod prophetia est divina inspiratio rerum eventus immobili veritate denuntians. Et ideo dicitur Luc. 1: tu puer propheta Altissimi vocaberis, etc. The first sort of prophecy is to be spurned, because it is false, and because it has no immoveable truth. For they receive the contingency of the effect from proximate causes, not necessity from first causes. And, therefore, it is said below: be not afraid of the signs of heaven (Jer 10:2). Prima prophetia contemnenda est, quia vana: non enim habet immobilem veritatem. Effectus enim recipiunt contingentiam a causis proximis, non necessitatem a causis primis. Et ideo dicitur infra 10: a signis caeli nolite metuere. The second type of prophecy is to be avoided entirely, because it is deceitful and pernicious. False prophets and unclean spirits I will drive from the land (Zech 13:2). Secunda est fugienda omnino, quia deceptoria et perniciosa. Zach. 13: pseudoprophetas, et spiritum immundum auferam de terra. The third is to be followed and held as true, because it is illuminating. We have a more certain word of prophecy, to which you do well to attend as to a lamp shining in a dark place (2 Pet 1:19). Tertia est sequenda et tenenda, quia illuminativa. 2 Petr. 1: habemus firmiorem propheticum sermonem, cui bene facitis attendentes, quasi lucernae lucenti in caliginoso loco. The holy prophets are called the prophets of God for three reasons. Dicuntur autem isti sancti prophetae, prophetae Dei propter tria. First, because they are inspired by God. I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophecy (Joel 2:28). Primo quia a Deo inspirati. Joel. 2: effundam de spiritu meo super omnem carnem, et prophetabunt filii vestri, et filiae vestrae. Concerning false prophets, on the contrary, who speak through their own spirit, it says: woe to foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and see nothing (Ezek 13:3). E contrario de falsis prophetis, qui per spiritum suum loquuntur, dicitur Ezech. 13: vae prophetis insipientibus qui sequuntur spiritum suum, et nihil vident. Second, because they are sent by God. Behold I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes (Matt 23:34). And now the Lord has sent me, and his spirit (Isa 48:16). Secundo quia a Deo missi. Matth. 23: ecce ego mitto ad vos prophetas, et sapientes, et scribas. Isa. 29: et nunc misit me Dominus, et spiritus ejus. On the other hand, concerning false prophets it says below: I did not send prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied (Jer 23:21). E contrario de falsis prophetis infra 23: non mittebam eos, et ipsi currebant; non loquebar ad eos, et ipsi prophetabant. Third, because they bear witness to God. To this all the prophets bear witness (Acts 10:43). You are my witnesses (Isa 44:8). Tertio quia Deum testificati (Act. 10): huic omnes prophetae testimonium perhibent, etc. Isa. 44: vos estis testes mei. His internal disposition is shown, burning with fraternal charity, as it says: this is the lover of his brethren (2 Macc 15:14). Affectus autem ostenditur fervens fraterna caritate: unde dicit: hic est fratrum amator. Now the disposition of the prophets varies in three ways. Affectus autem prophetarum tripliciter variatur. For some are lovers of profit. Sleeping and loving sleep; most unchaste dogs, they do not know abundance (Isa 56:10–11). Quidam enim sunt amatores lucri. Isa. 56: dormientes, et amantes somnia: et canes impudentissimi nescierunt saturitatem, etc. Some are lovers of human favor, of whom it says: they love the first seats in the feasts (Matt 23:6). Quidam amatores favoris humani, de quibus Matth. 23: amant primos recubitus in caenis. But the third are lovers of people, fulfilling what the Apostle says: may fraternal charity remain in you, and do not forget hospitality (Heb 13:1–2). Sed tertii sunt amatores populi, implentes illud Apostoli ad Heb. ult.: caritas fraternitatis maneat in vobis, et hospitalitatem nolite oblivisci. The first plunder riches. Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who seduce my people, who bite with their teeth and preach peace (Micah 3:5). They dishonored me before my people for a handful of barley, and a crumb of bread, that they may kill souls which are not dying, and give life to souls which live not, lying to my people who believe their lies (Ezek 13:19). Primi spoliabant divitiis. Michaeae 3: haec dicit Dominus super prophetas qui seducunt populum meum, qui mordent dentibus, et praedicant pacem. Ezech. 13: violabant me ad populum meum propter pugillum hordei et fragmen panis, ut interficerent animas quae non moriuntur, et vivificarent animas quae non vivunt, mentientes populo meo credenti mendaciis. The second deceive with flattering. His prophets have daubed them without tempering the mortar, seeing vain things and divining a lie unto them (Ezek 22:28). Secundi decipiebant blanditiis. Ezech. 22: prophetae ejus liniebant eos absque temperamento, videntes vana et divinantes eis mendacium. But the third instruct with true doctrines. Below it says: I will give you shepherds after my own heart, and they will feed you with knowledge and understanding (Jer 3:15). Sed tertii instruebant veris doctrinis. Infra 3: dabo vobis pastores juxta cor meum, et pascent vos scientia et doctrina. Moreover, in his action one sees his pious compassion for his people at: this is he who prays much (2 Macc 15:14). In actu autem ipsius, ostenditur pia compassio ejus ad populum suum, ibi, hic est qui multum orat. His prayer is said to be much, or great, in three ways. Est oratio ejus multa, sive magna tripliciter. First, with regard to the depth of his contemplation. As it says below, remember that I stood in your sight, that I might speak good for them, and turn your indignation from them (Jer 18:20). To stand in his presence is to be present before him in contemplation. Primo altitudine contemplationis. Infra 18: recordare quod steterim in conspectu tuo, ut loquerer pro eis bonum, et averterem indignationem tuam ab eis. In conspectu ejus astare est per contemplationem praesto esse. Second, it was great because of the magnitude of his compassion. My bowels are disturbed, my liver is poured out on the earth (Lam 2:11). Secundo fuit magna ex magnitudine compassionis. Thren. 2: conturbata sunt viscera mea, effusum est in terra jecur meum. Third, it was great with regard to duration of time, because it began before the captivity, and continued after. For this reason, James says: the constant prayer of the just man avails much (Jas 5:16). Tertio fuit magna assiduitate temporis, quia ante captionem, et post. Unde Jacobi ult.: multum valet deprecatio justi assidua. And these three—namely, prophetic dignity, fraternal charity, and pious compassion—are necessary for a prophet. Et haec tria, scilicet prophetalis dignitas, fraternalis caritas, et compassionis pietas, necessaria sunt prophetae.