(1) The word that came to Jeremiah.—The words indicate that we are entering on a distinct message or discourse, which goes on probably to the end of Jeremiah 12. No date is given, and we are driven to infer it from the internal evidence of the message itself. This points to an early period of Jeremiah’s work, probably in the reign of Josiah. The invasion of the Chaldeans is not so near, as in the preceding chapter. Jeremiah is still residing at Anathoth (Jeremiah 11:21). By some critics, however, it is referred to the reign of Jehoiachin.
So be it, O Lord.—The Amen of the liturgies and litanies of Israel, brought probably into fresh prominence by Deuteronomy 27:15-26, and uttered by princes and people in the solemn ceremonial of 2 Kings 23:3.
Therefore I will bring upon them.—Better, I have brought upon them. The words contain not a direct prediction, but an appeal to the experience of the past as in itself foreshadowing the future.
They went after other gods.—The Hebrew pronoun is emphatically repeated, as pointing back to the subject of the first clause of the verse, the men of Jeremiah’s own time—“they have gone after other gods.”
Seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many.—The Hebrew is difficult, and probably corrupt. The most probable rendering is What hath my beloved to do in my house, to work it even evil devices? Thy many, i.e. (probably, as in Jeremiah 3:1), thy many lovers, and the holy flesh (i.e., her sacrifices), will they make it (the guilt of her devices) to pass away from thee? Keeping the present text of the Hebrew the latter clause would run, they shall pass away from thee, i.e., shall leave thee, as thou wert, unreconciled and unforgiven. A conjectural emendation, following the LXX., gives, will thy vows and the holy flesh remove thy evil from thee . . . The general sense is, however, clear. A religion of mere ritual-sacrifices and the like will not avail to save. The Hebrew for “lewdness” does not convey the idea which we now attach to the English word, but means primarily a plan of any kind, and then a “device” or “scheme” in a bad sense, as in Psalm 10:2; Psalm 21:11; Proverbs 14:17. Probably the translators, here, as in Acts 17:5; Acts 18:14, used the word in this more general sense. Primarily, indeed, “lewd” in Old English was simply the opposite of “learned.”
When thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest.—The clause is involved in the same difficulty as the rest of the verse. The English version is tenable, and gives an adequate meaning. By some commentators, however, the passage is rendered, referring evil to the previous sentence, Will they (vows, &c.) remove evil from thee? Then mightest thou rejoice.
Fair, and of goodly fruit.—The words point, as before, to the ideal state of Israel. She had made no effort to attain that ideal, and therefore the thunderstorm of God’s wrath fell on it. The word for “tumult” is used in Ezekiel 1:24 for the sound of an army on its march, and is probably used as combining the literal or figurative meaning.
The tree with the fruit thereof.—Literally, the tree with its bread, here taken for its “fruit.” Some scholars, however, render the word “sap,” or adopt a reading which gives that meaning. The phrase would seem to be proverbial for total destruction, not of the man only, but of his work. While the prophet’s life had been innocent and unsuspecting, his own townsmen were conspiring to crush him, and bury his name and work in oblivion. The sufferings of the prophet present, in this matter, a parallel to those of the Christ (Luke 4:29).
Unto thee have I revealed my cause.—i.e., laid it bare before thee. The thought and the phrase were characteristic of Jeremiah, and meet us again in Jeremiah 20:12.
Even the year of their visitation.—See Notes on Jeremiah 8:12; Jeremiah 10:15.