and upon the families that call not on thy name; this does not signify single families, commonly so called; but kingdoms, as the Targum interprets it; Heathen kingdoms and nations, that call not upon or worship the God of Israel, but their own idols; such as the family of Egypt, Zechariah 14:17 and so it is expressed in a parallel place, Psalm 79:6, which is either taken from hence, or this from thence:
for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate; a heap of words to express the great destruction and desolation of the land of Israel, of Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah; and of their houses and dwelling places, private and public; and of their spoiling them of all their goods, substance, wealth, and riches; which is given as a reason of the above imprecation.
INTRODUCTION TO Jeremiah 11
This chapter gives an account of the covenant God had made with the people of the Jews; their breach of it; and the evils threatened them on that account; and particularly against the men of Anathoth, for their ill treatment of the prophet. It begins with the order to Jeremiah to rehearse the words of the covenant in the ears of the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Jeremiah 11:1, which covenant is described by the sanction of it; a curse in case of disobedience; and a promise of being their God, and bringing them into the good land, in case of obedience; and by the time when it was made, when the Israelites were brought out of Egypt, Jeremiah 10:3, which order, the prophet agreeing to, is repeated, Jeremiah 10:5 declaring the earnest protestation and exhortation of God to obey it, which they not observing, were threatened with the curses of it, Jeremiah 11:7, the present Jews doing as their forefathers had done, breaking the covenant, particularly by their idolatry, are threatened also with punishment they should not escape, Jeremiah 11:9 which is aggravated by a resolution to show no regard to their cries, Jeremiah 11:11, by the impotence of their idols to save them, though so numerous, Jeremiah 11:12, by forbidding the prophet to pray for them, Jeremiah 11:14, by their having no longer a place and protection in the house of God, because of their wickedness, Jeremiah 11:15, by comparing their former and present state together, having been as a beautiful and fruitful olive tree, but now burnt, and its branches broken, Jeremiah 11:16, next follows an account of a design of the men of Anathoth against the prophet, to take away his life, which he was ignorant of, till the Lord gave him knowledge of it, Jeremiah 11:17, when he imprecates vengeance on them, Jeremiah 11:20, and, under a spirit of prophecy from the Lord, foretells their utter ruin and destruction, Jeremiah 11:21.
and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: the words of the covenant, and what follows.
thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; that made them, and brought them out of Egypt, and made a covenant with them, and had taken care of them, and had bestowed many favours upon them:
cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant; which the prophet, it may be, had in his hands, even the book of the law, and held it forth unto them, while he was speaking; the language of which is, cursed is everyone that does not constantly and perfectly perform what is contained in it, Deuteronomy 27:26.
in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: that is, quickly after, when they were in the wilderness, and before they came into the land of Canaan. The "day" seems to include the whole time from their coming out of Egypt, to their entrance into Canaan's land; it was in the first year of their coming out from thence that the law was given them on Mount Sinai, Exodus 19:1, and it was in the fortieth year, and when they were upon the borders of Canaan, that the covenant was made with them in the land of Moab, Deuteronomy 1:3, "from the iron furnace"; meaning Egypt, and their bondage and affliction in it, compared to an iron furnace for the grievousness of it, its long continuance, and the use of it to try and prove them; see Deuteronomy 4:20,
saying, obey my voice; in the law:
and do them; the commands of it, the words of the covenant:
according to all which I command you; everything was to be done that was commanded, and as it was commanded; a perfect and uniform obedience is to be yielded to the law, in order to enjoy the blessing, or a penalty is incurred:
so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God; this is the tenor of the covenant of works; covenant interest in God, according to the law, depends upon obedience; that is the condition of it; but the covenant of grace is not clogged with such a condition; but runs absolutely,
they shall be my people, and I will be their God, Jeremiah 32:39.
to give them a land flowing with milk and honey: that is, abounding with plenty of all kind of provisions; see Exodus 3:8,
as it is this day; the land of Canaan continued to those times a very fruitful country; it was as it was promised it should be, and which was a clear thing; their eyes saw it, and the day bore witness to it:
then answered I, and said; that is, the Prophet Jeremiah, to whom the above order was given:
so be it, O Lord; or, "Amen, Lord" (f); either agreeing to publish what the Lord commanded him; or as wishing that the land of Canaan might continue the same fruitful land it was, and the people of the Jews in it, they keeping the words of this covenant; or else as assenting that the curse might fall upon the men that did not observe them, alluding to Deuteronomy 27:15. This is the sense of Abarbinel; Jarchi and Kimchi observe, that the word "Lord" is vocative, and in the language of prayer.
(f) "Amen, Domine", Pagninus: Montanus; "Amen, O Jehovah", Schmidt, Cocceius.
proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: with a loud voice, and openly, that all may hear:
saying, hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them; which their forefathers promised, when the covenant was made with them, Exodus 24:7, but did not perform; hearing without doing is of little avail; not the hearers, but the doers of the law are justified; wherefore men should not be content with hearing only, Romans 2:13.
the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt; See Gill on Jeremiah 11:4,
even unto this day, rising early, and protesting, saying, obey my voice; that is, from the time of the giving of the law, in all successive ages, to the present time, he had sent his prophets to them, time after time, morning by morning, early and late, to press, exhort, and stir them up to an obedience to his will, and to warn them of the evils that would come by disobedience to it.
(g) "testificando tesficatus sum", Schmidt; "contestando contestatus sum", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius.
but walked everyone in the imagination of their evil heart; which is desperately wicked, and is evil, and that continually, even every imagination of it; wherefore walking herein must be very wide and different from walking in the law of the Lord, and obeying that; see Jeremiah 3:17,
therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant; that is, all the curses and threatenings denounced in it against the disobedient; and so the Targum,
"and I brought upon them vengeance (or punishment) because they received not the words of this covenant:''
which I commanded them to do, but they did them not; because they did not do the commands of the law, therefore the curses of it lighted on them; for the words of the preceding clause may be rendered, "and I brought upon them" (h), &c.; and it is suggested that the like punishment would be inflicted on the present generation, they imitating and pursuing the iniquities of their fathers; as follows:
(h) "et induxi", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus; "ideo adduxi", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "et feci ut venirent", Cocceius.
a conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem; not against the king, and against the civil government, but against the King of kings, against God and his covenant, his word and his worship; some designs were forming to cashier these, and introduce a new religion, the idolatry of the Gentiles; and it was not a few only that were in the scheme, the combination was general, city and country were in it; the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the more polite part of the nation, and the country people, that dwelt in the several cities of Judah, were all united in this affair; and this was found out by him who sees and knows all things. It is common for innovators in religion to lay schemes privately, and secretly inculcate them, before things are ripe for the open introduction of them. The Syriac version renders it, "a rebellion"; and conspiracies often issue in open rebellion; and so the Targum,
"and it is found that the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, have rebelled against my word.''
which refused to hear my words; sent unto them by the prophets, Isaiah, and others:
and they went after other gods to serve them; not their forefathers, though it was true of them; but the then present generation, that were in the conspiracy and rebellion against God; they put their schemes into execution, and worshipped and served the gods of the nations:
the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers; by their many transgressions, and especially by their idolatry; the house of Israel, or the ten tribes, had done so, many years ago, and were carried captive; and the house of Judah, or the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah, committing the same iniquities, might justly expect the like treatment.
which they shall not be able to escape; they should not have wisdom enough to form a scheme, nor power enough to put one in execution when formed, whereby they could extricate themselves out of the difficulties they would be in; doubtless reference is had to their being besieged by the Chaldean army, the evil that should come out of the north, Jeremiah 1:14, which should so closely surround them, that none should escape:
and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them: because their prayers were hypocritical, and not attended with faith and true repentance; otherwise, when men cry to God, under a sense of sin, being truly sorry for it, and put their trust in him, he hears them, and delivers them; but these would be concerned only for the evil that was come upon them, and not the evil they had been guilty of; and such sinners, when they pray to him, the Lord hears not. The Targum is,
"and they shall pray before me, and I will not receive their prayers.''
go and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense; Baal, the queen of heaven, sun, moon, planets, and all the hosts of heaven, as in Jeremiah 44:15, these they should cry unto for help and deliverance in vain:
but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble; not yield them the least relief and comfort in their trouble, so far from saving them entirely from it.
and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem; of which there were many, and some of note (i):
have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal; one of whose names is Bosheth, "shame"; see Hosea 9:10, hence Jerubbaal is called, in 2 Samuel 11:21, Jerubbesheth; very properly is this name given to Baal, not only because the worship of him was to the reproach of the true God, but brought shame and confusion in the issue to its worshipper; as well as because shameful things were done in the worship of it, especially of Baalpeor; who seems to be the same with the Priapus of other nations.
(i) Vid. Lightfoot, Chorograph. Cent. ad Matt. p. 34.
neither lift up a cry or prayer for them; more words are used, to show the divine resolution, how inexorable he was, and how desperate was their condition, and their ruin sure; these words are repeated from Jeremiah 7:16,
for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble; for, as he would not hear their prayers when they should cry to him to be delivered from their trouble, it cannot be thought that he should hear the prayers of others for them, The Targum understands this of the prayers of the prophet for them, paraphrasing the words thus,
"for there is no acceptance before me (or it is not pleasing to me) when thou shall pray for them before me, in the time of their evil;''
neither their prayers, nor the prophet's for them, would be acceptable to God, or of any avail, he being determined to bring evil upon them.
seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many; that is, the congregation of Israel, or the church of the Jews, had committed idolatry with many idols; or it was not only a few of them that were guilty of this sin, but a multitude, even their great men, the princes and nobles:
and the holy flesh is passed from thee? which Kimchi and Ben Melech understand of holy and good men, who ceased from among them, were perished and gone; and Jarchi, of the circumcision of the flesh, which was neglected: but it seems best to interpret it of the flesh of sacrifices; which were either laid aside by them, or, if offered and eaten of, were of no service to them, being offered up with a wicked mind; or rather the meaning is, the time was come that these were at an end, the temple being destroyed:
when thou doest evil; the evil of sin; or "when thine evil is" (l); the evil of punishment is coming upon thee:
then thou rejoicest; instead of repenting of sin, and mourning for it, or being humbled at approaching judgments, gave themselves up to sensual lusts and pleasures; neither concerned at the one nor at the other; neither grieved for sin, nor trembled at punishment; but amidst all were brisk and jovial; though some say (m) the word has the signification of trembling; and render it, "then thou shalt tremble". The Targum of the whole is,
"What (have I to do) with this people, that was beloved before me? they have left the worship of the house of my sanctuary; they have took counsel to sin much; they mingle the flesh of abominations with the holy flesh; they shall go into captivity from thee; because of thy wickedness thou art strong.''
(k) T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 53. 2.((l) "quum adest malum tuum", Junius & Tremellius; "praesto est", Piscator; extabit, Cocceius. (m) R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 32. 1.
with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it: that is, by means of the Chaldean army, which came with a mighty rushing noise, as a numerous army does; the Lord hath destroyed it, and burnt it with fire; what the Chaldeans did is ascribed to God, because it was done according to his will, and by his direction and overruling providence:
and the branches of it are broken; the high and principal ones, the king, princes, and nobles, their palaces, and the house of God. The apostle seems to have respect to this passage in Romans 11:17. The Targum is,
"as an olive tree that is beautiful in form and comely of sight, whose branches overshadow the trees, so the Lord hath magnified thy name among the people; but now that thou hast transgressed the law, the armies of the people, who are strong as fire, shall come against thee, and helps shall be joined to them.''
for he hath pronounced evil against thee; he hath determined it in his mind, and he hath declared it by his prophets:
for the evil of the house of Israel; the ten tribes, who had committed sin, and for which the evil pronounced had been executed on them already, being some time ago carried captive:
and of the house of Judah; who had taken no warning by them, but had followed them in their iniquities, and even exceeded them; and therefore must expect the like punishment for their sins:
which they have done against themselves; for sin is not only against God, his nature, will, and law; but it is against the sinner himself, and is to his hurt and ruin, both temporal and eternal:
to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal; this particularly was the evil which was so provoking to God; and therefore he determined to bring the evil of punishment upon them; and shows the cause and reason of it; and which is a sufficient vindication of his justice.
and I know it; and am sure of it; having it by divine revelation, and from that God that cannot lie, and will not deceive:
then thou shewedst me their doings. Some versions, as the Septuagint, Syriac; and Arabic, take the former words to be a prayer of the prophet's, "O Lord, make me know, or show me, or teach me, that I may know"; and these signify that his prayer was answered. The Lord showed him the sins of these people, and what punishments they deserved, and would be inflicted on them; or rather what they were doing in the dark, and what schemes they were contriving and attempting to put in execution against his life; but God was careful of it, and would not suffer them to do him any harm; and therefore made all known unto him; see Psalm 105:15.
"as a choice lamb;''
and so R. Menachem in Jarchi, a large or principal one; but the words respect not the excellency, the meekness, patience, innocence, and harmlessness of the prophet; but his security and insensibility of danger, like one or both of these creatures:
that is brought to the slaughter; to be sacrificed by the priest, or killed by the butcher; not knowing but it is going to the pasture to feed in, or to the fold or stall to lie down in; so ignorant was the prophet of the designs of his townsmen against him, and not at all jealous that they wished him ill; since he meant none to them, but sought their good:
and I knew not that they had devised devices against me; that they had met and consulted together, and devised mischief against him:
saying, let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof; meaning either the prophet and his family, root and branch; or him and his prophecies; for taking away his life would put an end to his prophesying. Some think this respects the manner in which they proposed to take away his life, as by poison; so the Targum,
"let us cast (put) poison (or the savour of death) into his food;''
for the word rendered fruit signifies bread; and so the Septuagint, Arabic, and Vulgate Latin versions render it, "let us cast, or put wood into his bread" (o); either some poisonous plant or tree, or rotten wood; or give him wood instead of bread, and so starve him. De Dieu observes, that translated "fruit", signifies, both in the Hebrew and Arabic languages, "flesh"; and renders it, "let us break wood upon his flesh", (p) or body; that is, beat him with staves till they are broken upon him, and so kill him. The ancient fathers understand this of Christ, who is the bread of life, and of his crucifixion upon the wood of the cross. Jerom says it is the consent of all the churches that these things are said of Christ in the person of Jeremiah, even in this and the preceding verse, and the following one:
let us cut him off from the land of the living. The Targum explains it of the land of Israel; but it designs the world in general, and the taking away of his life out of it, and from among men:
that his name may be remembered no more; that he and his prophecies may be buried in everlasting oblivion; he no more spoken of, and his predictions no more regarded: but, as they failed in the former in taking away his life, he outliving many of them, so in the latter; for as what he foretold exactly came to pass, his name and his prophesying are in remembrance to this day; and, as the wise man says, "the memory of the just is blessed", Proverbs 10:7.
(n) "quasi agnus mansuetus", V. L. "agnus assuefactus"; so some in De Dieu; "tanquam agnus amicabilis", De Dieu; "un agneau aimable", Gallic version. (o) "mittamus lignum in panem ejus", V. L. "corrumpamus veneno cibum", Pagninus; "corrumpamus lignum in pane ejus", Montanus, Vatablus, Calvin. (p) "Rumpamus lignum in earnem ejus", De Dieu.
that triest the reins and the heart; of all men; as of his own, so of his enemies; and which he mentions, not so much on his own account as theirs:
let me see thy vengeance on them; which imprecation arose from a pure zeal for God, for his glory, and the honour of his justice; and not from private revenge; and so no ways inconsistent with the character of a good man; though some consider the words as a prediction of what would befall them, and he should live to see accomplished; and render them, "I shall see &c." (q); and so the Targum,
"I shall see the vengeance of thy judgment on them:''
for unto thee have I revealed my cause; as a client to his patron; told his whole case, and left it with him, believing he would manage it for him, and do him justice. The Apostle Peter seems to have this passage in view, when speaking of Christ, 1 Peter 2:23.
(q) "videbo", Munster, Schmidt; "visurus sum", Junius & Tremellius.
that seek thy life; or "soul"; that is, to take it away:
saying, prophesy not in the name of the Lord; without their leave, and such hard things as he did, unless he would prophesy smooth things, and then he might go on, otherwise he must expect to die:
that thou die not by our hand; or means; they intimate, that, should he persist in this way of prophesying, they should not stay to carry on a judicial process against him, to bring him and accuse him before a judge, or the sanhedrim, or any court of judicature; but should do as those called zealots in later times did; lay violent hands upon him, and dispatch him themselves at once; perhaps this they said after they found that the prophet had knowledge of their designs against him.
the young men shall die by the sword; by the sword of the Chaldeans, in the field, going out in battle against them; or rather when their town was taken and plundered, since they were the sons of priests:
their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; that is, their little ones, male and female; so that the famine, it seems, was not only in Jerusalem at the time of its siege, but in other parts also: no mention is made of the parents themselves.
(r) "visitans super eos", Montanus, Schmidt; "visito", Pagninus, Vatablus, Cocceius.