Jeremiah 2 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Jeremiah 2
Pulpit Commentary
Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.
Verse 2. - In the cars of Jerusalem. Presumably Jeremiah had received his call at Anathoth (comp. Jeremiah 1:1). I remember thee, etc.; rather, 1 remember for thy good the kindness of thy youth. It is an open question whether the "kindness" spoken of is that of God towards the people, or of the people towards God. The usage of the Hebrew (khesed) admits of either acceptation; comp. for the first, Psalm 5:7, 36:5, and many other passages; for the second, Hosea 6:4, 6 (in ver. 6 rendering for "mercy," "goodness") and Isaiah 57:1 (rendering "men of piety"). But the context, which dwells so strongly on the oblivion into which the Divine benefits had been allowed to pass, is decidedly in favor of the first view. How beautiful is this condescending language! Jehovah's past feelings come Back to him; at least, so it appears to the believer, when God lets the light of his countenance shine forth again (comp. Jeremiah 31:20; Hosea 9:10). He even condescends to overlook the weakness and inconsistency of the Israel of antiquity. He idealizes it (i.e. Jeremiah is permitted to do so). This is in harmony with other prophetic passages (see Isaiah 1:26 ("as at the first"); Hosea 11:1, 3, 4; Ezekiel 16:6-14). The figure of the bride recurs constantly (see Hosea 2:19, 20; Isaiah 54:4, 5; Ezekiel 16:8). Thine espousals; rather, thy bridal state. When thou wentest after me (comp. Deuteronomy 8:2, "all the way which Jehovah thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness").
Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD.
Verse 3. - Israel was holiness, etc. Israel was a consecrated people (comp. Exodus 19:5, 6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:19). Isaiah, fond as he is of the phrase "Israel's Holy One," does not expressly enforce the correlative truth, as Jeremiah does here. The first-fruits of his increase; rather, his firstfruits of increase. Israel is compared to the firstfruits (reshith) of the land, which were devoted to the house of the Lord (Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:12, 13). So in Amos 6:1, the title given him is "the chief [margin, 'firstfruits'] of the nations" (in Jeremiah 31:7, a synonymous and cognate word, rosh, takes the place of reshith for "chief"). All that devour him shall offend; rather, all that ate him incurred guilt, or became guilty of a trespass. Foreigners were forbidden to eat of consecrated things; by breaking this law they became guilty of a "trespass," having invaded the rights of Jehovah (Leviticus 22:10, 15, 16). The word for "trespass" is the same as that rendered "guilt."
Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel:
Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?
Verse 5. - What iniquity, etc.; rather, what unrighteousness, etc. (comp. Deuteronomy 32:4, "a God of faithfulness, and without unrighteousness," alluding to the "covenant" between Jehovah and Israel). God's condescending grace (his 'anavah, Psalm 18:36). As if he were under an obligation to Israel (comp. Micah 6:3, etc.; Isaiah 5:3). Vanity; i.e. the idols; literally, a breath (so Jeremiah 10:15; Jeremiah 14:22; Jeremiah 16:19). Are become vain. The whole being of man is affected by the want of solid basis to his religion (comp. Jeremiah 23:16; Psalm 115:8); and the evident allusion to our passage in Romans 1:21 (St. Paul has ἐματαιώθησαν, as Septuagint here). The clause is verbally repeated in 2 Kings 17:15, with reference to the ten tribes.
Neither said they, Where is the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?
Verse 6. - Neither said they, etc.; as their children's children were forced by stress of trouble to say (Isaiah 63:11; see note). A land of desserts and of pits. The first phrase applied to the region through which the Israelites passed ("a wilderness") was vague, and might mean merely pasture-land. The remainder of the description, however, shows that "wilderness" is here meant, as often (e.g. Isaiah 35:1; Isaiah 50:2), in the sense of "desert." Though recent travelers have shown that the Sinaitie peninsula is not by any means universally a "desert," and that in ancient times it was still less so, it is not unnatural that an agricultural people should regard it as a most inhospitable region, and should even idealize its terrors (comp. Deuteronomy 8:15). "Pits," i.e. rents and fissures in the soil, in which the unwary traveler might lose his life (Jeremiah 18:20, 22).
And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.
Verse 7. - A plentiful country. "A Carmel land," as it were (so Payne Smith). "Carmel" is strictly an appellative noun, meaning" garden-land," i.e., land planted with vines and other choice plants. So Jeremiah 4:26; Isaiah 29:17; Isaiah 37:24.
The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.
Verse 8. - The priests, etc. The blame principally falls on the three leading classes (as in ver. 26; Micah 3:11). First on the priests who "handle the Law," i.e. who have a traditional knowledge of the details of the Law, and teach the people accordingly (Deuteronomy 17:9-11; Deuteronomy 33:10; Jeremiah 18:18; see also on Jeremiah 8:8); next on the "pastors," or "shepherds" (in the Homeric sense), the civil and not the spiritual authorities; so generally in the Old Testament (see Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 10:21; Jeremiah 22:22; Jeremiah 25:34; Zechariah 10:3; Zechariah 11:5, 8, 16; Isaiah 44:28); and lastly on the prophets, who sought their inspiration, not from Jehovah (comp. note on ver. 30), but from Baal. To prophesy by (by means of) Baal or rather, the Baal, implies that prophecy is due to an impulse from the supernatural world; that it is not an objectifying of the imaginations of the prophet himself. Even the Baal prophets yielded to an impulse from without, but how that impulse was produced the prophet does not tell us. We are told in 1 Kings 22:19-23, that even prophets of Jehovah could be led astray by a "lying spirit;" much more presumably could prophets of the Baal. The Baal is here used as a representative of the idol-gods, in antithesis to Jehovah; sometimes "Baalim," or the Baals, is used instead (e.g. ver. 23; Jeremiah 9:13), each town or city having its own Baal ("lord"). Things that do not profit. A synonym for idols (comp. Jeremiah 16:19; Isaiah 44:9;. 1 Samuel 12:21). An enlightened regard for self-interest is encouraged by the religion of the Bible, at any rate educationally. Contrast Comtism.
Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children's children will I plead.
Verse 9. - I will yet plead, etc. Repeated acts of rebellion call forth repeated abjurations and punishments. With your children's children. For God "visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children" (Exodus 20:5).
For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing.
Verse 10. - Justification of Jehovah's judicial action towards Judah. Consider the heinousness of the offence. Pass over - rather, pass over to - the isles of Chittim; i.e. the islands and maritime countries of the West, represented by Cyprus (see on Genesis 10:4). For the wide use of Chittim, comp. Numbers 24:24; Daniel 11:30). Kedar, in the narrower sense, is a large tribe of Arabian origin, whose haunts were between Arabia Petraea and Babylonia. Here, however, it is used in a wider sense for the Arab tribes in general (so Jeremiah Tiler 28; Isaiah 21:16, 17).
Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.
Verse 11. - Hath a nation changed their gods? Has any heathen nation ever changed its idol-god for another? The prophet clearly implies a negative answer; and yet it must be admitted that the adoption of a new religion, under the pressure of conquest or a higher foreign civilization is not an unknown phenomenon in the ancient world. Glory; i.e. source of all outward prosperity (comp. Psalm 3:3," my Glory, and the Lifter up Of my head"). Religion was, in fact, the root of national life in antiquity; contrast our own division between the sacred and the secular Jehovah elsewhere receives the title "the Pride of Israel" -Authorized Version, rather weakly, "the Excellency of Israel" -(Amos 8:7; Hosea 5:5. Comp. the parallel passages, Psalm 106:20; Romans 1:23).
Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.
Verse 12. - Be astonished. "Be appalled" would more nearly express the force of the Hebrew (so Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8). Be ye very desolate; literally, become dry; i.e. not so much "shrivel and roll up" (on the analogy of Isaiah 34:4), as "become stiff with horror."
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
Verse 13. - Two evils. Israel has not merely offended, like the heathen, by idolatry, but by deserting the only God who can satisfy the needs of human nature. The fountain of living waters. So Jeremiah 17:13 (comp. Psalm 36:9). Fountain; literally, tank or reservoir. Such reservoirs were "dug in the ground (see on Jeremiah 6:7), and chiefly intended for storing living waters, i.e. those of springs and rivulets" (Payne Smith). Cisterns, broken cisterns. A cistern, by its very nature, will only hold a limited amount, and the water "collected from clay roofs or from marly soil, has the color of weak soapsuds, the taste of the earth or the stable." Who would prefer such an impure supply to the sweet, wholesome water of a fountain? But these cisterns cannot even be depended upon for this poor, turbid drink. They are "broken," like so many even of the best rock-hewn cisterns (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' p. 287). How fine a description of the combined attractiveness and disappointingness of heathen religions, qualities the more striking in proportion to the scale on which the religions problem is realized (e.g. in Hinduism)!
Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? why is he spoiled?
Verses 14-19. - Israel's punishment and its cause. Verse 14. - Is Israel a servant? The speaker is evidently the prophet, who exclaims in surprise at the view which his prophetic insight opens to him: "quasi de re nova et absurda sciscitatur" (Calvin). For Israel is a member of Jehovah's family; he is not a servant (except in the same high sense as in Isaiah 40-53, where "servant" is virtually equivalent to "representative"), but rather in the highest degree a free man, for he is Jehovah's "firstborn son" (Exodus 4:22). How is it, then, that he is dragged away into captivity like a slave who has never known freedom? The view of some, that "servant" means "servant of Jehovah" (comp. Jeremiah 30:10), and that the question therefore is to be answered in the affirmative, is less natural. "Servant," by itself, never has this turning; and there is a precisely similar term in the discourse at ver. 31, where the negative answer of the question does not admit of a doubt.
The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant.
Verse 15. - The young lions, etc. A fresh figure, and a most natural one in Judaea (comp. 1 Samuel 17:34); already applied to the Assyrians by Isaiah (Isaiah 5:29, 30). Burned; rather, made ruinous (corer. "ruinous heaps," 2 Kings 19:25).
Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head.
Verse 16. - Also the children of Noph, etc. This is the climax of the calamity. Noph, called Moph in the Hebrew text of Hosea 9:6, is generally identified with Memphis (after the Septuagint), which was called in the inscriptions Mennufr, or "the good abode," but may possibly be Napata, the Nap of the inscriptions, the residency of the Ethiopian dynasty (De Rouge'). Tahapanes. The Hebrew form is Takhpanes or Tahhpanhhes. This was a fortified frontier town on the Pelusiot arm of the Nile, called in Greek Daphnae (Herod., 2:20), or Taphnae (Septuagint here). Have broken, etc.; rather, shall break, or (for the pointing in the Hebrew Bible requires this change) shall feed off (or depasture). From this verse onwards, Judah is personified as a woman, as appears from the suffixes in the Hebrew. Baldness was a great mark of disgrace (2 Kings 2:23; Jeremiah 48:45). There is a striking parallel to this passage in Isaiah 7:18-20, where, in punishment of the negotiations of Ahaz with Assyria, the prophet threatens an invasion of Judah both by Assyria and by Egypt: and employs the very. same figure (see ver. 20). So here, the devastation threatened by Jeremiah is the punishment of the unhallowed coquetting with the Egyptian power of which the Jewish rulers had been recently guilty. The fact which corresponds to this prediction is the defeat of Josiah at Megiddo, and the consequent subjugation of Judah (2 Kings 23:29). The abruptness with which ver. 16 follows upon ver. 15 suggests that some words have fallen out of the text.
Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, when he led thee by the way?
Verse 17. - Hast not thou procured this? rather, Is it not this that doth procure it unto thee (namely) that thou hast forsaken, etc.? or, Is it not thy forsaking Jehovah that pro. cureth thee this? When he led thee by the way. The prophet thinks, perhaps, of the rebellion of the forefathers of Israel, who too soon ceased to "go after" Jehovah (comp. ver. 2), and whose fickleness was imitated but too well by their descendants. This view is favored by the phraseology of Deuteronomy 1:33; Deuteronomy 8:2, 15. But we may, if we prefer it, explain "by (or, rather, in) the way," on the analogy of the promise in Jeremiah 31:9, "I will lead them... in a straight way," i.e. I will grant them an uninterrupted course of prosperity. The omission of the adjective in the present passage may be paralleled by Psalm 25:8, "Therefore will he instruct sinners in the (right) way."
And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?
Verse 18. - What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt? rather, with the way to Egypt. Isaiah (Isaiah 30:2-5; Isaiah 31:1) and Hosea (Hosea 7:11, 16) had already inveighed against an Egyptian alliance. The name given by Manasseh to his sen and successor (Amen) suggests that at one period in his reign an Egyptian policy was in the ascendant, which coincides with the tradition preserved in 2 Chronicles 33:11, of an Assyrian captivity of Manasseh. Jehoiakim at a later period was a vassal of Egypt (2 Kings 23:31, 35). To drink the waters; taking up the idea of the second clause of ver. 13. Sihor, or Shihor, occurs again in Isaiah 23:3, as a name of the Nile. It properly means, not so much "the black" as "the dark grey" (connected with shakhar, the morning grey), from the color of the water. Rosenmüller's contrast between the muddy waters of foreign streams and the "fountain of living waters" is uncalled for; besides, the Nile water has always been held in high esteem. The Septuagint has Γηών, i.e. Gihon, also a name of-the Nile according to Ecclus. 24:27. The way of - rather, to - Assyria. It is true that Assyria was, to say the least, powerless to interfere for good or for evil, when these words were written. But in ver. 5 the prophet has already warned us that his complaints are partly retrospective. It would seem that the Assyrian party from time to time gained the upper hand over the Egyptian in the councils of the State. Or perhaps the prophet may refer to the Quixotic fidelity to Assyria of Josiah (see below on ver. 36). The river; i.e. the Euphrates, "the great river" (Genesis 15:18). Babylonia it should be remembered, was in nominal subjection to Assyria; the Euphrates was the boundary between Syria and Palestine on the one hand, and Assyria - here the Assyrio-Babylonian region - on the other.
Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
Verse 19. - Shall correct... shall reprove; rather, chastise... punish. It is a constantly renewed punishment which follows the ever-repeated offence.
For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot.
Verse 20. - Here a new section begins. I have broken... burst. This is, grammatically, a possible rendering, but inconsistent with the second person in thou saidst, unless indeed (with Ewald) we suppose that something has fallen out of the text between the first and the second clauses of the verse. The best critics, except Ewald and Dr. Payne Smith, are agreed that we should follow the Septuagint and Vulgate in rendering "thou hast broken... (and) burst." This does not, strictly speaking, imply a new reading of the text, for ti was the old form of the suffix of the 2nd pers. fem, sing.; there is a precisely similar case in Micah 4:13. It is a true description of the history of Israel before the exile. It would almost seem as if there was a fusion of two races among the Israelites, and that the smaller but nobler stock supplied all the great men in the sphere of religion; just as in Florence, most of the men who have illustrated her annals bear names of Teutonic origin. So we might argue, if we wished to explain the Biblical history from purely natural causes. But God (to apply the Caliph Omar's words) "knoweth his own." Bands (see on Jeremiah 5:5). I will not transgress. This is the translation of the marginal reading in the Hebrew Bible, which, though implied also in the Targum, is probably a conjecture of the Jewish critics. The text reading (also that of the Septuagint and the Syriac) is, "I will not serve," (equivalent to "I will not be a slave any longer"). Obviously this does not harmonize with the rendering "I have broken," etc., in the first clause (unless, with Dr. Payne Smith, we explain "I will not serve" as virtually equivalent to "I will still serve my idol-gods"); hence the Jewish critics, by just adding a κέραια (Matthew 5:18), changed "serve" into "transgress." They did not venture to alter the next clause, which, quite as much as the first, presupposes the reading "serve" (see next note). When - rather, for - upon every high hill, etc. Bare, treeless heights were favorite spots for sacrifices, especially for Baal; groves, and leafy trees, in general, for the lascivious rites of Asherah and Ashtoreth. The apparently extreme statement of the prophet is not to be minimized. Travelers still tell us of vestiges of ancient and doubtless pro-Christian idolaters worship still visible on almost every attractive spot in the open country in Palestine. Under every green tree. We have no single word to convey the "fluid" meaning of this expressive word. It combines, in fact, the senses of pliant, sappy, leafy (comp. note on Jeremiah 11:16). Thou wanderest; rather, thou wast stretching thyself out.
Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?
Verse 21. - A noble vine. Jeremiah means the choicest kind of Oriental vine, called sorek (from the dark-red color of its grapes), and mentioned again in Isaiah 5:2. The figure of the vine is one endeared to us by its association especially with our Lord; it was endeared to the Jews by the annual festivities of the vintage. The sacred writers are never afraid of its palling on the ear by repetition (comp. Jeremiah 5:10; Jeremiah 6:9; Jeremiah 12:10; Isaiah 5:1-7; Isaiah 27:2, 3; Ezekiel 17:6; Psalm 80:8-16). A right seed; i.e. a vine-shoot of the genuine sort. "Seed" for "shoot," as in Isaiah 17:11 (scrap. ver. 10). The degenerate plant; rather, degenerate shoots (if at least the text is right).
For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD.
Verse 22. - Nitre does not mean the substance which now bears that name, but "natron," a mineral alkali, deposited on the shores and on the bed of certain lakes in Egypt, especially those in the Wady Nat-run (the ancient Nitria, whence came so large a store of precious Syriac manuscripts). In ancient times, this natron was collected to make lye from for washing purposes (comp. Proverbs 25:20). Sope; rather, potash; the corresponding vegetable alkali (comp. Isaiah 1:25). Thine iniquity is marked. So Kimchi and Gesenius (through a doubtful etymology); but the Aramaic use of the word favors the rendering stained, i.e. filthy. The word is in the participle, to indicate the permanence of the state (comp. "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood," etc.? 'Macbeth').
How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways;
Verse 23. - How canst thou say, etc.? This is not a mere rhetorical fiction equivalent to "or if thou shouldst perhaps say," but probably represents an objection really made by the inhabitants of the kingdom of Judah. Their fault was not in neglecting the public worship of Jehovah in his appointed temple, but in superadding to this, idolatrous rites inconsistent with the spiritual religion taught by Jeremiah. The people did not, it seems, regard this as tantamount to "following Baalim," just as some converts to Christianity in our own foreign missions might exclaim against being accused of apostasy, because they secretly carry on certain heathen practices. The prophet, however, applies a more rigorous test to their conduct. Baalim; the plural of Baal, used for "other gods" (Jeremiah 1:16; comp. on ver. 8). Thy way in the valley. The valley in this context can only be that of Hinnom (see on Jeremiah 7:31), which from the time of Ahaz had been defiled with the rites of "Moloch, horrid king" (see ' Paradise Lost,' 1:392-396). Thou art a swift dromedary. Ewald would attach this half of the verse to ver. 24; and there is something to be said for this plan. Swift dromedary is, properly speaking, in the vocative. The ardor of the people for idolatry is expressed by the comparison of it to the uncontrollable instinct of brute beasts. The word rendered "dromedary" is in the feminine gender; it means strictly the young she-camel which has not yet had a foal. Traversing her ways; rather, interlacing her ways; i.e. running backwards and forwards at the impulse of passion.
A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.
Verse 24. - A wild ass, etc. The type of wildness and independence (comp. Genesis 16:12; Job 39:5-8). That snuffeth up the wind; to cool the heat of her passion. In her occasion... in her month; i.e. at the pairing-time.
Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.
Verse 25. - Withhold thy foot, etc. Hitzig, with unnecessary ingenuity, explains this with reference to the fatiguing practices of the heathen cultus, comparing 1 Kings 18:26, where "vain repetitions" of "Baal, Baal," and (as he thinks) barefoot religious dances, are mentioned as parts of the worship of Baal. Umbreit's view, however, is far more natural. "God the true husband exhorts Israel not to run barefoot, and with parched throat, like a shameless adulteress, after strangers" (Payne Smith). There is no hops; i.e. the exhortation is in vain (so Jeremiah 18:12).
As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets,
Verse 26. - Is... ashamed. It is the per-feet of prophetic certitude.
Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.
Verse 27. - And to a stone, etc. Stone ('ebhen) is feminine in Hebrew, and therefore addressed as the mother.
But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.
Verse 28. - According to the number of thy cities, etc. A remarkable statement, and one that well illustrates the superficial character of Hezekiah's reformation. True, Manasseh's reactionary reign had intervened, but his counter-movement would not have been so successful had it not been attended by the good wishes of the people; and besides, the last years of Manasseh, according to the tradition in 2 Chronicles 33:12-16 were devoted to undoing the mischief of his former life. The force of the prophet's words is strikingly brought out by M. Renan (he led an expedition to Phoenicia), who has shown that every district and every town had a cultus of its own, which often only differed from the neighboring cultus by words and titles (nomina, numina); comp. Baal-Hamon, Baal-Hazor, eta Dr. Payne Smith well expresses the argument of Jeremiah: "When every city has its special deity, surely among so many there might be found one able to help his worshippers."
Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the LORD.
Verse 29. - Wherefore will ye plead with me? How can ye be so brazen-faced as to attempt to justify yourselves?
In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.
Verse 30. - Have I smitten your children. The cities and towns of Judah are represented as so many mothers, and the populations as their children. It would, no doubt, be more natural to take "children" literally; but then we must read the verb in the next clause, "Ye have received," as the Septuagint actually renders. In the former case the "smiting" will refer to all God's "sore judgments" -sword, drought, famine, pestilence; in the latter, to the loss of life in battle. Your own sword hath devoured your prophets (comp. 2 Chronicles 24:21; 2 Kings 21:16). Manasseh's persecution (which extended, according to Josephus, especially to the prophets) may account for the preponderance of "false prophets" referred to in ver. 8 (cf. Matthew 23:29).
O generation, see ye the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?
Verse 31. - O generation, see ye. It is doubtful whether generation here means "contemporaries" (equivalent to "men of this generation"), or, like γενεά sometimes in the New Testament, a class of men united by moral affinity (comp. Psalm 14:5; Psalm 78:8). In the latter case we should rather attach the pronoun in "see ye" to "O generation," and render "O (evil) generation that ye are!" So Hitzig, Keil, and Payne Smith; Ewald and Delitzsch adopt the first rendering. Have I been a wilderness, etc.? "Have I not been the source of light and happiness to my people, and of all temporal blessings?" (comp. Jeremiah 2:6). So the Divine speaker in Isaiah 45:19, "I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain," or more literally, "in chaos" (same word as in Genesis 1:2); "chaos" and "the wilderness" are both images of that which is utterly unremunerative. A land of darkness. This is, of course, not literally accurate as a description of the Arabian desert. "Darkness" is here used as a synonym for "misery." Cloud and rain occupy precisely opposite places in the estimation of nomadic and agricultural peoples respectively. "The Bedouins," says an Arabic scholast, "always follow the rain and the places where raindrops fall;" whereas a townsman of Mecca calls himself "child of the sun." So Indra and Varuna, originally belonging to the cloudy and rainy sky, are in the Vedic hymns endowed with solar traits. It should be added here that it is an old problem, and too difficult a one for us to investigate, whether we should render "the darkness of Jah" (Jehovah) or (as Authorized Version) simply "darkness." The former rendering will mean very great darkness, such as Jehovah sends in judgment (e.g. to the Egyptians, Exodus 10:21-23). On this question, see Dr. Ginsburg on Song of Solomon 8:6 (where a similar doubt exists), Geiger's 'Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel,' p. 276; Ewald, 'Lehrbuch der Hebraischen Sprache,' § 270 e. We are lords; rather, we have broken loose. It is, however, a difficult word, which only occurs elsewhere in Genesis 26:40; Hosea 12:1; Psalm 55:3.
Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
Verse 32. - Or a bride her attire. The prophet perhaps means the magnificently adorned girdle which the bride wore on her wedding day (comp. Isaiah 49:18). But the word only occurs again in Isaiah 3:20, and its precise signification is uncertain.
Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways.
Verse 33. - Why trimmest thou thy way I rather, How well thou contrivest thy way, etc.? Therefore hast thou also taught, etc. The meaning which floated before our trans-labors seems to be this: "so utterly immoral is thy course of life, that even the worst of women ['wicked ones' is in the feminine] have been able to learn something from thee" (so the great Dutch scholar, De Dieu,in 1548). But a more natural rendering is, "Therefore [i.e. to gain thine ends] thou hast accustomed thy ways to those evil things." Nemo repente fuit tupissimus. It required a deliberate "accustoming," or "training" (such is the literal meaning of limad), to produce such a habit (ἕξις) as is here rebuked.
Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these.
Verse 34. - Also in thy skirts, etc.; or, there is even fennel in thy skirts (or, perhaps, in thy sleeves - the wide sleeves of an Eastern mantle). The fact which follows is adduced as the crowning evidence of wickedness. Blood of the souls is explained by the statement in Leviticus 17:11, "The soul of the flesh [i.e. of the body] is in the blood;" hence the importance of the blood in the Mosaic sacrifices. The historical reference of this passage of Jeremiah may well be to the persecution of Manasseh, who is said to have "shed innocent blood very much" (2 Kings 21:16). It is Judah, no doubt, who is addressed, but the prophets mostly assume the "solidarity" of king and people (analogous to that of a forefather and his posterity); Manasseh, moreover, probably had the support of a large section of the population, at any rate in so far as he favored the inveterate cultus of the high places or local sanctuaries. I have not found it by secret search; rather, thou hast not found them breaking through (houses). The phraseology agrees with that of Exodus 22:2, the law against "breaking through;" it suggests that the houses of all but the highest class in ancient as well as often in modern Palestine, were made of mere sun-dried brick, which could be easily "dug into" (comp. Ezekiel 12:5; Matthew 6:19, 20, in the Greek). [Lieut. Conder states, it is true, that in hilly districts of Palestine the houses of the villages are built of stone, but he adds that the stone is simply taken from the ruins of the ancient towns.] Burglars caught in the act might be killed (Exodus 22:2), but the innocent victims of persecution could not be brought under this category, and hence those who slew them were really guilty of murder. But upon all these; rather, but because of all these things; i.e. not for any crime, but because of thine things," as in Jeremiah 3:7); so Hitzig, Keil Payne Smith; less naturally De Dieu, "because of those false gods"
Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned.
Verse 35. - Because. This "because" is misleading; there is no argument, but the statement of a supposed fact. The particle so rendered merely serves to introduce the speech of the Jews (like ὅτι). Shall turn; rather, hath turned. Judah had so long been undisturbed by any foreign power, that the people fancied the promises of Deuteronomy were being fulfilled, and that they, on their part, had pleased God by their formal obedience (comp. 2 Kings 22:17). I will plead with thee. Here, as in some other passages (e.g. Isaiah 66:16; Ezekiel 38:22), the word includes the sense of punishing.
Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria.
Verse 36. - Why gaddest thou about so much - many render, Why runnest thou so quickly; but the verb simply means to go, and it is enough to refer to foreign embassies, such as are alluded to in this very chapter (ver. 18) - to change thy way? The "way" or policy of Judah was "changed," according as the party in power favored an Egyptian or an Assyrian alliance. Thou also shalt be ashamed of; rather, thou shalt also be brought to shame through. As thou art ashamed of Assyria (correct rendering as before). This is certainly difficult, for in the reign of Josiah it would appear that the political connection with Assyria still continued, Is it possible that Jeremiah, in these words, has in view rather the circumstances of Jehoiakim than those of Josiah? Does he not appear to look back upon Judah's final "putting to shame through Assyria" as a thing of the past? And to what event can this expression refer but to the overthrow of Josiah at Megiddo (so Graf)?
Yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head: for the LORD hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them.
Verse 37. - From him; i.e. from Egypt, personified as a man (so whenever a people is referred to; a laud is represented as a woman). Egypt was, in fact, the only great power capable of assisting Judah at this time (see Introduction); yet even Egypt, the prophet says, shall disappoint her Jewish allies, for Jehovah has rejected thy confidences (i.e. the objects of thy confidence). As a matter of fact, "the King of Egypt came not again any more out of his laud" after Necho's crushing defeat at Carehemish (2 Kings 24:7; comp. Jeremiah 37:5).

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