Jeremiah complains of the prosperity of the wicked. (1-6) The heavy judgments to come upon the nation. (7-13) Divine mercy to them, and even to the nations around. (14-17)
Verses 1-6 When we are most in the dark concerning God's dispensations, we must keep up right thoughts of God, believing that he never did the least wrong to any of his creatures. When we find it hard to understand any of his dealings with us, or others, we must look to general truths as our first principles, and abide by them: the Lord is righteous. The God with whom we have to do, knows how our hearts are toward him. He knows both the guile of the hypocrite and the sincerity of the upright. Divine judgments would pull the wicked out of their pasture as sheep for the slaughter. This fruitful land was turned into barrenness for the wickedness of those that dwelt therein. The Lord reproved the prophet. The opposition of the men of Anathoth was not so formidable as what he must expect from the rulers of Judah. Our grief that there should be so much evil is often mixed with peevishness on account of the trials it occasions us. And in this our favoured day, and under our trifling difficulties, let us consider how we should behave, if called to sufferings like those of saints in former ages.
Verses 7-13 God's people had been the dearly-beloved of his soul, precious in his sight, but they acted so, that he gave them up to their enemies. Many professing churches become like speckled birds, presenting a mixture of religion and the world, with its vain fashions, pursuits, and pollutions. God's people are as men wondered at, as a speckled bird; but this people had by their own folly made themselves so; and the beasts and birds are called to prey upon them. The whole land would be made desolate. But until the judgments were actually inflicted, none of the people would lay the warning to heart. When God's hand is lifted up, and men will not see, they shall be made to feel. Silver and gold shall not profit in the day of the Lord's anger. And the efforts of sinners to escape misery, without repentance and works answerable thereto, will end in confusion.
Verses 14-17 The Lord would plead the cause of his people against their evil neighbours. Yet he would afterwards show mercy to those nations, when they should learn true religion. This seems to look forward to the times when the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in. Those who would have their lot with God's people, and a last end like theirs, must learn their ways, and walk in them.
Jeremiah 12:1-17 . CONTINUATION OF THE SUBJECT AT THE CLOSE OF THE ELEVENTH CHAPTER.
He ventures to expostulate with Jehovah as to the prosperity of the wicked, who had plotted against his life ( Jeremiah 12:1-4 ); in reply he is told that he will have worse to endure, and that from his own relatives ( Jeremiah 12:5 Jeremiah 12:6 ). The heaviest judgments, however, would be inflicted on the faithless people ( Jeremiah 12:7-13 ); and then on the nations co-operating with the Chaldeans against Judah, with, however, a promise of mercy on repentance ( Jeremiah 12:14-17 ).
1. ( Psalms 51:4 ).
let me talk, &c.--only let me reason the case with Thee: inquire of Thee the causes why such wicked men as these plotters against my life prosper (compare Job 12:6 , 21:7 , Psalms 37:1 Psalms 37:35 , 73:3 , Malachi 3:15 ). It is right, when hard thoughts of God's providence suggest themselves, to fortify our minds by justifying God beforehand (as did Jeremiah), even before we hear the reasons of His dealings.
2. grow--literally "go on," "progress." Thou givest them sure dwellings and increasing prosperity.
near in . . . mouth . . . far from . . . reins--( Isaiah 29:13 , Matthew 15:8 ). Hypocrites.
3. knowest me--( Psalms 139:1 ).
tried . . . heart--( Jeremiah 11:20 ).
toward thee--rather, "with Thee," that is, entirely devoted to Thee; contrasted with the hypocrites ( Jeremiah 12:2 ), "near in . . . mouth, and far from . . . reins." This being so, how is it that I fare so ill, they so well?
pull . . . out--containing the metaphor, from a "rooted tree" ( Jeremiah 12:2 ).
prepare--literally, "separate," or "set apart as devoted."
day of slaughter--( James 5:5 ).
4. land mourn--personification ( Jeremiah 14:2 , 23:10 ).
for the wickedness--( Psalms 107:34 ).
beasts--( Hosea 4:3 ).
He shall not see our last end--Jehovah knows not what is about to happen to us ( Jeremiah 5:12 ) [ROSENMULLER]. So the Septuagint. ( Psalms 10:11 , Ezekiel 8:12 , 9:9 ). Rather, "The prophet (Jeremiah, to whom the whole context refers) shall not see our last end." We need not trouble ourselves about his boding predictions. We shall not be destroyed as he says ( Jeremiah 5:12 Jeremiah 5:13 ).
5. Jehovah's reply to Jeremiah's complaint.
horses--that is, horsemen: the argument a fortiori. A proverbial phrase. The injuries done thee by the men of Anathoth ("the footmen") are small compared with those which the men of Jerusalem ("the horsemen") are about to inflict on thee. If the former weary thee out, how wilt thou contend with the king, the court, and the priests at Jerusalem?
wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee--English Version thus fills up the sentence with the italicized words, to answer to the parallel clause in the first sentence of the verse. The parallelism is, however, sufficiently retained with a less ellipsis: "If (it is only) in a land of peace thou art confident" [MAURER].
swelling of Jordan--In harvest-time and earlier (April and May) it overflows its banks ( Joshua 3:15 ), and fills the valley called the Ghor. Or, "the pride of Jordan," namely, its wooded banks abounding in lions and other wild beasts ( Jeremiah 49:19 , 50:44 , Zechariah 11:3 ; compare 2 Kings 6:2 ). MAUNDRELL says that between the Sea of Tiberias and Lake Merom the banks are so wooded that the traveller cannot see the river at all without first passing through the woods. If in the campaign country (alone) thou art secure, how wilt thou do when thou fallest into the wooded haunts of wild beasts?
6. even thy brethren--as in Christ's case ( Psalms 69:8 , John 1:11 , 7:5 ; compare Jeremiah 9:4 , Jeremiah 11:19 Jeremiah 11:21 , Matthew 10:36 ). Godly faithfulness is sure to provoke the ungodly, even of one's own family.
called a multitude after thee--( Isaiah 31:4 ). JEROME translates, "cry after thee with a loud (literally, 'full') voice."
believe . . . not . . . though . . . speak fair--( Proverbs 26:25 ).
7. I have forsaken--Jehovah will forsake His temple and the people peculiarly His. The mention of God's close tie to them, as heretofore His, aggravates their ingratitude, and shows that their past spiritual privileges will not prevent God from punishing them.
beloved of my soul--image from a wife ( Jeremiah 11:15 , Isaiah 54:5 ).
8. is unto me--is become unto Me: behaves towards Me as a lion which roars against a man, so that he withdraws from the place where he hears it: so I withdrew from My people, once beloved, but now an object of abhorrence because of their rebellious cries against Me.
9. speckled bird--Many translate, "a ravenous beast, the hyena"; the corresponding Arabic word means hyena; so the Septuagint. But the Hebrew always elsewhere means "a bird of prey." The Hebrew for "speckled" is from a root "to color"; answering to the Jewish blending together with paganism the altogether diverse Mosaic ritual. The neighboring nations, birds of prey like herself (for she had sinfully assimilated herself to them), were ready to pounce upon her.
assemble . . . beasts of . . . field--The Chaldeans are told to gather the surrounding heathen peoples as allies against Judah ( Isaiah 56:9 , Ezekiel 34:5 ).
10. pastors--the Babylonian leaders (compare Jeremiah 12:12 , Jeremiah 6:3 ).
my vineyard--( Isaiah 5:1 Isaiah 5:5 ).
trodden my portion--( Isaiah 63:18 ).
11. mourneth unto me--that is, before Me. EICHORN translates, "by reason of Me," because I have given it to desolation ( Jeremiah 12:7 ).
because no man layeth it to heart--because none by repentance and prayer seek to deprecate God's wrath. Or, "yet none lays it to heart"; as in Jeremiah 5:3 [CALVIN].
12. high places--Before, He had threatened the plains; now, the hills.
wilderness--not an uninhabited desert, but high lands of pasturage, lying between Judea and Chaldea ( Jeremiah 4:11 ).
13. Description in detail of the devastation of the land ( Micah 6:15 ).
they shall be ashamed of your--The change of persons, in passing from indirect to direct address, is frequent in the prophets. Equivalent to, "Ye shall be put to the shame of disappointment at the smallness of your produce."
14-17. Prophecy as to the surrounding nations, the Syrians, Ammonites, &c., who helped forward Judah's calamity: they shall share her fall; and, on their conversion, they shall share with her in the future restoration. This is a brief anticipation of the predictions in the forty-seventh, forty-eighth, and forty-ninth chapters.
touch--( Zechariah 2:8 ).
pluck them out . . . pluck out . . . Judah--(Compare end of Jeremiah 12:16 ). During the thirteen years that the Babylonians besieged Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar, after subduing Coelo-Syria, brought Ammon, Moab, &c., and finally Egypt, into subjection [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 10:9.7]. On the restoration of these nations, they were to exchange places with the Jews. The latter were now in the midst of them, but on their restoration they were to be "in the midst of the Jews," that is, as proselytes to the true God (compare Micah 5:7 , Zechariah 14:16 ). "Pluck them," namely, the Gentile nations: in a bad sense. "Pluck Judah": in a good sense; used to express the force which was needed to snatch Judah from the tyranny of those nations by whom they had been made captives, or to whom they had fled; otherwise they never would have let Judah go. Previously he had been forbidden to pray for the mass of the Jewish people. But here he speaks consolation to the elect remnant among them. Whatever the Jews might be, God keeps His covenant.
15. A promise, applying to Judah, as well as to the nations specified ( Amos 9:14 ). As to Moab, compare Jeremiah 48:47 ; as to Ammon, Jeremiah 49:6 .
16. swear by my name--( Jeremiah 4:2 , Isaiah 19:18 , 65:16 ); that is, confess solemnly the true God.
built--be made spiritually and temporally prosperous: fixed in sure habitations (compare Jeremiah 24:6 , 42:10 , 45:4 , Psalms 87:4 Psalms 87:5 , Ephesians 2:20 Ephesians 2:21 , 1 Peter 2:5 ).
17. ( Isaiah 60:12 ).