God expostulates with his people. (1-8) Their revolt beyond example. (9-13) Guilt the cause of sufferings. (14-19) The sins of Judah. (20-28) Their false confidence. (29-37)
Verses 1-8 Those who begin well, but do not persevere, will justly be upbraided with their hopeful and promising beginnings. Those who desert religion, commonly oppose it more than those who never knew it. For this they could have no excuse. God's spiritual Israel must own their obligations to him for safe conduct through the wilderness of this world, so dangerous to the soul. Alas, that many, who once appeared devoted to the Lord, so live that their professions aggravate their crimes! Let us be careful that we do not lose in zeal and fervency, as we gain knowledge.
Verses 9-13 Before God punishes sinners, he pleads with them, to bring them to repentance. He pleads with us, what we should plead with ourselves. Be afraid to think of the wrath and curse which will be the portion of those who throw themselves out of God's grace and favour. Grace in Christ is compared to water from a fountain, it being cooling and refreshing, cleansing and making fruitful: to living water, because it quickens dead sinners, revives drooping saints, supports and maintains spiritual life, and issues in eternal life, and is ever-flowing. To forsake this Fountain is the first evil; this is done when the people of God neglect his word and ordinances. They hewed them out broken cisterns, that could hold no water. Such are the world, and the things in it; such are the inventions of men when followed and depended on. Let us, with purpose of heart, cleave to the Lord only; whither else shall we go? How prone are we to forego the consolations of the Holy Spirit, for the worthless joys of the enthusiast and hypocrite!
Verses 14-19 Is Israel a servant? No, they are the seed of Abraham. We may apply this spiritually: Is the soul of man a slave? No, it is not; but has sold its own liberty, and enslaved itself to divers lusts and passions. The Assyrian princes, like lions, prevailed against Israel. People from Egypt destroyed their glory and strength. They brought these calamities on themselves by departing from the Lord. The use and application of this is, Repent of thy sin, that thy correction may not be thy ruin. What has a Christian to do in the ways of forbidden pleasure or vain sinful mirth, or with the pursuits of covetousness and ambition?
Verses 20-28 Notwithstanding all their advantages, Israel had become like the wild vine that bears poisonous fruit. Men are often as much under the power of their unbridled desires and their sinful lusts, as the brute beasts. But the Lord here warns them not to weary themselves in pursuits which could only bring distress and misery. As we must not despair of the mercy of God, but believe that to be sufficient for the pardon of our sins, so neither must we despair of the grace of God, but believe that it is able to subdue our corruptions, though ever so strong.
Verses 29-37 The nation had not been wrought upon by the judgements of God, but sought to justify themselves. The world is, to those who make it their home and their portion, a wilderness and a land of darkness; but those who dwell in God, have the lines fallen to them in pleasant places. Here is the language of presumptuous sinners. The Jews had long thrown off serious thoughts of God. How many days of our lives pass without suitable remembrance of him! The Lord was displeased with their confidences, and would not prosper them therein. Men employ all their ingenuity, but cannot find happiness in the way of sin, or excuse for it. They may shift from one sin to another, but none ever hardened himself against God, or turned from him, and prospered.
Jeremiah 2:1-37 . EXPOSTULATION WITH THE JEWS, REMINDING THEM OF THEIR FORMER DEVOTEDNESS, AND GOD'S CONSEQUENT FAVOR, AND A DENUNCIATION OF GOD'S COMING JUDGMENTS FOR THEIR IDOLATRY.
Probably in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah ( Jeremiah 1:2 ; compare Jeremiah 3:6 , "also . . . in . . . days of Josiah"). The warning not to rely as they did on Egypt ( Jeremiah 2:18 ), was in accordance with Josiah's policy, who took part with Assyria and Babylon against Egypt ( 2 Kings 23:29 ). Jeremiah, doubtless, supported the reformation begun by Josiah, in the previous year (the twelfth of his reign), and fully carried out in the eighteenth.
Jerusalem--the headquarters and center of their idolatry; therefore addressed first.
thee--rather, "I remember in regard to thee" [HENDERSON]; "for thee" [MAURER].
kindness of thy youth--not so much Israel's kindness towards God, as the kindness which Israel experienced from God in their early history (compare Ezekiel 16:8 Ezekiel 16:22 Ezekiel 16:60 , Ezekiel 23:3 Ezekiel 23:8 Ezekiel 23:19 , Hosea 2:15 ). For Israel from the first showed perversity rather than kindness towards God (compare Exodus 14:11 Exodus 14:12 , 15:24 , 32:1-7 , &c.). The greater were God's favors to them from the first, the fouler was their ingratitude in forsaking Him ( Jeremiah 2:3 Jeremiah 2:5 , &c.).
espousals--the intervals between Israel's betrothal to God at the exodus from Egypt, and the formal execution of the marriage contract at Sinai. EWALD takes the "kindness" and "love" to be Israel's towards God at first ( Exodus 19:8 , 24:3 , 35:20-29 , 36:5 , Joshua 24:16-17 ). But compare Deuteronomy 32:16 Deuteronomy 32:17 , Ezekiel 16:5 Ezekiel 16:6 Ezekiel 16:15 Ezekiel 16:22 ("days of thy youth") implies that the love here meant was on God's side, not Israel's.
thou wentest after me in . . . wilderness--the next act of God's love, His leading them in the desert without needing any strange god, such as they since worshipped, to help Him ( Deuteronomy 2:7 , 32:12 ). Jeremiah 2:6 shows it is God's "leading" of them, not their following after God in the wilderness, which is implied.
3. holiness unto the Lord--that is, was consecrated to the service of Jehovah ( Exodus 19:5 Exodus 19:6 ). They thus answered to the motto on their high priest's breastplate, "Holiness to the Lord" ( Deuteronomy 7:6 , Deuteronomy 14:2 Deuteronomy 14:21 ).
first-fruits of his increase--that is, of Jehovah's produce. As the first-fruits of the whole produce of the land were devoted to God ( Exodus 23:19 , Numbers 18:12 Numbers 18:13 ), so Israel was devoted to Him as the first-fruit and representative nation among all nations. So the spiritual Israel ( 1:18 , Revelation 14:4 ).
devour--carrying on the image of first-fruits which were eaten before the Lord by the priests as the Lord's representatives; all who ate (injured) Jehovah's first-fruits (Israel), contracted guilt: for example, Amalek, the Amorites, &c., were extirpated for their guilt towards Israel.
shall come--rather, "came."
4. Jacob . . . Israel--the whole nation. collectively, but individually ( Zechariah 12:12-14 ).
5. iniquity--wrong done to them ( Isaiah 5:4 , Micah 6:3 ; compare Deuteronomy 32:4 ).
walked after vanity--contrasted with "walkest after me in the wilderness" ( Jeremiah 2:2 ): then I was their guide in the barren desert; now they take idols as their guides.
vanity . . . vain--An idol is not only vain (impotent and empty), but vanity itself. Its worshippers acquire its character, becoming vain as it is ( Deuteronomy 7:26 , Psalms 115:8 ). A people's character never rises above that of its gods, which are its "better nature" [BACON] ( 2 Kings 17:15 , Jonah 2:8 ).
6. Neither said they, Where, &c.--The very words which God uses ( Isaiah 63:9 Isaiah 63:11 Isaiah 63:13 ), when, as it were, reminding Himself of His former acts of love to Israel as a ground for interposing in their behalf again. When they would not say, Where is Jehovah, &c., God Himself at last said it for them
deserts . . . pits--The desert between Mount Sinai and Palestine abounds in chasms and pits, in which beasts of burden often sink down to the knees. "Shadow of death" refers to the darkness of the caverns amidst the rocky precipices ( Deuteronomy 8:15 , 32:10 ).
7. plentiful--literally, "a land of Carmel," or "well-cultivated land": a garden land, in contrast to the "land of deserts" ( Jeremiah 2:6 ).
defiled--by idolatries ( Judges 2:10-17 , Psalms 78:58 Psalms 78:59 , 106:38 ).
you . . . ye--change to the second person from the third, "they" ( Jeremiah 2:6 ), in order to bring home the guilt to the living generation.
8. The three leading classes, whose very office under the theocracy was to lead the people to God, disowned Him in the same language as the nation at large, "Where is the Lord?" (See Jeremiah 2:6 ).
priests--whose office it was to expound the law ( Malachi 2:6 Malachi 2:7 ).
handle--are occupied with the law as the subject of their profession.
pastors--civil, not religious: princes ( Jeremiah 3:15 ), whose duty it was to tend their people.
prophets--who should have reclaimed the people from their apostasy, encouraged them in it by pretended oracles from Baal, the Phoenician false god.
by Baal--in his name and by his authority (compare Jeremiah 11:21 ).
walked after things . . . not profit--answering to, "walked after vanity," that is, idols ( Jeremiah 2:5 ; compare Jeremiah 2:11 , Habakkuk 2:18 ).
9. yet plead--namely, by inflicting still further judgments on you.
children's children--Three manuscripts and JEROME omit "children's"; they seem to have thought it unsuitable to read "children's children," when "children" had not preceded. But it is designedly so written, to intimate that the final judgment on the nation would be suspended for many generations [HORSLEY]. (Compare Ezekiel 20:35 Ezekiel 20:36 , Micah 6:2 ).
10. pass over the isles--rather, "cross over to the isles."
Chittim . . . Kedar--that is, the heathen nations, west and east. Go where you will, you cannot find an instance of any heathen nation forsaking their own for other gods. Israel alone does this. Yet the heathen gods are false gods; whereas Israel, in forsaking Me for other gods, forsake their "glory" for unprofitable idols.
Chittim--Cyprus, colonized by Phoenicians, who built in it the city of Citium, the modern Chitti. Then the term came to be applied to all maritime coasts of the Mediterranean, especially Greece ( Numbers 24:24 , Isaiah 23:1 , Daniel 11:30 ).
Kedar--descended from Ishmael; the Bedouins and Arabs, east of Palestine.
11. glory--Jehovah, the glory of Israel ( Psalms 106:20 , Romans 1:23 ). The Shekinah, or cloud resting on the sanctuary, was the symbol of "the glory of the Lord" ( 1 Kings 8:11 ; compare Romans 9:4 ). The golden calf was intended as an image of the true God (compare Exodus 32:4 Exodus 32:5 ), yet it is called an "idol" ( Acts 7:41 ). It (like Roman Catholic images) was a violation of the second commandment, as the heathen multiplying of gods is a violation of the first.
not profit--( Jeremiah 2:8 ).
12. Impassioned personification ( Isaiah 1:2 ).
horribly afraid--rather, be horrified."
be . . . very desolate--rather, "be exceedingly aghast" at the monstrous spectacle. Literally, "to be dried up," or "devastated," (places devastated have such an unsightly look) [MAURER].
13. two evils--not merely one evil, like the idolaters who know no better; besides simple idolatry, My people add the sin of forsaking the true God whom they have known; the heathen, though having the sin of idolatry, are free from the further sin of changing the true God for idols ( Jeremiah 2:11 ).
forsaken me--The Hebrew collocation brings out the only living God into more prominent contrast with idol nonentities. "Me they have forsaken, the Fountain," &c. ( Jeremiah 17:13 , Psalms 36:9 , John 4:14 ).
broken cisterns--tanks for rain water, common in the East, where wells are scarce. The tanks not only cannot give forth an ever-flowing fresh supply as fountains can, but cannot even retain the water poured into them; the stonework within being broken, the earth drinks up the collected water. So, in general, all earthly, compared with heavenly, means of satisfying man's highest wants ( Isaiah 55:1 Isaiah 55:2 ; compare Luke 12:33 ).
14. is he a homeborn slave--No. "Israel is Jehovah's son, even His first-born" ( Exodus 4:22 ). Jeremiah 2:16 Jeremiah 2:18 Jeremiah 2:36 , and the absence of any express contrast of the two parts of the nation are against EICHORN'S view, that the prophet proposes to Judah, as yet spared, the case of Israel (the ten tribes) which had been carried away by Assyria as a warning of what they might expect if they should still put their trust in Egypt. "Were Israel's ten tribes of meaner birth than Judah? Certainly not. If, then, the former fell before Assyria, what can Judah hope from Egypt against Assyria? . . . Israel" is rather here the whole of the remnant still left in their own land, that is, Judah. "How comes it to pass that the nation which once was under God's special protection ( Jeremiah 2:3 ) is now left at the mercy of the foe as a worthless slave?" The prophet sees this event as if present, though it was still future to Judah ( Jeremiah 2:19 ).
15. lions--the Babylonian princes ( Jeremiah 4:7 ; compare Amos 3:4 ). The disaster from the Babylonians in the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign, and again three years later when, relying on Egypt, he revolted from Nebuchadnezzar, is here referred to ( Jeremiah 46:2 , 2 Kings 24:1 2 Kings 24:2 ).
16. Noph . . . Tahapanes--Memphis, capital of Lower Egypt, on the west bank of the Nile, near the pyramids of Gizeh, opposite the site of modern Cairo. Daphne, on the Tanitic branch of the Nile, near Pelusium, on the frontier of Egypt towards Palestine. Isaiah 30:4 contracts it, Hanes. These two cities, one the capital, the other that with which the Jews came most in contact, stand for the whole of Egypt. Tahapanes takes its name from a goddess, Tphnet [CHAMPOLLION]. Memphis is from Man-nofri, "the abode of good men"; written in Hebrew, Moph ( Hosea 9:6 ), or Noph. The reference is to the coming invasion of Judah by Pharaoh-necho of Egypt, on his return from the Euphrates, when he deposed Jehoahaz and levied a heavy tribute on the land ( 2 Kings 23:33-35 ). Josiah's death in battle with the same Pharaoh is probably included ( 2 Kings 23:29 2 Kings 23:30 ).
have broken--rather, shall feed down the crown, &c., that is, affect with the greatest ignominy, such as baldness was regarded in the East ( Jeremiah 48:37 , 2 Kings 2:23 ). Instead of "also," translate, "even" the Egyptians, in whom thou dost trust, shall miserably disappoint thy expectation [MAURER]. Jehoiakim was twice leagued with them ( 2 Kings 23:34 2 Kings 23:35 ): when he received the crown from them, and when he revolted from Nebuchadnezzar ( 2 Kings 24:1 2 Kings 24:2 2 Kings 24:7 ). The Chaldeans, having become masters of Asia, threatened Egypt. Judea, situated between the contending powers, was thus exposed to the inroads of the one or other of the hostile armies; and unfortunately, except in Josiah's reign, took side with Egypt, contrary to God's warnings.
17. Literally, "Has not thy forsaking the Lord . . . procured this (calamity) to thee?" So the Septuagint: the Masoretic accents make "this" the subject of the verb, leaving the object to be understood. "Has not this procured (it, that is, the impending calamity) unto thee, that hast forsaken?" &c. ( Jeremiah 4:18 ).
led--( Deuteronomy 32:10 ).
the way--The article expresses the right way, the way of the Lord: namely, the moral training which they enjoyed in the Mosaic covenant.
18. now--used in a reasoning sense, not of time.
the way of Egypt--What hast thou to do with the way, that is, with going down to Egypt; or what . . . with going to Assyria?
drink . . . waters--that is, to seek reinvigorating aid from them; so Jeremiah 2:13 Jeremiah 2:36 ; compare "waters," meaning numerous forces ( Isaiah 8:7 ).
Sihor--that is, the black river, in Greek, Melas ("black"), the Nile: so called from the black deposit or soil it leaves after the inundation ( Isaiah 23:3 ). The Septuagint identifies it with Gihon, one of the rivers of Paradise.
the river--Euphrates, called by pre-eminence, the river; figurative for the Assyrian power. In 625 B.C., the seventeenth year of Josiah, and the fourth of Jeremiah's office, the kingdom of Assyria fell before Babylon, therefore Assyria is here put for Babylon its successor: so in 2 Kings 23:29 , Lamentations 5:6 . There was doubtless a league between Judea and Assyria (that is, Babylon), which caused Josiah to march against Pharaoh-necho of Egypt when that king went against Babylon: the evil consequences of this league are foretold in this verse and Jeremiah 2:36 .
19. correct . . . reprove--rather, in the severer sense, "chastise . . . punish" [MAURER].
backslidings--"apostasies"; plural, to express the number and variety of their defections. The very confederacies they entered into were the occasion of their overthrow ( Proverbs 1:31 , Isaiah 3:9 , Hosea 5:5 ).
know . . . see--imperative for futures: Thou shalt know and see to thy cost.
my fear--rather, "the fear of Me."
20. I--the Hebrew should be pointed as the second person feminine, a form common in Jeremiah: "Thou hast broken," &c. So the Septuagint, and the sense requires it.
thy yoke . . . bands--the yoke and bands which I laid on thee, My laws ( Jeremiah 5:5 ).
transgress--so the Keri, and many manuscripts read. But the Septuagint and most authorities read, "I will not serve," that is, obey. The sense of English Version is, "I broke thy yoke (in Egypt)," &c., "and (at that time) thou saidst, I will not transgress; whereas thou hast (since then) wandered (from Me)" ( Exodus 19:8 ).
hill . . . green tree--the scene of idolatries ( Deuteronomy 12:2 , Isaiah 57:5 Isaiah 57:7 ).
wanderest--rather, "thou hast bowed down thyself" (for the act of adultery: figurative of shameless idolatry, Exodus 34:15 Exodus 34:16 ; compare Job 31:10 ).
21. The same image as in Deuteronomy 32:32 , Psalms 80:8 Psalms 80:9 , Isaiah 5:1 , &c.
unto me--with respect to Me.
22. nitre--not what is now so called, namely, saltpeter; but the natron of Egypt, a mineral alkali, an incrustation at the bottom of the lakes, after the summer heat has evaporated the water: used for washing (compare Job 9:30 , Proverbs 25:20 ).
soap--potash, the carbonate of which is obtained impure from burning different plants, especially the kali of Egypt and Arabia. Mixed with oil it was used for washing.
marked--deeply ingrained, indelibly marked; the Hebrew, catham, being equivalent to cathab. Others translate, "is treasured up," from the Arabic. MAURER from a Syriac root, "is polluted."
23. ( Proverbs 30:12 ).
Baalim--plural, to express manifold excellency: compare Elohim.
the valley--namely, of Hinnom, or Tophet, south and east of Jerusalem: rendered infamous by the human sacrifices to Moloch in it (compare Jeremiah 19:2 Jeremiah 19:6 Jeremiah 19:13 Jeremiah 19:14 , 32:35 ;
thou art--omit. The substantive that follows in this verse (and also that in Jeremiah 2:24 ) is in apposition with the preceding "thou."
dromedary--rather, a "young she-camel."
traversing--literally, "enfolding"; making its ways complicated by wandering hither and thither, lusting after the male. Compare as to the Jews' spiritual lust, Hosea 2:6 Hosea 2:7 .
24. ( Jeremiah 14:6 , Job 39:5 ). "A wild ass," agreeing with "thou" ( Jeremiah 2:23 ).
at her pleasure--rather, "in her ardor," namely, in pursuit of a male, sniffing the wind to ascertain where one is to be found [MAURER].
occasion--either from a Hebrew root, "to meet"; "her meeting (with the male for sexual intercourse), who can avert it?" Or better from an Arabic root: "her heat (sexual impulse), who can allay it?" [MAURER].
all they--whichever of the males desire her company [HORSLEY].
will not weary themselves--have no need to weary themselves in searching for her.
her month--in the season of the year when her sexual impulse is strongest, she puts herself in the way of the males, so that they have no difficulty in finding her.
25. Withhold, &c.--that is, abstain from incontinence; figuratively for idolatry [HOUBIGANT].
unshod, &c.--do not run so violently in pursuing lovers, as to wear out thy shoes: do not "thirst" so incontinently after sexual intercourse. HITZIG thinks the reference is to penances performed barefoot to idols, and the thirst occasioned by loud and continued invocations to them.
no hope--( Jeremiah 18:12 , Isaiah 57:10 ). "It is hopeless," that is, I am desperately resolved to go on in my own course.
strangers--that is, laying aside the metaphor, "strange gods" ( Jeremiah 3:13 , Deuteronomy 32:16 ).
26. is ashamed--is put to shame.
thief--( John 10:1 ).
Israel--that is, Judah ( Jeremiah 2:28 ).
27. Thou art my father--(Contrast Jeremiah 3:4 , Isaiah 64:8 ).
in . . . trouble they will say--namely, to God ( Psalms 78:34 , Isaiah 26:16 ). Trouble often brings men to their senses ( Luke 15:16-18 ).
28. But--God sends them to the gods for whom they forsook Him, to see if they can help them ( Deuteronomy 32:37 Deuteronomy 32:38 , Judges 10:14 ).
according to the number of thy cities--Besides national deities, each city had its tutelary god ( Jeremiah 11:13 ).
29. plead with me--that is, contend with Me for afflicting you ( Jeremiah 2:23 Jeremiah 2:35 ).
30. ( Jeremiah 5:3 , 6:29 , Isaiah 1:5 , 9:13 ).
your children--that is, your people, you.
your . . . sword . . . devoured . . . prophets--( 2 Chronicles 36:16 , Nehemiah 9:26 , Matthew 23:29 Matthew 23:31 ).
31. The Hebrew collocation is, "O, the generation, ye," that is, "O ye who now live." The generation needed only to be named, to call its degeneracy to view, so palpable was it.
wilderness--in which all the necessaries of life are wanting. On the contrary, Jehovah was a never-failing source of supply for all Israel's wants in the wilderness, and afterwards in Canaan.
darkness--literally, "darkness of Jehovah," the strongest Hebrew term for "darkness; the densest darkness"; compare "land of the shadow of death" ( Jeremiah 2:6 ).
We are lords--that is, We are our own masters. We will worship what gods we like ( Psalms 12:4 , 82:6 ). But it is better to translate from a different Hebrew root: "We ramble at large," without restraint pursuing our idolatrous lusts.
32. Oriental women greatly pride themselves on their ornaments (compare Isaiah 61:10 ).
attire--girdles for the breast.
forgotten me--( Jeremiah 13:25 , Hosea 8:14 ).
33. Why trimmest--MAURER translates, "How skilfully thou dost prepare thy way," &c. But see 2 Kings 9:30 . "Trimmest" best suits the image of one decking herself as a harlot.
way--course of life.
therefore--accordingly. Or else, "nay, thou hast even," &c.
also . . . wicked ones--even the wicked harlots, that is, (laying aside the metaphor) even the Gentiles who are wicked, thou teachest to be still more so [GROTIUS].
34. Also--not only art thou polluted with idolatry, but also with the guilt of shedding innocent blood [MAURER]. ROSENMULLER not so well translates, "even in thy skirts," &c.; that is, there is no part of thee (not even thy skirts) that is not stained with innocent blood ( Jeremiah 19:4 , 2 Kings 21:16 , Psalms 106:38 ). See as to innocent blood shed, not as here in honor of idols, but of prophets for having reproved them ( Jeremiah 2:30 , Jeremiah 26:20-23 ).
souls--that is, persons.
search--I did not need to "search deep" to find proof of thy guilt; for it was "upon all these" thy skirts. Not in deep caverns didst thou perpetrate these atrocities, but openly in the vale of Hinnom and within the precincts of the temple.
35. ( Jeremiah 2:23 Jeremiah 2:29 ).
36. gaddest--runnest to and fro, now seeking help from Assyria ( 2 Chronicles 28:16-21 ), now from Egypt ( Jeremiah 37:7 Jeremiah 37:8 , Isaiah 30:3 ).
hands upon . . . head--expressive of mourning ( 2 Samuel 13:19 ).
in them--in those stays in which thou trustest.