The restoration of the Jews to their own land. (1-8) The wickedness of the priests and prophets of Judah, The people exhorted not to listen to false promises. (9-22) The pretenders to inspiration threatened. (23-32) Also the scoffers at true prophecy. (33-40)
Verses 1-8 Woe be to those who are set to feed God's people, but take no concern to do them good! Here is a word of comfort to the neglected sheep. Though only a remnant of God's flock is left, he will find them out, and they shall be brought to their former habitations. Christ is spoken of as a branch from David's family. He is righteous himself, and through him all his people are made righteous. Christ shall break the usurped power of Satan. All the spiritual seed of believing Abraham and praying Jacob shall be protected, and shall be saved from the guilt and dominion of sin. In the days of Christ's government in the soul, the soul dwells at ease. He is here spoken of as "the Lord our Righteousness." He is so our Righteousness as no creature could be. His obedience unto death is the justifying righteousness of believers, and their title to heavenly happiness. And their sanctification, as the source of all their personal obedience is the effect of their union with him, and of the supply of this Spirit. By this name every true believer shall call him, and call upon him. We have nothing to plead but this, Christ has died, yea, rather is risen again; and we have taken him for our Lord. This righteousness which he has wrought out to the satisfaction of law and justice, becomes ours; being a free gift given to us, through the Spirit of God, who puts it upon us, clothes us with it, enables us to lay hold upon it, and claim an interest in it. "The Lord our Righteousness" is a sweet name to a convinced sinner; to one that has felt the guilt of sin in his conscience; seen his need of that righteousness, and the worth of it. This great salvation is far more glorious than all former deliverances of his church. May our souls be gathered to Him, and be found in him.
Verses 9-22 The false prophets of Samaria had deluded the Israelites into idolatries; yet the Lord considered the false prophets of Jerusalem as guilty of more horrible wickedness, by which the people were made bold in sin. These false teachers would be compelled to suffer the most bitter part of the Lord's indignation. They made themselves believe that there was no harm in sin, and practised accordingly; then they made others believe so. Those who are resolved to go on in evil ways, will justly be given up to believe strong delusions. But which of them had received any revelation of God, or understood any thing of his word? There was a time coming when they would reflect on their folly and unbelief with remorse. The teaching and example of the true prophets led men to repentance, faith, and righteousness. The false prophets led men to rest in forms and notions, and to be quiet in their sins. Let us take heed that we do not follow unrighteousness.
Verses 23-32 Men cannot be hidden from God's all-seeing eye. Will they never see what judgments they prepare for themselves? Let them consider what a vast difference there is between these prophecies and those delivered by the true prophets of the Lord. Let them not call their foolish dreams Divine oracles. The promises of peace these prophets make are no more to be compared to God's promises than chaff to wheat. The unhumbled heart of man is like a rock; if not melted by the word of God as a fire, it will be broken to pieces by it as a hammer. How can they be long safe, or at all easy, who have a God of almighty power against them? The word of God is no smooth, lulling, deceitful message. And by its faithfulness it may certainly be distinguished from false doctrines.
Verses 33-40 Those are miserable indeed who are forsaken and forgotten of God; and men's jesting at God's judgments will not baffle them. God had taken Israel to be a people near to him, but they shall now be cast out of his presence. It is a mark of great and daring impiety for men to jest with the words of God. Every idle and profane word will add to the sinner's burden in the day of judgment, when everlasting shame will be his portion.
Jeremiah 23:1-40 . THE WICKED RULERS TO BE SUPERSEDED BY THE KING, WHO SHOULD REIGN OVER THE AGAIN UNITED PEOPLES, ISRAEL AND JUDAH.
This forms the epilogue to the denunciations of the four kings, in Jeremiah 21:1-22:30'.
1. pastors--Shallum, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah ( Ezekiel 34:2 ).
2. Ye have not . . . visited them . . . I will visit upon you--just retribution. Play upon the double sense of "visit." "Visit upon," namely, in wrath ( Exodus 32:34 ).
3, 4. Restoration of Judah from Babylon foretold in language which in its fulness can only apply to the final restoration of both "Judah" and "Israel" (compare Jeremiah 23:6 ); also "out of all countries," in this verse and Jeremiah 23:8 ; also, "neither shall they be lacking," that is, none shall be missing or detached from the rest: a prophecy never yet fully accomplished. It holds good also of the spiritual Israel, the elect of both Jews and Gentiles ( Malachi 3:16 Malachi 3:17 , John 10:28 , 17:12 ). As to the literal Israel also, see Jeremiah 32:37 , Isaiah 54:13 , 60:21 , Ezekiel 34:11-16 .
shepherds . . . shall feed them--( Jeremiah 3:15 Ezekiel 34:23-31 ). Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Maccabees were but typical of the consummating fulfilment of these prophecies under Messiah.
5. As Messianic prophecy extended over many years in which many political changes took place in harmony with these, it displayed its riches by a variety more effective than if it had been manifested all at once. As the moral condition of the Jews required in each instance, so Messiah was exhibited in a corresponding phase, thus becoming more and more the soul of the nation's life: so that He is represented as the antitypical Israel ( Isaiah 49:3 ).
unto David--HENGSTENBERG observes that Isaiah dwells more on His prophetical and priestly office, which had already been partly set forth ( Deuteronomy 18:18 , Psalms 110:4 ). Other prophets dwell more on His kingly office. Therefore here He is associated with "David" the king: but in Isaiah 11:1 with the then poor and unknown "Jesse."
righteous Branch--"the Branch of righteousness" ( Jeremiah 33:15 ); "The Branch" simply ( Zechariah 3:8 , 6:12 ); "The Branch of the Lord" ( Isaiah 4:2 ).
prosper--the very term applied to Messiah's undertaking ( Isaiah 52:13 , Margin; Isaiah 53:10 ). Righteousness or justice is the characteristic of Messiah elsewhere, too, in connection with our salvation or justification ( Isaiah 53:11 , Daniel 9:24 , Zechariah 9:9 ). So in the New Testament He is not merely "righteous" Himself, but "righteousness to us" ( 1 Corinthians 1:30 ), so that we become "the righteousness of God in Him" ( Romans 10:3 Romans 10:4 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 Philippians 3:9 ).
execute judgment and justice in the earth--( Psalms 72:2 , Isaiah 9:7 , Isaiah 32:1 Isaiah 32:18 ). Not merely a spiritual reign in the sense in which He is "our righteousness," but a righteous reign "in the earth" ( Jeremiah 3:17 Jeremiah 3:18 ). In some passages He is said to come to judge, in others to reign. In Matthew 25:34 , He is called "the King." Psalms 9:7 unites them. Compare Daniel 7:22 Daniel 7:26 Daniel 7:27 .
6. Judah . . . Israel . . . dwell safely--Compare Jeremiah 33:16 , where "Jerusalem" is substituted for "Israel" here. Only Judah, and that only in part, has as yet returned. So far are the Jews from having enjoyed, as yet, the temporal blessings here foretold as the result of Messiah's reign, that their lot has been, for eighteen centuries, worse than ever before. The accomplishment must, therefore, be still future, when both Judah and Israel in their own land shall dwell safely under a Christocracy, far more privileged than even the old theocracy ( Jeremiah 32:37 , Deuteronomy 33:28 , Isaiah 54:1-17 , 60:1-22 , 65:17-25 , Zechariah 14:11 ).
shall be called, the Lord--that is, shall be ( Isaiah 9:6 ) "Jehovah," God's incommunicable name. Though when applied to created things, it expresses only some peculiar connection they have with Jehovah ( Genesis 22:14 , Exodus 17:15 ), yet when applied to Messiah it must express His Godhead manifested in justifying power towards us ( 1 Timothy 3:16 ).
our--marks His manhood, which is also implied in His being a Branch raised unto David, whence His human title, "Son of David" (compare Matthew 22:42-45 ).
Righteousness--marks His Godhead, for God alone can justify the ungodly (compare Romans 4:5 , Isaiah 45:17 Isaiah 45:24 Isaiah 45:25 ).
7, 8. Repeated from Jeremiah 16:14 Jeremiah 16:15 . The prophet said the same things often, in order that his sayings might make the more impression. The same promise as in Jeremiah 23:3 Jeremiah 23:4 . The wide dispersion of the Jews at the Babylonish captivity prefigures their present wider dispersion ( Isaiah 11:11 , Joel 3:6 ). Their second deliverance is to exceed far the former one from Egypt. But the deliverance from Babylon was inferior to that from Egypt in respect to the miracles performed and the numbers delivered. The final deliverance under Messiah must, therefore, be meant, of which that from Babylon was the earnest.
9. because of the prophets--so the Masorites and Targum. But Vulgate, Septuagint, &c., make this the inscription of the prophecy, CONCERNING THE PROPHETS: as in Jeremiah 46:2 , 48:1 , 49:1 . Jeremiah expresses his horror at the so-called "prophets" not warning the people, though iniquity so fearfully abounded, soon to be followed by awful judgments.
bones shake--( Habakkuk 3:16 ).
drunken--God's judgments are represented as stupefying like wine. The effects of the Holy Spirit also are compared to those of wine ( Acts 2:17 ). In both cases ecstasy was produced. This accounts for the denial of wine to those likely to be inspired, Nazarites, &c. ( Luke 1:15 ). It was necessary to put it out of men's power to ascribe inspired ecstasy to the effects of wine.
because of . . . words of . . . holiness--because of Jehovah's holy words, wherewith He threatened severe penalties, soon to be inflicted, against the breakers of His law.
10. adulterers--spiritual, that is, forsakers of God, Israel's true Husband ( Isaiah 54:5 ) for idols, at the instigation of the false "prophets" ( Jeremiah 23:9 Jeremiah 23:15 ). Literal adultery and fornication, the usual concomitants of idolatry, are also meant.
swearing--MAURER, &c., translate, "Because of the curse (of God on it), the land mourneth" ( Deuteronomy 27:15-26 , 28:15-68 , Isaiah 24:6 ). More than usual notoriety had been given to the curses of the law, by the finding and reading of it in Josiah's time ( 2 Kings 22:11 , &c.). But Hosea 4:2 Hosea 4:3 , favors English Version (compare Jeremiah 12:4 ). A drought was sent by God on the pastures ("pleasant places," oases) in the desert, on account of the "profaneness" of the priests, prophets, and people ( Jeremiah 23:11 ).
course . . . evil--They (both prophets and people) rush into wickedness ( Jeremiah 23:21 , Isaiah 59:7 ).
force . . . not right--Their powers are used not on the side of rectitude, but on that of falsehood.
11. profane--( Ezekiel 23:39 , Zephaniah 3:4 ).
in my house--( Jeremiah 7:30 ). They built altars to idols in the very temple ( 2 Kings 23:12 , Ezekiel 8:3-16 ). Compare as to covetousness under the roof of the sanctuary, Matthew 21:13 , John 2:16 .
12. slippery ways in . . . darkness--Their "way" is their false doctrine which proves fatal to them ( Jeremiah 13:16 , Psalms 35:6 , Proverbs 4:19 ).
I will bring evil . . . visitation--still more calamities than those already inflicted. wrath.
13. folly--literally, "insipidity," "unsavouriness" ( Job 6:6 ), not having the salt of godliness ( Colossians 4:6 ).
in Baal--in the name of Baal; in connection with his worship (see Jeremiah 2:8 ).
caused . . . to err--( Isaiah 9:16 ).
14. "Jerusalem" and Judah were even worse than "Samaria" and the ten tribes; the greater were the privileges of the former, the greater was their guilt. They had the temple in their midst, which the ten tribes had not; yet in the temple itself they practised idolatry. Jeremiah 9:15
strengthen . . . hands of evildoers--( Ezekiel 13:22 ).
as Sodom--( Deuteronomy 32:32 , Isaiah 1:10 ).
16. make you vain--They seduce you to vanity, that is, idolatry, which will prove a vain trust to you ( Jeremiah 2:5 , 2 Kings 17:15 , Jonah 2:8 ), [GESENIUS]. Rather, "they delude you with vain promises of security" ( Jeremiah 23:17 ; compare Psalms 62:10 ) [MAURER].
of their own heart--of their own invention ( Jeremiah 23:21 , Jeremiah 14:14 ).
17. say still--Hebrew, "say in saying," that is, say incessantly.
peace--( Jeremiah 6:14 , Ezekiel 13:10 , Zechariah 10:2 ).
no evil--( Micah 3:11 ).
18. A reason is given why the false prophets should not be heeded: They have not stood in the counsels of Jehovah (an image from ministers present in a standing posture at councils of Eastern kings) (compare Jeremiah 23:22 , Job 15:8 ). The spiritual man alone has the privilege ( Genesis 18:17 , Psalms 25:14 , Amos 3:7 , John 15:15 , 1 Corinthians 2:16 ).
19. So far from all prosperity awaiting the people as the false prophets say ( Jeremiah 23:17 ), wrath is in store for them.
grievous--literally, "eddying," whirling itself about, a tornado. In Jeremiah 30:23 , "continuing" is substituted for "grievous."
fall grievously--it shall be hurled on.
20. in . . . latter days--that is, "the year of their visitation" ( Jeremiah 23:12 ). Primarily the meaning is: the Jews will not "consider" now God's warnings ( Deuteronomy 32:29 ); but when the prophecies shall be fulfilled in their Babylonish exile, they will consider and see, by bitter experience, their sinful folly. The ultimate scope of the prophecy is: the Jews, in their final dispersion, shall at last "consider" their sin and turn to Messiah "perfectly" ( Hosea 3:5 , Zechariah 12:5 Zechariah 12:10-14 , Luke 13:35 ).
21. sent . . . spoken--sent" refers to the primary call: "spoken" to the subsequent charges given to be executed. A call is required, not only external, on the part of men, but also internal from God, that one should undertake a pastor's office [CALVIN].
22. stood in . . . counsel--( Jeremiah 23:18 ).
they should have turned them from their evil way--They would have given such counsels to the people as would have turned them from their sins ( Jeremiah 25:5 , Isaiah 55:11 ), and so would have averted punishment. Their not teaching the law in which God's counsel is set forth proves they are not His prophets, though they boast of being so ( Matthew 7:15-20 ).
23. Let not the false prophets fancy that their devices ( Jeremiah 23:25 ) are unknown to Me. Are ye so ignorant as to suppose that I can only see things near Me, namely, things in heaven, and not earthly things as being too remote?
24. ( Psalms 139:7 , &c. Amos 9:2 Amos 9:3 ).
fill heaven and earth--with My omniscience providence, power, and essential being ( 1 Kings 8:27 ).
25. dreamed--I have received a prophetic communication by dream ( Numbers 12:6 , Deuteronomy 13:1 , &c. Joel 2:28 ).
26. prophets--a different Hebrew form from the usual one, "prophesiers." "How long," cries Jeremiah, impatient of their impious audacity, "shall these prophecy-mongers go on prophesying lies?" The answer is given in Jeremiah 23:29-34 .
27. They "think" to make My people utterly to forget Me. But I will oppose to those dreamers my true prophets.
fathers . . . for Baal--( Judges 3:7 , Judges 8:33 Judges 8:34 ).
28. God answers the objection which might be stated, "What, then, must we do, when lies are spoken as truths, and prophets oppose prophets?" Do the same as when wheat is mixed with chaff: do not reject the wheat because of the chaff mixed with it, but discriminate between the false and the true revelations. The test is adherence to, or forgetfulness of, Me and My law ( Jeremiah 23:27 ).
that hath a dream--that pretends to have a divine communication by dream, let him tell it "faithfully," that it may be compared with "my word" ( 2 Corinthians 4:2 ). The result will be the former (both the prophets and their fictions) will soon be seen to be chaff; the latter (the true prophets and the word of God in their mouth) wheat ( Psalms 1:4 , Hosea 13:3 ).
29. As the "fire" consumes the "chaff" ( Jeremiah 23:28 ), so "My word" will consume the false prophets ( Matthew 3:12 , Hebrews 4:12 ). "My word" which is "wheat" ( Jeremiah 23:28 ), that is, food to the true prophet and his hearers, is a consuming "fire," and a crushing "hammer" ( Matthew 21:44 ) to false prophets and their followers ( 2 Corinthians 2:16 ). The Word of the false prophets may be known by its promising men peace in sin. "My word," on the contrary, burns and breaks the hard-hearted ( Jeremiah 20:9 ). The "hammer" symbolizes destructive power ( Jeremiah 50:23 , Nahum 2:1 , Margin).
30. steal my words--a twofold plagiarism; one steals from the other, and all steal words from Jehovah's true prophets, but misapply them (see Jeremiah 28:2 , John 10:1 , Revelation 22:19 ).
31. use--rather, "take" their tongue: a second class (compare Jeremiah 23:30 ) require, in order to bring forth a revelation, nothing more than their tongues, wherewith they say, He (Jehovah) saith: they bungle in the very formula instead of the usual "Jehovah saith," being only able to say "(He) saith."
32. Third class: inventors of lies: the climax, and worst of the three.
lightness--wanton inventions ( Zephaniah 3:4 ).
not profit--that is, greatly injure.
33. What is the burden--play on the double sense of the Hebrew: an oracle and a burden. They scoffingly ask, Has he got any new burden (burdensome oracle: for all his prophecies are disasters) to announce ( Malachi 1:1 )? Jeremiah indignantly repeats their own question, Do you ask, What burden? This, then, it is, "I will forsake you." My word is burdensome in your eyes, and you long to be rid if it. You shall get your wish. There will be no more prophecy: I will forsake you, and that will be a far worse "burden" to you.
34. The burden--Whoever shall in mockery call the Lord's word "a burden," shall be visited (Margin) in wrath.
35. The result of My judgments shall be, ye shall address the prophet more reverentially hereafter, no longer calling his message a burden, but a divine response or word. "What hath the LORD answered?"
36. every man's word . . . his burden--As they mockingly call all prophecies burdens, as if calamities were the sole subject of prophecy, so it shall prove to them. God will take them at their own word.
living God--not lifeless as their dumb idols, ever living so as to be able to punish.
39. I will . . . forget you--just retribution for their forgetting Him ( Hosea 4:6 ). But God cannot possibly forget His children ( Isaiah 49:15 ). Rather for "forget" translate, "I will altogether lift you up (like a 'burden,' alluding to their mocking term for God's messages) and cast you off." God makes their wicked language fall on their own head [CALVIN]. Compare Jeremiah 23:36 : "every man's word shall be his burden."
40. not be forgotten--If we translate Jeremiah 23:39 as English Version, the antithesis is, though I forget you, your shame shall not be forgotten.