Exhortations to repentance. (1-5) Judah more guilty than Israel. (6-11) But pardon is promised. (12-20) The children of Israel express their sorrow and repentance. (21-25)
Verses 1-5 In repentance, it is good to think upon the sins of which we have been guilty, and the places and companies where they have been committed. How gently the Lord had corrected them! In receiving penitents, he is God, and not man. Whatever thou hast said or done hitherto, wilt thou not from this time apply to me? Will not this grace of God overcome thee? Now pardon is proclaimed, wilt thou not take the benefit? They will hope to find in him the tender compassions of a Father towards a returning prodigal. They will come to him as the Guide of their youth: youth needs a guide. Repenting sinners may encourage themselves that God will not keep his anger to the end. All God's mercies, in every age, suggest encouragement; and what can be so desirable for the young, as to have the Lord for their Father, and the Guide of their youth? Let parents daily direct their children earnestly to seek this blessing.
Verses 6-11 If we mark the crimes of those who break off from a religious profession, and the consequences, we see abundant reason to shun evil ways. It is dreadful to be proved more criminal than those who have actually perished in their sins; yet it will be small comfort in everlasting punishment, for them to know that others were viler than they.
Verses 12-20 See God's readiness to pardon sin, and the blessings reserved for gospel times. These words were proclaimed toward the north; to Israel, the ten tribes, captive in Assyria. They are directed how to return. If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive them. These promises are fully to come to pass in the bringing back the Jews in after-ages. God will graciously receive those that return to him; and by his grace, he takes them out from among the rest. The ark of the covenant was not found after the captivity. The whole of that dispensation was to be done away, which took place after the multitude of believers had been greatly increased by the conversion of the Gentiles, and of the Israelites scattered among them. A happy state of the church is foretold. He can teach all to call him Father; but without thorough change of heart and life, no man can be a child of God, and we have no security for not departing from Him.
Verses 21-25 Sin is turning aside to crooked ways. And forgetting the Lord our God is at the bottom of all sin. By sin we bring ourselves into trouble. The promise to those that return is, God will heal their backslidings, by his pardoning mercy, his quieting peace, and his renewing grace. They come devoting themselves to God. They come disclaiming all expectations of relief and succour from any but the Lord. Therefore they come depending upon him only. He is the Lord, and he only can save. It points out the great salvation from sin Jesus Christ wrought out for us. They come justifying God in their troubles, and judging themselves for their sins. True penitents learn to call sin shame, even the sin they have been most pleased with. True penitents learn to call sin death and ruin, and to charge upon it all they suffer. While men harden themselves in sin, contempt and misery are their portion: for he that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesseth and forsaketh them, shall find mercy.
Jeremiah 3:1-25 . GOD'S MERCY NOTWITHSTANDING JUDAH'S VILENESS.
Contrary to all precedent in the case of adultery, Jehovah offers a return to Judah, the spiritual adulteress ( Jeremiah 3:1-5 ). A new portion of the book, ending with the sixth chapter. Judah worse than Israel; yet both shall be restored in the last days ( Jeremiah 3:6-25 ).
1. They say--rather, as Hebrew, "saying," in agreement with "the LORD"; Jeremiah 2:37 Of last chapter [MAURER]. Or, it is equivalent to, "Suppose this case." Some copyist may have omitted, "The word of the Lord came to me," saying.
shall he return unto her--will he take her back? It was unlawful to do so ( Deuteronomy 24:1-4 ).
shall not--Should not the land be polluted if this were done?
yet return--( Jeremiah 3:22 , Jeremiah 4:1 , Zechariah 1:3 ; compare Ezekiel 16:51 Ezekiel 16:58 Ezekiel 16:60 ). "Nevertheless," &c.
2. high places--the scene of idolatries which were spiritual adulteries.
In . . . ways . . . sat for them--watching for lovers like a prostitute ( Genesis 38:14 Genesis 38:21 , Proverbs 7:12 , 23:28 , Ezekiel 16:24 Ezekiel 16:25 ), and like an Arab who lies in wait for travellers. The Arabs of the desert, east and south of Palestine, are still notorious as robbers.
3. no latter rain--essential to the crops in Palestine; withheld in judgment ( Leviticus 26:19 ; compare Joel 2:23 ).
whore's forehead--( Jeremiah 8:12 , Ezekiel 3:8 ).
4. from this time--not referring, as MICHAELIS thinks, to the reformation begun the year before, that is, the twelfth of Josiah; it means--now at once, now at last.
me--contrasted with the "stock" whom they had heretofore called on as "father" ( Jeremiah 2:27 , Luke 15:18 ).
thou art--rather, "thou wast."
guide of . . . youth--that is, husband ( Jeremiah 2:2 , Proverbs 2:17 , Hosea 2:7 Hosea 2:15 ). Husband and father are the two most endearing of ties.
5. he--"thou," the second person, had preceded. The change to the third person implies a putting away of God to a greater distance from them; instead of repenting and forsaking their idols, they merely deprecate the continuance of their punishment. Jeremiah 3:12 and Psalms 103:9 , answer their question in the event of their penitence.
spoken and--rather (God's reply to them), "Thou hast spoken (thus), and yet (all the while) thou hast done evil," &c.
as thou couldest--with all thy might; with incorrigible persistency [CALVIN].
6. From here to Jeremiah 6:30 , is a new discourse, delivered in Josiah's reign. It consists of two parts, the former extending to Jeremiah 4:3 , in which he warns Judah from the example of Israel's doom, and yet promises Israel final restoration; the latter a threat of Babylonian invasion; as Nabopolassar founded the Babylonian empire, 625 B.C., the seventeenth of Josiah, this prophecy is perhaps not earlier than that date ( Jeremiah 4:5 , &c.; Jeremiah 5:14 , &c.; Jeremiah 6:1 , &c.; Jeremiah 22:1-30 ); and probably not later than the second thorough reformation in the eighteenth year of the same reign.
backsliding--literally, "apostasy"; not merely apostate, but apostasy itself, the essence of it ( Jeremiah 3:14 Jeremiah 3:22 ).
7. I said--( 2 Kings 17:13 ).
sister--( Ezekiel 16:46 , Ezekiel 23:2 Ezekiel 23:4 ).
8. I saw that, though (whereas) it was for this very reason (namely), because backsliding (apostate) Israel had committed adultery I had put her away ( 2 Kings 17:6 2 Kings 17:18 ), and given her a bill of divorce, yet Judah, &c. ( Ezekiel 23:11 , &c.).
bill of divorce--literally, "a writing of cuttings off." The plural implies the completeness of the severance. The use of this metaphor here, as in the former discourse ( Jeremiah 3:1 ), implies a close connection between the discourses. The epithets are characteristic; Israel "apostate" (as the Hebrew for "backsliding" is better rendered); Judah, not as yet utterly apostate, but treacherous or faithless.
also--herself also, like Israel.
9. it--Some take this verse of Judah, to whom the end of Jeremiah 3:8 refers. But Jeremiah 3:10 puts Judah in contrast to Israel in this verse. "Yet for all this," referring to the sad example of Israel; if Jeremiah 3:9 referred to Judah, "she" would have been written in Jeremiah 3:10 , not "Judah." Translate, "It (the putting away of Israel) had come to pass through . . . whoredom; and (that is, for) she (Israel) had defiled the land" &c. [MAURER]. English Version, however, may be explained to refer to Israel.
lightness--"infamy." [EWALD]. MAURER not so well takes it from the Hebrew root, "voice," "fame."
10. yet--notwithstanding the lesson given in Israel's case of the fatal results of apostasy.
not . . . whole heart--The reformation in the eighteenth year of Josiah was not thorough on the part of the people, for at his death they relapsed into idolatry ( 2 Chronicles 34:33 , Hosea 7:14 ).
11. justified herself--has been made to appear almost just (that is, comparatively innocent) by the surpassing guilt of Judah, who adds hypocrisy and treachery to her sin; and who had the example of Israel to warn her, but in vain (compare Ezekiel 16:51 , 23:11 ).
more than--in comparison with.
12. Go--not actually; but turn and proclaim towards the north (Media and Assyria, where the ten tribes were located by Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser, 2 Kings 15:29 , 17:6 , 2 Kings 18:9 2 Kings 18:11 ).
Return . . . backsliding--Hebrew, Shubah, Meshubah, a play on sounds. In order to excite Judah to godly jealousy ( Romans 11:14 ), Jehovah addresses the exiled ten tribes of Israel with a loving invitation.
cause . . . anger to fall--literally, "I will not let fall My countenance" (compare Genesis 4:5 Genesis 4:6 , Job 29:3 ), that is, I will not continue to frown on you.
keep--"anger" is to be supplied
13. Only acknowledge--( Deuteronomy 30:1 Deuteronomy 30:3 , Proverbs 28:13 ).
scattered thy ways, &c.--( Jeremiah 2:25 ). Not merely the calves at Beth-el, but the idols in every direction, were the objects of their worship ( Ezekiel 16:15 Ezekiel 16:24 Ezekiel 16:25 ).
14. I am married--literally, "I am Lord," that is, husband to you (so Jeremiah 31:32 ; compare Hosea 2:19 Hosea 2:20 , Isaiah 54:5 ). GESENIUS, following the Septuagint version of Jeremiah 31:32 , and Paul's quotation of it ( Hebrews 8:9 ), translates, "I have rejected you"; so the corresponding Arabic, and the idea of lordship, may pass into that of looking down upon, and so rejecting. But the Septuagint in this passage translates, "I will be Lord over you." And the "for" has much more force in English Version than in that of GESENIUS. The Hebrew hardly admits the rendering though [HENGSTENBERG].
take you one of a city--Though but one or two Israelites were in a (foreign) city, they shall not be forgotten; all shall be restored ( Amos 9:9 ). So, in the spiritual Israel, God gathers one convert here, another there, into His Church; not the least one is lost ( Matthew 18:14 , Romans 11:5 ; compare Jeremiah 24:5-7 ).
family--a clan or tribe.
15. pastors--not religious, but civil rulers, as Zerubbabel, Nehemiah ( Jeremiah 23:4 , 2:8 ).
16. they shall say no more--The Jews shall no longer glory in the possession of the ark; it shall not be missed, so great shall be the blessings of the new dispensation. The throne of the Lord, present Himself, shall eclipse and put out of mind the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat between the cherubim, God's former throne. The ark, containing the two tables of the law, disappeared at the Babylonian captivity, and was not restored to the second temple, implying that the symbolical "glory" was to be superseded by a "greater glory" ( Haggai 2:9 ).
neither . . . visit it--rather, "neither shall it be missed" (so in Jeremiah 23:4 ).
done--rather, "neither shall it (the ark) be made (that is, be restored) any more" [MAURER].
17. Jerusalem--the whole city, not merely the temple. As it has been the center of the Hebrew theocracy, so it shall be the point of attraction to the whole earth ( Isaiah 2:2-4 , Zechariah 2:10 Zechariah 2:11 , 14:16-21 ).
throne of . . . Lord--The Shekinah, the symbol of God's peculiar nearness to Israel ( Deuteronomy 4:7 ) shall be surpassed by the antitype, God's own throne in Jerusalem ( Psalms 2:6 Psalms 2:8 , Ezekiel 34:23 Ezekiel 34:24 , Zechariah 2:5 ).
imagination--rather, as Margin, "the obstinacy" or stubbornness.
18. Judah . . . Israel . . . together--Two distinct apostasies, that of Israel and that of Judah, were foretold ( Jeremiah 3:8 Jeremiah 3:10 ). The two have never been united since the Babylonish captivity; therefore their joint restoration must be still future ( Isaiah 11:12 Isaiah 11:13 , Ezekiel 37:16-22 , Hosea 1:11 ).
north--( Jeremiah 3:12 ).
land . . . given . . . inheritance--( Amos 9:15 ).
19. The good land covenanted to Abraham is to be restored to his seed. But the question arises, How shall this be done?
put . . . among . . . children--the Greek for adoption means, literally, "putting among the sons."
the children--that is, My children. "How shall I receive thee back into My family, after thou hast so long forsaken Me for idols?" The answer is, they would acknowledge Him as "Father," and no longer turn away from Him. God assumes the language of one wondering how so desperate apostates could be restored to His family and its privileges (compare Ezekiel 37:3 ; CALVIN makes it, How the race of Abraham can be propagated again, being as it were dead); yet as His purpose has decreed it so, He shows how it shall be effected, namely, they shall receive from Him the spirit of adoption to cry, "My Father" ( John 1:12 , Galatians 4:6 ). The elect are "children" already in God's purpose; this is the ground of the subsequent realization of this relationship ( Ephesians 1:5 , Hebrews 2:13 ).
pleasant land--( Jeremiah 11:5 , Ezekiel 20:6 , Daniel 11:16 , Margin).
heritage of . . . hosts--a heritage the most goodly of all nations [MAURER]; or a "heritage possessed by powerful hosts" ( Deuteronomy 4:38 , Amos 2:9 ). The rendering "splendors," instead of "hosts," is opposed by the fact that the Hebrew for "splendor" is not found in the plural.
20. Surely--rather, "But."
21. In harmony with the preceding promises of God, the penitential confessions of Israel are heard.
high places--The scene of their idolatries is the scene of their confessions. Compare Jeremiah 3:23 , in which they cast aside their trust in these idolatrous high places. The publicity of their penitence is also implied (compare Jeremiah 7:29 , 48:38 ).
22. Jehovah's renewed invitation ( Jeremiah 3:12 Jeremiah 3:14 ) and their immediate response.
heal--forgive ( 2 Chronicles 30:18 2 Chronicles 30:20 , Hosea 14:4 ).
unto thee--rather, "in obedience to thee"; literally, "for thee" [ROSENMULLER].
23. multitude of mountains--that is, the multitude of gods worshipped on them (compare Psalms 121:1 Psalms 121:2 , Margin).
24. shame--that is, the idols, whose worship only covers us with shame ( Jeremiah 11:13 , Hosea 9:10 ). So far from bringing us "salvation," they have cost us our cattle and even our children, whom we have sacrificed to them.
25. ( Ezra 9:7 ).