Jeremiah 12:1

Jeremiah's Complaint

1 1Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. 2Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all 3who are treacherous thrive?

Jeremiah 12:1 Meaning and Commentary

Jeremiah 12:1

Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee
The six first verses of this chapter properly belong to the preceding, being of the same argument, and in strict connection with the latter part of it. Jeremiah appears to be under the same temptation, on account of the prosperity of the wicked, as Asaph was, ( Psalms 73:1 ) only he seems to have been more upon his guard, and less liable to fall by it; he sets out: with this as a first principle, an undoubted truth, that God was righteous, and could do nothing wrong and amiss, however unaccountable his providences might be to men: he did not mean, by entering the list with him, or by litigating this point, to charge him with any unrighteousness this he took for granted, and was well satisfied of, that the Lord was righteous, "though", says he, "I plead with thee" F20; so some read the words. De Dieu renders them interrogatively, "shall I plead with thee?" shall I dare to do it? shall I take that boldness and use that freedom with thee? I will. The Targum is the reverse,

``thou art more just, O Lord, than that I should contend before thy word:''
yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments;
not of his laws, statutes, word, and ordinances, sometimes so called; but rather of his providences, which are always dispensed with equity and justice, though not always manifest; they are sometimes unsearchable and past finding out, and will bear a sober and modest inquiry into them, and debate concerning them; the people of God may take the liberty of asking questions concerning them, when they are at a loss to account for them. So the Targum,
``but I will ask a question of judgments before thee.''
The words may be rendered, "but I will speak judgments with thee" F21; things that are right; that are agreeable to the word of God and sound reason; things that are consistent with the perfections of God, particularly his justice and holiness; which are founded upon equity and truth; I will produce such reasons and arguments as seem to be reasonable and just. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?
or they prosper in all their ways? whatever they take in hand succeeds; they enjoy a large share of health of body; their families increase, their trade flourishes, their flocks and herds grow large and numerous, and they have great plenty of all outward blessings; and yet they are wicked men, without the fear of God, regard not him, nor his worship and ways; but walk in their own ways which they have chosen, and delight in their abominations. Some understand this, as Jarchi, of Nebuchadnezzar, to whom God had given greatness and prosperity, to destroy the house of God; but by what follows, in the latter part of the next verse, it appears that God's professing people, the Jews, are meant, and most likely the priests at Anathoth. Wherefore are all they happy;
easy, quiet, secure, live in peace and plenty: that deal very treacherously?
with God and men, in religions and civil affairs.

F20 (Kyla byra yk) "etiamsi contendam tecum", Cocceius, Gataker.
F21 (Ktwa rbda Myjpvm Ka) "verum tamen judicia loquar tecum", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius, Schmidt.

Jeremiah 12:1 In-Context

1 Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
2 You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart.
3 But you, O LORD, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter.
4 How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither? For the evil of those who dwell in it the beasts and the birds are swept away, because they said, "He will not see our latter end."
5 "If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?

Cross References 3

  • 1. Ezra 9:15; Psalms 51:4; Lamentations 1:18; Daniel 9:7
  • 2. Job 12:6; Psalms 37:1, 7; Psalms 92:7; Habakkuk 1:13; Malachi 3:15; See Job 21:7-15; Psalms 73:3-12
  • 3. [Isaiah 21:2]
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.