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.
This chapter contains the prophet's message from the Lord to the people of the Jews; in which they are reminded of their former favours, in order to aggravate their sins and transgressions they were chargeable with; to show their ingratitude and unkindness, and to bring them to a conviction and acknowledgment of their iniquities, without which punishment would be inflicted on them. The preface to this message is in Jer 2:1,2, and the discourse begins with an account of their former state and condition when they came out of Egypt; what kindness was shown them by the Lord, and what was returned to him by them; what they were to him, and how much regarded by him, Jer 2:2,3 and so far were they from being injured by him, that might cause them to depart from him, which they are desired to give attention to, that they were followed with various instances of goodness, which are particularly enumerated; and yet no notice was taken of them, neither by people, priests, pastors, and prophets, who were guilty of the grossest ignorance and wickedness, Jer 2:4-8, wherefore the Lord determines to plead with them and theirs; and charges them with such idolatry as was not to be found among the Gentiles, Jer 1:9-11 the heavens are called upon to be astonished at it; and the reason given for it, the ingratitude and folly of this people, Jer 2:12,13 in order to reclaim them, the Lord by the prophet proceeds to observe to them the corrections and chastisement they had already endured, being brought into bondage, their land wasted, cities burnt, and their glory taken from them; all which were owing to their revoltings and backslidings, and by which they might see what an evil and bitter thing sin is in its effects, Jer 2:14-19 and again reminds them of former favours; how that he loosed them from their yoke and bonds, when they promised to transgress no more, and yet did more and more; how he had raised them from a right seed, and planted them a noble vine, and yet they were sadly degenerated, and were guilty of such crimes as were not to be removed by anything done by them, Jer 2:20-22, and notwithstanding all this, they had the impudence to deny that they were tainted with idolatry, when they had been so guilty of it in the valley of Hinnom, and elsewhere; and were comparable to the lustful dromedary and wild ass, and so fond of strange gods, that they thirsted after them, and were resolved to follow them, Jer 2:23-25 and yet the time would come when all ranks of men among them would be ashamed of their worship of stocks and stones, and in the time of their trouble call upon the Lord to save them, when they would be sent to their gods, who were as numerous as their cities, Jer 2:26-28 wherefore it was in vain to plead their innocence, when they were all so guilty, and had received correction without amendment, and had even slain the prophets of the Lord, Jer 2:29,30 and then the Lord again upbraids them with their ingratitude to him, who had been so good and kind to them; with their forgetfulness of him, illustrated by a maid's not forgetting her ornaments, and a bride her attire; with their artful methods to entice others to idolatry, and with their shedding of innocent blood; and yet, after all this, they asserted their innocence, and affirmed they had never sinned, Jer 2:31-35, for all which sentence is pronounced against them, and punishment is threatened them, Jer 2:36,37.