Jeremiah 12



1   “Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee:” - Painfully exercised

by the mysteries of the Divine government, the prophet opens his grief to Jehovah.

Righteous wouldest thou be, O Jehovah, if I should plead with thee; i.e. if I

were to bring a charge against thee, I should be unable to convict thee of injustice

(compare Psalm 51:4; Job 9:2). The prophet, however, cannot refrain from laying

before Jehovah a point which seems to him irreconcilable with the Divine righteousness.

The rendering, indeed, must be modified - “yet let me talk with thee of thy

judgments:” –  yet will I debate questions of right with thee. The questions remind

us of those  in Job 21 and 24. Thus to have been the recipient of special Divine

revelations, and to be in close communion with God, gives no security against the

occasional ingress of doubting thoughts and spiritual distress. “Wherefore doth

the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy  (rather, secure)

that deal very treacherously?” The statement must be qualified by what follows.

In the general calamity the wicked still fare the best?


2  “Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea,

they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their

reins.” - i.e. from their heart (the seat of strong impulses and desires); compare

Psalm 16:7; 26:2.


It is foolish as well as rebellious to presume to be the judge of God.  If one has

doubts and questions, bring them to God in prayer.  God only can enlighten our

darkness.  We must remember that material prosperity is not necessarily real

prosperity.  True welfare consists not in success, not in security from calamity,

but in inward peace of knowing God and in progression in our spiritual

walk with Him!  The deepest fact of religion is the indwelling of the Spirit of

God, the real Presence of God!


3   “But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine

heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter,” - Pull

them out. Perhaps this is correct, and there is an allusion to the figure of

the plant in v. 2. But the verb need mean no more than “separate” (compare ch.

6:29).“and prepare them for the day of slaughter.” - literally, consecrate

 them, as victims for the sacrifice.


4   “How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither,”

How long, etc.? The verse is decided rather differently by the Hebrew accents.

The question should end at wither, and the following words run on “for the

wickedness of them that dwell thereinthe beasts are consumed,  and the  

birds;” - ?”  Drought is constantly described  as a judgment (ch. 3:3; 5:24-25;

14:2-7; 23:10),  and it is a prophetic doctrine that the lower animals suffer

for the fault of man -    “because they said,” - The speakers are the

ungodly.  The subject of the following verb is uncertain. Some think it is

God; but when God is said to “see” (i.e. take notice of) anything, it is

always something actually existing. The subject must, therefore, be the

prophet, of whom the ungodly scoffingly declare, “He shall not see our last

end.”  He shall not see our last end, because his predictions are mere delusions.


5  “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then

how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace,

wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in

the swelling of Jordan?”  Jeremiah’s impatience corrected. The expressions

are evidently proverbial. The opposition to the prophet will reach a still higher

pitch; and if he is so soon discouraged, how will he bear his impending trials?

And if in the land of peace, etc.? a second figure, the translation of which needs

amending. If (only) in a land of peace thou art confident, how wilt thou do

in the pride of Jordan? The “pride of Jordan” means the thickets on its

banks, which were notorious as the haunts of lions (Jeremiah 49:19; 50:44;

Zechariah 11:3). “ Lions’ bones have been found by Dr. Roth in the gravel of

the Jordan. Lions are seldom or never found now west of the Euphrates,

although they occasionally cross the river” (This was written a couple of

hundred years ago – CY – 2011)


If Jeremiah was ready to despair when he discovered the conspiracy of the

men of Anathoth, how would he bear the news of the treachery of his own



            for the endurance of trials by sending them by degrees, and reserving the

            more severe till we have been trained to the endurance of milder ones. Few

            men can say that they have drunk the cup of sorrow to the dregs, and none

            can know what bitter drops may yet be in store for them.


            fearful only in proportion as it strikes fear into us. If we are prepared to

            meet it we need have no terror. God can give strength equal to our

            requirement, and for the sterner trial the more abundant support. “As

            thy days so shall thy strength be!  (Deuteronomy 33:25) - The

            man’s trouble is greater than the child’s, but so is the man’s strength.


Failure in small things will be good for us if it teaches us a wholesome lesson on

our own weakness, and so inclines us to turn to a higher source of safety. Then we

shall find that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness (II Corinthians



6  “For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have

dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after

thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.”

An example of the “treachery” referred to in v. 1; a conspiracy against Jeremiah

in his own family. Have called a multitude after thee; rather, have called aloud

 after thee, as one raises a hue and cry after a thief.


 Verses 7-17 is a separate prophecy. The key to it is in II Kings 24:1-2,

where it is related that, after Jehoiakim’s rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar,

“Jehovah sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians,

and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent

them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord which

He spake by His servants the prophets.” The prophecy falls into two strophes or

sections, vs. 7-13 and vs. 14-17. In the first we have a complaint of the desolation

produced by the guerilla warfare; in the second, a prediction of the captivity of

the hostile peoples, not, however, without a prospect of their return home and

conversion to Jehovah. It is evident enough that this passage stands in no

connection with what precedes. The whole tone is that of a description of

present scenes and not of the future. Sometimes, no doubt, a prophet, in the

confidence of faith, represents the future as though it were already past;

but there is always something in the context to determine the reference and

prevent ambiguity. Here, however, there is nothing to indicate that the description

relates to the future; and it is followed by a prediction which presupposes that

the preceding passage refers to the literal past.


7   “I have forsaken mine house,”  - The “house” is here not the temple, but

the people of Israel, as the parallel clause shows (see Hosea 8:1, and compare

Hebrews 3:6; I Timothy 3:15). Jehovah, not the prophet, is evidently the speaker.

“I have left mine heritage;” - rather, I have cast away -  “I have given

the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies.” The Hebrew

is more expressive: “Into the palm of the hand.” Bonomi (‘Nineveh and her

Palaces,’ p. 191) has an engraving from the monuments of guests at a banquet,

holding their drinking-vessels in the deeply hollowed palm of their hand. So here

the people of Israel, in her weak, fainting state, needs only to be held in the

quiet pressure of the palm of the hand.



                                    The Forsaken Heritage



CORRUPT. God never leaves His people till they leave Him. He

is not changeable, capricious, arbitrary in His favors. His love never wanes,

His grace never fails, His help and blessings are never limited. The change

begins on man’s side. It is found in rebellion against God.


            longer tame, but swayed by its own wild passions.





IS FORSAKEN BY HIM. Birds and beasts of prey come up to devour the



            special evils which they have provoked will be enough to bring ruin on

            their heads.


            Divine presence. The heritage is “like a speckled bird.” It is strange, and

            so it draws upon itself opposition. The Jews were a mark for the enmity of the

            heathen through the singularity of their national customs. Christians are

            often singled out for opposition from the world for similar reasons. (And still

            are – CY – 2011)  If they have lost their peculiar protection, their peculiar

            position and nature will invoke a peculiar ruin.


8   “Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against

me:”- The reason why Jehovah has given up His people Israel (or, more strictly,

Judah) has proceeded to open hostility against his God. He  is unto me — or rather,

has become unto me — as a lion in the forest; a familiar circumstance (compare on

v. 5 and ch. 4:7).  “therefore have I hated it.”  To hate” is a strong expression

for the withdrawal of love, shown by the giving up of Israel into the power of his

enemies, as Malachi 1:3.


9   “Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about

are against her;”- The first part of this verse is mistranslated. Instead of Mine

heritage is unto me, etc., it should be, Is mine heritage unto me (i.e. to

my sorrow, a dativus ethics) a colored bird of prey? Are birds of prey

round about her? The passage is difficult, but the following seems the

most plausible explanation: — Jehovah is represented as surprised to see

His chosen people a prey to the heathen (a strongly anthropomorphic

description, as if Jehovah had not anticipated that His “giving up” His

people would have such sad results). It seems to Him (adopting human

modes of speech) as if Israel were “a colored bird of prey,” the bright

plumage of which excites the animosity of its less brilliant comrades, who

gather round it and pull it to pieces. It is an allusion to the phenomenon,

well-known to the ancients (Tacit., ‘Ann.’ 6:28; Suet., ‘Caes.,’ 81; Plin.,’

Hist. Nat.,’ 10:19), of birds gathering round and attacking a strange looking

bird appearing in their midst. The prophet might have simply said

“a bird;” why does he say “a bird of prey (‘ayit)”? Probably because he has

just described the hostile attitude of Israel towards Jehovah under the

figure of a lion. Some particular, rare kind of vulture seems to be intended –

“come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field,”  - There is a parallel

passage in Isaiah 56:9, where, as here, the “beasts of the field

(i.e. the wild beasts of the open country) are the heathen powers employed as

God’s instruments for chastising Israel (compare also Ezekiel 34:5, where

the same figure occurs).  The prophet adopts the strongest way of

expressing that Israel, utterly bereft of his natural defenders, lies at the

mercy of the great heathen empire” (note on Isaiah 56:9) - “come to devour.” 


10  “Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my

portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate

wilderness.”  Another simpler and more natural image, expressing the same

idea, as these in v. 9. The favorite way of representing Jehovah’s relation

to His people is that of a vine-proprietor to His vineyard (see on ch.2:21).

How would a vineyard be ruined if a band of shepherds were to drive their

flocks among the tender vine-shoots! The many pastors (or, shepherds)

are clearly Nebuchadnezzar and his generals (compare ch. 6:3). My pleasant

 portion. Jehovah is the “portion”of His people; His people and its land are

the “portion” of Jehovah (see on ch.10:16). (I recommend Deuteronomy

ch 32 v 9 – God’s Inheritance by Arthur Pink – this web site – CY – 2011)

The epithet “pleasant” expresses the emotion of the surprised speaker.


11  “They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto

me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.”

Inconsiderateness is repeatedly spoken of as an aggravation of the moral sickness

of Israel (Isaiah 42:25; 57:1,11).  (Also, on a positive note – God told the man

clothed with linen and had a writer’s inkhorn by his side:   “Go through the

midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that

cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” 

Ezekiel 9:3-4 – CY – 2011)


12  “The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness:”

Hardly with a reference to their pollution by idolatry; the mention of “the wilderness”

(or pasture-country) suggests that it is merely a feature in the impoverishment

of the country (a contrast to Isaiah 49:9) - “for the sword of the LORD shall

devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land:

no flesh shall have peace.”  The sword of the Lord shall devour; rather, the

Lord hath a sword which devoureth. It is the heavenly sword (Isaiah 34:5),

the symbol of Divine vengeance.


13  “They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns: they have put

themselves to pain, but shall not profit: and they shall be ashamed

of your revenues because of the fierce anger of the LORD.”

A description in proverbial language of the absence of “peace” (literally,

soundness, i.e. prosperity, security), from which “all flesh” in Judah at this time

shall suffer. The trouble of sowing has been in vain, for they have reaped thorns –

It is, of course, the produce of husbandry which is referred to.  (It is a great

mistake for the citizens of the United States to think they can sin as the wish

and be blessed economically – America’s turning her back on God is starting

to take effect as it did with Israel.  CY – 2011)



 ashamed of their increase because of the fierce anger of Jehovah.”


            necessary, not only for those things in which we can do nothing and are

            wholly dependent on Him, but also in regard to our own efforts. Man sows,

            but God must give the increase. We cannot order the seasons, command

            the weather, determine the germinating power of nature. The farmer is but

            the attendant of nature. The real work of the farm is done by nature, and

            nature is a name we give to the action of God. If, therefore, God did not

            follow with His work, the farmer might as well scatter sand of the desert

            over his fields as sow good wheat. So also all our labor depends on God’s

            blessing for its fruitfulness.


            destructive agencies are in His hands. He can send frost to nip the tender

            buds, drought to wither the growing plant, blight to destroy the filling ears,

            storms to beat down the ripe corn. Sickness, commercial disaster, wars,

            etc., may frustrate the wisest, ablest, most industrious efforts of men.

            Therefore let us learn:


ü      to live so that we dare ask for God’s favor;

ü      to labor at such work as God will approve; and

ü      to seek the blessing of God upon our efforts – “And

      let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us:

      and establish thou the work of our hands upon us;

      yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” (Psalm 90:17).


14   “Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbors, that touch

the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit;

Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house

of Judah from among them.”  Here occurs a transition. The prophet comes

forward with a denunciation in the name of Jehovah. All mine evil neighbors; the

hostile, peoples, mentioned, in II Kings 24. My neighbors, because Jehovah

“dwelleth in Zion.” Pluck them out of their land; viz. by deportation into

a foreign land. Judah and the neighboring nations shall share the same fate.

This is indicated by the use of the same verb “to pluck out” in the next

clause with reference to Judah (compare I Kings 14:15, Hebrew). In the

case of Judah, however, to be “plucked out” is a mercy as well as a

judgment, considering who they are “out of” whose “midst” the Jews are



15   “And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will

return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again,

every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.” The prophets

offer no partial or “nationalistic” view; of the mercy of God (compare ch. 48:47).


16   “And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of

my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught

my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of

my people.”  Israel has been converted and restored, and if the other nations

follow his example and swear by my name, i.e. adopt the religion of Jehovah

(compare Isaiah 19:18), they shall be rewarded by being suffered to dwell safely

in Israel’s midst. Observe the contrast with v. 14. Before, Israel had dwelt amidst

them to his own detriment; now they shall dwell amidst Israel to their profit.


17   “But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that

nation, saith the LORD.”



                                    Punishment and Restoration


Punishment is not selective, it is and will be impartially administered.


            of God must be vindicated on him at least as rigorously as on the worldly

            man, Judah had shared the sins of her neighbors; she must also share their

            punishment. If sin is general, so must be its penalties. No religious position,

            when we do wickedly, will protect us against its sin’s consequences.


            though they were sometimes the instruments in the hands of God for the

            chastisement of Judah, they were not on that account exonerated from

            blame for the bad motives of their conduct. The sin of others is no excuse

            for us in wronging them. The executioner of the law is himself subject to

            the law. They who do not admit the authority of God are not the less

            subject to His authority. Men who refuse to submit to the Law of God will

            be judged by that Law as certainly as those who have freely gone under

             its yoke. It is not for us to choose our government in spiritual things, but to

            submit to the one righteous government which God has set over all men. In

            the execution of this it will be found that all men have sufficient light to

            render them accountable for their actions, though the degree of their

            responsibility will vary with the degree of their knowledge.


Restoration is offered to the heathen nations as well as to Judah. As general

punishment must follow general sin, so general restoration will follow general

repentance. Here, too, God is impartial.


            general. “Every man” is to come and each to his “own land” and his

            “own heritage.” There are men who seem to fear the broadening of the

            mercies of God, lest they should become less valuable to each recipient, and so

            they would jealously narrow them to protect their full privileges for a few. Such

            ideas are not only basely selfish — since the holders of them quietly assume

            that they are among the few — they are dishonoring to the grace of God,

            which is exceeding abundant, with enough for all who need it.  God is

            “abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6) “and with Him is

            plenteous redemption.”  (Psalm 130:7)


            mean the abolition of war, rivalry, jealousy, separation, and the

            enjoyment of peace and brotherhood, the realization of the glory of

            the unity of the race through harmony in the unity of faith. “Then

             shall they be built in the midst of my people.” Thus through the great

            restoration, i.e. through the perfected redemption in Christ, we may

            look for the fulfillment of the great ideal human brotherhood.



ü      the compassion of God, and

ü      repentance and amendment.


They who taught Judah to serve Baal must learn with Judah to follow the

true religion. But if this condition is not fulfilled, THE RESTORATION CAN




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