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
GOD ONLY FORSAKES HIS HERITAGE WHEN THAT HAS BECOME
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.
GOD’S HERITAGE IS IN A TERRIBLE CONDITION WHEN IT
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
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)
LABOR WILL BE PROFITLESS IF IT BE CURSED BY GOD. “They are
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
NEVER BE ENJOYED!
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