Jeremiah 2


The second chapter forms the introduction of a group of discourses (Jeremiah

2.-6.), which should be read together. It is thought to be the first oracle which

Jeremiah delivered in public.   This would bring it into the thirteenth year of the

reign of Josiah (see v. 3).  It is, obviously, only a summary of the prophet’s

spoken words which we have in this most impressive discourse. In order to

appreciate it, we must bear in mind the external political relations and the internal

religions condition of the kingdom of Judah. These have Been already touched

upon in the general introduction. Josiah’s reformation — in the strict sense of the

word — did not begin till the eighteenth year of that king’s reign; and that the

state of things was at this time complicated by a dangerous alliance with that

Egypt against whoso religion the teaching of the prophets of Jehovah was a

continual protest. The first section of the prophecy is a general introduction,

already full of serious charges against the people (vs. 1-9); in the second,

the special occasion of the discourse is declared in the form of a question,

and the sin referred to is rebuked (vs. 10-19); in the third, Judah’s inveterate

idolatry is denounced, and the disappointment and ruin to which it led candidly

pointed out (vs. 20-28); and in the fourth, half in earnest and half in ironical satire,

the prophet points the moral of this foolish Egyptian fever which has seized upon

rulers and people (ver. 29-37).

It is always interesting to notice how later inspired writers hasten to do

honor to their predecessors. Originality is not an object with the prophets,

but rather the developing and adapting the truths long ago “delivered.” The

whole group of prophecies to which Jeremiah 2 belongs contains numerous

points of contact, in ideas or phraseology, with the song of Moses

(Deuteronomy 32.). The following have been indicated:


  • v. 5 with Deuteronomy 32:4;
  • vs. 11-12 with Deuteronomy 32:1, 21;
  • v. 20 with Deuteronomy 32:15;
  • vs. 26-28 with Deuteronomy 32:6, 18, 37-38;
  • v. 31 with Deuteronomy 32:5;
  • ch. 3:19 with Deuteronomy 32:6;
  • ch. 4:22 and 5:21 with Deuteronomy 32:6;
  • ch. 5:7 with Deuteronomy 32:15;
  • ch. 5:14 with Deuteronomy 32:22;
  • ch. 5:28 with Deuteronomy 32:15;
  • ch. 6:11 with Deuteronomy 32:25;
  • ch. 6:15 with Deuteronomy 32:35;
  • ch. 6:19, 30 with Deuteronomy 32:18-19.



1   “Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me saying,” -  The introductory

formula agrees with ch. 1:4. We have as it were two parallel prophecies (both

branching out of the original chronological statement in ch.1:2


2  “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying,” -  Presumably Jeremiah

had received his call at Anathoth (ch.  1:1). “Thus saith the Lord; I remember

thee, the kindness of thy youth,”  rather, I remember for thy good the kindness

of thy youth. It is an open question whether the “kindness” spoken of is that of

God towards the people, or of the people towards God. The usage of the Hebrew

(khesed) admits of either acceptation; compare for the first, Psalm 5:7, 36:5, and

many other passages; for the second, Hosea 6:4, 6 (in v. 6 rendering for “mercy,”

 “goodness”) and Isaiah 57:1 (rendering “men of piety”).  But the context,

which dwells so strongly on the oblivion into which the Divine benefits had

been allowed to pass, is decidedly in favor of the first view. How beautiful

is this condescending language! Jehovah’s past feelings come back to Him;

at least, so it appears to the believer, when God lets the light of His

countenance shine forth again (compare ch.31:20; Hosea 9:10). He even

condescends to overlook the weakness and inconsistency of the Israel of

antiquity. He idealizes it (i.e. Jeremiah is permitted to do so). This is in harmony

with other prophetic passages (see Isaiah 1:26 (“as at the first”); Hosea 11:1, 3-4;

Ezekiel 16:6-14). The figure of the bride recurs constantly (see Hosea 2:19-20;

Isaiah 54:4-5; Ezekiel 16:8) – “the love of thine espousals,” -  rather, thy bridal

state“when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was

not sown.” (compare Deuteronomy 8:2, “all the way which Jehovah thy God

 led thee these forty years in the wilderness”).




            God’s Estimation of His People’s Love (v. 2)


A remarkable passage: to be taken in its evident meaning, and not to be

explained away. What a loving use to make of the past faithfulness and

attachment of His people! He would remind them of them, that they may

repent and return.


I. IT IS FULL OF INTEREST TO HIM. To those who feel intense love

for others, it is exceedingly grateful to find their love reciprocated. High,

pure, disinterested love, like that of God for men, never receives equal

return; but what it does elicit it prizes beyond all its intrinsic value. The

parent thinks more of the child’s love for him than the child of the parent’s.


1. It spoke of trust. There is no fear or selfishness in love Divine love

awakens. The wilderness could not daunt the simple hearts of faithful

Israel. They were willing to take God at His word, and to look for the ]and

of promise. So with respect to Christ.


2. It spoke of gratitude. He had saved them from Egypt’s bondage, and

made them His own freemen. No service was too arduous; no trial too

severe. Jesus has saved us from sin and its consequences; we owe to Him a

deeper gratitude.


3. It spoke of an affection that was its own reward. There was delight in

the presence and communion of God. Worship was rapture. The chief

interest of life was spiritual and Divine. The life of Israel was separated and

sanctified to God. Love that could manifest itself thus was a sign and

guarantee that the love of God had not been in vain.



mention is made of their murmurings, their disobedience, and unbelief.

Where the true spirit of Divine love is exhibited God can forgive defects,

etc. To Him it is enough for the present that we do our best, and are true

and earnest. So at the first signs of repentance He is willing to forget all our

offences. What is good and real in men, is of infinitely more value to Him

than we can imagine, and for the sake of that He is willing to cover the

guilty past. This is all the more precious a trait in the Divine character that

it does not spring from ignorance of us. He knows us altogether, our

secret thoughts, our down-sitting and our uprising. (Psalm 139) The readiness of

God so to forgive and to overvalue past love and trust on the part of His people,

ought to fill us with compunction and shame. We ought to ask, “Was this

our love?” “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, fed thee? or thirsty and

gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked

and clothed thee.”  (Matthew 25:37-38)




remember.” It ought to be a strong motive to the Christian to think that

his little works of faith and labors of love are so highly prized, and so long

remembered. “For thy works’ sake.” Who would not rather charge the

memory of God with such gracious memories, that “heap up wrath against

the day of wrath?”  (Romans 2:5)


3  Israel was holiness unto the Lord,” - Israel was a consecrated people

(compare Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:19). Isaiah, fond as he

is of the phrase Israel’s Holy One,” does not expressly enforce the

correlative truth, as Jeremiah does here  - “and the first-fruits of His

increase:” -  rather, His firstfruits of increase. Israel is compared to the

firstfruits (reshith) of the land, which were devoted to the house of the

Lord (Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:12-13). So in Amos 6:1, the

title given him is “the chief [margin, ‘firstfruits’] of the nations” (in

ch. 31:7, a synonymous and cognate word, rosh, takes the place

of reshith for “chief”) -  “all that devour him shall offend;” - rather, all

that ate him incurred guilt, or became guilty of a trespass. Foreigners were

forbidden to eat of consecrated things; by breaking this law they became

guilty of a “trespass,” having invaded the rights of Jehovah (Leviticus

22:10,15-16). The word for “trespass” is the same as that rendered “guilt.”

“evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord.”



                        Recollections of a Happy Past (vs. 1-3)


It is pleasing to see how the prophet of judgment opens his first oracle with

touching reminiscences of the early happy relations between God and His

people. Thus the young man connects his new utterances with ancient

experience and the old well-tried principles of spiritual religion. Thus, too,

he leads the way from thoughts of God’s goodness and memories of early

devotion to a right condition of reflection and tenderness of heart, in

which the revelation of dark truths of the future will be less likely to harden

his hearers in rebellion than if they had been spoken abruptly and harshly.



            HAPPY PAST. In years of deepening disappointment the sunny days of

            youth rise up to memory and rebuke the cynical mood which sorrow is too

            ready to engender. In years of lessening spirituality the holy seasons of

            early devotion may be recalled to mind to startle us out of our self-

            complacency. It is well to reflect upon such a past history as that of the



ü      This was marked by peculiar blessings on God’s side.


Ø      It was a time when God’s love and kindness were felt with

      all the fresh receptiveness of youth; and


Ø      it was memorable for remarkable Divine protection and



ü      This was characterized by great fidelity on the side of Israel. In

      spite of frequent murmurings and rebellions, the age of the Exodus

      had been the heroic age of Israel’s national and religious history.


Ø      The people then followed God with affectionate devotion;

      they “went after Him.”


Ø      They consecrated themselves in purity and in service;

      “Israel was consecrated unto the Lord.”


Ø      They were the earliest true servants of God — God’s

      firstfruits.” Yet the first may become last

      (Matthew 20:16).


Ø      This devotion was witnessed under trying circumstances.

      It was “in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.”

      God’s love is sometimes most manifest when outward

      circumstances are most distressing, and men are often more

      faithful to God in the wilderness than in the land flowing with

                                    milk and honey. What a strange irony of history is this, that

                                    though, while passing through the wilderness, the people

                                    looked forward to their happiness in the possession of the

                                    promised land, after they have had long possession of it they

                                    are led to look back on those early homeless wanderings

                                     as containing the most blessed age of their existence!

                                    But true happiness is ever found, not in external comfort, but

                                    in spiritual blessedness. Can we recollect early days when the

                                    battle of life was hard, and we longed for the ease which came

                                    with success, and now see that there, in that hard battle, our

                                    best days were lived, our true blessedness was realized?

                                    Such a memory must be full of pathetic suggestions.


                        “borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees

                                                                                    (Isaiah 66:12b)


  • WE ARE TO RECOLLECT OUR HAPPY PAST - If we have “lost our

       first love” it is well that we should know this:


ü      that we may see how far we have fallen, and repent (Revelation 2:4-5);


ü      that the recollection of the blessedness of early devotion may revive the

                        longing for its return;


ü      that the consciousness that this was once attained may encourage us to

                        believe that it is a possibility, and therefore may be attained again,


  • IN CONCLUSION:  note:


ü      It is foolish simply to regret the happy past. The use of memory is not

      to give to us profitless melancholy, but to lead us actively to do

       better for the future.


ü      It is a mistake for us to seek simply to regain the lost past, because


Ø      this is gone irrevocably,


Ø      the new age requires new forms of life, and


Ø      we should seek better things in the future. The second Adam

      is better than the first Adam before the fall. (I Corinthians

      15:45-47)  - The kingdom of heaven is more glorious than

      the garden of Eden. The ripe Christian is higher in the

                                    spiritual life, though he may have fallen in the past, than the

                                    innocent child who has never known evil but has not

                                    experienced the discipline of life.




                                    First Love to God (vs. 2-3)


We have here a picture of the idyllic days of the soul’s first love for God.

The emphasis is on the sentiment — its depth, reality, and attractiveness. It

is spoken of as something in which’ God delights; as in the odor of a rose,

the beauty of a landscape, or the pleasant melody of a song.


I. IT IS ATTRACTIVE. For its spontaneity; its spirit of self-sacrifice; and

its absoluteness.



AND LIFE. Generous sacrifice. Dominance of spiritual aims and interests.

Personal holiness.


III. IT IS FULL OF PROMISE. Not only what it is, but what it may

become. In one sense the bud is more valuable than the leaf, or flower, or

knit. It has the interest of growth and the future about it. Israel’s best gifts,

then, were to God but “first fruits.” God only knows what capacity of

spiritual progress and enlargement is ours; and He alone can tell the

influence and importance of His people’s faithfulness.




                        Guilty Instruments of Divine Judgment (v. 3)


This is a great problem in morals. Pharaoh’s “heart is hardened,” and yet his guilt

remains. Nations are raised up to punish Israel for unfaithfulness, yet they

“offend” in doing this very thing.



VENGEANCE MAY CONSIST. At least two explanations of this are to

be found:


1. In the distinction between the formal and the material character of

actions. The essential evil or good of an action is in the intention, the

subjective conditions that originate and give character to it. It is subjective,

not actualized; or its actualization in one of several forms or directions is

indifferent. Towards any of these the Divine power may direct the impulse

and tendency; or they may be shut up to them through the unconscious

influence of providence, working in wider cycles.


2. In the overdoing or aggravation of the appointed task.




God’s people, and the relation they bear to Him. They have been “holiness

unto the Lord.” In so far as this character is interfered with or injured by

the instruments of vengeance, the latter shall be the more guilty. In so far,

too, as hatred for this character, either as past or present, in God’s people

has actuated the vengeance inflicted, the avengers “shall offend.” (Compare

for a similar sentiment, Matthew 18:6.  “But whoso shall offend one of these

little ones which believ e in me, it were better for him that a millstone were

hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”)

The Divine Being declares His personal attachment to those He has chosen,

and His identification with them. To injure them is to injure Him. They also

represent, even in their apostasy, the stock from which salvation is to come, and

the world’s spiritual future.


4  “Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the

families of the house Israel:”


5   “Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me,

that they are gone far from me,” -  rather, what unrighteousness - (compare

Deuteronomy 32:4, “a God of faithfulness, and without unrighteousness,”

alluding to the “covenant” between Jehovah and Israel).  God’s condescending

grace (His ‘anavah, Psalm 18:36). As if he were under an obligation to Israel

(compare Micah 6:3; Isaiah 5:3) – “and have walked after vanity,” -  i.e. the

idols; literally, a breath (so ch.10:15; 14:22; 16:19) – “and are become vain.”

The whole being of man is affected by the want of solid basis to his religion

(compare 23:16; Psalm 115:8); and the evident allusion to our passage in

Romans 1:21 (Paul has ἐματαιώθησαν - emataiothaesan -  they-were-MAKE-ed-VAIN
μάταιος (futile, unproductive, useless, aimless as Septuagint here). The clause

is verbally repeated in II Kings 17:15, with reference to the ten tribes.


6   “Neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land

of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness,” - as their children’s children

were forced by stress of trouble to say (Isaiah 63:11; Then he remembered the

days of old. It is questioned who remembered, God or His people. The

reflections which follow in the next two verses, seem certainly most appropriate

to the people, or to the prophet speaking in their name. Where is he that brought

them up out of the sea? i.e.“the Red Sea (compare Isaiah 51:10). What has

become of the protecting God who then delivered them? With the shepherd

of his flock; or, shepherds, according to another reading. The “shepherd” might

be either Moses, or “the angel of his face” (v. 9). The “shepherds” — if that

reading be preferred — must be Moses, Aaron, and perhaps Miriam (Micah 6:4).

Where He that put His Holy Spirit within him? The “him” of this passage

undoubtedly refers to “the people” - God gave to the people in the wilderness

“His good Spirit to instruct them” (Nehemiah 9:20), and guide them (Haggai

2:4-5), and govern them (Numbers 11:17).) – “through a land of desserts

and of pits, through  a land of drought, and of the shadow of death,

through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?”

 The first phrase applied to the region through which the Israelites passed

(“a wilderness”) was vague, and might mean merely pasture-land. The

remainder of the description, however, shows that “wilderness” is here meant,

as often (Isaiah 35:1; 50:2), in the sense of “desert.” Though recent travelers

have shown that the Sinaitie peninsula is not by any means universally a “desert,”

and that in ancient times it was still less so, it is not unnatural that an agricultural

people should regard it as a most inhospitable region, and should even idealize

its terrors (compare Deuteronomy 8:15). “Pits,” i.e. rents and fissures in the soil,

in which the unwary traveler might lose his life (ch. 18:20, 22).


7  “And I brought you into a plentiful country,” - A “Carmel land,” as it

were - “Carmel” is strictly an appellative noun, meaning” garden-land,”

i.e., land planted with vines and other choice plants. “to eat the fruit thereof;

but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an

abomination.”  So ch.4:26; Isaiah 29:17; 37:24.



                                    The Ingratitude of Sin (vs. 5-7)


Of the many aspects under which sin may be viewed none is more sad than

that of ingratitude to God. Every act of sin is a distinct act of ingratitude;

for every such act is an offence against Him who has shown to us nothing

but love, and from whom we are taking innumerable favors in the very

moment of our transgression.



OF GOD’S SAVING MERCY. So the Israelites forget the glorious

deliverance from Egypt, and preservation amidst the horrors of the

wilderness (v. 6). God is resorted to in distress only to be ignored,

forsaken, insulted, directly rebelled against, when He has effected a




THE PRESENT GOODNESS OF GOD. (v. 7.) The Israelites were

eating the fruit of the good land which God had given to them while they

were rebelling against him. This is even worse than ingratitude for past

blessings. Such ingratitude might attempt to plead the excuse of failure of

memory; but ingratitude for present mercies can only arise from gross

spiritual blindness or willful disregard of all claims of justice and affection.




unrighteousness have your fathers found in me?” The conduct of the Jews

was a direct indictment of the character of God. They deliberately insulted

Him, and rejected Him for heathen deities. Such conduct could only be

justified by the discovery that He was not what He claimed to be. After God

has revealed Himself to men in myriad fold evidences of goodness, there are

some who hold, if they do not confess to, such evil conceptions of His

character as amount to the basest calumnies of heartless ingratitude.




gods. Jews who knew that converted religious worship into an unreality,

and thus became themselves hollow and unreal. For this miserable result

did they forsake the God of heaven and earth, their Savior and constant

Benefactor! If they had found a rival with some pretensions to worth the

insult would have been less. Herein is the grossness of the insult to God

seen in all sin. What do men prefer to HHim? Transient pleasures, earthly

dross. The pearl of great price is flung away, not for a smaller pearl, but for

dust and ashes.



CORRUPTION OF GOD’S GIFTS. God gave the Israelites “gardenland,”

and they defiled it; they made Gods heritage an abomination. When

we sin we do so by employing the very powers which God has bestowed

upon us. We insult Him by turning His own gifts into weapons of rebellion.

We blaspheme Him with the tongue which He has made.


8   “The priests said not, Where is the Lord?  And they that handle the law

knew me not:  the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets

prophesied by Baal,” -  The blame principally falls on the three leading

classes (as in v. 26; Micah 3:11). First on the priests who “handle the Law,”

i.e. who have a traditional knowledge of the details of the Law, and teach the

people accordingly (Deuteronomy 17:9-11; 33:10; ch. 18:18; see also on

ch. 8:8); next on the “pastors,” or“shepherds (in the Homeric sense), the civil

and not the spiritual authorities; so generally in the Old Testament (see ch. 3:15;

10:21; 22:22; 25:34; Zechariah 10:3; 11:5, 8, 16; Isaiah 44:28); and lastly on the

prophets, who sought their inspiration, not from Jehovah (compare note on

v. 30), but from Baal. To prophesy by (by means of) Baal or rather, the Baal,

implies that prophecy is due to an impulse from the supernatural world; that

it is not an objectifying of the imaginations of the prophet himself. Even the

Baal prophets yielded to an impulse from without, but how that impulse was

produced the prophet does not tell us.  (Pehaps some from the modern

“secular media” could tell us where they are getting their vibes – CY – 2011)

We are told in I Kings 22:19-23, that even prophets of Jehovah could

be led astray by a “lying spirit;” much more presumably could prophets of

the Baal. The Baal is here used as a representative of the idol-gods, in

antithesis to Jehovah; sometimes “Baalim,” or the Baals, is used instead

(e.g. v. 23; ch. Jeremiah 9:13), each town or city having its own Baal

(“lord”) – “and walked after things that do not profit.”  A synonym for

idols (compare ch.16:19; Isaiah 44:9; I Samuel 12:21).





            Israel’s Desertion of Jehovah Viewed in the Light of the Past

                                                (vs. 1-8)


Desertion rather than apostasy is the word by which to describe the offence

charged against Israel in this chapter. Apostasy from principle is too

abstract and unemotional a way of putting the thing. The spectacle

presented to us is that of one person deserting another in the basest and

most ungrateful way. It is a desertion without excuse, aggravated by every

circumstance which can aggravate it. And now Jehovah sends His servant

to bring the reality of this desertion distinctly before the nation. And

suitably enough He sends him to “cry in the ears of Jerusalem.” Whatever is

sounded forth in the capital by a man who has had the words of God put in

his mouth may be expected to go to the ends of the land.


I. THE WHOLE NATION IS SPOKEN TO. God has the power to look

at human life in the light of a unity which the individual man is scarcely able

to conceive. Here He looks not only at the living generation of those who

had sprung from Jacob, but all backward through the past; each generation

is, as it were, a year in the life of one who still lives, and is able to look

back on things that happened centuries ago as events of his own youth.

Thus not only is it true that one generation goes and another comes, while

GOD ABIDES FOR EVER but it is also true that while one generation goes and

another comes, Israel abides forever. Israel is spoken to as a full-grown

man might be spoken to, exhorted in the midst of backsliding and unworthy

habits to look back on the far different promise of his youth.



ENDEARING RELATION TO GOD. Even as a husband loves and

cherishes his wife; so God has loved and cherished Israel. He looks back

into the past, and He sees a great fall. The youth of Israel, according to His

present view of it, was a time of love and devotion. No doubt there were

murmurings and rebellions; and indeed, when we think of some of the

things that Israel did during the leadership of Moses, the words of God

seem exaggerated in speaking of the kindness of Israel’s youth and the love

of its espousals. But then we must bear in mind that we know only in a

very imperfect way what is recorded, whereas God saw all, and to Him the

enthusiasm of the people on certain memorable occasions was very

significant. He remembered all those events in which Israel rose to the

height of its better self, and indicated the possibilities that might be

expected from it. Such events now stand forth like sunny heights in

memory. They are reasons why God should not allow His people quietly to

depart, farther and further, into the alienations of idolatry. This is what

makes the present attempt at restoration so full of interest, that it is an

attempt to bring back the erring spouse to her first love.





reckoned a holy nation. They were as firstfruits of the whole earth, to

which He attached an especial value. Levi He brought in sacred nearness to

himself in lieu of the firstborn of Israel. It is one of Christ’s distinctions that

He has become the firstfruits of them that slept; and so here there was a

nation which was the first to step out from long-accustomed idolatry. The

glory of Abraham’s faith in the unseen was still, as it were, resting on Israel

in the wilderness. Jehovah told the people where to go; He gave them

bread, water, and defense against enemies, in a land of peculiar desolation

and danger. Promises for the future were given in the most effective way

by distinguished services rendered in the present. When at last the Israelites

settled down in Canaan, it might have been said to them, “May you not Be

sure that he who has freely, amply, and just at the right time, supplied your

every need, will also, in all the generations to come, whatever their peculiar

experiences, do the same thing?” God had taken His people into the deepest

darkness, and put out every earthen-kindled light, just that He might

manifest in greater glory and attractiveness that light which is the portion

of all unwavering believers in Himself. Thus the past of Israel glorified the

God of Israel; and at the same time, it not only disgraced Israel itself, but

had in it such elements of God’s favor and assiduity (constant and close

attention) as made the national desertion of Him a great mystery.





            1.  The priests appointed mediators in offering and atonement between

                  Jehovah and His people; the expounders of the Law, whose business

                  it was to keep ever manifest the difference between right and wrong;


            2.  the shepherds, such, for instance, as every father at the head of his

                 household, providing and guiding;


            3.  the prophets, who should have been the messengers of Jehovah;


all these, far away from their right place, are found in the very forefront

of iniquity.  Jehovah is not only ignored; he is almost treated as if he were


THINKING FOR THEM!  When the priest in the parable went by on the other

side, the inferior would have thought it presumption to have acted differently.




                                    Wickedness in Leaders (v. 8)


The great indictment of Israel reaches its climax in the accusation of the leaders of the

people. Even they who should have been the guardians of truth and the vindicators

of right have turned aside to evil ways. After this the defection of the whole nation

appears utter and hopeless. We have here an instance of the terrible condition into

which a country has fallen when its leaders, its teachers, its responsible civil and

religious authorities, are unfaithful to their mission and set examples of





1. These are often unrecognized until the evil has wrought disastrous

effects. For there are circumstances which make them difficult to detect,


(a) External propriety. The priests still minister at the altar, the Law is still

slavishly observed in ceremonial details, rulers still exercise authority,

prophets still write and preach in orthodox language, and on the outside all

things go on respectably, while there is rottenness hidden within. This was

specially the case after the reformation of Josiah, when an outward respect

for religious observances was established without any purification of

heart or revival of spiritual life.


(b) Respect for authority. Many people are too subservient to question the

character of their leaders. They would rather unite with their rulers in

crucifying Christ than recognize His claims against the authority of these

men. They do not judge of the character of their leaders by any standard

of morals, but found their standard of morals on that character.


2. The signs of wickedness in leading men may be detected in its bearing

on the special functions of their respective offices. The priests are the

temple servants of Jehovah, yet they never seek their Master. They who are

familiar with the precepts of the Law know nothing of the person and will

of the Lawmaker. The civil rulers who are ruling under a theocracy directly

transgress the Law of God. The prophets lend themselves to a corrupt

source of inspiration. So now again we may see men abusing the powers of

office, and sinning in the very exercise of the responsibilities which are

entrusted to them for the sake of the maintenance of right and truth.

Therefore we must be on our guard, and not simply follow those who

claim to lead because of their rank or office. Men of leading are not always

men of light. We must try the spirits (1 John 4:1), and judge of the

character of those who claim to lead us by their actions, “Ye shall know

them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16).




1. It is contrary to knowledge. The priests handle the Law. Men of

influence are usually in a position to learn what is wise and good. Teachers

of religion may be presumed to know more than the average of men. How

great, then, is their guilt when their conduct is corrupt (Romans 2:21-



2. It is contrary to profession. These leaders set themselves up as examples

to others, and then even they go wrong. They who assume a high position

should justify that position by manifesting a high character. More is

expected of the professed Christian than of the confessed man of the



3. It is an abuse of great responsibility. If men willfully employ positions

of trust as means of violating the very objects of those trusts, their guilt is

proportionate to the privileges they have received and the honors they have

accepted. He who uses a Christian pulpit to propagate doctrines subversive

of Christianity is guilty of base treason.



LEADING MEN. These will be great in proportion to the influence of the

men, and will partake of the special characteristics of that influence, viz.:


1. Breadth. Leading men have a wide influence, and the seeds of evil which

they sow will be widespread.


2. Depth. Leading men have power at their disposal. Their example is



3. Subtlety. Dignity, prestige, authority, disguise the evil which would be

recognized if it were stripped of the pomp of price. Therefore:


(a) see that good men are chosen for posts of influence, and let the

selection and education of civil and religious leaders be a matter of more

prayer and thought on the part of the Church; and


(b) be not too ready to follow with blind obedience those who may be in

high positions. Be independent and watchful. Follow the one infallible

Leader, “the Good Shepherd,” Christ.


9   Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD,” - Repeated acts

of rebellion call forth repeated abjurations and punishments.  “and with your

children’s children will I plead.”  For God “visits the iniquity of the fathers

upon the children” (Exodus 20:5).




                                    The Indictment of Israel (vs. 4-9)


The chosen nation is arraigned in all its generations and in all its orders. It

is a universal and continuous crime; and it ran parallel with a succession of

unheard-of mercies, deliverances, and favors. In these respects it

corresponds to the sin of God’s people in every ageforgetfulness of

past mercy, abuse of present blessings, the corruption and perverseness of

those who were entrusted with Divine mysteries and sacred offices.




THEM FOR THE SIN OF HIS PEOPLE. Inquiry is challenged. History is

rehearsed. So it always has been. The reason for the sins, etc., of God’s

people is in themselves and not in God. God is just, and all the allegations

and murmurs of unbelieving and disobedient Israel are lies. So the excuses

Christians often give for their faults and offences are already answered in

advance. We have received from Him nothing but good. His help and

protection were at our disposal; but we forsook Him, and sinned against

both Him and ourselves.



recital is marked by simplicity, symmetry, force, and point. It contains the

undeniable commonplaces of history and experience, but the artist’s power

is shown in the grouping and perspective.


1. It is ancient and hereditary. The fathers, the children, and the children’s

children. Just as they could not go back to a time when God had not cared

for them and blessed them, so they could not discover a time when they or

their forefathers had not shown unbelief and ingratitude. It is pertinent to

ask in such a case, “Must there not be some hereditary and original taint in

the sinners themselves?” What will men do with the actual existence of

depravity? How will they explain its miserable entail? Human history in

every age is marked by persistent wickedness; Christianity suggests an

explanation of this. It is for objectors to substitute a better.


2. It consists in ingratitude, unbelief, and the service of false gods. The

Exodus with all its marvels and mercies, the blessings that surrounded them

in the present, go for naught. They are forgotten or ignored. And idols,

which are but vanity, are sought after to such an extent that their

worshippers “are like unto them.” This is the history of religious defection

in every age. Forgetfulness of God, ingratitude, and the overwhelming

influence of worldly interests and concerns, and the lusts of our own sinful

nature, work the same ruin in us. How many idols does the modern world,

the modern Church not set up?


3. It is marked by the abuse of blessings and the breach of sacred trusts.

When men are rendered worthless by their sinful practices, they cannot

appreciate the good things of God. Divine bounty is wasted, and blessings

are abused. Sacred things are desecrated. Those who ought to be leaders

and examples are worse than others. The priest who, if any one, ought to

know the secret place,” “the holy of holies,” of the Most High, is asking

where He is. The lawyers are the greatest law-breakers. The pastors, who

ought to guide and feed, are become “blind mouths.” And the prophets are

false. Corruptio optimi pessima. How hard is the heart that has once

known God! “If the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that

darkness!”  (Matthew 6:23) The backslider, the child of holy parents, etc.,

who shall estimate their wickedness?



JUDGMENT. The assurance is very terrible: “I will yet plead with” (i.e.

reckon with or plead against) “you... and with your children’s children will

I plead.” This is the same Jehovah who keepeth mercy for thousands” but

visiteth the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.”  (Exodus 34:7)  There is

a SOLIDARITY in Israel, Christendom, and the race, which will be brought to

light in that day. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”

(Hebrews 10:31), and to bear our offences in the company of transgressors and

the universal connection of the world’s sin. “But as in Adam all have died, so

in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:22)  Jesus is set forth as the

Head and Representative of the humanity He redeems. LET US SEEK ONENESS



10  “For pass over the isles of Chittim,” - i.e. the islands and maritime countries

of the West, represented by Cyprus (see on Genesis 10:4). For the wide use of

Chittim, compare Numbers 24:24; Daniel 11:30) – “and see; and send unto

Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing.”  Justification

of Jehovah’s judicial action towards Judah. Consider the heinousness of the offence.

Pass over — rather, pass over to Kedar, in the narrower sense, is a large tribe of

Arabian origin, whose haunts were between Arabia Petraea and Babylonia. Here,

however, it is used in a wider sense for the Arab tribes in general (so ch. 49:28;

Isaiah 21:16-17).


11  “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods?  But my

people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.” -  Has any

heathen nation ever changed its idol-god for another? The prophet clearly

implies a negative answer; and yet it must be admitted that the adoption of a new

religion, under the pressure of conquest or a higher foreign civilization is

not an unknown phenomenon in the ancient world. Glory; i.e. source of all

outward prosperity (compare Psalm 3:3, “my Glory, and the lifter up of

my head”). Religion was, in fact, the root of national life in antiquity;

contrast our own division between the sacred and the secular! Jehovah

elsewhere receives the title “the Pride of Israel” —Authorized Version,

rather weakly, “the Excellency of Israel” —(Amos 8:7; Hosea 5:5.

Compare the parallel passages, Psalm 106:20; Romans 1:23).


For America, this means changing Christianity for Secularism. (CY - 2011)




       Heathendom Gives an Unconscious Rebuke to Apostate Israel.

                                                (vs. 10-11)


From humiliating contrast of the present conduct of Israel with what might

have been reasonably expected from the peculiar experiences of the past,

God now turns to make a contrast more humiliating still with heathen

nations. The request to look back is succeeded by a request to look round.

Search through every nation, inquire in every idol temple, watch the

religious life of idolaters, and everywhere you will see a fidelity which puts

the apostate children of Israel to shame. The heathen gods themselves

Jehovah has indeed put to shame, notably the gods of Egypt and Philistia;

but in spite of all, the heathen are still clinging to the falsehoods in which

they have been taught to believe. Their fanatical devotion is, indeed, a

pitiable thing, but even in the midst of all that is pitiable, God can find

something to be used for good. This very fidelity to what is so false and

degrading may be used to point a keen reproach to those who owe but do

not pay allegiance to Jehovah.


There is thus suggested as a topic the UNCONSCIOUS REBUKES


which Jehovah bade His people look has long passed away. In spite of the

fidelity here indicated, the temples have fallen into ruin and the idols are

utterly vanished. Nay, more; increasing signs come in from year to year,

that all heathendom is gradually dissolving, so that, in one sense, Jehovah’s

words may be said no longer to apply. But we know that, in the spirit of

the words, they continue to apply only too forcibly. It is but the form of the

idol that passes away; the reality is the same. Thus he who calls himself and

wishes to be thought a believer in Christ, does well to look out and see

what he can gather by way of spiritual instruction and rebuke from the

world. The world has much to teach us if we would only learn. Jesus

Himself gave the New Testament parallel when He spoke of the children of

the world being wiser in their generation than the children of light. And

though we should be very foolish to pay any attention to the world, when it

puts on the air of a wiseacre and talks with the utmost self-conceit of

things it does not understand, there is all the more reason why we should

learn all we can by our own divinely directed observation. How the world

rebukes us, for instance, every time we see men of science searching after

truth! Think of the patient attention given day after day with the telescope,

the microscope, and all the apparatus of the experimentalist in physics.

Think of the perils and privations of the traveler in tropic and in arctic

zones. Think of the unwearied hunting of facts, for possibly a whole

lifetime, in order to turn some hypothesis into an established truth. And we

also have truth to attain. Jesus and His apostles often spoke of truth which

we have to make our own; understanding it, believing it, and making it part

of our experience. But that truth assuredly is not to be won without effort.

The question may well be asked if such differences would continue to exist

among Christians as do exist, provided they only set themselves in reality

and humility to discover all that may be known on the subject-matter of

their convictions. A man of science, for instance, would not grudge the

labor needed to learn another language, if he felt that an increase of

knowledge would prove the result to be worth the labor. But how many

Christians can be found who have any notion that it might be worth their

while to learn the Greek Testament for themselves instead of depending

upon even the best of translations? Again, the world rebukes us as we

consider the enthusiasm of terrestrial citizenship. There is much for the

Christian to learn as he contemplates the spirit breaking forth in many men

at the thought of the land that gave them birth. How the feelings of such

men glow to fever heat with the exhibition of a national flag, the singing of

a national anthem, or the mention of great military and naval triumphs, with

the names of the captains who achieved them! Then think of what is better

still, the unwearied labors of social reformers, simply from love to their

country, to lessen crime, vice, disease, and ignorance. In view of all this

deep attachment to the land where the natural man has sprung into

existence and is sustained, may not Christ well ask His people, if the

heavenly πολιτείᾳ - politeia - the relation in which a citizen stands to

the state - into which they have been introduced by the second

birth, is as dear to them? Then, what a rebuke comes to us as we look at

the efforts of commercial enterprise. What toil there is here! what daring

investments of capital! what quick combinations of the many to attain what

cannot be done by the one I what formation of business habits so as to

make easy and regular what would otherwise be difficult, perhaps

impossible! And yet it is all done to get that wealth on which the

Scriptures have so many warning words to speak. As these gods of the

nations were no gods, so the wealth men think so much of is really no

wealth at all. We are not to look towards the goal of their desires, nor

follow in their steps. But as earnestly as they look towards the goal of an

earthly fortune, we should look towards that of a heavenly one. As we

stand among men clinging to riches which they cannot keep, and clinging

none the less firmly because the riches are hollow, let us bear in mind how

easy it is for us who are but sinful mortals also to be deluded away into

neglect of the true riches.  (10 “He that is faithful in that which is least is

faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon,

who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if ye have not been

faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which

is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will

hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and

despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Luke 16:11-12)


12   “Be astonished,” -  “Be appalled” would more nearly express the

force of the Hebrew (so ch.18:16; 19:8) -  “O ye heavens, at this, and be

horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord.” - literally, become dry;

i.e. not so much “shrivel and roll up” (on the analogy of Isaiah 34:4), as

“become stiff with horror.”


13   “For my people have committed two evils;” -  Israel has not merely offended,

like the heathen, by idolatry, but by deserting the only God who can satisfy the

needs of human nature. (That is God’s design, that ONLY HE can help us in our

need – CY – 2011)  - “they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters,” –

 So ch.17:13 (compare Psalm 36:9). Fountain; literally, tank or reservoir. Such

reservoirs were dug in the ground (ch.6:7), and chiefly intended for storing living

waters, i.e. those of springs and rivulets – “and hewed them out cisterns,

broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”  A cistern, by its very nature, will only

hold a limited amount, and the water collected from clay roofs or from marly

soil, has the color of weak soapsuds, the taste of the earth or the stable.

Who would prefer such an impure supply to the sweet, wholesome water

of a fountain? But these cisterns cannot even be depended upon for this

poor, turbid drink. They are “broken,” like so many even of the best rock-hewn

cisterns. How fine a description of the combined attractiveness and disappointment

of heathen religions, qualities the more striking in proportion to the scale on

which the religions problem is realized (e.g. in Hinduism)!






                        The Marvel of Unbelief (vs. 10-13)


A magnificent apostrophe. Yet this is no mere rhetoric. There is a terrible

reality in the phenomenon to which attention is directed. Chittim, the

general name of the islands and coast of the eastern Mediterranean, stands

for the extreme west; and Kedar, the general name of the Arabs of the

desert for the extreme east of the “world,” with which the prophet and his

hearers were familiar. Our “from China to Peru” would represent its

meaning to us.



people themselves were but dimly conscious of the strangeness of their

apostasy. The prophet seeks to rouse their better nature by the most

striking comparisons and illustrations.


1. He compares it with the general fixedness of heathen systems. A

tendency to subdivide and stereotype life in the family, society, and the

state is shown by idolatry. Idolatries reflect and pamper human desires and

ideas, and enter into the whole constitution of the people. They undermine

the moral life and spiritual strength, and flourish upon the decay they have

made. Their victims are helpless because they are expiring or dead. The

words of Isaiah are justified in such a case; “from the sole of the foot even

unto the head there is no soundness in it,”  (Isaiah 1:6)  This is the reason of

the perpetuation of error and superstition; but the fact is there all the same,

and it is in striking contrast to the indescision and apostasy of God’s people.

That which only appears to be good is clung to with reverence and tenacity

from age to age. That which is acknowledged to be best, and in part

realized to be so, is cast aside repeatedly.


2. Look too at the character of Him who is forsaken. He has already told

them a little of God’s doings (vs. 5-7). Now it is sufficient to describe

Him as the “Glory” of Israel. The heavens, which look at everything all the

world over, are to wonder and to be horror-struck at this unheard-of

ingratitude and folly.


3. Disadvantage and dissatisfaction must evidently result. The action of

the apostate is twofold — negative and positive. Describe the figure. How

great the labor of worldliness; and its disappointment!




1. The influence of the near and sensible. The physical side of our nature

is more developed than the spiritual. Our need appeals to us first and most

strongly on that side. Abraham, who pleaded for Sodom, lied for Sarah.

Jacob, the dreamer of Bethel, is the craven at Penuel. How unaccountable

the yielding of the man of God to the false prophet (1 Kings 13.)! After

David’s signal escapes and deliverances, he yet said in his heart, I shall

now perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me

than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines.”

(I Samuel 27:1)  Elijah, after all his miracles and testimonies, sighs out,

“Let me die....I am not better than my fathers.” (I Kings 19:4)Peter, upon

whoso witness Christ was to found His Church, is addressed as he is ready

to sink at the vessel’s side, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou

doubt?”  (Matthew 14:31)  Paul, who had withstood them “that seemed to

be pillars,” quails beneath the “thorn in the flesh.”


2. The demands made by true religion. Self has to be denied. The whole

carnal life is condemned. Diligence is insisted upon. We have to “pray

without ceasing,” to labor and not faint. We have to “press toward the

mark for the prize for the high calling of in Christ Jesus..” (Philippians

3:14)  Patience is demanded, and the Christian profession commits us

            o indefinite sacrifice.




                                                Broken Cisterns (v. 13)



thirst (Psalm 63:1).


1. This is natural. We are born with instincts which reach out to the

unseen, and the worldly habits which deaden these instincts cannot utterly

eradicate them. If they could, we should cease to be men and become

merely rational brutes, for “man is a religious animal.”


2. This is intensified by the presence of life. Thirst is increased by a heated

atmosphere, hard work, disease, and special agents, e.g. salt water; so

spiritual thirst is deepened by the heat and burden of life, by its toil and

battle, by the fever of passion and the weariness of sorrow, by the poison

of sin and the disappointment of delusive promises of satisfaction. How

pathetic is this picture! If the living water is forsaken, cisterns — even

poor, broken cisterns, with scant supply of foul water, are resorted to, for

in some way the burning thirst of the soul must be quenched.



Hitherto the prophet has spoken of the guilt of unfaithfulness. He now

speaks of the loss this entails. It is right that we should first think of the

simple sinfulness of our sin, for this is its most important feature. But it is

profitable to consider also the folly of it, and the misery that it must bring

upon us. This is not to be all relegated to the world of future punishments.

It is to be felt now, and would be felt keenly if men were not blind to their

own condition. As godliness has the promise of the life which now is as

well as of that which is to come (I Timothy 4:8), so ungodliness brings present loss.

This must not be looked for in the direction of material profit and loss, of bodily

pain and pleasure, towards which the Jew was too much inclined to turn

his attention. It is inward and spiritual, yet it is not the less real. For THE

SPIRIT IS THE SELF! When the noise of the world is stilled, in silent watches

of the night, in lonely hours of reflection, does not the poor homeless soul feel

some sense of unrest, some vague thirst which no pleasure or possession

has yet satisfied?  Freedom of expression and the drug culture is no replacement

with the class and  meaning that the religious influence of traditional American

culture had.  (CY - 2011)



FIRST IN THE VERY LOSS OF GOD. God is more to us than all His

gifts. (He is our “Exceeding Great Reward” – Genesis 15:1) - The greatest

loss of the prodigal son is not the food which he craves for in the land of

famine, but the father whom he has forsaken. God is the chief source

of the soul’s refreshment.  Men talk of the duty of religion.

They should consider its blessings, and learn to seek God as they seek their

bread and water — the first necessaries of life. God is a Fountain of living



1. His refreshing grace is ever flowing, and in great abundance, not limited

in quantity as that of the largest cistern may be so that there is enough for

all, and it may be had at all times.


2. It is fresh, like the mountain stream bubbling forth cool from the rock,

not like the stale waters of the cistern. “He giveth more grace” (James

4:6), and “grace for grace” (John 1:16). The Christian does not have to

go back to the grace of God in past ages. There is a fresh stream now

flowing, and prayer opens to us fresh supplies of the love and help of God.


3. It is wholesome and invigorating, unlike the earthy waters of the cistern.

How foolish, then, to turn aside from such a supply for anything! We need

no better.






1. These are self-made. God makes the fresh spring, man makes the cistern.

Can our work equal God’s?

2. They are limited in supply — reservoirs, not flowing streams.

3. They are often impure; the cistern soon gets impregnated with

unwholesome matter.

4. They are imperfect of their kind. The cisterns are broken; what little

unwholesome water they have leaks away. All these characteristics apply

to the waters men turn to in preference to God — e.g. human religion,

philosophy, public occupation, social distraction, pleasure; these all fail to

slake the soul’s thirst. Cor nostrum inquistum est donec requiescat in te.”





                Forsaking the Fountain of Living Waters (v. 13)



FOLLY. It is a thing which could be believed of no one in his sound senses

that he would leave a fountain of living water, knowing it to be such, and

enjoying the use of it; and be contented with a cistern such as is here

described. A fountain is that from which he benefits without any trouble; it

is a pure gift of grace, and all he has to do is to take up his habitation by it.

Why, then, should he leave a fountain for a cistern, even if the cistern were

ready-made? Still less credible is it that he should take the trouble to make

a cistern. And the incredibility reaches its height when we are asked to

suppose him doing all this with the end of possessing a broken cistern that

can hold no water. Such broken cisterns the people of Israel seem to have

known only too well. Dr. Thomson says there are thousands such in Upper

Galilee, which, though dug in hard rock and apparently sound, are all dry in

winter; at best they are an uncertain source of supply, and the water, when

collected, is bad in color and taste, and full of worms. The whole action,

then, of the character here indicated is scarcely conceivable, unless as the

expression of fear in a diseased mind. In somewhat of this way we have

heard of men acting, who, after having made great fortunes, have become

victims to the horrid delusion that they are paupers, and must make some

sort of provision against utter destitution. So we might imagine the victim

of delusion, with fountains all round him, still insisting upon having some

sort of cistern provided. Note, moreover, that the aspect of folly becomes

more decided when we consider that it is water which is treated in this

way. The water which is offered so freely and continuously in the fountain

is a thing which man needs, and yet it is for the supply of that which is a

great and may be a painful need that he is represented as depending on

broken cisterns which with great toil he has constructed for himself.

(and hold no water - CY - 2023)



Israelites, stung to wrath by a charge of folly, might reply that they had not left a

living fountain for broken cisterns. This, however, was but denying the application

of a figure; the historical fact which the prophet had connected with the figure they

could not possibly deny.  Assuredly they had forsaken God. Not simply that at this

time they were without Him, but, having once been with Him, they had now

left Him. Had He not taken them up when they were in the weakness, dependence,

and waywardness of national infancy? Had they not received all their supplies

from Him, and gathered strength and prestige under the shelter of His

providence? They owed the land in which they lived, and the wealth they

had heaped up, to the fulfillment of His promises, and yet they were now

worshipping idols. Their worship was not a momentary outbreak like the

worship of the golden calf, soon after leaving Egypt, and when they had so

long been living in the midst of idolaters. It was a steady settling down into

the worst excesses of an obscene and cruel worship, after long centuries

during which the Mosaic institutions had been in a place of acknowledged

authority. What extenuations there may have been for this apostasy are not

to be considered here. The thing insisted upon is the simple undeniable fact

of the apostasy itself.



BE AN ACT OF THE GROSSEST FOLLY. We have noticed the figure

under which this act is set forth; and if Israel meant to get clear of a

humiliating charge, it was only by denying that God was indeed a fountain

of living water. The figure, therefore, resolves itself into a sort of logical

dilemma; and the fact is clearly shown that in spiritual affairs men are

capable of a folly which, in natural affairs, they are as far from as possible.

Man holds within him a strange duality of contradictions. In some

directions he may show the greatest powers of comprehension, insight,

foresight; may advance with all the resources of nature well in hand. But in

other directions he may stumble like a blind man, while around him on

every hand are piled up the gracious gifts of a loving and forgiving God.

There is no special disgrace to any individual in admitting what a fool he

may be in spiritual things. In this respect, at all events, he is not a fool

above other fools. He may see many of the wise, noble, and mighty of earth

who have lived and died in apparent neglect as to the concerns of eternity

and the relation of Christ to them. Men toil to make securities and

satisfactions for themselves, but if they only clearly saw that they are doing

no better than making broken cisterns, their toils would be relinquished the

next moment. It is but too sadly plain how many neglect the revelations,

offers, and promises of God; but who can doubt that if they could only

really see Him to be the true Fountain of living waters, the neglect would

come to an end at once?





                                    The People’s Sin (v. 13)


This is the sum and substance of the charge the prophet was called to bring

against Israel. Idolatry was their destroying sin, the root of all their

discords and miseries. It involved the renunciation of their allegiance to the

God of their fathers, and in this their conduct was without a parallel. No

instance of such apostasy could be found elsewhere. Those whom God had

chosen to be witnesses for Him before all the world were put to shame in

this respect by the very heathen whom it was their mission to enlighten and

bless. But we may regard this as the condemnation of the whole human

race. “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed

them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”  Note the view

we get here:



TOWARDS US. “The Fountain of living waters.” (see also ch. 17:13;

and Psalm 36:9).


1. He is emphatically the Living One. The grand distinction of the Bible is

that it reveals “the living God.” The Name Jehovah, the mysterious and

incommunicable Name, was expressive of this. “And God said to Moses, I

AM THAT I AM,”(Exodus 3:14). Absolute existence — essential,

independent, necessary being — is the idea it conveys. The knowledge of

such a spiritual Being, of a personality kindred with our own but absolutely

exempt from its limitations, is our supreme need. David did but utter forth

the insatiable longing of our nature for its true home, its only possible

resting-place, when he cried, “My soul thirsteth for God, yea, for the living

God.”  (Psalm 42:2)We want, not mere vague impressions of infinitude and

eternity, but an Infinite and Eternal One in whom we may trust. Not

mere abstract ideas of truth, and beauty, and righteousness, and love,

but One of whom these are the unchanging attributes, and to whom,

in the frailty of our nature, we can fly for refuge. “Our heart and our

flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:2)


2. He is the Giver and Sustainer of all other forms of spirit-life. The

“Fountain” of life; all other existences are dependent upon Him.


·         “The Father of spirits;” (Hebrews 12:9)

·         “we also are His offspring;” (Acts 17:28)

·         “in Him we live and move and have our being.”  (ibid.)


Whether our spirit-life once given can ever become extinct again may be

a matter of doubt and controversy, but certainly it cannot be regarded as

absolute and necessary existence. Though God may have endowed our

nature with his own immortality, we do not possess immortality in the

sense in which he does. “He only hath immortality dwelling in the light.”

(II Timothy 6:16) Ours is not self-existent being; it is dependent on Him from

whom it came — an outflow of the “Fountain” of life.


3. He is the Source of all that nourishes, enriches, and gladdens this

dependent creature-life — “the Fountain of living waters.” “Living waters”

are the Divine satisfactions of the human soul. The Scriptures abound with

similar figurative representations (Genesis 2:10; Zechariah 14:8;

John 4:14; Revelation 22:1, 17). Every age has had its witness to



THAT TRUTH VERIFIED!   “And this is the record, that God hath

given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He that hath the Son

hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1 John 5:11-12).

Here are the conditions of infinite blessedness for every one

of us. To be separated from God in Christ, to turn away from Him, is to

perish, to doom yourself to the pangs of an insatiable hunger and a

quenchless thirst. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee

the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.”

(John 17:3). This is death eternalnot to know him, to refuse the

knowledge of him, to dream that you can live without Him.



evils” here spoken of are but two forms, two sides, of one and the same

thing. There is:


·       the self-willed departure from God, and

·       the endeavor in that to lead a self-determined and self-sufficient life.


1. They have forsaken me. All sin is a forsaking of God. Adam turned his

back on God when he listened to the voice of the tempter. The prophet

rebukes here the shameful idolatries of the people. Think what idolatry

means. It has, no doubt, its fairer side, in which it is seen to be the ignorant

but still honest expression of the religious sentiment in men — the blind

“feeling after God if haply they may find Him.” (Acts 17:27-28)  But think

how it arose, and what its issues have been. St. Paul tells us how it was born of

the corruption of man’s nature, and has ever since been the Satanic means of

deepening that corruption (see Romans 1:20-32). So is it with

every sinful life. It begins with a more or less intentional and deliberate

renunciation of God. The exact point of departure may not be very

definitely marked; but as the life unfolds itself, the fact that this is its true

meaning becomes more manifest. How marvelous a picture of this dread

reality of moral life does our Lord’s parable of the prodigal supply! Such is

the history of prodigal souls. Happy are they who “come to themselves”

before it is too late to return to the forsaken home of the Father.


2. The dream of a self-determined and self-contained life. “They have

hewed them out cisterns” of their own, which shall render them, as they

think, independent of the “Fountain of living waters.” Here is the idea of a

proud endeavor to find in one’s self and one’s own self-willed way all

necessary good. But it is altogether vain. The cisterns are miserably

shallow, and they are “broken.” It is true of every man, indeed, that his

satisfactions must spring from what he finds within rather than from his

earthly surroundings; but then he is “satisfied from himself” only because

he has learnt to link himself with the Divine Source of all blessedness —

the living God.


“Here would we end our quest;

Alone are found in thee

The life of perfect love, the rest

Of immortality.”





                        Israel’s Punishment and its Cause (vs. 14-19)


14  “Is Israel a servant?  Is he a homeborn slave?  Why is he spoiled?”

The speaker is evidently the prophet, who exclaims in surprise at the view which

his prophetic insight opens to him. For Israel is a member of Jehovah’s family; he is

not a servant (except in the same high sense as in Isaiah 40-53., where “servant”

is virtually equivalent to “representative”), but rather in the highest degree a free man,

for he is Jehovah’s “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22). How is it, then, that he is dragged

away into captivity like a slave who has never known freedom? The view of some,

that “servant” means “servant of Jehovah” (compare ch.30:10), and that the

question therefore is to be answered in the affirmative, is less natural. “Servant,” by

itself, never has this turning; and there is a precisely similar term in the discourse at

v. 31, where the negative answer of the question does not admit of a doubt.





            A Sweet Remembrance Embittered (vs. 1-14)


or Divine delight turned by His people’s ingratitude into Divine distress.



similitude He employs: “the love of thine espousals.” It is difficult for us to

recall any period in the history of Israel when such high praise as this was

merited by them. For it is of their love to God rather than of His to them —

though there was never any doubt about that-that the prophet is here

speaking. But when was Israel’s love at all of such devoted and intense

order as to deserve to be thus spoken of? It is difficult to say. And he that

knows his own heart will be slow to credit himself with any such ardent

affection as is spoken of here. The explanation of such language is found in

that joyous appreciation by God of all movements of our hearts towards

Him which leads him to speak of our poor offerings as if they were

altogether worthy and good. Compare “Lord, when saw we thee and hungred, or

athirst,” etc.? (Matthew 25:44); also our Lord’s estimate of the

widow’s two mites; the cup of cold water given in His Name, etc. Still,

whilst the believer is compelled to confess that his Lord’s loving estimate

of his poor service and affection is an exaggerated one, it is one which is

nevertheless founded upon a very blessed fact. There is such a thing as the

child of God’s “first love,” when our delight in God was intense, real,

abiding; when prayer and service were prompt and frequent and delightful.

Then we were content to leave the world, and to go out into the dreary

wilderness if but our God led the way. Then there was not, as now there

too often is, a wide separation between our religious and our common life;

but, as v. 3 tells, we ourselves and all we had were counted as holy unto

the Lord. We sought that in whatsoever we did we might do all unto the

glory of God. Now, such service is a delight to the heart of God. We are

shown, therefore, that we can add to or diminish the joy of God. Such

power have we. And the Divine appreciation of such service is shown by

His anger towards those that in anywise hurt His servants. “All that devour

him,” (v. 3). The Book of the Revelation is one long and awful

declaration of how the Lord God will avenge His saints.



The remembrance has become bitter. The cause of this change is by reason

of His people having forsaken Him. As is the joy of God at men’s hearts

yielding to Him, so is His grief at their unfaithfulness. The heart of God is

no figure of speech, but a reality. It rejoices in our love, it mourns over our

sin. And this all the more because of the aggravation attending such

forsaking Him. For:


1. It is in violation of solemn vows and pledges of fidelity which, we have

given Him. The yielding of the soul up to God is likened unto the espousal

of the soul to God. At the time we made our surrender we joyfully

confessed, “Thy vows are upon me, O God: O my soul, thou hast said unto

the Lord, Thou art my Lord.” Now, to go back from God is to violate all

these sacred vows.


2. And whatever departures from God have taken place, they have been

without any provocation whatsoever. (v. 5) “What iniquity have your

fathers found in me?”  Has He been hard with us, or impatient, or

unready to answer prayer, or faithless to His promise? Can any who have

forsaken God charge Him so?


3. And such forsaking of God has been an act of base and shameful

ingratitude (compare v. 6). God had brought Israel up out of the land of

Egypt,  and He had brought them into a plentiful country, but they had

polluted it,  (v. 7). All men are under a vast debt of gratitude to God,

even the heathen — so St. Paul teaches us — who never heard His Name.

But how much more vast is the debt of those who have “tasted that the

Lord is gracious,” and known His redeeming love, and who yet “turn back

and walk no more with Him!”


4. Such departures from God are characterized by most unheard-of and

monstrous foolishness. The prophet in contemplating it (v. 12) calls on

the heavens to be astonished,  For such conduct was unheard of (compare

vs. 10-11). Idolatrous nations remained true to their gods, though they

were no gods; but Israel,  Too often is it that the professed people of

God are put to shame by those who make no such profession at all. And it

was as monstrous as it was unheard of (compare v. 13). It was as if any should

abandon the waters of some bright, pure running fountain for the muddy

mixture of a tank or cistern, which at the best is almost repulsive to one

accustomed to the fountains of living water. And the folly of such

exchange is even exceeded, for not only was it this foul cistern for which

the living fountains had been forsaken, but even these very cisterns were

flawed and fractured so that they could “hold no water.” The force of folly

could no further go. And men do the like of this still. As, e.g., when they

forsake the faith of the Father in heaven for the creed of the materialist, the

agnostic, the atheist; when they choose rather the peace of mind which

contemplation of their own correctness of conduct can afford instead of the

joyful assurance of sin forgiven and acceptance with God, gained through

Jesus Christ our Lord; when, in the controversy that is ever going on

between God and the world, they decide for the world; when, reliance is

placed on a religion of sacraments, professions and forms of worship,

instead of that sincere surrender of the heart to God, that spiritual religion

which alone is of worth in his sight; when the lot of the people of God is

rejected in order that the pleasures of sin may be enjoyed for a season, and

in many other such ways.


5. And the sin is of such desperate character. For see (v. 8) how it has

mounted up and overwhelmed those who from their profession and calling

we should have thought would have been above it. The ministers of

religion, the priests, pastors, teachers, have all been swept away by the

torrent of sin. When these whose lives are given to prayer, to the study of

God’s holy Word, and to that sacred ministry which should be a bulwark

and defense, not only for those for whom, but also for those by whom, it is

exercised; when these are seen to be involved in the common corruption,

then the case of such a Church, community, or nation is hopeless indeed.

See, too, the insensibility that such sin causes. In v. 2 Jeremiah is bidden

Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem.” As you would bend down your face

to the ear of one in whom the sense of hearing was all but dead, and would

place your lips close to his ear, and by loud, clear utterance strive to make

him hear, so had it become necessary by reason of the insensibility which

their sin had caused, to deal with those to whom the prophet wrote. It is

one of the awful judgments- that overtake the hardened and impenitent,

that whereas once they would not hear the voice of God, they at length

find they cannot. Oh, then, let the prayer of us all be “From hardness of

heart, and contempt of thy Word and commandment, good Lord, deliver



15   “The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land

waste:  his cities are burned without inhabitant.”  A fresh figure, and a most

natural one in Judaea (compare I Samuel 17:34); already applied to the Assyrians by

Isaiah  (Isaiah 5:29-30). Burned; rather, made ruinous (compare “ruinous heaps,”

II Kings 19:25).


16  “Also the children of Noph” - This is the climax of the calamity. Noph, called

Moph in the Hebrew text of Hosea 9:6, is generally identified with Memphis (after the

Septuagint), which was called in the inscriptions Mennufr, or “the good abode,” but

may possibly be Napata, the Nap of the inscriptions, the residency of the Ethiopian

dynasty – “and Tahapanes” -  The Hebrew form is Takhpanes or Tahhpanhhes.

This was a fortified frontier town on the Pelusiot arm of the Nile, called in Greek

Daphnae (Herod., 2:20), or Taphnae (Septuagint here) – “have broken the

crown of thy head.” - rather, shall break, or (for the pointing in the Hebrew Bible

requires this change) shall feed off (or depasture). From this verse onwards,

Judah is personified as a woman, as appears from the suffixes in the Hebrew.

Baldness was a great mark of disgrace (II Kings 2:23; ch.48:45). There is a striking

parallel to this passage in Isaiah 7:18-20, where, in punishment of the negotiations of

Ahaz with Assyria, the prophet threatens an invasion of Judah both by Assyria and

by Egypt: and employs the very same figure (see v. 20). So here, the devastation

threatened by Jeremiah is the punishment of the unhallowed coquetting with the

Egyptian power of which the Jewish rulers had been recently guilty. The fact which

corresponds to this prediction is the defeat of Josiah at Megiddo, and the consequent

subjugation of Judah (II Kings 23:29).


17  “Hast not thou procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken

the Lord thy God,” -  rather, Is it not this that doth procure it unto thee

(namely) that thou hast forsaken, etc.? or, Is it not thy forsaking Jehovah

that procureth thee this? – “when He led thee by the way.”  The prophet

thinks, perhaps, of the rebellion of the forefathers of Israel, who too soon

ceased to “go after” Jehovah (compare v. 2), and whose fickleness was

imitated but too well by their descendants. This view is favored by the

phraseology of Deuteronomy 1:33; 8:2, 15. But we may, if we prefer it, explain

“by (or, rather, in) the way,” on the analogy of the promise in ch. 31:9,

“I will lead them... in a straight way,” i.e. I will grant them an uninterrupted

course of prosperity. The omission of the adjective in the present passage may

be paralleled by Psalm 25:8, “Therefore will he instruct sinners in the (right) way.”


18   “And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt?” -  rather, with the

way to Egypt. Isaiah (Isaiah 30:2-5; 31:1) and Hosea (Hosea 7:11,16) had already

inveighed against an Egyptian alliance. The name given by Manasseh to his son and

successor (Amon) suggests that at one period in his reign an Egyptian policy was

in the ascendant, which coincides with the tradition preserved in II Chronicles 33:11,

of an Assyrian captivity of Manasseh. Jehoiakim at a later period was a vassal of

Egypt (II Kings 23:31, 35) – “to  drink the waters” -  taking up the idea of the

second clause of v. 13 - “of Sihor?” - or Shihor, occurs again in Isaiah 23:3, as a

name of the Nile. It properly means, not so much “the black” as “the dark grey

(connected with shakhar, the morning grey), from the color of the water.  The

Septuagint has Γηών - Gaehon -i.e. Gihon, also a name of the Nile“or what hast thou

to do in the way of Assyria” - It is true that Assyria was, to say the least, powerless

to interfere for good or for evil, when these words were written. But in v. 5 the

prophet has already warned us that his complaints are partly retrospective. It would

seem that the Assyrian party from time to time gained the upper hand over the

Egyptian in the councils of the State.  Or perhaps the prophet may refer to the

Quixotic fidelity to Assyria of Josiah (see below on v. 36) – “to drink the waters

of the river?” -  i.e. the Euphrates, “the great river” (Genesis 15:18). Babylonia

it should be remembered, was in nominal subjection to Assyria; the Euphrates was

the boundary between Syria and Palestine on the one hand, and Assyria — here the

Assyrio-Babylonian region — on the other.





            The Unreasonableness of Appealing to Worldly Assistance


                                          Spiritual Enterprises

                                                        (v. 18)


This was the tendency of Israel when her faith grew weak. It is shown even

now by those who trust to the arm of flesh, and who seek worldly alliances

for the Church. We ought to be deterred from this when we consider:








19   Thine own wickedness shall correct thee,” - - rather, chastise... punish.

It is a constantly renewed punishment which follows the ever-repeated offence.

“and thy backslidings shall reprove thee:  know therefore and see that it is

an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that

my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts.”






            The Divine Ideal, How Lost and Regained (vs. 14-19)


The prophet has in his mind what was God’s original thought for Israel, the

Divine ideal concerning him; and along with that the mournful and utter

contrast of his actual condition. An indignant “No” is the answer which

rises to the prophet’s lips as the questions, “Is Israel a slave? Is he a home

born slave?” are asked. He thinks of God’s words (Exodus 4:22). But

then there stares him in the face the most distressing but yet most

unanswerable fact that Israel has become altogether such an one. “He is

spoiled; the young lions roar over him,” (v. 15). Applying the story

of Israel to ourselves, we learn:



REDEEMED. They were to be as His sons (compare John 1:12, and

parallels). Think of the ideas which we associate with the relationship of

sons. Take the story of Abraham and Isaac as setting forth in human form

what these relationships are. What affection, what confidence, what

sympathy, what affluence, what honor, were Isaac’s because he was

Abraham’s son! All that appertained to him no doubt manifested his happy

consciousness of the place he held in his father’s love. His looks, his tones,

his dress, his demeanor, the respect paid to him, the freedom of his

intercourse with Abraham, the influence he had with him, wall made

manifest his honored and his happy position. Now, all that which was

Isaac’s because he was Abraham’s son, God purposes should be ours

because we are His. Were the Divine ideal fulfilled, all that appertains to us

would reveal the terms on which we stand towards God. Our look, our

voice, our demeanor, our freedom from care, the general brightness of our

life, — all would show our happy consciousness that we were the “sons”

of our Father in heaven. The delight that Isaac had in Abraham, the delight

that children have in their parents (Proverbs 17:6), above all, as the

supreme example of true sonship, the delight that Jesus had in God, we

should increasingly realize. Such is God’s ideal for His redeemed.



PRESENT TO THIS IDEAL. This contrast Jeremiah presents in a series of

vivid similitudes.


1. Israel is “spoiled.” That is, he who had been a beloved son, happy,

honored, and free in his father’s affluent home, is made a prey of, bound,

beaten, abused, carried off as a slave.


2. Next he is likened to some unhappy traveler who, passing by a lion’s

lair, has fallen a victim. The beast’s talons are fastened in his quivering

flesh as he lies prostrate on the ground, and its fierce, exultant yells over

him make the forest ring again.


3. The next is that of a wasted land, the desolated homesteads, the stripped

fields, the torn-down vineyards, the flocks and herds all driven away.


4. The next, that of once goodly cities, their buildings now a heap of

smoldering ruins.


5. And last, that of mocked and insulted captives in Egypt. Their captors

have inflicted on them the indignity, so terrible in the eyes of a Hebrew, of

shaving off their hair; the words “broken the crown of thy head” rather

meaning “shorn the crown of thy head.” Now, all these pictures which

would call up vivid ideas of humiliation and suffering before the minds of

Israel, the prophet suggests in these several sentences, in order to show the

contrast between what God proposed for Israel at the first, and that to

which he had now fallen. But that which was true of Israel is true now,

once and again, of those who should have continued as God’s sons. Does

not that verse Where is the happiness I knew?” etc., and the whole tone of

that well-known hymn, describe a spiritual condition all too common? Our

very familiarity with it shows how often there has been the sad experience

of which it tells. One reason why we love the Psalms so much is that they

clothe our own thoughts in the very words we need; they say what our

hearts have often said, and not least do they thus speak for us when, as

they so often do, they confess the smart, the shame, the pain, and the

manifold distress which our sin has brought upon us.


III. THE CAUSE OF ITS CONTRAST. (v. 17.) Did not thy forsaking

of Jehovah thy God procure thee this? Let conscience confess if this be not

the true explanation of v. 19. Let us beware of explaining away the true

cause, and sheltering our sin beneath some convenient excuse.




1. There must be the clear perception of its true cause. v. 19, “Know

therefore and see that,” etc. To further this most salutary knowledge was

the reason of so many distresses coming upon Israel, and for the same

reason God will not suffer sin to be only pleasant, nor the cup of iniquity to

be free from bitterness. To the riot and gaiety of the prodigal in the “far

country,” God added on the poverty, the swine-feeding, the rags and

wretchedness, the husks for food, and the desertion by all his so-called

friends, — all that misery that he might “come to himself,” which whilst his

riches and riot lasted he never would. And this is God’s way still. He

would have us know and see that it is an evil thing and hitter to forsake

the Lord.


2. And when this has been thus known and seen, would we regain what we

have lost, we must have done “with the way of Egypt and the waters of

Sihor,” that is, we must resolutely abandon those forbidden ways in which

we have hitherto been walking. V. 18 is an earnest expostulation with

such as have wandered from God. It seems to say to such, “What hast thou

to do to be going after the world’s sinful ways, or to be looking for help

from her Sihor-like, her foul dark, waters? Oh, have not her ways harmed

thee sufficiently already? will not the burnt child dread the fire? Wilt thou

again belie thy name, and live rather as the devil’s slave than as God’s

child? Was the one sorrow and shame which thy sin heaped upon thy

Savior not sufficient, that thou must crucify the Son of God afresh, and put

Him anew to open shame? Shall the dove vie with the vulture in greed for

foul food, or the lamb find satisfaction in the trough of the swine? As soon

shouldest thou, child of God, love sin and its evil ways.” Let us remember

for our great comfort, when well-nigh despairing of deliverance from the

dread power of sin, that Christ has as certainly promised to deliver us from

this, the power of sin, as He has from its guilt. The earnest look of trust to

Him, pleading His promise herein, — this repeated day by day, and

especially when we know that “sin is nigh,” will break its mastery, and win

for us the freedom we need.





                                    Sin Self-Corrected (v. 19)




ü      Sin reveals its evil character as it comes into existence.  The wicked

      action which looks attractive in desire is repulsive to reflect upon.

      The very sight and thought and memory of sin are bitter. The burden

      of guilt, the shame of an evil memory, the sin itself is thus its own



ü      Sin naturally produces its punishment.  Punishment is the natural fruit

      of sin. It is reaping what we have sown (Galatians 6:7-8). This fruit

      the guilty man must eat as his bread of sorrows (Proverbs 1:31).

      Thus intemperance naturally breeds disease, mental degradation,

      poverty, and dishonor. Greedy selfishness brings upon a man dislike

      and provokes retaliation. Unfaithfulness to God deprives us of the

      communion of His Spirit and the protection of His providence.

      We have to wait for no formal sentence, no executioner. The law

      within us carries its own sentence, and is its own executioner, and even

      as we do wrong we begin to bring upon ourselves the penalty of our




            The headache of the morning is a warning to the drunkard not to repeat the

            debauch of the night.


ü      Chastisement corrects by bringing us to our right mind. It sobers a

      man, and thus helps him to look at his life in a true light.


ü      Chastisement corrects by revealing the true character of sin. Its

      charms are all torn off, and the hideous monster is revealed in its

      naturally hateful shape. Then we see that all sin involves our

      forsaking God, and is due to the loss of respect for His will —

      the loss of the “fear of God” according to the Old Testament view,

      the loss of love to God according to the Christian view.  (Can it not

      be accurately said of our culture “there is no fear of God before

      their eyes.” [Romans 3:18] – CY – 2011)





ü      The chastisement may be a terrible experience from which we would fain

shrink if we knew the nature of it.


ü      Sin is evil in itself, and the sooner we stay our hand from it the better for

ourselves, for the world, and for the honor of God. It is better not to fall

than to fall and be restored.


ü      God has provided a higher means than chastisement for delivering us

from sin. This is an exercise of His goodness to lead us to repentance

(Romans 2:4). The gospel shows us how Christ can save us from our

sins by drawing us to Himself and constraining us by His love to walk

in His footsteps of holiness.




                        God’s Method of Punishing Apostasy (v. 19)






20  Here a new section begins. “For of old time I have broken thy yoke,and

burst thy bands;” - Bands (see on ch. 5:5; Psalm 2:1-4).  This is, grammatically, a

possible rendering, but  inconsistent with the second person in “and thou saidst,

This does not, strictly speaking, imply a new reading of the text, for ti was the old

form of the suffix of the 2nd pers. fem, sing.; there is a precisely similar case in

Micah 4:13. It is a true description of the history of Israel before the exile. It would

almost seem as if there was a fusion of two races among the Israelites, and that the

smaller but nobler stock supplied all the great men in the sphere of religion; -

“I will not transgress;” -  This is the translation of the marginal reading in the

Hebrew Bible, which, though implied also in the Targum, is probably a

conjecture of the Jewish critics. The text reading (also that of the

Septuagint and the Syriac) is, “I will not serve,” (equivalent to “I will not

be a slave any longer”). Obviously this does not harmonize with the

rendering “I have broken,” etc., in the first clause unless we explain “I will not serve”

as virtually equivalent to “I will still serve my idol-gods”); hence the Jewish critics,

by just adding a κέραιαkerahiatittle -  (Matthew 5:18), changed “serve” into

“transgress.” They did not venture to alter the next clause, which, quite as much as

the first, presupposes the reading “serve” (see next note) – “when upon every high

hill” –  Bare, treeless heights were favorite spots for sacrifices, especially for Baal;

groves, and leafy trees, in general, for the lascivious rites of Asherah and Ashtoreth.

The apparently extreme statement of the prophet is not to be minimized. Travelers

still tell us of vestiges of ancient and doubtless pro-Christian idolaters worship still

visible on almost every attractive spot in the open country in Palestine - “and under

every green tree” -  We have no single word to convey the “fluid” meaning of this

expressive word. It combines, in fact, the senses of pliant, sappy, leafy (compare

note on ch. 11:16) – “thou wanderest, playing the harlot.” -  rather, thou wast

stretching thyself out.


21   “Yet I had planted thee a  noble vine,” -  Jeremiah means the choicest kind

of Oriental vine, called sorek (from the dark-red color of its grapes), and mentioned

again in Isaiah 5:2. The figure of the vine is one endeared to us by its association

especially with our Lord; it was endeared to the Jews by the annual festivities of the

vintage. The sacred writers are never afraid of its palling on the ear by repetition

(compare ch. 6:9; 12:10; Isaiah 5:1-7; 27:2-3; Ezekiel 17:6; Psalm 80:8-16) –

“wholly a right seed:” -  i.e. a vine-shoot of the genuine sort. “Seed” for “shoot,”

as in Isaiah 17:10-11; – “how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant

of a strange vine unto me?” -  rather, degenerate shoots.


22  “For though thou wash thee with nitre,” - Nitre does not mean the substance

which now bears that name, but “natron,” a mineral alkali, deposited on the shores

and on the bed of certain lakes in Egypt, especially those in the Wady Nat-run (the

ancient Nitria, whence came so large a store of precious Syriac manuscripts). In

ancient times, this natron was collected to make lye from for washing purposes

(compare Proverbs 25:20) -  “and take thee much soap,” -  rather, potash; the

corresponding vegetable alkali (compare Isaiah 1:25) – “yet thine iniquity is

marked before me, saith the Lord God.” – thine iniquity is marked -  

stained,  i.e. filthy.  The word is in the participle, to indicate the permanence

of the state.   Compare with the obsession of personal hygiene of today

at the expense of the neglect of the soul/spirit.  (CY - 2011)





                                    The Stains of Sin (v. 22)




1. Sin leaves stains behind it. No man can have clean hands after touching

it. These stains are of two classes:


(a) internal — the soiled imagination, the corrupted will, the vitiated habit

which a single act of sin tends to produce; and

(b) external, in the form of guilt before God, and lowered reputation in the

sight of men.


2. The stains of sin are not natural. They are no part of the true color of a

man’s character. They are all contracted by experience.

3. These stains are all evil things. They are not like marks of immature

development or of the necessary imperfection of humanity. They are

products of corruption.



(ch. 13:23.) The Jews were attempting this by denying the offences charged against

them or excusing them. They would not admit their apostasy; but in vain.


1. Sin cannot be undone. We cannot recall the past. History is

unchangeable. What we have done we have done.

2. Sin cannot be hidden. We can never hide it from God, who searches the

heart (1 John 3:20). We cannot long or perfectly hide it from man. It

will color our lives and reveal itself in action, in conversation, in


3. Sin cannot be excused. We may point to our training, our temptations,

our natural weakness, our ignorance; and no doubt these facts are

important as determining the degree of our guilt (Luke 23:34). But the

sin itself, greater or less as it may be, cannot be explained away. Our sins

are our own or they would not be sins.

4. Sin cannot be expiated by us. Sacrifice is of no real avail. That was only

acceptable as a symbol and type of God’s method of cleansing sin. Penance

could only act as discipline for the future; for the past it is no better than a

fruitless sacrifice. Future goodness cannot atone for the past; for that is

required on its own account, and if it were perfect it would be no more

than it ought to be — we should still be “unprofitable servants.”



HIS LIFE. Men have tried all methods; but in vain.


1. Simple determination to conquer it. But he who commits sin is the slave

of sin (John 8:34), and a slave who cannot emancipate himself. The

worst effect of sin is seen in the corruption of the will. Hence we have not

the power to reform until our will is renewed, i.e. until, in New Testament

language, we are “born again.”


2. Charge of external circumstances. This is a helpful accessory of more

effectual means, but it is not sufficient in itself, because SIN IS INTERNAL,

and no change of scene will effect a change of heart. A man may cross the

Atlantic, but he will be the same being in America that he was in England.

He may be lifted from the dunghill to a throne, but if he had a vicious

nature in his low condition he will carry that with him to his new sphere.

Base metal does not become gold by receiving the coin mint stamp.

Sanitary arrangements, education, reforming influences, etc., are all helpful,

but none are fundamental enough to effect the complete change. The stains

are too ingrained for any such washing to remove them.






1. Guilt is shown to be removed by the free forgiveness of God in Christ,

for no merits of our own, but for the sake of His work and sacrifice; by no

effort of ours, but on condition of repentance and the faith which trusts Him

as our Savior, and submits to Him as our Lord (Acts 10:43).


2. The stain of indwelling sin is shown to be removed by the renewal of

our nature, so that we are born “from above” and “of the Spirit” (John

3:3-8), and become new creatures in Christ by means of the same faith of

trust and submission (II Corinthians 5:17).




            The Sinner’s Attempt to Wash Away His Sin (v. 22)


I. WHEREFORE HE MAKES THE ATTEMPT. Sometimes it is that:


(1) conscience is aroused; or

(2) the Word of God is too plainly against him; or

(3) Divine providence threatens ominously; or

(4) like Felix, he trembles as some Paul preaches.




1. He partially abandons known sin, as Pharaoh, Nineveh, Israel. at time of

Josiah’s reformation, Herod.

2. Multiplies religious services.

3. Is ready with good resolves.

4. There is some stir of religious feeling. Tears are shed, the emotional

nature is excited, and there is some temporary tenderness of conscience.

Added to all this there may be:

5. Self-inflicted punishments, bodily mortifications. Such is the washing

with nitre and the taking of much soap which the prophet describes.


III. ITS USELESSNESS. The stain of the iniquity is there still (v. 22).

How powerfully is this confessed in the great tragedy of ‘ Macbeth’! After

his dread crime, the conscience-stricken wretch thus speaks:


“How is’t with me, when every noise appals me?

What hands are here? Ha! they pluck out mine eyes!

Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood

Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather

The multitudinous seas incarnadine,

Making the green — one red.”



US TO.  Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:

though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be

red like crimson, the shall be as wool.”


23  “How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim?”

This is not a mere rhetorical fiction equivalent to “or if thou shouldst perhaps say,”

but probably represents an objection really made by the inhabitants of the

 kingdom of Judah. Their fault was not in neglecting the public worship of Jehovah

in His appointed temple, but in super-adding to this, idolatrous rites inconsistent with

the spiritual religion taught by Jeremiah. The people did not, it seems, regard

this as tantamount to “following Baalim,” just as some converts to Christianity in

our own foreign missions might exclaim against being accused of apostasy, because

they secretly carry on certain heathen practices. The prophet, however, applies a

more rigorous test to their conduct. Baalim; the plural of Baal, used for “other gods”

(ch.1:16; compare on v. 8) – “see thy way in the valley,” -  The valley in this

context can only be that of Hinnom (see on ch. 7:31), which from the time of Ahaz

had been defiled with the rites of “Moloch, horrid king” (see ‘Paradise Lost,’

1:392-396) – “know what thou hast done?  thou art a swift dromedary” –

Swift dromedary is, properly speaking, in the vocative. The ardor

of the people for idolatry is expressed by the comparison of it to the

uncontrollable instinct of brute beasts. The word rendered “dromedary” is

in the feminine gender; it means strictly the young she-camel which has not

yet had a foal – “traversing her ways;” -  rather, interlacing her ways; i.e.

running backwards and forwards at the impulse of passion (in heat).


24  “A wild ass used to the wilderness,” - The type of wildness and independence

(compare Genesis 16:12; Job 39:5-8) – “that snuffeth up the wind at her

pleasure;” – to cool the heat of her passion – “in her occasion who can turn her

away?  All they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they

shall find her.” -  i.e. at the pairing-time.


Human sexual behavior likened to that of camels, donkeys, dogs and skunks.

People were designed differently.  There is a tremendous the culture clash today

over monogamous or promiscuous relationships. Why would one relish the seventh

commandment when involved deeply in adultery?  (CY - 2011)


25  “Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst:”

God the true husband exhorts Israel not to run barefoot, and with parched throat,

like a shameless adulteress, after strangers – “but thou saidst, There is no hope: 

no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.”  The exhortation

is in vain (so ch.18:12).




                                    A Dread Snare of the Devil (v. 25)


I. IN WHAT IT CONSISTS. The persuading the sinner that “there is no



II. ITS TERRIBLE CHARACTER. It leads the sinner to excuse himself in

his sin by the false belief that he is delivered to do all his abominations. It

encourages him to go on in his sin, instead of resolutely breaking away from it


III. HOW MEN FALL INTO IT. By letting sin become the habit of their

lives; the constant repetition of separate sinful acts forges the chain of

habit, which it is hard indeed for any to break through.


            The chains of habit are too light to be felt

            until they are too strong to be broken.

                                                (Samuel Johnson)




1. By prayerful pondering of the many proofs which show that this

suggestion of Satan, that “there is no hope,” is one of his own lies. These

proofs are to be found in the plain statements, and in the many examples of

the Word of God, which tell of God’s grace to the very chief of sinners.

They are to be found also in the recorded biographies and observed lives of

many of the people of God. And also in our own experience of God in the



2. By then and there committing our souls into the hands of the Lord Jesus

Christ for pardon, for restoration, and for safe keeping for the future.


3. By renewing this self-surrender day by day, and especially when we are

conscious that danger is near. So shall we be able to say, “My soul is

            escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler.”   (Psalm 124:7-8)


26  “As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel

ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their

prophets,” -  It is the perfect of prophetic certitude, (the speaking of something

in the future as if it was already past! JUST AS CERTAIN -  Someday,

 playwrights, movie directors, college professors, Supreme Court, federal

 and state jurists, lawyers, political leaders and many of the lay public will

 BE ASHAMED who have undermined or sought to undermine, THE UNITED

STATES OF AMERICA  and her dependence upon GOD, OUR FATHER!  -

REMEMBER – Matthew 18:6 - CY – 2011)





                        A Shame to be Ashamed of (v. 26)


There is, as Paul tells us (II Corinthians 7.), a godly sorrow and a sorrow of

the world:


·      a godly sorrow working out a repentance never to be regretted, and

·      a sorrow of the world which works out death.


So there is a shame and humiliation which is profitable in the right way and to

the highest degree, when a man comes into all the horrors of self-discovery, and

is ready to declare himself, feeling it no exaggeration, as the chief of sinners. Such

a shame is indeed the highest of blessings, since it gives something like a

complete understanding of what human nature owes to THE CLEANSING

BLOO OF CHRIST, and to the renewing power of the Spirit. But there is also

shame and humiliation such as the jailer at Philippi (Acts 16) felt when he

suspected his prisoners were gone, and degradation was impending over him at

the hand of his masters. It is to such a shame that our attention is directed here.

The shame of a thief, not for the wrong he has done, but because he is detected

in the doing of it. Israel, we see, is being dealt with in very plain language.

Already the nation which God had so favored, and from which He had

expected so much, has been spoken of as lower than an idolater. And now

it is likened to the thief in the moment when his knavery is discovered.

Consider, then, as here suggested:


I. WHY THE SINNER SHOULD BE ASHAMED. The thief, of course,

ought to be ashamed, and ashamed whether he is caught or not. He ought

to come into such a state of mind as to acknowledge his offence and make

restitution, even when otherwise his offence might remain undiscovered.

He should be ashamed because he has done wrong; because he has broken

a commandment of God; because he lives on what has been won by the

industry and toil of his neighbors; because, in addition, he is robbing his

neighbors of what benefit should have come to them from his own industry

and toil. Some have enough to make them bow their heads in despair of

ever being able to make restitution; and it is just when we thus begin to

estimate the sense of shame that should fill the thoughts of the thief that we

also come to have a clear idea of what a universal feeling amongst mankind

shame should be. “The thief should be thoroughly ashamed of himself, you

say, in all possible ways. True, he ought. But now take to mind the pressing

home of thewords of the apostle, “Wherein thou judgest another, thou

condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things”

(Romans 2:1). Nay, there may be more to be said for the thief than for

thee. Only too often he has a bad start, and no real chance of getting out of

bad associations. He may get so hemmed in with temptations as to find it

very difficult to resist. And in any case, the thief has no more cause to Be

ashamed of his theft than any other sinner for his own particular mode of

self-indulgence. God does not draw the distinctions which we are

compelled to do, between wrongs that are crimes and wrongs that are not

crimes. His distinctions are made on altogether different principles —

principles which abide. If the thief has wronged his neighbor in one way, be

sure of this, that you have wronged him in another. If the thief has sinned

against God in one way, you have sinned against Him in another. You may

go through the world without the slightest fear of anything leaping to the

light such as will bring the detective’s tap upon your shoulder, and

nevertheless you have yet to be bowed in unspeakable bitterness of shame

because you have been defrauding God and missing the great end of life.

What is wanted is that all of us should come to ourselves — being guided

by that unerring Spirit which guides into all truth, and self being revealed

by the light of the cross and of ETERNITY!



he dreads; discovery puts him in utter confusion. Discovery is disgrace and

ruin, so far as his future relation to men is concerned. Henceforth he passes

into a suspected and avoided class; he has test the mark of respectability

and confidence. The sad thing is that, in the eyes of a large part of

mankind, discovery seems to make all the difference. One may do a great

deal of wrong with social impunity, if only there is cleverness enough to

keep on the hither boundary of what is reckoned criminal. Those who are

most serenely indifferent to the Law of God will fall into all sorts of sins,

real and far-reaching evils, rather than transgress a certain social code. It is

not so long ago since the duel ceased to be a part of the social code of

England; and what a curious standard of honor was involved in such a

practice! There are countries still where a man is disgraced if he refuses to

fight; if he fights and kills his man it is reckoned no shame at all. The most

immoral and debauched of men are yet curiously sensitive to what they

choose to consider points of honor. People will plunge over head and ears

into debt, and run into the wildest extravagance, that they may flourish a

little longer in the social splendor which they know they have not the

honest means to maintain. They feel it is a greater disgrace to sink in the

world than to he unable to pay their debts. How needful it is for the

Christian to take up all positions which he feels to be right — right

according to the Divine will, no matter how much he may be exposed to

the reproach of folly, Quixotism, and fanaticism!  Let us pray that we may

ever have a godly shame when the light of heaven is thrown on us, and we

are contrasted with God in His holiness and Jesus in his perfect manhood.

Let us equally pray that we may never be ashamed of Jesus. It is a harder

thing than many seem to think, even though they are constantly

acknowledging in hymn and prayer what they owe to Jesus in the way of

gratitude and service.


27  “Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, (Stone (‘ebhen)

is feminine in Hebrew, and therefore addressed as the mother) Thou hast

brought me forth:  for they have turned their back unto me, and not

their face:  but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and

save us.”


28  “But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee?  Let them

arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble:  for according to

the number of thy cities, are thy gods, O Judah.”  A remarkable

statement, and one that well illustrates the superficial character of

Hezekiah’s reformation. True, Manasseh’s reactionary reign had

intervened, but his counter-movement would not have been so successful

had it not been attended by the good wishes of the people; (compare

ch. 5:31 – “my people love to have it so”) and besides, the last years of

Manasseh, according to the tradition in II Chronicles 33:12-16 were devoted

to undoing the mischief of his former life.  The force of the prophet’s words is

strikingly brought out by M. Renan (he led an expedition to Phoenicia), who has

shown that every district and every town had a cultus of its own, which often only

differed from the neighboring cultus by words and titles: i.e. Baal-Hamon, Baal-Hazor,

- When every city has its special deity, surely among so many there might be

 found one able to help his worshippers – thus the argument of Jeremiah.




                        The Shameless Shame of Idolatry (vs. 20-28)


I. ITS DEGRADING INFLUENCE. It violates all morality. It is repeatedly

affronted by the discoveries which are made of its wickedness and folly. It

affects the whole nation from the highest and the best. The reason is

debased and set at naught.



go well with the idolater he forgets God or consciously dishonors Him. But

when he is overtaken with the consequences of his evil deeds he is not

ashamed to call upon God. The unreasonableness and inconsistency of this

conduct are no barrier to it. Beneath the unbelief and worldliness of men

there is a tacit belief in the goodness and power of God. In prosperity they

are idolaters, in adversity they find their way back to the God they had

despised. This is the universal and permanent inconsistency of the world




                        Lords Many and gods Many ( v. 28)


The multiplicity of idols contrasts with the unity of the true God. It

involves inconsistency and spiritual confusion. But here the argument is:









29  “Wherefore will ye plead with me?” -  How can ye be so brazen-faced

as to attempt to justify yourselves?  “Ye all have transgressed  against

me, saith the Lord.”


30  “In vain have I smitten your children;” - The cities and towns of Judah

are represented as so many mothers, and the populations as their children.

It would, no doubt, be more natural to take “children” literally; but then we

must read the verb in the next clause, “Ye have received,” as the

Septuagint actually renders. In the former case the “smiting” will refer to

all God’s “sore judgments”sword, drought, famine, pestilence; in the

latter, to the loss of life in battle – “they received no correction: our own

sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.”  -  (compare

II Chronicles 24:21; II Kings 21:16). Manasseh’s persecution (which extended,

according to Josephus, especially to the prophets) may account for the

preponderance of “false prophets” referred to in v. 8 (cf. Matthew 23:29).


“received no correction” - incorrigible – the worse thing that can be said

of an athlete is that he is uncoachable.  For a child, he is unteachable!

(CY - 2011)



            Rejecting the Chastisements of God (v. 30)


The spiritual benefits of pain, calamity, etc., are contingent for the most

part upon their being received in a right way — as from God, and not by

accident. They are intended to discover our sins to us, and to lead us to the

love and righteousness of God. Where this result is not effected,

“chastisement is not accepted.”







31  “O generation, see ye the word of the Lord.” -  It is doubtful whether

generation here means “contemporaries” (equivalent to “men of this generation”),

or, like γενεά - ghen-eh-ah’; - age, generation, nation, time  sometimes in the

New Testament, a class of men united by moral affinity (compare Psalm 14:5; 78:8).

In the latter case we should rather attach the pronoun in “see ye” to

“O generation,” and render “O (evil) generation that ye are!” – “Have I been a

wilderness unto Israel? -  “Have I not been the source of light and happiness

 to my people, and of all temporal blessings?” (compare ch. 2:6). So the Divine

speaker in Isaiah 45:19, “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain,”

or more literally, “in chaos” (same word as in Genesis 1:2); “chaos” and

“the wilderness” are both images of that which is utterly unremunerative“a

land of darkness?  This is, of course, not literally accurate as a description

of the Arabian desert. “Darkness” is here used as a synonym for “misery.”

Cloud and rain occupy precisely opposite places in the estimation of

nomadic and agricultural peoples respectively. “The Bedouins,” says an

Arabic scholast, “always follow the rain and the places where raindrops

fall;” whereas a townsman of Mecca calls himself “child of the sun.” So

Indra and Varuna, originally belonging to the cloudy and rainy sky, are in

the Vedic hymns endowed with solar traits. It should be added here that it

is an old problem, and too difficult a one for us to investigate, whether we

should render “the darkness of Jah (Jehovah) or (as Authorized Version)

simply “darkness.” The former rendering will mean very great darkness,

such as Jehovah sends in judgment (e.g. to the Egyptians, Exodus 10:21-23).

“Wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto

thee? - rather, we have broken loose.  It is, however, a difficult word,

which only occurs elsewhere in Genesis 26:40; Hosea 12:1Psalm 55:3.


32  “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire?  The prophet

perhaps means the magnificently adorned girdle which the bride wore on her

wedding day (compare Isaiah 49:18). But the word only occurs again in Ibid.

3:20 (where in a very negative sense – CY – 2011), and its precise signification

is uncertain – “Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.”


33  “Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love?  - rather  - How well thou

contrivest thy way? – “therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones

thy ways.”  The meaning which floated before our translators seems to be this:

so utterly immoral is thy course of life, that even the worst of women

[‘wicked ones’ is in the feminine – {compare Isaiah 3:16-24 – CY – 2011]

have been able to learn something from thee”.  But a more natural rendering

is,“Therefore [i.e. to gain thine ends] thou hast accustomed thy ways to those

evil things.” Nemo repente fuit tupissimus (no one ever becomes bad at once) - 

It required a deliberate “accustoming,” or “training” (such is the literal meaning

of limad), to produce such a habit (ἕξις - exis habit; use) as is here rebuked.


It is wrong to be more interested in personal appearance than a clean  heart –

I Peter 3:3-4 (CY - 2011)


34  “Also in thy skirts is found” - or, there is even found  in thy skirts

(or, perhaps, in thy sleeves — the wide sleeves of an Eastern mantle). The

fact which follows is adduced as the crowning evidence of wickedness.

“the blood of the souls of the innocents:” -  is explained by the statement

in Leviticus 17:11, “The soul of the flesh [i.e. of the body] is in the blood;”

hence the importance of the blood in the Mosaic sacrifices. The historical reference

of this passage of Jeremiah may well be to the persecution of Manasseh,

who is said to have “shed innocent blood very much” (II Kings 21:16).

It is Judah, no doubt, who is addressed, but the prophets mostly assume

the “solidarity” of king and people (analogous to that of a forefather and

his posterity); Manasseh, moreover, probably had the support of a large

section of the population, at any rate in so far as he favored the inveterate

cultus of the high places or local sanctuaries. “I have not found it by

secret search,” -  rather, thou hast not found them breaking through

(houses). The phraseology agrees with that of Exodus 22:2, the law

against “breaking through;” it suggests that the houses of all but the

highest class in ancient as well as often in modern Palestine, were made of

mere sun-dried brick, which could be easily “dug into” (compare Ezekiel

12:5; Matthew 6:19-20, in the Greek). In hilly districts of Palestine the houses

of the villages are built of stone, but simply taken from the ruins of the ancient towns.

Burglars caught in the act might be killed (Exodus 22:2), but the innocent victims of

persecution could not be brought under this category, and hence those who slew

them were really guilty of murder - “but upon all these.” -  rather, but because

 of all these things; i.e. not for any crime, but because of thine things,” as in

ch. 3:7).


35   “Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely His anger” -  This

“because” is misleading; there is no argument, but the statement of a supposed fact.

The particle so rendered merely serves to introduce the speech of the Jews (like ὅτι

- oti - because) -  “shall turn from me.” -  rather, hath turned. Judah had so long

been undisturbed by any foreign power, that the people fancied the promises of

Deuteronomy were being fulfilled, and that they, on their part, had pleased

God by their formal obedience (compare II Kings 22:17). “Behold, I will plead

with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned.”  Here, as in some other

passages (e.g. Isaiah 66:16; Ezekiel 38:22), the word includes the sense of punishing.




                        The Plea of Innocence a Culminating Sin (v. 35)


We do not know to which particular charge this reply is given. Perhaps the

key is contained in II Kings 23:26. An external reformation was

considered enough in the reign of Josiah, and it was assumed that the anger

of God was thereby turned away. The prophet assures them that this was a

mistake, and more than this, a sin in itself.








36   “Why gaddest thou about so much” -  many render, Why runnest thou so

 quickly; but the verb simply means to go, and it is enough to refer to foreign

embassies, such as are alluded to in this very chapter (v. 18) – “to change thy

way?” -  The “way” or policy of Judah was “changed,” according as the party

in power favored an Egyptian or an Assyrian alliance. “Thou also shalt be

ashamed of  Egypt,” -  rather, thou shalt also be brought to shame through -

“as thou wast ashamed of Assyria.”  This is certainly difficult, for in the reign

of Josiah it would appear that the political connection with Assyria still continued,

Is it possible that Jeremiah, in these words, has in view rather the circumstances

of Jehoiakim than those of Josiah? Does he not appear to look back upon

Judah’s final “putting to shame through Assyria” as a thing of the past?

And to what event can this expression refer but to the overthrow of Josiah

at Megiddo?  (II Kings 23:29)


37  “Yea, thou shalt go forth from him,” -  i.e. from Egypt, personified as a

man (so whenever a people is referred to; a land is represented as a woman). Egypt

was, in fact, the only great power capable of assisting Judah at this time; yet even

Egypt, the prophet says, shall disappoint her Jewish allies, for Jehovah has rejected

thy confidences (i.e. the objects of thy confidence). As a matter of fact, “the King

of Egypt came not again any more out of his land” after Necho’s crushing

defeat at Carehemish (II Kings 24:7; compare ch.37:5) – “and thine hands upon

thy head:  for the Lord hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not

prosper in them.”




                        Jehovah’s Indictment against Israel (vs. 20-37)






1. Their sin of outrageous character. It is spoken of as in v. 20, because

it so commonly involved the grossest fleshly sins, and because it involved

shameful denial of God. Compare v. 27, “Saying to a stock, Thou art my

father,” etc. And it was chargeable with numerous and shameful murders

(v. 30). Killing the prophets of God; v. 34, “In thy skirts is found the

blood of the souls of the poor innocents,” (In modern nomenclature

“Abortion on Demand” - CY - 2023)


2. Of long standing. V. 20, “Of old time thou hast broken thy yoke” (see

exegesis for true translation), “and saidst, I will not serve.”


3. In no wise chargeable to God. V. 21, “Yet I had planted thee a noble

vine,” etc.


4. Was ingrained into their very nature (v. 22). All manner of endeavor

had been made to cleanse away the defilement, but its stain remained in

them still.


5. Was fiercely and determinately pursued after (vs. 23-24, 33; see

exegesis). They “worked all uncleanness with greediness.”


6. And this in spite of all that might have taught them better.


(a) Warnings (v. 25, where they are entreated to have done with such


(b) Miserable results of their idolatry in the past (vs. 26-28).

(c) Divine chastisements (v. 30).

(d) God’s great mercy in the past (v. 31). God had not been to them as a


(e) The honor and glory God was ready to place upon them (v. 32), like

as a husband would adorn his bride with jewels.


7. And their sin is aggravated by


(a) their shameless assertion of innocence (vs. 23, 35);

(b) their persistence in sin (v 36), “gadding about to change their way,”

going from one idolatry to another, one heathen alliance to another.



denial (vs. 23, 35). It augmented their guilt and condemnation (v. 37).





1. It shows us the terrible nature of sin.


(a) The lengths it will go.

(b) The gracious barriers it will break through.

(c) The condemnation it will surely meet.


2. It bids us not trust to any early advantages. Israel was planted “a noble

vine, wholly a right seed,”


3. The folly and guilt of denying our sin (compare 1 John 1:8, “If we say

that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”).


4. The needs be there is for us all of the pardoning and preserving grace of

our Lord Jesus Christ.





                                    False Confidence (vs. 35-37)




1. Assumed innocence. Israel says, “I am innocent;” “I have not sinned.”

This assumption may result from


(a) self-deception, or

(b) hypocrisy.


2. A claim to be favored by God. Israel says again, “His anger has turned

from me.” Present peace is taken as a warrant for expecting continued

security, so that the very forbearance of God is converted into an excuse

for presumption and indifference. Perhaps, too, pride comes in and aids the

assumption that the guilty people are special favorites of Heaven and will

be protected, whatever wrong they do. This was the mistake of the

contemporaries of our Lord when they relied on the mere fact that they

were Abraham’s children (John 8:39).


3. Trust in human aid. Judah turned first to Assyria, and then to Egypt. So

men look to worldly associations for security in trouble.


4. Reliance on diplomatic skill. Israel turned from Assyria to Egypt when

the former power failed and the latter was in the ascendancy. Men think to

protect themselves by their own ingenuity.


II. THE FAILURE OF FALSE CONFIDENCE. The reasons of this may

be noted:


1. The reality of sin. This is not the less real because it is denied. God still

sees it. It still bears its necessary fruits.


2. The rejection of God. Israel turned from God to man. How then could

he expect God’s continued protection?


3. Lack of principle. Israel turned about from Egypt to Assyria. There was

no settled policy. When expediency is the sole guide of conduct we are

sure to be landed in ultimate failure.


4. The character and fate of the human objects of confidence. These were

rejected by God. They who trust them must share their doom. It is always

vain to “put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:9). But when these are

bad men, godless men, rejected by God, the consequences of trust in them

will be fatal. We are always involved in the fate of what we trust ourselves

to. If we trust to the world, to human aid, to errors and falsehoods, to evil

            things, the certain overthrow of these MUST INVOLVE US IN ITS RUIN




                        The Restlessness of Sin (vs. 36-37)


“Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way?”






1. Hope of larger gain.

2. Prospects of increased pleasure.

3. Disappointment with the way that has hitherto been tried.

4. Conscience will not be quiet in continuing the present way, etc.


III. BUT IT IS ALL OF NO AVAIL. The same wretched result is reached

whichever way is taken (vs. 36-37).


IV. GOD IN ALL THIS IS SAYING, “Let the wicked forsake his way,

and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord,

and He will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will abundantly

pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7)


.My commentary said the way or policy of Judah was changed according to the party

in power - translate that to political parties and their policies today -one liberal -

looking out for old # 1, self fulfillment, gratification of desires, no rules - no limits -

devil may care - to hell with tomorrow attitude.  One conservative - with all the

baggage and temptations of the other - yet trying to discipline self and community

to prolong its days and influence.  (CY - 2011; 2023)






            Why the Confidences of Men do not Prosper (v. 37)


The people of Israel are set forth, even within the limits of this one chapter,

as having multiplied and extended their confidences; and yet it could not be

said that they were prospering. Men with the religious element in their

nature strongly clamoring for satisfaction, had turned to the gods of

neighboring nations, and multiplied these objects of worship until it could

be said, “According to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.”

God compares them to thirsty people who, with a copious fountain in their

midst, work and toil to make cisterns, only to find that the end of their

labor is in broken cisterns which can hold no water. And then, when their

broken cisterns had proved quite unavailing, they fly to drink of Nile and of

Euphrates. Evidently their confidence had not prospered, and a

continuance and increase of adversity was threatened, the cause of it all

being that their confidences were such as God, in His righteousness and

majesty, must inevitably reject. Consider:



CONFIDENCES IS SO IMPORTANT. The answer is that men cannot do

without confidences. The events of a single day of life might be registered

in such an aspect as to show what a confiding creature man is. Faith has

become so much a habit with him as to be almost a second nature. Hence,

even in the great concerns of life, we find many reposing trust with very

little inquiry. Looking at others, we find their lives proving the need of

confidence by the very frequency of doubt and irresolution in them. They

are ever asking the question, yet never quite able to answer it, “What is the

best thing for me to do?” And then, as so often happens, the end of

hesitation and perplexity is, that they seem to have no choice at all, and go

submissively towards the confidence that happens to be most inviting at the

moment. Seeing, therefore, that we are compelled to have confidences, it is

of the first importance to discover in what sort of confidences prosperity

will alone be found.



THE END. They approach men invitingly, they seem to stand well in the

judgment of past generations, they may be the objects of very general

approval, and yet, when they are searched into, when the truth concerning

them is got from the bottom of the proverbial well, that truth is seen to Be

well expressed in the words which say men have not prospered in them.

There is, for instance, a very plausible appearance of prosperity in worldly

wealth. Many fail to acquire it, and when they acquire it, fail to keep it; but

this is held to come in the majority of cases from some fault in the man,

and not in the stability of his possessions. To say that a possession is as

safe as the Bank of England is to utter the strongest conviction as to its

stability and security; and yet such confidences fail because they are not

enough for the whole man. It is just one of the perils of wealth that man

should let his whole heart rest upon it; should come to let the comforts,

occupations, and hopes of life depend upon external possessions. There is

failure also when men put confidence in self, confidence in present views of

life, present feelings, present vigor of body and mind, in natural qualities,

such as shrewdness, self-control, presence of mind, and in habits of

attention, industry, and promptitude, that have been cultivated. What

manifest failure also often comes from too much confidence in the

judgment of man! The counsels of the wisest, most experienced, most

successful of men, must be listened to with discretion.



PROSPERITY IS MADE PLAIN. They are not confidences after God’s

own heart. They are an ungodly waste of affections and energies given for

higher purposes and more durable occupations. The practical lesson is that

we should reject all confidences if we are not made quite certain that God

approves them. Blessed is that man who has found his way, it may be

through many losses and agonizing pains, to the truth that the unseen is

more trustworthy than the seen, the eternal than the temporal. One who

has thus risen into the sphere of Divine realities may have his confidences

rejected and despised of men. What do these rejections matter? He who

has firm hold of God Himself need not to care for contemptuous words.

The hard words of worldly men CANNOT DESTROY SPIRITUAL





I wonder who in the world is ignorant of Titus 2:4-5?  (CY - 2011)


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