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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 23

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole BibleCommentary Critical




This forms the epilogue to the denunciations of the four kings, in :-.

Verse 1

1. pastors—Shallum, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah (Ezekiel 34:2).

Verse 2

2. Ye have not . . . visited them . . . I will visit upon you—just retribution. Play upon the double sense of "visit." "Visit upon," namely, in wrath (Exodus 32:34).

Verse 3

3, 4. Restoration of Judah from Babylon foretold in language which in its fulness can only apply to the final restoration of both "Judah" and "Israel" (compare Jeremiah 23:6); also "out of all countries," in this verse and Jeremiah 23:6- :; also, "neither shall they be lacking," that is, none shall be missing or detached from the rest: a prophecy never yet fully accomplished. It holds good also of the spiritual Israel, the elect of both Jews and Gentiles (Malachi 3:16; Malachi 3:17; John 10:28; John 17:12). As to the literal Israel also, see Jeremiah 32:37; Isaiah 54:13; Isaiah 60:21; Ezekiel 34:11-16.

shepherds . . . shall feed them— (Jeremiah 3:15; Ezekiel 34:23-31). Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Maccabees were but typical of the consummating fulfilment of these prophecies under Messiah.

Verse 5

5. As Messianic prophecy extended over many years in which many political changes took place in harmony with these, it displayed its riches by a variety more effective than if it had been manifested all at once. As the moral condition of the Jews required in each instance, so Messiah was exhibited in a corresponding phase, thus becoming more and more the soul of the nation's life: so that He is represented as the antitypical Israel (Isaiah 49:3).

unto David—HENGSTENBERG observes that Isaiah dwells more on His prophetical and priestly office, which had already been partly set forth (Deuteronomy 18:18; Psalms 110:4). Other prophets dwell more on His kingly office. Therefore here He is associated with "David" the king: but in Psalms 110:4- : with the then poor and unknown "Jesse."

righteous Branch—"the Branch of righteousness" (Psalms 110:4- :); "The Branch" simply (Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12); "The Branch of the Lord" (Isaiah 4:2).

prosper—the very term applied to Messiah's undertaking (Isaiah 4:2- :, Margin; Isaiah 4:2- :). Righteousness or justice is the characteristic of Messiah elsewhere, too, in connection with our salvation or justification (Isaiah 53:11; Daniel 9:24; Zechariah 9:9). So in the New Testament He is not merely "righteous" Himself, but "righteousness to us" (Zechariah 9:9- :), so that we become "the righteousness of God in Him" (Romans 10:3; Romans 10:4; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; Philippians 3:9).

execute judgment and justice in the earth— (Psalms 72:2; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 32:1; Isaiah 32:18). Not merely a spiritual reign in the sense in which He is "our righteousness," but a righteous reign "in the earth" (Jeremiah 3:17; Jeremiah 3:18). In some passages He is said to come to judge, in others to reign. In Jeremiah 3:18- :, He is called "the King." Jeremiah 3:18- : unites them. Compare Daniel 7:22; Daniel 7:26; Daniel 7:27.

Verse 6

6. Judah . . . Israel . . . dwell safely—Compare Jeremiah 33:16, where "Jerusalem" is substituted for "Israel" here. Only Judah, and that only in part, has as yet returned. So far are the Jews from having enjoyed, as yet, the temporal blessings here foretold as the result of Messiah's reign, that their lot has been, for eighteen centuries, worse than ever before. The accomplishment must, therefore, be still future, when both Judah and Israel in their own land shall dwell safely under a Christocracy, far more privileged than even the old theocracy (Jeremiah 32:37; Deuteronomy 33:28; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 65:17-25; Zechariah 14:11).

shall be called, the Lord—that is, shall be (Zechariah 14:11- :) "Jehovah," God's incommunicable name. Though when applied to created things, it expresses only some peculiar connection they have with Jehovah (Genesis 22:14; Exodus 17:15), yet when applied to Messiah it must express His Godhead manifested in justifying power towards us (1 Timothy 3:16).

our—marks His manhood, which is also implied in His being a Branch raised unto David, whence His human title, "Son of David" (compare 1 Timothy 3:16- :).

Righteousness—marks His Godhead, for God alone can justify the ungodly (compare Romans 4:5; Isaiah 45:17; Isaiah 45:24; Isaiah 45:25).

Verse 7

7, 8. Repeated from Jeremiah 16:14; Jeremiah 16:15. The prophet said the same things often, in order that his sayings might make the more impression. The same promise as in Jeremiah 23:3; Jeremiah 23:4. The wide dispersion of the Jews at the Babylonish captivity prefigures their present wider dispersion (Isaiah 11:11; Joel 3:6). Their second deliverance is to exceed far the former one from Egypt. But the deliverance from Babylon was inferior to that from Egypt in respect to the miracles performed and the numbers delivered. The final deliverance under Messiah must, therefore, be meant, of which that from Babylon was the earnest.

Verse 9

9. because of the prophets—so the Masorites and Targum. But Vulgate, Septuagint, c., make this the inscription of the prophecy, CONCERNING THE PROPHETS: as in Jeremiah 46:2 Jeremiah 48:1; Jeremiah 49:1. Jeremiah expresses his horror at the so-called "prophets" not warning the people, though iniquity so fearfully abounded, soon to be followed by awful judgments.

bones shake— (Jeremiah 49:1- :).

drunken—God's judgments are represented as stupefying like wine. The effects of the Holy Spirit also are compared to those of wine (Jeremiah 49:1- :). In both cases ecstasy was produced. This accounts for the denial of wine to those likely to be inspired, Nazarites, &c. (Jeremiah 49:1- :). It was necessary to put it out of men's power to ascribe inspired ecstasy to the effects of wine.

because of . . . words of . . . holiness—because of Jehovah's holy words, wherewith He threatened severe penalties, soon to be inflicted, against the breakers of His law.

Verse 10

10. adulterers—spiritual, that is, forsakers of God, Israel's true Husband ( :-) for idols, at the instigation of the false "prophets" (Jeremiah 23:9; Jeremiah 23:15). Literal adultery and fornication, the usual concomitants of idolatry, are also meant.

swearing—MAURER, c., translate, "Because of the curse (of God on it), the land mourneth" (Deuteronomy 27:15-26 Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Isaiah 24:6). More than usual notoriety had been given to the curses of the law, by the finding and reading of it in Josiah's time (Isaiah 24:6- :, c.). But Hosea 4:2 Hosea 4:3, favors English Version (compare Jeremiah 12:4). A drought was sent by God on the pastures ("pleasant places," oases) in the desert, on account of the "profaneness" of the priests, prophets, and people (Jeremiah 12:4- :).

course . . . evil—They (both prophets and people) rush into wickedness (Jeremiah 23:21; Isaiah 59:7).

force . . . not right—Their powers are used not on the side of rectitude, but on that of falsehood.

Verse 11

11. profane— (Ezekiel 23:39; Zephaniah 3:4).

in my house— (Zephaniah 3:4- :). They built altars to idols in the very temple (2 Kings 23:12; Ezekiel 8:3-16). Compare as to covetousness under the roof of the sanctuary, Matthew 21:13; John 2:16.

Verse 12

12. slippery ways in . . . darkness—Their "way" is their false doctrine which proves fatal to them (Jeremiah 13:16; Psalms 35:6; Proverbs 4:19).

I will bring evil . . . visitation—still more calamities than those already inflicted. See on Jeremiah 23:1; "visitation," namely, in wrath.

Verse 13

13. folly—literally, "insipidity," "unsavouriness" ( :-), not having the salt of godliness ( :-).

in Baal—in the name of Baal; in connection with his worship (see :-).

caused . . . to err— (Isaiah 9:16).

Verse 14

14. "Jerusalem" and Judah were even worse than "Samaria" and the ten tribes; the greater were the privileges of the former, the greater was their guilt. They had the temple in their midst, which the ten tribes had not; yet in the temple itself they practised idolatry.

strengthen . . . hands of evildoers— (Ezekiel 13:22).

as Sodom— (Deuteronomy 32:32; Isaiah 1:10).

Verse 15

15. gall—poison (see on :-; Jeremiah 9:15).

Verse 16

16. make you vain—They seduce you to vanity, that is, idolatry, which will prove a vain trust to you (Jeremiah 2:5; 2 Kings 17:15; Jonah 2:8), [GESENIUS]. Rather, "they delude you with vain promises of security" (Jeremiah 23:17; compare Jeremiah 23:17- :) [MAURER].

of their own heart—of their own invention (Jeremiah 23:21; Jeremiah 14:14).

Verse 17

17. say stillHebrew, "say in saying," that is, say incessantly.

peace— (Jeremiah 6:14; Ezekiel 13:10; Zechariah 10:2).

imaginationHebrew, "obstinacy."

no evil— (Zechariah 10:2- :).

Verse 18

18. A reason is given why the false prophets should not be heeded: They have not stood in the counsels of Jehovah (an image from ministers present in a standing posture at councils of Eastern kings) (compare Jeremiah 23:22; Job 15:8). The spiritual man alone has the privilege (Genesis 18:17; Psalms 25:14; Amos 3:7; John 15:15; 1 Corinthians 2:16).

Verse 19

19. So far from all prosperity awaiting the people as the false prophets say ( :-), wrath is in store for them.

grievous—literally, "eddying," whirling itself about, a tornado. In :-, "continuing" is substituted for "grievous."

fall grievously—it shall be hurled on.

Verse 20

20. in . . . latter days—that is, "the year of their visitation" ( :-). Primarily the meaning is: the Jews will not "consider" now God's warnings ( :-); but when the prophecies shall be fulfilled in their Babylonish exile, they will consider and see, by bitter experience, their sinful folly. The ultimate scope of the prophecy is: the Jews, in their final dispersion, shall at last "consider" their sin and turn to Messiah "perfectly" (Hosea 3:5; Zechariah 12:5; Zechariah 12:10-14; Luke 13:35).

Verse 21

21. sent . . . spoken—"sent" refers to the primary call: "spoken" to the subsequent charges given to be executed. A call is required, not only external, on the part of men, but also internal from God, that one should undertake a pastor's office [CALVIN].

Verse 22

22. stood in . . . counsel— (Jeremiah 23:18).

they should have turned them from their evil way—They would have given such counsels to the people as would have turned them from their sins (Jeremiah 25:5; Isaiah 55:11), and so would have averted punishment. Their not teaching the law in which God's counsel is set forth proves they are not His prophets, though they boast of being so (Matthew 7:15-20).

Verse 23

23. Let not the false prophets fancy that their devices ( :-) are unknown to Me. Are ye so ignorant as to suppose that I can only see things near Me, namely, things in heaven, and not earthly things as being too remote?

Verse 24

24. (Psalms 139:7; Amos 9:2; Amos 9:3).

fill heaven and earth—with My omniscience, providence, power, and essential being (Amos 9:3- :).

Verse 25

25. dreamed—I have received a prophetic communication by dream (Numbers 12:6; Deuteronomy 13:1; Joel 2:28).

Verse 26

26. prophets—a different Hebrew form from the usual one, "prophesiers." "How long," cries Jeremiah, impatient of their impious audacity, "shall these prophecy-mongers go on prophesying lies?" The answer is given in :-.

Verse 27

27. They "think" to make My people utterly to forget Me. But I will oppose to those dreamers my true prophets.

fathers . . . for Baal— (Judges 3:7; Judges 8:33; Judges 8:34).

Verse 28

28. God answers the objection which might be stated, "What, then, must we do, when lies are spoken as truths, and prophets oppose prophets?" Do the same as when wheat is mixed with chaff: do not reject the wheat because of the chaff mixed with it, but discriminate between the false and the true revelations. The test is adherence to, or forgetfulness of, Me and My law (Jeremiah 23:27).

that hath a dream—that pretends to have a divine communication by dream, let him tell it "faithfully," that it may be compared with "my word" (2 Corinthians 4:2). The result will be the former (both the prophets and their fictions) will soon be seen to be chaff; the latter (the true prophets and the word of God in their mouth) wheat (Psalms 1:4; Hosea 13:3).

Verse 29

29. As the "fire" consumes the "chaff," [ :-], so "My word" will consume the false prophets (Matthew 3:12; Hebrews 4:12). "My word" which is "wheat" [Hebrews 4:12- :], that is, food to the true prophet and his hearers, is a consuming "fire," and a crushing "hammer" (Hebrews 4:12- :) to false prophets and their followers (Hebrews 4:12- :). The Word of the false prophets may be known by its promising men peace in sin. "My word," on the contrary, burns and breaks the hard-hearted (Hebrews 4:12- :). The "hammer" symbolizes destructive power (Jeremiah 50:23; Nahum 2:1, Margin).

Verse 30

30. steal my words—a twofold plagiarism; one steals from the other, and all steal words from Jehovah's true prophets, but misapply them (see Jeremiah 28:2; John 10:1; Revelation 22:19).

Verse 31

31. use—rather, "take" their tongue: a second class (compare :-) require, in order to bring forth a revelation, nothing more than their tongues, wherewith they say, He (Jehovah) saith: they bungle in the very formula instead of the usual "Jehovah saith," being only able to say "(He) saith."

Verse 32

32. Third class: inventors of lies: the climax, and worst of the three.

lightness—wanton inventions (Zephaniah 3:4).

not profit—that is, greatly injure.

Verse 33

33. What is the burden—play on the double sense of the Hebrew: an oracle and a burden. They scoffingly ask, Has he got any new burden (burdensome oracle: for all his prophecies are disasters) to announce ( :-)? Jeremiah indignantly repeats their own question, Do you ask, What burden? This, then, it is, "I will forsake you." My word is burdensome in your eyes, and you long to be rid if it. You shall get your wish. There will be no more prophecy: I will forsake you, and that will be a far worse "burden" to you.

Verse 34

34. The burden—Whoever shall in mockery call the Lord's word "a burden," shall be visited (Margin) in wrath.

Verse 35

35. The result of My judgments shall be, ye shall address the prophet more reverentially hereafter, no longer calling his message a burden, but a divine response or word. "What hath the LORD answered?"

Verse 36

36. every man's word . . . his burden—As they mockingly call all prophecies burdens, as if calamities were the sole subject of prophecy, so it shall prove to them. God will take them at their own word.

living God—not lifeless as their dumb idols, ever living so as to be able to punish.

Verse 39

39. I will . . . forget you—just retribution for their forgetting Him ( :-). But God cannot possibly forget His children ( :-). Rather for "forget" translate, "I will altogether lift you up (like a 'burden,' alluding to their mocking term for God's messages) and cast you off." God makes their wicked language fall on their own head [CALVIN]. Compare Jeremiah 23:36: "every man's word shall be his burden."

Verse 40

40. not be forgotten—If we translate Jeremiah 23:39 as English Version, the antithesis is, though I forget you, your shame shall not be forgotten.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 23". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfb/jeremiah-23.html. 1871-8.
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