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I. General Admonitions and Reproofs Belonging to the Time of Josiah - Jeremiah 2-22
If we compare the six longer discourses in these chapters with the sayings and prophecies gathered together in the other portions of the book, we observe between them this distinction in form and matter, that the former are more general in their character than the latter. Considered as to their form, these last prophecies have, with few exceptions, headings in which we are told both the date of their composition and the circumstances under which they were uttered; while in the headings of these six discourses, if we except the somewhat indefinite notice, "in the days of Josiah" (Jeremiah 3:6), we find nowhere mentioned either their date or the circumstances which led to their composition. Again, both the shorter sayings and the lengthier prophecies between Jeremiah 21:1-14 and the end of the book are unmistakeably to be looked upon as prophetic addresses, separately rounded off; but the discourses of our first part give us throughout the impression that they are not discourses delivered before the people, but treatises compiled in writing from the oral addresses of the prophet. As to their matter, too, we cannot fail to notice the difference that, whereas from Jeremiah 21:1-14 onwards the king of Babylon is named as the executor of judgment upon Judah and the nations, in the discourses of Jer 2-20 the enemies who are to execute judgment are nowhere defined, but are only generally described as a powerful and terrible nation coming from the north. And so, in rebuking the idolatry and the prevailing sins of the people, no reference is made to special contemporary events; but there are introduced to a great extent lengthy general animadversions on their moral degeneracy, and reflections on the vanity if idolatry and the nature of true wisdom. From these facts we infer the probable conclusion that these discourses are but comprehensive summaries of the prophet's labours in the days of Josiah. The probability becomes certainty when we perceive that the matters treated in these discourses are arranged according to their subjects. The first discourse (Jer 2:1-3:5) gives, so to speak, the programme of the subjects of all the following discourses: that disloyal defection to idolatry, with which Israel has from of old requited the Lord for His love and faithfulness, brings with it sore chastening judgments. In the second discourse (Jer 3:6-6:30) faithless Judah is shown, in the fall of the ten tribes, what awaits itself in case of stiff-necked persistence in idolatry. In the third (Jer 7-10) is torn from it the support of a vain confidence in the possession of the temple and in the offering of the sacrifices commanded by the law. In the fourth (Jer 11-13) its sins are characterized as a breach of the covenant; and rejection by the Lord is declared to be its punishment. In the fifth (Jer 14-17) the hope is destroyed that the threatened chastisement can be turned aside by intercession. Finally, in the sixth (Jer 18-20) the judgment of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the kingdom of Judah is exhibited in symbolical acts. In this arrangement and distribution of what the prophet had to announce to the people in his endeavours to save them, if possible, from destruction, we can recognise a progression from general admonitions and threatenings to more and more definite announcement of coming judgments; and when, on the other hand, we see growing greater and bitterer the prophet's complaints against the hatreds and persecutions he has to endure (cf. Jeremiah 12:1-6; Jeremiah 15:10-11, Jeremiah 15:15-21; Jeremiah 17:14-18; Jeremiah 18:18-23, Jeremiah 18:20), we can gather that the expectation of the people's being saved from impending destruction was growing less and less, that their obduracy was increasing, and that judgment must inevitably come upon them. These complaints of the prophet cease with Jer 20, though later he had much fiercer hatred to endure.
None of these discourses contains any allusions to events that occurred after Josiah's death, or stand in any relation to such events. Hence we believe we are safe in taking them for a digest of the quintessence of Jeremiah's oral preaching in the days of Josiah, and this arranged with reference to the subject-matter. It was by this preaching that Jeremiah sought to give a firm footing to the king's reformatory efforts to restore and inspire new life into the public worship, and to develope the external return to the legal temple worship into an inward conversion to the living God. And it was thus he sought, while the destruction of the kingdom was impending, to save all that would let themselves be saved; knowing as he did that God, in virtue of His unchangeable covenant faithfulness, would sharply chastise His faithless people for its obstinate apostasy from Him, but had not determined to make an utter end of it.
The Love and Faithfulness of the Lord, and Israel's Disloyalty and Idolatry - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
The Lord has loved Israel sincerely (Jeremiah 2:2-3), but Israel has fallen from the Lord its God and followed after imaginary gods (Jeremiah 2:4-8); therefore He will yet further punish it for this unparalleled sin (Jeremiah 2:9-19). From of old Israel has been renegade, and has by its idolatry contracted fearful guilt, being led not even by afflictions to return to the Lord (Jeremiah 2:20-30); therefore must the Lord chastise (Jeremiah 2:31-37), because they will not repent (Jeremiah 3:1-5). This discourse is of a quite general character; it only sketches the main thoughts which are extended in the following discourses and prophecies concerning Judah. So that by most critics it is held to be the discourse by which Jeremiah inaugurated his ministry; for, as Hitzig puts it, "in its finished completeness it gives the impression of a first-uttered outpouring of the heart, in which are set forth, without restraint, Jahveh's list of grievances against Israel, which has long been running up." It unquestionably contains the chief of the thoughts uttered by the prophet at the beginning of his ministry.
" And then came to me the word of Jahveh, saying: Go and publish in the ears of Jerusalem, saying: I have remembered to thy account the love of thy youth, the lovingness of thy courtship time, thy going after me in the wilderness, in a land unsown. Holy was Israel to the Lord, his first-fruits of the produce: all who would have devoured him brought guilt upon themselves: evil came upon him, is the saying of Jahveh." The Jeremiah 2:2 and Jeremiah 2:3 are not "in a certain sense the text of the following reproof" (Graf), but contain "the main idea which shows the cause of the following rebuke" (Hitz.): The Lord has rewarded the people of Israel with blessings for its love to Him. זכר with ל pers. and accus. rei means: to remember to one's account that it may stand him in good stead afterwards - cf. Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 13:22, Nehemiah 13:31; Psalms 98:3; Psalms 106:45, etc. - that it may be repaid with evil, Nehemiah 6:14; Nehemiah 13:29; Psalms 79:8, etc. The perfect זכרתּי is to be noted, and not inverted into the present. It is a thing completed that is spoken of; what the Lord has done, not what He is going on with. He remembered to the people Israel the love of its youth. חסד , ordinarily, condescending love, graciousness and favour; here, the self-devoting, nestling love of Israel to its God. The youth of Israel is the time of the sojourn in Egypt and of the exodus thence (Hosea 2:17; Hosea 11:1); here the latter, as is shown by the following: lovingness of the courtship. The courtship comprises the time from the exodus out of Egypt till the concluding of the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 19:8). When the Lord redeemed Israel with a strong hand out of the power of Egypt, He chose it to be His spouse, whom He bare on eagles' wings and brought unto Himself, Exodus 19:4. The love of the bride to her Lord and Husband, Israel proved by its following Him as He went before in the wilderness, the land where it is not sown, i.e., followed Him gladly into the parched, barren wilderness. "Thy going after me" is decisive for the question so much debated by commentators, whether חסד and אהבה stand for the love of Israel to its God, or God's love to Israel. The latter view we find so early as Chrysostom, and still in Rosenm. and Graf; but it is entirely overthrown by the לכתּך אחרי , which Chrysost. transforms into ποιῆσας ἐξακολουθῆσαι μου , while Graf takes no notice of it. The reasons, too, which Graf, after the example of Rosenm. and Dathe, brings in support of this and against the only feasible exposition, are altogether valueless. The assertion that the facts forbid us to understand the words of the love of Israel to the Lord, because history represents the Israelites, when vixdum Aegypto egressos, as refractarios et ad aliorum deorum cultum pronos , cannot be supported by a reference to Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:24; Isaiah 48:8; Amos 5:25., Psalms 106:7. History knows of no apostasy of Israel from its God and no idolatry of the people during the time from the exodus out of Egypt till the arrival at Sinai, and of this time alone Jeremiah speaks. All the rebellions of Israel against its God fall within the time after the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai, and during the march from Sinai to Canaan. On the way from Egypt to Sinai the people murmured repeatedly, indeed, against Moses; at the Red Sea, when Pharaoh was pursuing with chariots and horsemen (Exodus 14:11.); at Marah, where they were not able to drink the water for bitterness (15:24); in the wilderness of Sin, for lack of bread and meat (Jeremiah 16:2.); and at Massah, for want of water (Jeremiah 17:2.). But in all these cases the murmuring was no apostasy from the Lord, no rebellion against God, but an outburst of timorousness and want of proper trust in God, as is abundantly clear from the fact that in all these cases of distress and trouble God straightway brings help, with the view of strengthening the confidence of the timorous people in the omnipotence of His helping grace. Their backsliding from the Lord into heathenism begins with the worship of the golden calf, after the covenant had been entered into at Sinai (Ex 32), and is continued in the revolts on the way from Sinai to the borders of Canaan, at Taberah, at Kibroth-hattaavah (Num 11), in the desert of Paran at Kadesh (Num 13; 20); and each time it was severely punished by the Lord.
Neither are we to conclude, with J. D. Mich., that God interprets the journey through the desert in meliorem partem , and makes no mention of their offences and revolts; nor with Graf, that Jeremiah looks steadily away from all that history tells of the march of the Israelites through the desert, of their discontent and refractoriness, of the golden calf and of Baal Peor, and, idealizing the past as contrasted with the much darker present, keeps in view only the brighter side of the old times. Idealizing of this sort is found neither elsewhere in Jeremiah nor in any other prophet; nor is there anything of the kind in our verse, if we take up rightly the sense of it and the thread of the thought. It becomes necessary so to view it, only if we hold the whole forty years' sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness to be the espousal time, and make the marriage union begin not with the covenanting at Sinai, but with the entrance of Israel into Canaan. Yet more entirely without foundation is the other assertion, that the words rightly given as the sense is, "stand in no connection with the following, since then the point in hand is the people's forgetfulness of the divine benefits, its thanklessness and apostasy, not at all the deliverances wrought by Jahveh in consideration of its former devotedness." For in Jeremiah 2:2 it is plainly enough told how God remembered to the people its love. Israel was so shielded by Him, as His sanctuary, that whoever touched it must pay the penalty. קדשׁ are all gifts consecrated to Jahveh. The Lord has made Israel a holy offering consecrated to Him in this, that He has separated it to Himself for a סגלּה , for a precious possession, and has chosen it to be a holy people: Exodus 19:5.; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2. We can explain from the Torah of offering the further designation of Israel: his first-fruits; the first of the produce of the soil or yield of the land belonged, as קדשׁ , to the Lord: Exodus 23:19; Numbers 8:8, etc. Israel, as the chosen people of God, as such a consecrated firstling. Inasmuch as Jahveh is Creator and Lord of the whole world, all the peoples are His possession, the harvest of His creation. But amongst the peoples of the earth He has chosen Israel to Himself for a firstling-people (, ראשׁית הגּוים Amos 6:1), and so pronounced it His sanctuary, not to be profaned by touch. Just as each laic who ate of a firstling consecrated to God incurred guilt, so all who meddled with Israel brought guilt upon their heads. The choice of the verb אכליו is also to be explained from the figure of firstling-offerings. The eating of firstling-fruit is appropriation of it to one's own use. Accordingly, by the eating of the holy people of Jahveh, not merely the killing and destroying of it is to be understood, but all laying of violent hands on it, to make it a prey, and so all injury or oppression of Israel by the heathen nations. The practical meaning of יאשׁמוּ is given by the next clause: mischief came upon them. The verbs יאשׁמוּ and תּבא dna יא are not futures; for we have here to do not with the future, but with what did take place so long as Israel showed the love of the espousal time to Jahveh. Hence rightly Hitz.: "he that would devour it must pay the penalty." An historical proof of this is furnished by the attack of the Amalekites on Israel and its result, Exodus 17:8-15.
But Israel did not remain true to its first love; it has forgotten the benefits and blessings of its God, and has fallen away from Him in rebellion.
"Hear the word of Jahveh, house of Jacob, and all families of the house of Israel. Jeremiah 2:5. Thus saith Jahveh, What have your fathers found in me of wrongfulness, that they are gone far from me, and have gone after vanity, and are become vain? Jeremiah 2:6. And they said not, Where is Jahveh that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us in the wilderness, in the land of steppes and of pits, in the land of drought and of the shadow of death, in a land that no one passes through and where no man dwells? Jeremiah 2:7. And I brought you into a land of fruitful fields, to eat its fruit and its goodness: and ye came and defiled my land, and my heritage ye have made an abomination. Jeremiah 2:8. The priests said not, Where is Jahveh? and they that handled the law knew me not: the shepherds fell away from me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and after them that profit not are they gone." The rebuke for ungrateful, faithless apostasy is directed against the whole people. The "house of Jacob" is the people of the twelve tribes, and the parallel member, "all families of the house of Israel," is an elucidative apposition. The "fathers" in Jeremiah 2:5 are the ancestors of the now living race onwards from the days of the Judges, when the generation arising after the death of Joshua and his contemporaries forsook the Lord and served the Baals (Judges 2:10.). עול , perversity, wrongfulness, used also of a single wicked deed in Psalms 7:4, the opposite to acting in truth and good faith. Jahveh is a God of faithfulness ( אמוּנה ); in Him is no iniquity ( אין עול ), Deuteronomy 32:4. The question, what have they found...? is answered in the negative by Jeremiah 2:6. To remove far from me and follow after vanity, is tantamount to forsaking Jahveh and serving the false gods (Baals), Judges 2:11. הבל , lit., breath, thence emptiness, vanity, is applied so early as the song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:21, to the false gods, as being nonentities. Here, however, the word means not the gods, but the worship of them, as being groundless and vain; bringing no return to him who devotes himself to it, but making him foolish and useless in thought and deed. By the apostle in Romans 1:21 יהבּלוּ is expressed by ἐματαιώ́θησαν . Cf. 2 Kings 17:15, where the second hemistich of our verse is applied to the ten tribes.
They said not, Where is Jahveh? i.e., they have no longer taken any thought of Jahveh; have not recalled His benefits, though they owed to Him all they had become and all they possessed. He has brought them out of Egypt, freed them from the house of bondage (Micah 6:4), and saved them from the oppression of the Pharaohs, meant to extirpate them (Exodus 3:7.). He has led them through pathless and inhospitable deserts, miraculously furnished them with bread and water, and protected them from all dangers (Deuteronomy 8:15). To show the greatness of His benefits, the wilderness is described as parched unfruitful land, as a land of deadly terrors and dangers. , ארץ ערבה land of steppes or heaths, corresponds to the land unsown of Jeremiah 2:2. "And of pits," i.e., full of dangerous pits and chasms into which one may stumble unawares. Land of drought, where one may have to pine through thirst. And of the shadow of death: so Sheol is named in Job 10:21 as being a place of deep darkness; here, the wilderness, as a land of the terrors of death, which surround the traveller with darkness as of death: Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 9:1; Job 16:16. A land through which no one passes, etc., i.e., which offers the traveller neither path nor shelter. Through his frightful desert God has brought His people in safety.
And He has done yet more. He has brought them into a fruitful and well-cultivated land. כּרמל , fruitful fields, the opposite of wilderness, Jeremiah 4:26; Isaiah 29:17. To eat up its fruit and its good; cf. the enumeration of the fruits and useful products of the land of Canaan, Deuteronomy 8:7-9. And this rich and splendid land the ungrateful people have defiled by their sins and vices (cf. Leviticus 18:24), and idolatry (cf. Ezekiel 36:18); and the heritage of Jahveh they have thus made an abomination, an object of horror. The land of Canaan is called "my heritage," the especial domain of Jahveh, inasmuch as, being the Lord of the earth, He is the possessor of the land and has given it to the Israelites for a possession, yet dwells in the midst of it as its real lord, Num. 25:34. - In Jeremiah 2:8 the complaint briefly given in Jeremiah 2:6 is expanded by an account of the conduct of the higher classes, those who gave its tone to the spirit of the people. The priests, whom God had chosen to be the ministers of His sanctuary, asked not after Him, i.e., sought neither Him nor His sanctuary. They who occupy themselves with the law, who administer the law: these too are the priests as teachers of the law (Micah 3:11), who should instruct the people as to the Lord's claims on them and commandments (Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 33:10). They knew not Jahveh, i.e., they took no note of Him, did not seek to discover what His will and just claims were, so as to instruct the people therein, and press them to keep the law. The shepherds are the civil authorities, princes and kings (cf. Jeremiah 23:1.): those who by their lives set the example to the people, fell away from the Lord; and the prophets, who should have preached God's word, prophesied בּבּעל , by Baal, i.e., inspired by Baal. Baal is here a generic name for all false gods; cf. Jeremiah 23:13. , לא those who profit not, are the Baals as unreal gods; cf. Isaiah 44:9; 1 Samuel 12:21. The utterances as to the various ranks form a climax, as Hitz. rightly remarks. The ministers of public worship manifested no desire towards me; those learned in the law took no knowledge of me, of my will, of the contents of the book of the law; the civil powers went the length of rising up against my law; and the prophets fairly fell away to false gods, took inspiration from Baal, the incarnation of the lying spirit.
Such backsliding from God is unexampled and appalling. Jeremiah 2:9. " Therefore will I further contend with you, ad with your children's children will I contend. Jeremiah 2:10. For go over to the islands of the Chittim, and see; and send to Kedar, and observe well, and see if such things have been; Jeremiah 2:11. whether a nation hath changed it gods, which indeed are no gods? but my people hath changed its glory for that which profits not. Jeremiah 2:12 . Be horrified, ye heavens, at this, and shudder, and be sore dismayed, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 2:13. For double evil hath my people done; me have they forsaken, the fountain of living waters, to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, the hold no water."
In the preceding verses the fathers were charged with the backsliding from the Lord; in Jeremiah 2:9 punishment is threatened against the now-living people of Israel, and on their children's children after them. For the people in its successive and even yet future generations constitutes a unity, and in this unity a moral personality. Since the sins of the fathers transmit themselves to the children and remoter descendants, sons and grandsons must pay the penalty of the fathers' guilt, that is, so long as they share the disposition of their ancestors. The conception of this moral unity is at the foundation of the threatening. That the present race persists in the fathers' backsliding from the Lord is clearly expressed in Jeremiah 2:17. In "I will further chide or strive," is intimated implicite that God had chidden already up till now, or even earlier with the fathers. ריב , contend, when said of God, is actual striving or chastening with all kinds of punishment. This must God do as the righteous and holy one; for the sin of the people is an unheard of sin, seen in no other people. "The islands of the Chittim" are the isles and coast lands of the far west, as in Ezekiel 27:6; כּתּים having originally been the name for Cyprus and the city of Cition, see in Genesis 10:4. In contrast with these distant western lands, Kedar is mentioned as representative of the races of the east. The Kedarenes lived as a pastoral people in the eastern part of the desert between Arabia Petraea and Babylonia; see in Genesis 25:13 and Ezekiel 27:21. Peoples in the two opposite regions of the world are individualizingly mentioned instead of all peoples. התבּוננוּ , give good heed, serves to heighten the expression. אם = הן introduces the indirect question; cf. Ew. §324, c. The unheard of, that which has happened amongst no people, is put interrogatively for rhetorical effect. Has any heathen nation changed its gods, which indeed are not truly gods? No; no heathen nation has done this; but the people of Jahveh, Israel, has exchanged its glory, i.e., the God who made Himself known to it in His glory, for false gods that are of no profit. כּבוד is the glory in which the invisible God manifested His majesty in the world and amidst His people. Cf. the analogous title given to God, , נּאון ישׂראל Amos 8:7; Hosea 5:5. The exact antithesis to כּבודו would be בּשׁת , cf. Jeremiah 3:24; Jeremiah 11:13; but Jeremiah chose לא to represent the exchange as not advantageous. God showed His glory to the Israelites in the glorious deeds of His omnipotence and grace, like those mentioned in Jeremiah 2:5 and Jeremiah 2:6. The Baals, on the other hand, are not אלהים , but, אלילים nothings, phantoms without a being, that bring no help or profit to their worshippers. Before the sin of Israel is more fully set forth, the prophet calls on heaven to be appalled at it. The heavens are addressed as that part of the creation where the glory of God is most brightly reflected. The rhetorical aim is seen in the piling up of words. חרב , lit., to be parched up, to be deprived of the life-marrow. Israel has committed two crimes: a. It has forsaken Jahveh, the fountain of living water. , מים חיּים living water, i.e., water that originates and nourishes life, is a significant figure for God, with whom is the fountain of life (Psalms 36:10), i.e., from whose Spirit all life comes. Fountain of living water (here and Jeremiah 17:13) is synonymous with well of life in Proverbs 10:11; Proverbs 13:14; Proverbs 14:27, Sir. 21:13. b. The other sin is this, that they hew or dig out wells, broken, rent, full of crevices, that hold no water. The delineation keeps to the same figure. The dead gods have no life and can dispense no life, just as wells with rents or fissures hold no water. The two sins, the forsaking of the living God and the seeking out of dead gods, cannot really be separated. Man, created by God and for God, cannot live without God. If he forsake the living God, he passes in spite of himself into the service of dead, unreal gods. Forsaking the living God is eo ipso exchanging Him for an imaginary god. The prophet sets the two moments of the apostasy from God side by side, so as to depict to the people with greater fulness of light the enormity of their crime. The fact in Jeremiah 2:11 that no heathen nation changes its gods for others, has its foundation in this, that the gods of the heathen are the creations of men, and that the worship of them is moulded by the carnal-mindedness of sinful man; so that there is less inducement to change, the gods of the different nations being in nature alike. But the true God claims to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and does not permit the nature and manner of His worship to depend on the fancies of His worshippers; He makes demands upon men that run counter to carnal nature, insisting upon the renunciation of sensual lusts and cravings and the crucifixion of the flesh, and against this corrupt carnal nature rebels. Upon this reason for the fact adduced, Jeremiah does not dwell, but lays stress on the fact itself. This he does with the view of bringing out the distinction, wide as heaven, between the true God and the false gods, to the shaming of the idolatrous people; and in order, at the same time, to scourge the folly of idolatry by giving prominence to the contrast between the glory of God and the nothingness of the idols.
By this double sin Israel has drawn on its own head all the evil that has befallen it. Nevertheless it will not cease its intriguing with the heathen nations. Jeremiah 2:14. " Is Israel a servant? is he a home-born slave? why is he become a booty? Jeremiah 2:15. Against him roared the young lions, let their voice be heard, and made his land a waste; his cities were burnt up void of inhabitants. Jeremiah 2:16. Also the sons of Noph and Tahpanes feed on the crown of thy head. Jeremiah 2:17. Does not this bring it upon thee, thy forsaking Jahveh thy God, at the time when He led thee on the way? Jeremiah 2:18. And now what hast thou to do with the way to Egypt, to drink the waters of the Nile? and what with the way to Assur, to drink the waters of the river? Jeremiah 2:19. Thy wickedness chastises thee, and thy backslidings punish thee; then know and see that it is evil and bitter to forsake Jahveh thy God, and to have no fear of me, saith the Lord Jahveh of hosts." The thought from Jeremiah 2:14-16 is this: Israel was plundered and abused by the nations like a slave. To characterize such a fate as in direct contradiction to its destiny is the aim of the question: Is Israel a servant? i.e., a slave or a house-born serf. עבד is he who has in any way fallen into slavery, יליד בּית a slave born in the house of his master. The distinction between these two classes of salves does not consist in the superior value of the servant born in the house by reason of his attachment to the house. This peculiarity is not here thought of, but only the circumstance that the son of a salve, born in the house, remained a slave without any prospect of being set free; while the man who has been forced into slavery by one of the vicissitudes of life might hope again to acquire his freedom by some favourable turn of circumstances. Another failure is the attempt of Hitz. to interpret עבד as servant of Jahveh, worshipper of the true God; for this interpretation, even if we take no account of all the other arguments that make against it, is rendered impossible by . יליד That expression never means the son of the house, but by unfailing usage the slave born in the house of his master. Now the people of Israel had not been born as serf in the land of Jahveh, but had become עבד , i.e., slave, in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15); but Jahveh has redeemed it from this bondage and made it His people. The questions suppose a state of affairs that did not exist. This is shown by the next question, one expressing wonder: Why then is he it become a prey? Slaves are treated as a prey, but Israel was no slave; why then has such treatment fallen to his lot? Propheta per admirationem quasi de re nova et absurda sciscitatur. An servus est Israel? atqui erat liber prae cunctis gentibus, erat enim filius primogenitus Dei; necesse est igitur quaerere aliam causam, cur adeo miser sit (Calv.). Cf. the similar turn of the thought in Jeremiah 2:31. How Israel became a prey is shown in Jeremiah 2:15 and Jeremiah 2:16. These verses do not treat of future events, but of what has already happened, and, according to Jeremiah 2:18 and Jeremiah 2:19, will still continue. The imperff. ישׁאגוּ and ירעוּך alternate consequently with the perff. נתנוּ and נצּתה , and are governed by היה לבז , so that they are utterances regarding events of the past, which have been and are still repeated. Lions are a figure that frequently stands for enemies thirsting for plunder, who burst in upon a people or land; cf. Micah 5:7; Isaiah 5:29, etc. Roared עליו , against him, not, over him: the lion roars when he is about to rush upon his prey, Amos 3:4, Amos 3:8; Psalms 104:21; Judges 14:5; when he has pounced upon it he growls or grumbles over it; cf. Isaiah 31:4. - In Jeremiah 2:15 the figurative manner passes into plain statement. They made his land a waste; cf. Jeremiah 4:7; Jeremiah 18:16, etc., where instead of שׁית we have the more ordinary שׂוּם . The Chet h. נצּתה from יצת , not from the Ethiop. נצה (Graf, Hitz.), is to be retained; the Keri here, as in Jeremiah 22:6, is an unnecessary correction; cf. Ew. §317, a. In this delineation Jeremiah has in his eye chiefly the land of the ten tribes, which had been ravaged and depopulated by the Assyrians, even although Judah had often suffered partial devastations by enemies; cf. 1 Kings 14:25.
Israel has had to submit to spoliation at the hands of the Egyptians too. The present reference to the Egyptians is explained by the circumstances of the prophet's times-from the fact, namely, that just as Israel and Judah had sought the help of Egypt against the Assyrians (cf. Hosea 7:11; 2 Kings 17:4, and Isaiah 30:1-5) in the time of Hezekiah, so now in Jeremiah's times Judah was expecting and seeking help from the same quarter against the advancing power of the Chaldeans; cf. Jeremiah 37:7. Noph and Tahpanes are two former capitals of Egypt, here put as representing the kingdom of the Pharaohs. nop נף , in Hosea 9:6 mop מף contracted from מנף , Manoph or Menoph, is Memphis, the old metropolis of Lower Egypt, made by Psammetichus the capital of the whole kingdom. Its ruins lie on the western bank of the Nile, to the south of Old Cairo, close by the present village of Mitrahenny, which is built amongst the ruins; cf. Brugsch Reiseberichte aus Egypten, §60ff., and the remarks on Hosea 9:6 and Isaiah 19:13. תחפנס , elsewhere spelt as here in the Keri תּחפּנחס - cf. Jeremiah 43:7., Jeremiah 44:1; Jeremiah 46:14, Ezekiel 30:18 -was a strong border city on the Pelusiac arm of the Nile, called by the Greeks Δάφναι (Herod. ii. 20), by the lxx Τάφναι ; see in Ezekiel 30:18. A part of the Jews who had remained in the land fled hither after the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah 43:7. , ירעוּך קדקד feed upon thy crown (lit., feed on thee in respect of thy crown), is a trope for ignominious devastation; for to shave one bald is a token of disgrace and sorrow, cf. Jeremiah 47:5; Jeremiah 48:37, Isaiah 3:17; and with this Israel is threatened in Isaiah 7:20. רעה , to eat up by grazing, as in Job 20:26 and Job 24:21; in the latter passage in the sense of depopulari. We must then reject the conjectures of J. D. Mich., Hitz., and others, suggesting the sense: crush thy head for thee; a sense not at all suitable, since crushing the head would signify the utter destruction of Israel. - The land of Israel is personified as a woman, as is shown by the fem. suffix in ירעוּך . Like a land closely cropped by herds, so is Israel by the Egyptians. In Jeremiah 6:3 also the enemies are represented as shepherds coming with their flocks against Jerusalem, and pitching their tents round about the city, while each flock crops its portion of ground. In Jeremiah 12:10 shepherds lay the vineyard waste.
In Jeremiah 2:17 the question as to the cause of the evil is answered. זאת is the above-mentioned evil, that Israel had become a prey to the foe. This thy forsaking of Jahveh makes or prepares for thee. תּעשׂה is neuter; the infin. עזבך is the subject of the clause, and it is construed as a neuter, as in 1 Samuel 18:23. The fact that thou hast forsaken Jahveh thy God has brought this evil on thee. At the time when He led thee on the way. The participle מוליך is subordinated to עת in the stat. constr. as a partic. standing for the praeterit. durans; cf. Ew. §337, c. בּדּרך is understood by Ros. and Hitz. of the right way (Psalms 25:8); but in this they forget that this acceptation is incompatible with the בּעת , which circumscribes the leading within a definite time. God will lead His people on the right way at all times. The way on which He led them at the particular time is the way through the Arabian desert, cf. Jeremiah 2:6, and בּדּרך is to be understood as in Deuteronomy 1:33; Exodus 18:8; Exodus 23:20, etc. Even thus early their fathers forsook the Lord: At Sinai, by the worship of the golden calf; then when the people rose against Moses and Aaron in the desert of Paran, called a rejecting ( נאץ ) of Jahveh in Numbers 14:11; and at Shittim, where Israel joined himself to Baal Peor, Numbers 25:1-3. The forsaking of Jahveh is not to be limited to direct idolatry, but comprehends also the seeking of help from the heathen; this is shown by the following 18th verse, in which the reproaches are extended to the present bearing of the people. ' מה־לּך לדרך וגו , lit., what is to thee in reference to the way of Egypt (for the expression, see Hosea 14:9), i.e., what hast thou to do with the way of Egypt? Why dost thou arise to go into Egypt, to drink the water of the Nile? שׁחור , the black, turbid stream, is a name for the Nile, taken from its dark-grey or black mud. The Nile is the life-giving artery of Egypt, on whose fertilizing waters the fruitfulness and the prosperity of the country depend. To drink the waters of the Nile is as much as to say to procure for oneself the sources of Egypt's life, to make the power of Egypt useful to oneself. Analogous to this is the drinking the waters of the river, i.e., the Euphrates. What is meant is seeking help from Egyptians and Assyrians. The water of the Nile and of the Euphrates was to be made to furnish them with that which the fountain of living water, i.e., Jahveh (Jeremiah 2:14), supplied to them. This is an old sin, and with it Israel of the ten tribes is upbraided by Hosea (Hosea 7:11; Hosea 12:2). From this we are not to infer "that here we have nothing to do with the present, since the existing Israel, Judah, was surely no longer a suitor for the assistance of Assyria, already grown powerless" (Hitz.). The limitation of the reproach solely to the past is irreconcilable with the terms of the verse and with the context (Jeremiah 2:19). מה־לּך לדרך cannot grammatically be translated: What hadst thou to do with the way; just as little can we make תּיסּרך hath chastised thee, since the following: know and see, is then utterly unsuitable to it. תּיסּרך and תּוכיחך are not futures, but imperfects, i.e., expressing what is wont to happen over again in each similar case; and so to be expressed in English by the present: thy wickedness, i.e., thy wicked work, chastises thee. The wickedness was shown in forsaking Jahveh, in the משׁבות , backslidings, the repeated defection from the living God; cf. Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 5:6; Jeremiah 14:7. As to the fact, we have no historical evidence that under Josiah political alliance with Egypt or Assyria was compassed; but even if no formal negotiations took place, the country was certainly even then not without a party to build its hopes on one or other of the great powers between which Judah lay, whenever a conflict arose with either of them. - וּדעי , with the Vav of consecution (see Ew. §347, a): Know then, and at last comprehend, that forsaking the Lord thy God is evil and bitter, i.e., bears evil and bitter fruit, prepares bitter misery for thee. "To have no fear of me" corresponds "to forsake," lit., thy forsaking, as second subject; lit.,: and the no fear of me in thee, i.e., the fact that thou hast no awe of me. פּחדּתי , awe of me, like פּחדּך in Deuteronomy 2:25.
All along Israel has been refractory; it cannot and will not cease from idolatry. Jeremiah 2:20. " For of old time thou hast broken thy yoke, torn off thy bands; and hast said: I will not serve; but upon every high hill, and under every green tree, thou stretchedst thyself as a harlot. Jeremiah 2:21. And I have planted thee a noble vine, all of genuine stock: and how hast thou changed thyself to me into the bastards of a strange vine? Jeremiah 2:22. Even though thou washedst thee with natron and tookest much soap, filthy remains thy guilt before me, saith the Lord Jahveh. Jeremiah 2:23. How canst thou say, I have not defiled me, after the Baals have I not gone? See thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done-thou lightfooted camel filly, entangling her says. Jeremiah 2:24. A wild she-ass used to the wilderness, that in her lust panteth for air; her heat, who shall restrain it? all that seek her run themselves weary; in her month they will find her. Jeremiah 2:25. Keep thy foot from going barefoot, and thy throat from thirst; but thou sayest, It is useless; no; for I have loved strangers, and after them I go." Jeremiah 2:20. מעולם , from eternity, i.e., from immemorial antiquity, has Israel broken the yoke of the divine law laid on it, and torn asunder the bands of decency and order which the commands of God, the ordinances of the Torah, put on, to nurture it to be a holy people of the Lord; torn them as an untamed bullock (Jeremiah 31:18) or a stubborn cow, Hosea 4:16. מוסרות , bands, are not the bands or cords of love with which God drew Israel, Hosea 11:4 (Graf), but the commands of God whose part it was to keep life within the bounds of purity, and to hold the people back from running riot in idolatry. On this head see Jeremiah 5:5; and for the expression, Psalms 2:3. The Masoretes have taken שׁברתי and נתקתי for the 1st person, pointing accordingly, and for אעבוד , as unsuitable to this, they have substituted אעבור . Ewald has decided in favour of these readings; but he is thus compelled to tear the verse to pieces and to hold the text to be defective, since the words from ותּאמרי onwards are not in keeping with what precedes. Even if we translate: I offend transgress not, the thought does not adapt itself well to the preceding; I have of old time broken thy yoke, etc.; nor can we easily reconcile with it the grounding clause; for on every high hill,...thou layest a whoring, where Ew. is compelled to force on כּי the adversative sig. Most commentators, following the example of the lxx and Vulg., have taken the two verbs for 2nd person; and thus is maintained the simple and natural thought that Israel has broken the yoke laid on it by God, renounced allegiance to Him, and practised idolatry on every hand. The spelling , נתּקתּי , שׁברתּי i.e., the formation of the 2nd pers. perf. with y, is frequently found in Jer.; cf. Jeremiah 2:33; Jeremiah 3:4; Jeremiah 4:19; Jeremiah 13:21, etc. It is really the fuller original spelling tiy which has been preserved in Aramaic, though seldom found in Hebrew; in Jer. it must be accounted an Aramaism; cf. Ew. §190, c; Gesen. §44, 2, Rem. 4. With the last clause, on every high hill, etc., cf. Hosea 4:13 and Ezekiel 6:13 with the comm. on Deuteronomy 12:2. Stretchest thyself as a harlot or a whoring, is a vivid description of idolatry. צעה , bend oneself, lie down ad coitum , like κατακλίνεσθαι , inclinari .
In this whoring with the false gods, Israel shows its utter corruption. I have planted thee a noble vine; not, with noble vines, as we translate in Isaiah 5:2, where Israel is compared to a vineyard. Here Israel is compared to the vine itself, a vine which Jahveh has planted; cf. Psalms 80:9; Hosea 10:1. This vine was all ( כּלּה , in its entirety, referred to שׂורק , as collect.) genuine seed; a proper shoot which could bear good grapes (cf. Ezekiel 17:5); children of Abraham, as they are described in Genesis 18:19. But how has this Israel changed itself to me ( לי , dativ. incommodi) into bastards! סוּרי is accus., dependent on נהפכתּ ; for this constr. cf. Leviticus 13:25; Psalms 114:8. סוּרים sig. not shoots or twigs, but degenerate sprouts or suckers. The article in הגּפן is generic: wild shoots of the species of the wild vine; but this is not the first determining word; cf. for this exposition of the article Jeremiah 13:4; 2 Samuel 12:30, etc., Ew. §290, a 3); and for the omission of the article with נכריּה , cf. Ew. §293, a. Thus are removed the grammatical difficulties that led Hitz. to take ' סוּרי וגו quite unnaturally as vocative, and Graf to alter the text. "A strange vine" is an interloping vine, not of the true, genuine stock planted by Jahveh (Jeremiah 2:10), and which bears poisonous berries of gall. Deuteronomy 32:32.
Though thou adoptedst the most powerful means of purification, yet couldst thou not purify thyself from the defilement of thy sins. נתר , natron, is mineral, and בּרית vegetable alkali. נכתּם introduces the apodosis; and by the participle a lasting condition is expressed. This word, occurring only here in the O.T., sig. in Aram. to be stained, filthy, a sense here very suitable. לפני , before me, i.e., before my eyes, the defilement of thy sins cannot be wiped out. On this head see Isaiah 1:18; Psalms 51:4, Psalms 51:9.
And yet Judah professes to be pure and upright before God. This plea Jeremiah meets by pointing to the open practising of idolatrous worship. The people of Judah personified as a woman - זונה in Jeremiah 2:20 - is addressed. איך is a question expressing astonishment. נדמאתי , of defilement by idolatry, as is shown by the next explanatory clause: the Baals I have not followed. בּעלים is used generically for strange gods, Jeremiah 1:16. The public worship of Baal had been practised in the kingdom of Judah under Joram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah only, and had been extirpated by Jehu, 2 Kings 10:18. Idolatry became again rampant under Ahaz (by his instigation), Manasseh, and Amon, and in the first year of Josiah's reign. Josiah began to restore the worship of Jahveh in the twelfth year of his reign; but it was not till the eighteenth that he was able to complete the reformation of the public services. There is then no difficulty in the way of our assuming that there was yet public worship of idols in Judah during the first five years of Jeremiah's labours. We must not, however, refer the prophet's words to this alone. The following of Baal by the people was not put an end to when the altars and images were demolished; for this was sufficient neither to banish from the hearts of the people the proneness to idolatry, nor utterly to suppress the secret practising of it. The answer to the protestation of the people, blinded in self-righteousness, shows, further, that the grosser publicly practised forms had not yet disappeared. "See thy way in the valley." Way, i.e., doing and practising. בּגּיא with the article must be some valley known for superstitions cultivated there; most commentators suggest rightly the valley of Ben or Bne-Hinnom to the south of Jerusalem, where children were offered to Moloch; see on Jeremiah 7:31. The next words, "and know what thou hast done," do not, taken by themselves, imply that this form of idol-worship was yet to be met with, but only that the people had not yet purified themselves from it. If, however, we take them in connection with what follows, they certainly do imply the continued existence of practices of that sort. The prophet remonstrates with the people for its passionate devotion to idolatry by comparing it to irrational animals, which in their season of heat yield themselves to their instinct. The comparison gains in pointedness by his addressing the people as a camel-filly and a wild she-ass. ' בּכרה is vocative, co-ordinate with the subject of address, and means the young filly of the camel. קלּה , running lightly, nimbly, swiftly. ' משׂרכת דר , intertwining, i.e., crossing her says; rushing right and left on the paths during the season of heat. Thus Israel ran now after one god, now after another, deviating to the right and to the left from the path prescribed by the law, Deuteronomy 28:14. To delineate yet more sharply the unruly passionateness with which the people rioted in idolatry, there is added the figure of a wild ass running herself weary in her heat. Hitz. holds the comparison to be so managed that the figure of the she-camel is adhered to, and that this creature is compared to a wild ass only in respect of its panting for air. But this view could be well founded only if the Keri נפשׁהּ were the original reading. Then we might read the words thus: (like) a wild ass used to the wilderness she (the she-camel) pants in the heat of her soul for air. But this is incompatible with the Cheth. נפשׁו , since the suffix points back to פּרה , and requires בּאוּת נפשׁו to be joined with ' פּרה ל , so that שׁאפה must be spoken of the latter. Besides, taken on its own account, it is a very unnatural hypothesis that the behaviour of the she-camel should be itself compared to the gasping of the wild ass for breath; for the camel is only a figure of the people, and Jeremiah 2:24 is meant to exhibit the unbridled ardour, not of the camel, but of the people. So that with the rest of the comm. we take the wild ass to be a second figure for the people. פּרה differs only orthographically from פּרא , the usual form of the word, and which many codd. have here. This is the wood ass, or rather wild ass, since the creature lives on steppes, not in woods. It is of a yellowish colour, with a white belly, and forms a kind of link between the deer species and the ass; by reason of its arrow-like speed not easily caught, and untameable. Thus it is used as an emblem of boundless love of freedom, Genesis 16:12, and of unbridled licentiousness, see on Job 24:5 and Job 39:5. פּרה as nom. epicaen . has the adj. next it, למּד ,ti t , in the masc., and so too in the apposition בּאוּת נפשׁו ; the fem. appears first in the statement as to its behaviour, שׁאפה : she pants for air to cool the glow of heat within. תּאנה sig. neither copulation, from אנה , approach (Dietr.), nor aestus libidinosus (Schroed., Ros.). The sig. approach, meet, attributed to אנה , Dietr. grounds upon the Ags. gelimpan , to be convenient, opportune; and the sig. slow is derived from the fact that Arab. ̀ny is used of the boiling of water. The root meaning of אנה , Arab. ̀ny , is, according to Fleischer, tempestivus fuit , and the root indicates generally any effort after the attainment of the aim of a thing, or impulse; from which come all the meanings ascribed to the word, and for תּאנה in the text before us the sig. heat, i.e., the animal instinct impelling to the satisfaction of sexual cravings.
In Jeremiah 2:24 בּחדשׁהּ is variously interpreted. Thus much is beyond all doubt, that the words are still a part of the figure, i.e., of the comparison between the idolatrous people and the wild ass. The use of the 3rd person stands in the way of the direct reference of the words to Israel, since in what precedes and in what follows Israel is addressed (in 2nd pers.). חדשׁ can thus mean neither the new moon as a feast (L. de Dieu, Chr. B. Mich.), still less tempus menstruum (Jerome, etc.), but month; and the suffix in הדשׁהּ is to be referred, not with Hitz. to תּאנתהּ , but to פּרה . The suffixes in מבקשׁיה and ימצאוּנה absolutely demand this. "Her month" is the month appointed for the gratification of the wild ass's natural impulse, i.e., as Bochart rightly explains it (Hieroz. ii. p. 230, ed. Ros.) mensis quo solent sylvestres asinae maris appetitu fervere . The meaning of the comparison is this: the false gods do not need anxiously to court the favour of the people; in its unbridled desires it gives itself up to them; cf. Jeremiah 3:2; Hosea 2:7, Hosea 2:15. With this is suitably coupled the warning of Jeremiah 2:25: hold back, i.e., keep thy foot from getting bare ( יהף is subst. not adjective, which would have had to be fem., since רגל is fem.), and thy throat from thirst, viz., by reason of the fever of running after the idols. This admonition God addresses by the prophet to the people. It is not to wear the sandals off its feet by running after amours, nor so to heat its throat as to become thirsty. Hitz. proposes unsuitably, because in the face of the context, to connect the going barefoot with the visiting of the sanctuary, and the thirsting of the throat (1 Kings 18:26) with incessant calling on the gods. The answer of the people to this admonition shows clearly that it has been receiving an advice against running after the gods. The Chet. וגורנך is evidently a copyists's error for וּגרונך . The people replies: נואשׁ , desperatum ( est), i.e., hopeless; thy advice of all in vain; cf. Jeremiah 18:12, and on Isaiah 57:10. The meaning is made clearer by לוא : no; for I love the aliens, etc. זרים are not merely strange gods, but also strange peoples. Although idolatry is the matter chiefly in hand, yet it was so bound up with intriguing for the favour of the heathen nations that we cannot exclude from the words some reference to this also.
And yet idolatry brings to the people only disgrace, giving no help in the time of need. Jeremiah 2:26. " As a thief is shamed when he is taken, so is the house of Israel put to shame; they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets. Jeremiah 2:27. Because they say to the wood, Thou art my father; and to the stone, Thou hast borne me: for they have turned to me the back and not the face; but in the time of their trouble they say, Arise, and help us. Jeremiah 2:28. Where then are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can help thee in the time of thy trouble; for as many as are thy cities, so many are thy gods, Judah." The thought in Jeremiah 2:26 and Jeremiah 2:27 is this, Israel reaps from its idolatry but shame, as the thief from stealing when he is caught in the act. The comparison in Jeremiah 2:26 contains a universal truth of force at all times. The perf. הובישׁוּ is the timeless expression of certainty (Hitz.), and refers to the past as well as to the future. Just as already in past time, so also in the future, idolatry brings but shame and confusion by the frustration of the hopes placed in the false gods. The "house of Israel" is all Israel collectively, and not merely the kingdom of the ten tribes. To give the greater emphasis to the reproaches, the leading ranks are mentioned one by one. אמרים , not: who say, but because (since) they say to the wood, etc., i.e., because they hold images of wood and stone for the gods to whom they owe life and being; whereas Jahveh alone is their Creator or Father and Genitor, Deuteronomy 32:6, Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 64:7; Malachi 2:10. אבן is fem., and thus is put for mother. The Keri ילדתּנוּ is suggested solely by the preceding אמרים , while the Chet. is correct, and is to be read ילדתּני , inasmuch as each one severally speaks thus. - With "for they have turned" follows the reason of the statement that Israel will reap only shame from its idolatry. To the living God who has power to help them they turn their back; but when distress comes upon them they cry to Him for help ( קוּמה והושׁיענוּ as in Psalms 3:8). But then God will send the people to their gods (idols); then will it discover they will not help, for all so great as their number is. The last clause of Jeremiah 2:28 runs literally: the number of thy cities are thy gods become, i.e., so great is the number of thy gods; cf. Jeremiah 11:13. Judah is here directly addressed, so that the people of Judah may not take for granted that what has been said is of force for the ten tribes only. On the contrary, Judah will experience the same as Israel of the ten tribes did when disaster broke over it.
Judah has refused to let itself be turned from idolatry either by judgments or by the warnings of the prophets; nevertheless it holds itself guiltless, and believes itself able to turn aside judgment by means of its intrigues with Egypt. Jeremiah 2:29. " Wherefore contend ye against me? ye are all fallen away from me, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 2:30. In vain have I smitten your sons; correction have they not taken: your sword hath devoured your prophets, like a devouring lion. Jeremiah 2:31. O race that ye are, mark the word of Jahveh. Was I a wilderness to Israel, or a land of dread darkness? Why saith my people, We wander about, come no more to thee? Jeremiah 2:32. Does a maiden forget her ornaments, a bride her girdle? but my people hath forgotten me days without number. Jeremiah 2:33. How finely thou trimmest thy ways to seek love! therefore to misdeeds thou accustomest thy ways. Jeremiah 2:34. Even in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the innocent poor ones; not at housebreaking hast thou caught them, but by reason of all this. Jeremiah 2:35. And thou sayest, I am innocent, yea His wrath hath turned from me: behold, I will plead at law with thee for that thou hast said, I have not sinned. Jeremiah 2:36. Why runnest thou so hard to change thy way? for Egypt too thou shalt come to shame, as thou wast put to shame for Asshur. Jeremiah 2:37. From this also shalt thou come forth, beating thy hands upon thy head; for Jahveh rejecteth those in whom thou trustest, and thou shalt not prosper with them." The question in Jeremiah 2:29, Wherefore contend ye against me? implies that the people contended with God as to His visitations, murmured at the divine chastisements they had met with; not as to the reproaches addressed to them on account of their idolatry (Hitz., Graf). ריב with אל , contend, dispute against, is used of the murmuring of men against divine visitations, Jeremiah 12:1; Job 33:13. Judah has no ground for discontent with the Lord; for they have all fallen away from Him, and (Jeremiah 2:31) let themselves be turned to repentance neither by afflictions, nor by warnings, nor by God's goodness to them. לשּׁוא , to vanity, i.e., without effect, or in vain. Hitz. and Graf wish to refer "your sons" to the able-bodied youth who had at different times been slain by Jahveh in war. The lxx seem to have taken it thus, expression לקחוּ by ἐδέξασθε ; for the third pers. of the verb will not agree with this acceptation of "your sons," since the reproach of not having taken correction could not apply to such as had fallen in war, but only to those who had escaped. This view is unquestionably incorrect, because, as Hitz. admits the subject, those addressed in לקחוּ , must be the people. Hence it follows of necessity that in בּניכם too the people is meant. The expression is similar to בּני עמּך , Leviticus 19:18, and is used for the members of the nation, those who constitute the people; or rather it is like בּני יהוּדה , Joel 3:6, where Judah is looked on by the prophet as a unity, where sons are the members of the people. הכּה , too, is not to be limited to those smitten or slain in war. It is used of all the judgments with which God visits His people, of sword, pestilence, famine, failure of crops, drought, and of all kinds of diseases; cf. Leviticus 26:24., Deuteronomy 28:22, Deuteronomy 28:27. מוּסר is instruction by word and by warning, as well as correction by chastisement. Most comm. take the not receiving of correction to refer to divine punitive visitations, and to mean refusal to amend after such warning; Ros., on the other hand, holds the reference to be to the warnings and reproofs of the prophets ( מוּסר ( stehpo hic instructionem valet, ut Proverbs 5:12, Proverbs 5:23 cet.). But both these references are one-sided. If we refer "correction have they not taken" to divine chastisement by means of judgments, there will be no connection between this and the following clause: your sword devoured your prophets; and we are hindered from restraining the reference wholly to the admonitions and rebukes of the prophets by the close connection of the words with the first part of the verse, a connection indicated by the omission of all particles of transition. We must combine the two references, and understand מוּסר both of the rebukes or warnings of the prophets and of the chastisements of God, holding at the same time that it was the correction of the people by the prophets that Jer. here chiefly kept in view. In administering this correction the prophets not only applied to the hearts of the people as judgments from God all the ills that fell upon them, but declared to the stiff-necked sinners the punishments of God, and by their words showed those punishments to be impending: e.g., Elijah, 1 Kings 17 and 18, 2 Kings 1:9.; Elisha, 2 Kings 2:23; the prophet at Bethel, 1 Kings 13:4. Thus this portion of the verse acquires a meaning for itself, which simplifies the transition from the first to the third clause, and we gain the following thought: I visited you with punishments, and made you to be instructed and reproved by prophets, but ye have slain the prophets who were sent to you. Nehemiah puts it so in Nehemiah 9:26; but Jeremiah uses a much stronger expression, Your sword devoured your prophets like a lion which destroys, in order to set full before the sinners' eyes the savage hatred of the idolatrous people against the prophets of God. Historical examples of this are furnished by 1 Kings 18:4, 1 Kings 18:13; 1 Kings 19:10; 2 Chronicles 24:21., 2 Kings 21:16; Jeremiah 26:23.
The prophet's indignation grows hotter as he brings into view God's treatment of the apostate race, and sets before it, to its shame, the divine long-suffering and love. הדּור , O generation ye! English: O generation that ye are! (cf. Ew. §327, a), is the cry of indignation; cf. Deuteronomy 32:5, where Moses calls the people a perverse foolish generation. ראוּ : see, observe, give heed to the word of the Lord. This verb is often used of perceptions by any sense, as expressive of that sense by which men apprehend most of the things belonging to the outward world. Have I been for Israel a wilderness, i.e., an unfruitful soil, offering neither means of support nor shelter? This question contains a litotes, and is as much as to say: have not I richly blessed Israel with earthly goods? Or a land of dread darkness? מאפּליה , lit., a darkness sent by Jahveh; cf. the analogous form שׁלהבתיה , Song of Solomon 8:6.
(Note: Ewald, Gram. §270, c, proposes to read with the lxx מאפלּיּה , because (he says) it is nowhere possible, at least not in the language of the prophets, for the name Jah (God) to express merely greatness. But this is not to the point. Although a darkness sent by Jah be a great darkness, it by no means follows that the name Jah is used merely to express greatness. But by תּרדּמת ; 1 Samuel 26:12, it is put beyond a doubt that darkness of Jah means a darkness sent or spread out by Jah .)
The desert is so called not merely because it is pathless (Job 3:23), but as a land in which the traveller is on all sides surrounded by deadly dangers; cf. Jeremiah 2:6 and Psalms 55:5. Why then will His people insist on being quit of Him? We roam about unfettered (as to רוּד , see on Hosea 12:1), i.e., we will no longer bear the yoke of His law; cf. Jeremiah 2:20. By a comparison breathing love and longing sadness, the prophet seeks to bring home to the heart of the people a feeling of the unnaturalness of their behaviour towards the Lord their God. Does a bride, then, forget her ornaments? etc. קשׁרים , found besides in Isaiah 3:20, is the ornamental girdle with which the bride adorns herself on the wedding-day; cf. Isaiah 3:20 with Isaiah 49:18. God is His people's best adornment; to Him it owes all the precious possessions it has. It should keep fast hold of Him as its most priceless treasure, should prize Him more highly than the virgin her jewels, than the bride her girdle. but instead of this it has forgotten its God, and that not for a brief time, but throughout countless days. ימים is accus. of duration of time. Jeremiah uses this figure besides, as Calv. observed, to pave the way for what comes next. Volebat enim Judaeos conferre mulieribus adulteris, quae dum feruntur effreni sua libidine, rapiuntur post suos vagos amores .
In Jeremiah 2:33 the style of address is ironical. How good thou makest thy way! i.e., how well thou knowest to choose out and follow the right way to seek love. היטיב דּרך sig. usually: strive after a good walk and conversation; cf. Jeremiah 7:3, Jeremiah 7:5; Jeremiah 18:11, etc.; here, on the other hand, to take the right way for gaining the end in view. "Love" here is seen from the context to be love to the idols, intrigues with the heathen and their gods. Seek love = strive to gain the love of the false gods. To attain this end thou hast taught thy ways misdeeds, i.e., accustomed thy ways to misdeeds, forsaken the commandments of thy God which demand righteousness and the purifying of one's life, and accommodated thyself to the immoral practices of the heathen. הרעות , with the article as in Jeremiah 3:5, the evil deeds which are undisguisedly visible; not: the evils, the misfortunes which follow thee closely, as Hitz. interprets in the face of the context. For in Jeremiah 2:34 we have indisputable evidence that the matter in hand is not evils and misfortunes, but evil deeds or misdemeanours; since there the cleaving of the blood of innocent souls to the hems of the garments is mentioned as one of the basest "evils," and as such is introduced by the גּם of gradation. The "blood of souls" is the blood of innocent murdered men, which clings to the skirts of the murderers' clothes. כּנפים are the skirts of the flowing garment, Ezekiel 5:3; 1 Samuel 15:27; Zechariah 8:23. The plural נמצאוּ before דּם is explained by the fact that נפשׁות is the principal idea. אביונים are not merely those who live in straitened circumstances, but pious oppressed ones as contrasted with powerful transgressors and oppressors; cf. Ps. 40:18; Psalms 72:13., Psalms 86:1-2, etc. By the next clause greater prominence is given to the fact that they were slain being innocent. The words: not בּמּחתּרת , at housebreaking, thou tookest them, contain an allusion to the law in Exodus 22:1 and onwards; according to which the killing of a thief caught in the act of breaking in was not a cause of blood-guiltiness. The thought runs thus: The poor ones thou hast slain were no thieves or robbers whom thou hadst a right to slay, but guiltless pious men; and the killing of them is a crime worthy of death. Exodus 21:12. The last words כּי על כּל־אלּה are obscure, and have been very variously interpreted. Changes upon the text are not to the purpose. For we get no help from the reading of the lxx, of the Syr. and Arab., which seem to have read אלּה as אלה , and which have translated δρυΐ́ oak or terebinth; since "upon every oak" gives no rational meaning. Nor from the connection of the words with the next verse (Venem., Schnur., Ros., and others): yet with all this, or in spite of all this, thou saidst; since neither does כּי mean yet, nor can the ו before תאמרי , in this connection, introduce the sequel thought. The words manifestly belong to what goes before, and contain a contrast: not in breaking in by night thou tookest them, but upon, or on account of all this. על in the sig. upon gives a suitable sense only if, with Abarb., Ew., Näg. , we refer אלּה to בּכנפיך and take מצאתים as 1st pers.: I found it (the blood of the slain souls) not on the place where the murder took place, but upon all these, sc. lappets of the clothes, i.e., borne openly for display. But even without dwelling on the fact that מחתּרת does not mean the scene of a murder or breaking in, this explanation is wrecked on the unmistakeably manifest allusion to the law, אם בּמּחתּרת ימּצא הגּנּב , Exodus 21:1, which is ignored, or at least obscured, by that view. The allusion to this passage of the law shows that מצאתים is not 1st but 2nd pers., and that the suffix refers to the innocent poor who were slain. Therefore, with Hitz. and Graf, we take על כּל־ אלּה in the sig. "on account of all this," and refer the "all this" to the idolatry before mentioned. Consequently the words bear this meaning: Not for a crime thou killedst the poor, but because of thine apostasy from God and thy fornication with the idols, their blood cleaves to thy raiment. the words seem, as Calv. surmised, to point to the persecution and slaying of the prophets spoken of in Jeremiah 2:30, namely, to the innocent blood with which the godless king Manasseh filled Jerusalem, 2 Kings 21:16; 2 Kings 24:4; seeking as he did to crush out all opposition to the abominations of idolatry, and finding in his way the prophets and the godly of the land, who by their words and their lives lifted up their common testimony against the idolaters and their abandoned practices.
Yet withal the people holds itself to be guiltless, and deludes itself with the belief that God's wrath has turned away from it, because it has for long enjoyed peace, and because the judgment of devastation of the land by enemies, threatened by the earlier prophets, had not immediately received its fulfilment. For this self-righteous confidence in its innocence, God will contend with His people ( אותך for אתּך as in Jeremiah 1:16).
Yet in spite of its proud security Judah seeks to assure itself against hostile attacks by the eager negotiation of alliances. This thought is the link between Jeremiah 2:35 and the reproach of Jeremiah 2:36. Why runnest thou to change thy way? תּזלּי for תּאזלי , from אזל , go, with מאד , go impetuously or with strength, i.e., go in haste, run; cf. 1 Samuel 20:19. To change, shift ( שׁנּות ) one's way, is to take another way than that on which one has hitherto gone. The prophet's meaning is clear from the second half of the verse: "for Egypt, too, wilt thou come to shame, as for Assyria thou hast come to shame." Changing they way, is ceasing to seek help from Assyria in order to form close relations with Egypt. The verbs תּבשׁי and בּשׁתּ show that the intrigues for the favour of Assyria belong to the past, for the favour of Egypt to the present. Judah was put to shame in regard to Assyria under Ahaz, 2 Chronicles 28:21; and after the experience of Assyria it had had under Hezekiah and Manasseh, there could be little more thought of looking for help thence. But what could have made Judah under Josiah, in the earlier days of Jeremiah, to seek an alliance with Egypt, considering that Assyria was at that time already nearing its dissolution? Graf is therefore of opinion that the prophet is here keeping in view the political relations in the days of Jehoiakim, in which and for which time he wrote his book, rather than those of Josiah's times, when the alliance with Asshur was still in force; and that he has thus in passing cast a stray glance into a time influenced by later events. But the opinion that in Josiah's time the alliance with Asshur was still existing cannot be historically proved. Josiah's invitation to the passover of all those who remained in what had been the kingdom of the ten tribes, does not prove that he exercised a kind of sovereignty over the provinces that had formerly belonged to the kingdom of Israel, a thing he could have done only as vassal of Assyria; see against this view the remarks on 2 Kings 23:15. As little does his setting himself against the now mighty Pharaoh Necho at Mediggo show clearly that he remained faithful to the alliance with Asshur in spite of the disruption of the Assyrian empire; see against this the remarks on 2 Kings 23:29. Historically only thus much is certain, that Jehoiakim was raised to the throne by Pharaoh Necho, and that he was a vassal of Egypt. During the period of this subjection the formation of alliances with Egypt was for Judah out of the question. Such a case could happen only when Jehoiakim had become subject to the Chaldean king Nebuchadnezzar, and was cherishing the plan of throwing off the Chaldean yoke. But the reference of the words to this design is devoid of the faintest probability, Jeremiah 2:35 and Jeremiah 2:36; and the discourse throughout is far from giving the impression that Judah had already lost its political independence; they rather imply that the kingdom was under the sway neither of Assyrians nor Egyptians, but was still politically independent. We may very plausibly refer to Josiah's time the resolution to give up all trust in the assistance of Assyria and to court the favour of Egypt. We need not seek for the outward inducement to this in the recognition of the beginning decline of the Assyrian power; it might equally well lie in the growth of the Egyptian state. that the power of Egypt had made considerable progress in the reign of Josiah, is made clear by Pharaoh Necho's enterprise against Assyria in the last year of Josiah, from Necho's march towards the Euphrates. Josiah's setting himself in opposition to the advance of the Egyptians, which cost him his life at Megiddo, neither proves that Judah was then allied with Assyria nor excludes the possibility of intrigues for Egypt's favour having already taken place. It is perfectly possible that the taking of Manasseh a captive to Babylon by Assyrian generals may have shaken the confidence in Assyria of the idolatrous people of Judah, and that, their thoughts turning to Egypt, steps may have been taken for paving the way towards an alliance with this great power, even although the godly king Josiah took no part in these proceedings. The prophets' warning against confidence in Egypt and against courting its alliance, is given in terms so general that it is impossible to draw any certain conclusions either with regard to the principles of Josiah's government or with regard to the circumstances of the time which Jeremiah was keeping in view.
Also from this, i.e., Egypt, shalt thou go away (come back), thy hands upon thy head, i.e., beating them on thy head in grief and dismay (cf. for this gesture 2 Samuel 13:19). זה refers to Egypt, thought of as a people as in Jeremiah 46:8; Isaiah 19:16, Isaiah 19:25; and thus is removed Hitz.'s objection, that in that case we must have מבטחים . זאת , objects of confidence. The expression refers equally to Egypt and to Assyria. As God has broken the power of Assyria, so will He also overthrow Egypt's might, thus making all trust in it a shame. להם , in reference to them.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Jeremiah 2". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent