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Lack of Truth and Faith in Public Life
v. 1. Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, searching the lanes of the city, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, in the wider streets and intersections of streets, where many people come together, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, carrying out justice and righteousness, that seeketh the truth, to possess and practice faithfulness in all intercourse with all his fellow-men, and I will pardon it, grant His pardon to the city. Jerusalem was so corrupt in those days that among all the leaders of the people, the counselors, the priests, the false prophets, not one just person was found, and therefore the attitude and the testimony of the faithful few, such as Baruch and Zephaniah, disappeared in the general depravity.
v. 2. And though they say, in a form of assurance which had become habitual with them, even as with many thoughtless people in our days, The Lord liveth, surely they swear falsely. The oath under such circumstances had no validity, it was just as insincere as their profession of the worship of Jehovah.
v. 3. O Lord, are not Thine eyes upon the truth? Does not Jehovah seek faithfulness and sincerity in all things? Is He not ever the God of truth? Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved, they do not feel the pain, the punishment makes no impression upon them; Thou hast consumed them, destroying them as a nation, but they have refused to receive correction, to accept the Lord's discipline; they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return. Such is the perversity of deliberate wrong-doing that it hardens the heart of the sinner against every influence for good, producing such a degree of callousness that every effort of the Lord is vain. It is in such cases that His judgment of hardening the heart of the sinner is often enacted.
v. 4. Therefore I said, Surely these are poor, the prophet here interrupting himself to voice an objection to the Lord; they are foolish, acting foolishly on account of their ignorance; for they know not the way of the Lord nor the judgment of their God. The prophet assumes that only the untaught poor are guilty of such depravity, and that a better state of affairs may be expected in the higher ranks of society.
v. 5. I will get me unto the great men, those of the so-called higher classes, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the Lord and the judgment of their God, that is, Surely one might expect to find better knowledge among these people, considering their position. But these have altogether broken the yoke and burst the bonds. Matters were worse here than in the so-called lower class of people; for education, wealth, and rank alone are no guarantee against wickedness. The entire class had defiantly set aside the Law of God and despised the restrictions laid down in His holy will.
v. 6. Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them and a wolf of the evenings, one of those found in the great steppes and deserts, shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities, lurking for his prey nearby, the strongest, the most ravenous, and the swiftest of the beasts of prey being chosen as types to represent the formidable character of the Babylonian invaders; every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces, because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased, their acts of rebellion against God had become a great multitude. That is the feature which ever makes sin so reprehensible: it always amounts to a rebellion against God, the Father of all mankind.
Faithlessness and Treachery
v. 7. How shall I pardon thee for this? It would obviously be inconsistent with God's holiness to overlook the transgressions of Israel, to let their wickedness go unpunished. Thy children have forsaken Me and sworn by them that are no gods, or, more emphatic, "by that which is no god," worshiping a creature of their own imagination. When I had fed them to the full, in distributing the blessings of His bounty, or, "I bound them by the oath of allegiance and loyalty," but they then committed adultery, transgressing the Sixth Commandment in the most flagrant manner, probably in connection with the idolatrous customs which they accepted, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses, rushing forward in companies in their eagerness to commit this beastly sin.
v. 8. They were as fed horses in the morning, fat and dissolute stallions; every one neighed after his neighbor's wife, inflamed with sinful lust.
v. 9. Shall I not visit for these things, punishing the guilty ones to the limit, saith the Lord, and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? How could His anger be withheld under such circumstances? The Lord therefore turns to the Chaldeans, calling upon them to carry out His punishment upon Israel.
v. 10. Go ye up upon her walls and destroy, scaling them in a successful attack upon them; but make not a full end, so that Judah's existence would forever be at an end; take away her battlements, or, "hew off her branches," remove her tendrils, namely, the chief men of the nation, for they are not the Lord's, and therefore are altogether unprofitable.
v. 11. For the house of Israel and the house of Judah, the entire nation of God's chosen people, have dealt very treacherously against Me, saith the Lord, their faithlessness being the Lord's chief reason for complaint.
v. 12. They have belied the Lord, denying Jehovah, the God of the covenant, and said, It is not He, insisting that He was not the true and only God, neither shall evil come upon us, neither shall we see sword nor famine, thus both denying and challenging the threat of the Lord regarding the punishment which He had threatened for apostasy of every kind;
v. 13. and the prophets shall become wind, their warnings, in the estimation of the scoffers, being nothing but idle threats, and the Word is not in them, the unbelieving rebels declaring that God did not speak through those prophets who rebuked their wickedness; thus shall it be done unto them, that is, their evil predictions would be fulfilled in no one but themselves. This attitude called for a most emphatic declaration on the part of Jehovah.
v. 14. Wherefore, thus saith the Lord God of hosts, the mighty Captain of the heavenly armies, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make My words in thy mouth fire, Jeremiah being given a sharp and scathing message to the rebellious people whom the Lord here puts far from Him, and this people wood, fuel which is easily kindled, and it shall devour them, they would be consumed as a consequence of the denunciation which Jeremiah would make by God's command.
v. 15. Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the Lord, this being the specific manner in which His punishment of destruction would be carried out. It is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, one of great antiquity in history, a nation whose language thou knowest not, a factor which made the enemies all the more formidable, neither understandest what they say. The language spoken by the Chaldeans at that time was totally unlike that derived from any Semitic stem, but very much like ancient Persic.
v. 16. Their quiver is as an open sepulcher, on account of the death-dealing arrows which it contained, they are all mighty men, distinguished for their strength and bravery.
v. 17. And they shall eat up thine harvest, the standing grain, and thy bread, which thy sons and thy daughters should eat, which was intended for their food; they shall eat up thy flocks and thine herds; they shall eat up thy vines and thy fig-trees, everything that in any manner yielded food; they shall impoverish thy fenced cities, destroying all of Israel's proud fortresses, wherein thou trustedst, with the sword.
v. 18. Nevertheless, in those days, when this severe punishment strikes the nation, saith the Lord, I will not make a full end with you, He would not yet bring total annihilation upon them. Thus the Lord is gracious and merciful and long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, ever more ready to show kindness than to bring His punishment upon the guilty. It is a most powerful appeal to all men to heed the voice of His admonitions.
Blindness of Heart, Ingratitude, Deceit, and Violence
v. 19. And it shall come to pass, when ye shall say, Wherefore doeth the Lord, our God, all these things unto us? when they finally reach the point that they make inquiry concerning the punishment striking them, then shall thou answer them, Like as ye have forsaken Me and served strange gods in your land, in idolatrous worship, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours. Cf Deuteronomy 28:47-48. This was the Lord's retribution, which repaid the idolatrous people in kind.
v. 20. Declare this in the house of Jacob and publish it in Judah, saying, for the benefit of the whole nation,
v. 21. Hear now this, O foolish people and without understanding, lacking in spiritual insight, which have eyes and see not, which have ears and hear not, who are afflicted with spiritual blindness and dullness, who have hardened their hearts against every influence for good:
v. 22. Fear ye not Me? saith the Lord; will ye not tremble at My presence, standing in awe and reverence before Him, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, defining the shore-line, by a perpetual decree that it cannot pass it, being held in check by the barriers erected by the Creator; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, in rage and fury, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it? The immense body of the ocean with its turbulent waves, the wildest and most irresistible force of nature, is yet held in check by the power of the one true God; who, then, will not fear Him?
v. 23. But this people hath a revolting and rebellious heart, not only apostate, but positively hostile to the Lord; they are revolted, breaking loose from their affiliation with the Lord, and gone, far away from Him who is the one Hope of their deliverance.
v. 24. Neither say they in their heart, in repenting of their evil ways. Let us now fear the Lord, our God, that giveth rain, both the former, shortly after the crop has been sown, from October to December, and the latter, which falls before harvest, in March and April, in his season; He reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest, whence it follows that His goodness ought to lead men to repentance and to a proper fear of Him.
v. 25. Your iniquities have turned away these things, the blessings of God's goodness, and your sins have withholden good things from you, acting as a barrier against the flow of God's gifts.
v. 26. For among My people are found wicked men, evil and godless persons; they lay wait, they spend their time in lurking, as he that setteth snares, as fowlers crouch when laying their snares; they set a trap, they catch men, namely, for the purpose of destroying them.
v. 27. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit, filled with treasures gained by fraud; therefore they are become great and waxen rich, their unrighteous wealth giving them a position of honor before the world.
v. 28. They are waxen fat, from a life of laziness and indulgence, they shine, with the sleekness due to their luxurious living; yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked, exceeding the ordinary measure of wickedness, as presented in the case of the Gentiles; they judge not the cause, they do not carry out the principles of right and justice, the cause of the fatherless, although the care of widows and orphans was especially enjoined in Scripture, yet they prosper, and the right of the needy do they not judge, they not only prosecute the fatherless, but they take no steps to defend the rights of the poor. Therefore the Lord once more asks His searching question,
v. 29. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord? Shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this? Cf v. 9.
v. 30. A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land, something fearful and horrible has happened, 18:13; 23:14; Hosea 6:10.
v. 31. The prophets prophesy falsely, proclaiming lies, and the priests bear rule by their means, literally, "by their hands," that is, at their side, under the guidance of the false prophets, lording it over the people by such shady methods; and My people love to have it so, are altogether satisfied with such deception, their sound sense having left them to such an extent that they do not react against oppression and injustice; and what will ye do in the end thereof? Under such circumstances the judgment is inevitable, is bound to be the fatal issue of this sinful course; and who will be able to avert it? The attitude of the men of Noah's time and of people in every crisis of the world's history is found also in our days, in spite of the earnest warning which the Lord issues in so many passages of the Bible. Cf 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; 2 Peter 3:5-10.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 5". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26