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God, having shewed his former kindness, expostulateth with the Jews on their causeless revolt, beyond any example. They are the causes of their own calamities. The sins of Judah: her confidence is rejected.
Before Christ 628.
Jeremiah 2:1. Moreover, &c.— The prophesy begun in this chapter is continued to the end of the 5th verse of the next chapter. In it God professes to retain the same kindness and favourable disposition towards Israel, which he had manifested in their earlier days. He expostulates with them on their ungrateful returns for his past goodness, and shews that it was not want of affection in him, but their own extreme and unparalleled wickedness and disloyalty, which had already subjected, and would still subject them to calamities and misery. He concludes with a pathetic address, exhorting them to return to him, with an implied promise of acceptance; and laments the necessity that he was under, through their continued obstinacy, of giving them farther marks of his displeasure.—This prophesy may not improbably have been delivered soon after the beginning of the prophet's mission.
Jeremiah 2:2. I remember thee, &c.— "I remember my first kindness to thee, when I delivered thee from the bondage of Egypt, and espoused thee to myself, to be my own peculiar people." See Isaiah 54:5. Instead of a land that was not sown, Houbigant reads, in an uncultivated land. The discourse which begins here reaches to the 6th verse of the 3rd chapter, wherein the prophet, after setting forth the infinite goodness of God toward his people, inveighs in the strongest manner against the crimes which then reigned in Judaea.
Jeremiah 2:3. All that devour him shall offend— Are trespassers, or shall rue it. Or, All who desired to destroy him were destroyed; evils came upon them. Houbigant.
Jeremiah 2:5. What iniquity have your fathers found— That is, "What injustice or unfaithfulness, in not performing my part of the Horeb covenant?" Walked after vanity, refers to their worship of idols. What an instance of goodness in God is it, that he would, as it were, render an account of his conduct to his people, and plead with them, as a man with his equal!
Jeremiah 2:6. Through a land of desarts and of pits— By the words ושׁוחה ערבה בארצ beerets arabah veshuchah, it was undoubtedly meant to characterize the wilderness by some of its most unfavourable circumstances in point of nature and appearance. But to call it simply, "a land of desarts" seems not to help forward our idea of it. The proper sense of ערבה arabah, seems to be derived from the verb ערב arab, to mix or mingle together; and to be that of an extensive plain or open country, in which no one had an exclusive right of property, but the pasturage and sheepwalks were all promiscuous, and in common. Hence I apprehend the whole country of Arabia to have been denominated, being mostly occupied in that manner. Such also I suppose to be the plains mentioned in Scripture, and called, from their adjacency, the plains of Mamre, of Moab, of Jordan, of Jericho, &c. as being unappropriated, and of course uncultivated lands in the neighbourhood of those places. Accordingly, to such land we usually give the name of the waste. Now the wilderness, through which the Israelites passed in their way out of Egypt, was to a vast extent a land of waste of this kind, totally unoccupied and unfit for the purpose of cultivation, and therefore absolutely incapable of subsisting, without a miracle, such a numerous people as for many years took up their abode in it. To this is added ושׁוחה veshuchah, which our Translators have rendered, "and of pits:" but why they supposed the wilderness to be called a land of pits, I do not well conceive. If, however, שׁוחה shuchah, be the true reading, as all the collated MSS. agree in representing it, it undoubtedly signifies a pit, and may perhaps allude to the inclosure of the wilderness within craggy and high mountains, in respect of which Pharaoh is introduced as saying of the Israelites, "The wilderness hath shut them in," or closed upon them. Exodus 14:3. So that, if we render the words in question "through a land of wide waste and a pit," we may understand by it a country incapable of providing for the people's subsistence from being a wide uncultivated waste; but into which when they were once entered, they were fairly shut up as in a pit, where they and their families must have inevitably perished, if they had not had the assistance of Providence to support them by the way, and finally to extricate them out of it.
And of the shadow of death— This image was undoubtedly borrowed from those dusky caverns and holes among the rocks, which the Jews ordinarily chose for their burying-places: where death seemed to hover continually, casting over them his broad shadow. Sometimes, indeed, I believe nothing more is intended by it, than to denote a dreariness and gloom like that which reigns in those dismal mansions. But in other places it respects the perils and dangers of the situation. Thus, Psalms 23:4. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." And again, Psalms 44:19. But over and above the foregoing allusions, the land of the shadow of death here seems to mean the grave itself, which the wilderness actually proved to all the individuals of the children of Israel that entered into it, Caleb and Joshua only excepted, whose lives were preserved by a special providence.
Jeremiah 2:8. The priests said not, Where is the Lord?— The priests, or scribes, whose office it was to instruct others in their duty, were ignorant or regardless of it themselves; and this was the principal cause of that degeneracy of manners which prevailed among the people. By the pastors are meant the kings, princes, and chiefs of the nations; for the word רעה roeh, pastor is used in the Prophets for a magistrate, as well as for an ecclesiastical governor; and hence it appears, that all orders and degrees of men in authority had contributed to that corruption of manners whereof Jeremiah complains. See Grotius and Calmet.
Jeremiah 2:9. I will yet plead with you— That is, I will maintain by arguments the equity of my proceedings, and the injustice of yours.
Jeremiah 2:10. The isles of Chittim— By איים iim, it is certain that the Hebrews did not mean the same as we do by islands, that is, lands encompassed with water all around; and therefore we ought not so to render this Hebrew word. It sometimes signifies only a country or region; as Isa 20:6 but usually perhaps distant ones, and such as had a line of sea-coast. Bochart, Phaleg. lib. 3: cap. 5, has made it appear with much probability, that the countries peopled by Chittim, the grandson of Japhet, are Italy and the adjacent provinces of Europe, which lie along the Mediterranean sea. And as these were to the west of Judas, and Kedar in Arabia to the east, the plain purport of this passage is, "Look about you to the west and to the east."
Jeremiah 2:11. Hath a nation changed their gods?— That is, according to Bishop Warburton's interpretation, "Have any of the nations brought the God of Israel into the number of their false gods, as the Israelites have brought in them to stand in fellowship with the true?" For that the ancients frequently changed their tutelary gods, or one idol for another, is too notorious to need any proof. This contrariety, therefore, to their received custom is remarkable. The reason of it may be this: it was a thing well known to the neighbouring nation, that the God of Israel had an abhorrence to all community or alliance with the gods of the nations. This unsociable temper would deter those people, who all held him as a tutelary deity of great power, from ever bringing him into the fellowship of their country gods; for, after such declaration, they could not suppose that his company would prove very auspicious; and in truth they had a signal of his ill neighbourhood much to their cost, 1Sa 5:4-5; 1 Samuel 5:12. See Div. Leg. vol. 4.
Jeremiah 2:12. Be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate— Be amazed; marvel, or tremble exceedingly.
Jeremiah 2:13. And hewed them out cisterns— By these cisterns are meant the foreign succours which they sought for from the Assyrians and Egyptians; succours, which became not only useless, but destructive to them. Others understand it of the false deities, upon which they built their confidence. "God," says Lowth, "is the author of all blessings, both spiritual and temporal; and if men place their happiness either in false religions, or in the uncertain comforts of worldly blessings, they will find themselves as wretchedly disappointed as those who expect to find water in broken cisterns."
Jeremiah 2:14. Is Israel a servant?— "Is he of a condition to be delivered as a prey to his enemies? Is he of those people whom God regards as slaves and strangers? Is he not the son, the chosen and peculiar people of God? Why then hath the Lord treated him as a common slave?" &c. See Joh 8:33 and Calmet.
Jeremiah 2:15-16. The young lions roared, &c.— Against him lions shall roar: they have lifted up the voice and have made his land a desolation; his cities are burned, so as to be without an inhabitant. Also the children of Memphis and Daphne shall bruise the crown of thy head. It appears, by this verse, who are meant by the young lions in Jeremiah 2:15. Noph and Tahapanes, or Memphis and Daphne, were two cities in Egypt. Jeremiah speaks here of the future as of the past. In the time of Josiah the country was not in the condition here described: the land was not reduced to desolation, nor the cities burned with fire: but the determination of the Lord was past. See ch. Jeremiah 1:10.
Jeremiah 2:18. And now what hast thou to do, &c.— The kings of Egypt and Assyria were the most potent monarchs in the neighbourhood of Judea; and according as either of these was the stronger, the Jews made their court to him, and desired his assistance. This is expressed by drinking the waters of Sihor, an Egyptian river, which some suppose to be the Nile; (see Joshua 13:3.) and of Euphrates, called here the river, by way of eminence. The expressions allude to Jer 2:13 where human assistances are styled broken cisterns, and opposed to God, who by reason of his omnipotence is called the fountain of living waters. To drink of the waters of these rivers, might possibly allude farther, both to the strong propensity which the Israelites had to return to Egypt, and to that which they shewed for adopting the idolatrous worship of these countries. For the Egyptians worshipped the water, and particularly that of the Nile. See Div. Leg. vol. 3: and Calmet.
Jeremiah 2:19. Thine own wickedness shall correct thee— Shall accuse or condemn thee. This whole discourse of Jeremiah is a kind of pleading, (see Jeremiah 2:9.) wherein the prophet maintains the cause of God against his people.
Jeremiah 2:20. For of old time, &c.— I indeed long since have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bonds; but thou saidst, I will not serve: upon every high hill, and under every green tree, I will lay myself down, and play the harlot. Houbigant. From this translation, which seems very just and unexceptionable, the meaning of the passage is extremely clear; that the Jews had been guilty of the utmost ingratitude in breaking the divine law and covenant, against idolatry in particular, even after they had been freed by God from their Egyptian bondage, and admitted into an immediate covenant and alliance with him. There is a variety of metaphors and references in this and the subsequent prophets, similar to those which have occurred in the book of Isaiah, and which, being explained there, will be no farther taken notice of in the subsequent observations.
Jeremiah 2:21. How then art thou turned, &c.— This passage has occasioned great perplexity; but it does not seem to have occurred to any interpreter, that סורי surei, is the imperative feminine of סור sur, and signifies, "Depart, Get thee gone, O vine of spurious growth," being addressed by God to the house of Israel under the character of a vine, which is discarded for having adulterated the good qualities of its original stock. נכריה nakriiah, properly signifies strange, of a different nature from the stock whence it was taken. Compare the beautiful allegory in Isaiah, ch. Jeremiah 5:1-7.
Jeremiah 2:22. Though thou wash thee with nitre— See Pro 25:20 and Scheuchzer's observations on the place. See Virg. Georg. 3:
Jeremiah 2:25. Withhold thy foot, &c.— The first clause might be rendered, Do not uncover thy feet; and the next, Restrain thy throat from thirst. They allude to the manners of those times, and imply, in a primary sense, a total abstinence from every thing unchaste; and, in their secondary sense, an utter abhorrence of idolatry. The next clause may be read, But thou answeredst to these things, It is done; I will not hear; for I will love strangers.
Jeremiah 2:28. For according to the number of thy cities, &c.— The Israelites had now contracted all the fashionable habits of Egypt. We are assured, that it had been long peculiar to the Egyptian superstition, for every city of that empire to have its own tutelary god, besides those which were worshipped in common. And now Jeremiah tells us in this verse, that the people of Judah bore a part with them in this extravagance. See Div. Leg. vol. 3: Eze 16:24-25 and Hosea 10:1.
Jeremiah 2:30. Your own sword hath devoured your prophets— That is to say, "You yourselves have put your prophets to death for reproving you." Thus Asa and Joash were put to death in the reign of Manasseh; see 1 Kings 19:1; 1 Kings 19:10. Neh 9:26 and Matthew 23:34-35. Houbigant renders the last clause, As a destroying lion lays waste your habitation. And he begins the next verse, See ye the word of the Lord; &c. which may be rendered, O ye of this generation, behold ye the case of JEHOVAH. The subsequent words allude to the murmurings of the children of Israel in the wilderness. Instead of, We are lords, Houbigant reads, We will depart. The meaning of the Hebrew seems to be, "We disclaim the divine authority; we will assert our own independency."
Jeremiah 2:33. Why trimmest thou thy way— Houbigant renders this verse, Why dost thou strew thy way, that thou mayest find lovers? And teachest thy ways to thy companions? The meaning of the original word תיטבי teitibei, rendered trimmest, is to make right, or agreeable. The French render this verse, Why wouldst thou justify thy conduct, to enter into favour with me? So long as thou hast taught to others the evil which thou hast done; and while (Jeremiah 2:34.) in thy skirts, &c. Instead of, By secret search, &c. they read, and are followed by Houbigant, I have not found it in the ditches, but in the same places where you have shed it. See Calmet. The words may be rendered, Souls of the poor and innocent. Thou didst not find them in any act of violence: Jeremiah 2:35. Yet over all these things thou sayest, inasmuch as I am innocent, surely his anger is turned away from me; Behold, I will plead with thee upon thy saying, I have not sinned. See Exodus 22:2.
Jeremiah 2:36. Why gaddest thou about so much, &c.— This is rendered by the Vulgate, How vile art thou become, changing or repeating thy ways! "Continuing still to seek new succours from strangers, though thou hast been so often deceived! Egypt now shall fail thee, as Assyria has done before."
Jeremiah 2:37. Thine hands upon thine head— As Tamar went forth from her brother Amnon, her garments torn, and her hands upon her head; insulted and despised, and in the deepest grief and misery.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Being ordained a prophet to the Lord, Jeremiah has his message delivered to him, and is commanded to go to Jerusalem from Anathoth, the place of his residence, and there publicly declare the word of God, that all may hear, and either repent of their iniquities, or be left inexcusable in their unbelief and hardness of heart.
1. He reminds them of their own former professions, and God's dealings with them; when by every instance of kindness he had engaged their affections, and they had given such fair expectations of their making a suitable return. I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth; either God's kindness to them in their early days, or rather their affectionate regard to him; the love of thine espousals, when their warm hearts, filled with affection, as a new-married bride, sought only how to please their Lord; when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, trusting on his guidance, and depending on his providence; in a land that was not sown, and where none of the necessaries of life were to be obtained, but they were fed by daily miracles. Israel was holiness unto the Lord, separated for him, consecrated to him, and in the bonds of his covenant solemnly engaged to be his and his alone; And the first-fruits of his increase, presenting themselves, bodies, souls, and spirits, as the first-fruits, a holy offering unto him. Thus they did run well, and God's blessing was in the midst of them: all that devour him shall offend or be guilty; God protected them, they were as the apple of his eye clear to him, none dared touch them with impunity; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord; God will be the avenger of their wrongs, and their enemies shall perish. From Egypt's iron bondage he brought them, led them through the wilderness by his pillar of a cloud and fire; through a land of deserts, and of pits, where venomous creatures lodged, scorpions, and fiery flying serpents; through a land of drought, where no water could be found, and of the shadow of death, dismal and lonely; through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt, pathless, without inhabitant; and yet amid difficulties so insurmountable by human power, God safely conducted them, covered them with the shadow of his cloud from the scorching sun, fed them with plenty of the richest food, opened streams from the rock, protected them from every danger, and brought them safe at last to his promised rest, to a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof, to a land flowing with milk and honey, the glory of all lands; for which unspeakable favours he justly might expect from them the deepest returns of duty, love, and service. Note; (1.) Our first love should be often remembered, to keep us from departing from our God. Revelation 2:4. (2.) God takes pleasure in beholding the affections of his people placed upon him. (3.) When we love God in sincerity, we shall follow him implicitly, and fear no dangers even in the wilderness. (4.) God's Israel are a holy people; they who answer not this character have no lot nor portion among them. (5.) They who persecute God's people, will find him the avenger of their quarrel. (6.) The way to heaven lies through difficulties impassable for mortal strength; and if ever our souls are safely led to the heavenly Canaan, we must acknowledge ourselves intirely indebted to his everlasting arms of power and love, which are always engaged for the persevering believer. (7.) The greater our trials, the more is the grace of God magnified in our deliverance. (8.) For all the wonders of his grace, God hath the deepest and most just demands of love and service from us. (9.) The promising beginnings that we have shewn, and the fair professions which we have made, will greatly aggravate our guilt, should we begin in the spirit and end in the flesh.
2. He upbraids them with their black ingratitude. Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me? Had he done them injustice, been a hard master, or unfaithful to any of his promises? No; there is no unrighteousness in him: they who forsake him, forsake their own mercies, and out of their own mouths will be condemned—that they are gone far from me, apostates from his service and worship; for those who depart from a religious profession, become usually viler than those who never pretended to it; and have walked after vanity, after idols, which are the greatest vanities, and are become vain; as corrupt in their practice as dark in their imaginations; defiling, with their abominations, the good land into which the Lord had brought them, and which they held only on condition of their fidelity. God was utterly forgotten, none said, Where is the Lord? notwithstanding all his miracles of mercy shewn them: nay, the priests, who should have been the first to restrain others, were chief in the transgression; the priests said not, Where is the Lord? and if they, who were their guides, took no pains to acquaint themselves with him, no marvel that the people forgot God: and they that handle the law knew it not; pretending to instruct others, but totally ignorant themselves, and strangers to all experimental knowledge of God and his truth. The pastors also transgressed against me, civil, as well as ecclesiastical, casting off all fear of God; and the prophets prophesied by Baal, pretending inspiration from their idol to contradict the prophets of the Lord, and supported by the princes and priests in their impiety; and walked after things that do not profit, their false gods, from whom no blessing could be derived. Note; When blind priests lead a blind people, no wonder if they perish together.
2nd, Having rebuked their ingratitude, God pleads against them the unprecedented folly of their conduct. He desires to convince sinners, and therefore he uses every argument, and at least will leave them inexcusable in their impenitence.
1. They were in this respect more false and fickle even than the idolatrous nations which they affected to resemble. Those retained a veneration for their fathers' gods: base as the idols were which they worshipped, nothing could prevail with them to forsake the religion of their ancestors. Go to the isles of Chittim, Greece or Italy, or to Kedar in Arabia, and not an instance would be found of a nation that had changed their gods; but my people have changed their glory, have forsaken the living, true, and only God, whose service they should have accounted their highest honour, and their distinguishing separation for him their most exalted glory; for that which doth not profit; for idols, for Baal, in whose worship neither honour nor advantage could be found, but the very contrary.
2. The heavens are called upon with wonder and horror to behold this scene of aggravated guilt and folly. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, the inhabitants of them, or the very inanimate creation might well be amazed; and be ye horribly afraid, trembling for sins so great, and which must bring down judgments so heavy: be ye very desolate, saith the Lord, as if the sun should refuse his light to such miscreants, the clouds thicken with thunder and lightning over them, and sweep them from the earth with the besom of destruction. For my people, separated for God, once professors of his truth, and thereby every departure from him being rendered more infamous and exceeding sinful; my people have committed two evils, their transgressions are numberless, but these the capital sins, and the sources of all the rest: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, rejecting his government, neglecting his ordinances, and leaving him far above out of their sight; and in so doing, have cut themselves off from the fountain of living waters, from that God of all grace and consolation, in whom they might have for ever found a rich supply for all their wants; and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water; such were their idols, which, after all the pains and expence bestowed on them, did not afford the least consolation, not even the miserable relief of a drop of putrid stagnating water, to quench the thirst of their votaries. Note; (1.) They who forsake God forsake their own mercies. (2.) As long as our souls come to Jesus the living fountain, so long shall we find the waters of his grace within us a well of water, springing up to everlasting life. (3.) Whatever creature enjoyments may promise, they will deceive our expectations: if we seek our happiness from wealth, honour, or indulgence, toil as we can to secure the bliss, we shall find the cisterns empty; but one portion can adequately satisfy an immortal soul; and that is, the love of the eternal God.
3rdly, The miseries coming upon them for their sins are spoken of as already present, because they were so near and certain.
1. By their iniquities they had brought themselves into slavery, were defeated by their enemies, and their country ravaged. Is Israel a servant? Is he a home-born slave? whence comes this grievous change, how is their glorious liberty lost? Why is he spoiled? surely some awful provocation hath brought on him this calamity, for terrible are his desolations. The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste; his invading foe, the king of Assyria, with his army, fierce and cruel as these ravening beasts, roaring and yelling with all the horrid din of war, has plundered the country, and his cities are burnt without inhabitant; all led captives, or slain by the sword, and none left to restore them from their ruins. Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head; the Egyptians, whose chief cities these were, as well as the Assyrians, contributed to their ruin, Josiah being slain by Pharaoh Necho, his son dethroned, Jerusalem plundered, and a tribute set upon them, 2 Kings 23:29-35. Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, yea, verily; none but themselves had they to blame for their sufferings, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God; him, who was so able to protect them, who stood in a relation to them so glorious, and from whom it was so foolish as well as wicked to depart: him they forsook for idols, and human confidences, changing a rock for a reed; when he led thee by the way, the right way, the path of duty; in which had they abode, they would have certainly found it the way of safety, but they refused his guidance, and rushed on their own ruin. Note; Whatever miseries a sinner is involved in, whether in time or eternity, this bitter reflection will sharpen their edge, Hast thou not procured this unto thyself?
2. The sinful methods which they took to extricate themselves from their troubles, served but to hasten their destruction. Instead of seeking unto God for help against their enemies, they sought other supports. When threatened by Assyria, they ran to Egypt for succour; when invaded by Egypt, they courted the Assyrians' help. What hast thou to do with these, who in their turn will deceive, oppress, and plunder thee? Thine own wickedness in general, or this in particular, of trusting on these vain helpers, shall correct thee, bring severe chastisement upon them, and thy backsliding, their treacherous departure from God, shall reprove thee. Know, therefore, and see it, that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of Hosts. The event would prove, to their terrible conviction, the evil and misery of the ways which they had chosen, and sinners will find this truth universally verified. Observe, (1.) The root of all sin: My fear is not in thee; there is deep unbelief in the natural heart, God's warnings make no impression, and the practice can rise no higher than the principle. Hence (2.) The effect produced. Thou hast forsaken the Lord; when the heart is not restrained by his fear, corrupt nature, prone to sin, easily hurries on the soul to all the forbidden indulgences of flesh and spirit. (3.) The issue of sin is evil and bitter. It is not only evil in its own nature, as opposite to God's purity and perfections, but the consequences are ever evil and bitter to the soul; the curse follows the sinner closer than his shadow; his miseries and disappointments are many, his enjoyments embittered; and death, eternal death, stares him in the face, the terrible wages of sin. (4.) It is happy for those who are brought to see and know this before it is too late; and all God's visitations have this design, to lead us to repentance for our sins, that we may not perish in them.
4thly, The prophet prosecutes his charge against this rebellious people.
1. Their crying sin was idolatry; and when they had left the one true God, their wanderings were endless, and their idols innumerable; every city had its god and tutelar deity. On every hill their idols stood thick; and not a spreading tree or grove was there, where their incense had not smoked, and where they had not played the harlot, committing spiritual adultery. Nor was this the crime of the refuse of the people only; their kings, princes, priests, and prophets, horrible to tell! these were the patrons of idolatry, and the most bigotted votaries, saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth; and whilst infatuated, and more senseless than the images which they worshipped, to these they ascribed divine honours, they turned their backs on God, with insolent contempt of his worship and service. Note; When a sinner is given up to his own heart, there are no lengths of folly, iniquity, and impiety, to which he may not run.
2. Their attempts to deny it were vain, and the methods they used to expiate their sins useless. Like the adulteress, Pro 30:20 they disowned the charge of idolatry, when the evidence was so notorious. In the valley, probably of Hinnom, where they burnt their children to Moloch, the monuments of their sin testified against them, and their excuses were frivolous when God had, in his omniscience, marked their iniquities with a brand that they never could wash out, or rather, as Jer 2:22 may signify, their ceremonial ablutions and sacrifices to which they had recourse, could never cancel the guilt of their sins, nor remove the stain of them from their consciences. Note; (1.) To deny, or seek to palliate the evil of our sins, is the sure sign of an impenitent heart. (2.) Nothing can wash out the stain of sin's black guilt, but the blood of Jesus; every other method will but fix the dye deeper and stronger.
3. Their sins were abundantly aggravated by the mercies that they had received, and the fair promises which they had made. Of old, God had delivered them from the Egyptian yoke, planted them in the promised land as a noble vine, wholly a right seed, both with respect to their worthy ancestors, and their own gracious conduct on their first possessing their inheritance, Jos 24:31 nor could there be more solemn engagements, than they had repeatedly made of their perpetual fidelity, Exodus 19:8; Exo 24:7 yet like a broken bow they had started aside, degenerated from their primitive piety, and become as wild gourds, not only useless but noxious. Note; (1.) The greatness of God's mercies aggravates our guilt and ingratitude. (2.) We need often reflect with shame on the promises that we have made not to transgress, and on our repeated unfaithfulness.
4. They are represented as pursuing their idolatries with determined waywardness, in spite of all warnings; as the dromedary and wild ass, when urged on by their natural desires, so were this people raging in their idolatrous lusts, and no hope remained of reclaiming them, till the judgments of God were heavy upon them, and stopped their career. Note; (1.) Nothing so lawless as brutal lust; vain are all the restraints of reason, conscience, honour, when appetite seizes the reins. (2.) However headstrong in the vigour of health men are in the pursuit of their forbidden gratifications, the hours will come of deep remorse, when their career will be stopped: and when the joys of sin no more inebriate, the sting of sin, like a scorpion, will torment the guilty conscience.
5. Fair warning is given them of the issue of their ways, and they are admonished to prevent their captivity by repentance. Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst; for unless they repented of their evil ways, and turned from them, this would be the consequence, that barefoot, and ready to be choked with thirst in the journey, they should be led captives into a distant land. Some understand it as an admonition, not to wear out the shoes of their messengers, and be at the pains of sending to Egypt or Assyria for help, since these succours would be of no use to them: but the former sense seems best.
6. Their obstinacy, or their despair, is rebuked. But thou saidst, There is no hope; bidding the prophets cease their attempts, for they would never attend to them, either to quit their idolatries, or to desist from seeking the help of their heathen neighbours; they liked, and would pursue their own inventions. Or this is the language of despair, as if their case was past hope for God to pardon, or their corruptions so strong, that to attempt to resist them was vain, therefore they desperately abandoned themselves to their iniquities. Note; Nothing so effectually enslaves the soul to sin, as despair; and therefore while Satan is ever a preacher of presumption to the careless, he fails not to be a preacher of despair to the awakened, as if their iniquities were too great to be forgiven, or their corruptions too strong to be subdued; and therefore that it were best to banish their convictions, and abandon themselves to their lusts: but he was a liar from the beginning. No sin can be too great for infinite love to pardon in the penitent, no corruption so strong that Almighty grace cannot subdue. Let us take to us words, and return unto the Lord, and then there is surely yet hope in our end.
7. If they persisted in their ways, confusion would cover them in the day of their calamity, as a thief detected in the fact, when their false gods cannot relieve them; and the true God, whom they have forsaken, will refuse to hear their prayer. Note; (1.) In the day of calamity, many, who never thought of him before, are driven to God to cry, Save us; but when the fear of hell merely, not the sense of the evil of sin, dictates the prayer, no marvel that it is rejected. (2.) Whatever the impenitent sinner places his comfort or confidence in, the day will come when it will prove a refuge of lies.
5thly, It is the folly and wickedness of sinners, that they complain against God, as if his punishments were severe, and his ways unequal; when they alone are the authors of their own misery, and their punishment less than their iniquities deserve.
1. God vindicates his justice. Wherefore will ye plead with me? when their case was so indefensible; ye all have transgressed against me, and therefore could neither exculpate themselves from guilt, nor justly complain of their sufferings. Note; We are all sinners at God's bar; every mouth must be stopped; we have nothing to do but to confess our guilt, justify his judgments, and cast ourselves wholly on his mercy.
2. He charges upon them their incorrigibleness. In vain had been all the afflictions that he had brought upon them; hardened under the rod, they received no correction, were not brought to any repentance. Nay, as if exasperated by what they suffered, when he seconded the rebukes of his providences by the word of his prophets, like furious lions they rushed on these ministers of God, and cruelly shed their blood for their fidelity. Note; (1.)They who will be zealous in rebuking men's sins, must put their life in their hands. (2) It is the sign of a desperate state when afflictions harden, instead of softening the heart.
3. He expostulates with them on their ingratitude. Had he shewn them unkindness, or brought them into darkness and distress, they might have had some plea for their revolt; but his conduct to them in the wilderness, the rich provision that he made for them, the light with which he led them, and the land in which he placed them, all evinced his unutterable kindness; and the least attention to his dealings with them might convince them of it: how ungrateful then was their rebellion, thus to cast off his government, and reject his worship and service! Note;
(1.) They who cleave to God, find all his ways pleasantness and peace: if sinners are entangled in a wilderness, or enveloped with darkness, it is because of their departure from him. (2.) They who affect to emancipate themselves from God's government, only exchange his service, which is perfect freedom, for the base and tyrannical servitude of their lusts.
4. He accuses them of sundry crimes against him. [1.] Forgetfulness of him. It would be counted strange if a maid forgot her ornaments, and a bride her attire; but, stranger far! my people have forgotten me days without number. They were his professing people, and therefore the more criminal their neglect of him, and especially when so long persisted in. [2.] They were corrupters of others. Like a lewd harlot who dresses and paints, to inveigle men into her snares, so had they sought to engage their heathen neighbours to become their confederates, and join in their idolatries: therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways, instructing them in their superstitions; and, vile as they were before, making them worse by the connexion. Note; (1.) They who entice others into sin, will have most aggravated guilt on their heads. (2.) Fellowship with the workers of iniquity is dangerously infectious, and diligently to be avoided. [3.] They were polluted with innocent blood, of the children whom they sacrificed to Moloch; or of innocent persons, especially the prophets and faithful men, who were murdered for reproving their impieties, 2Ki 21:16 and this openly and notoriously; it needed no search, nor deep inquiry; their skirts were dyed with blood, and the corpses cried for vengeance against them. And therefore, [4.] Their plea of innocence was presumptuous, and their expectation of God's wrath being removed, vain. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned, which was an aggravation of their sin, and provoked God the more to arise in judgment against them. Note; (1.) If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar. (2.) Until a sinner be brought to acknowledge the justice of God's wrath, it will never depart from him.
5. Their confidences should at last fail them, and they be led into a miserable captivity. Like an adulteress who gads about to gratify her most sinful desires, so had they gone to Assyria and Egypt, making leagues with them in turn for their assistance, as they were pressed by either; but they would disappoint them. Assyria had distressed them formerly as allies, 2Ch 28:20 and the Egyptians would alike be their confusion, as they afterwards proved, when, against Nebuchadnezzar, they promised help in vain; so that thou shalt go forth with thine hands upon thine head, as a mourner, led into a shameful captivity; for the Lord hath rejected thy confidences, their allies, in whom they trusted, and thou shalt not prosper in them, but he gives them up for a prey to their enemies. Note; (1.) The soul that leaves God wanders endlessly, seeking rest, and finding none. (2.) Human confidences and comforts in the day of evil will prove a broken reed, unable to support the soul.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 2". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent