|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:11-17 Sinners call it liberty to live at large; whereas for a man to be a slave to his lusts, is the very worst slavery. They forsook God for idols. When men are parched with heat, and meet with cooling, refreshing streams, they use them. In these things men will not leave a certainty for an uncertainty; but Israel left the ancient paths appointed by the Divine law. They walked not in the highway, in which they might travel safely, but in a way in which they must stumble: such was the way of idolatry, and such is the way of iniquity. This made their land desolate, and themselves miserable. Calamities may be borne, if God smile upon us when under them; but if he is displeased, and refuses his help, we are undone. Multitudes forget the Lord and his Christ, and wander from the ancient paths, to walk in ways of their own devising. But what will they do in the day of judgment!
Verse 15. - Because my people hath forgotten me; rather, Surely, etc.; or better still, Yet surely. It is not uncommon for a particle of asseveration to acquire a contrasting force from the context; see e.g. Jeremiah 3:20; Isaiah 53:4; and, still more completely parallel, Isaiah 2:6; Jeremiah 9:1, where Authorized Version, with substantial correctness, has "nevertheless." Israel "forgot" Jehovah (as Jeremiah 2:32); no doubt he was responsible for so doing, but still it was not "of malice preponse." To vanity; i.e. to the unreal idol-gods. And they have caused them to stumble; viz. the idol-gods; these are responsible (.for they have a real existence in the consciousness of their worshippers) for this interruption of Israel's spiritual progress (comp. 2 Chronicles 28:23). In their ways from the ancient paths. "From," however, is interpolated by the Authorized Version; the Hebrew places "the ancient paths" in apposition to "their ways," "Stand ye in the ways," Jeremiah cried at an earlier period, "and see, and ask for the old paths, which is the good way" (Jeremiah 6:16). These "old" or "ancient" paths were ideally "their ways," the ways appointed for the Jews to walk in. To walk in paths; rather, in tracks, footpaths leading up and down and often ending in nothing; or, in other terms, in a way not cast up (Isaiah 40:3, 4, gives a graphic picture of the operation of "casting up a way").
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Because my people hath forgotten me,.... Or, "that they have forgotten me" (z); this is the horrible thing they have done, which was unheard of among the Gentiles, who were always tenacious of their gods, and the worship of them; and that foolish and unwise thing, which was like leaving pure flowing streams of water for dirty puddles. This is to be understood of their forsaking the worship of God, as the Targum interprets it, and following after idols:
they have burnt incense to vanity; to idols, which are vain empty things, and which cannot give their worshippers what they expect from them: or, "in vain they burn incense" (a); even to the true God, while they also sacrificed unto idols; which to do was an abomination to the Lord, Isaiah 1:13; and especially burning incense to idols must be a vain thing; and so the Targum,
"to no profit a they burn incense or spices:''
and they have caused them to stumble in their ways; that is, either the idols they worshipped, or the false prophets caused the professing people of the Jews to stumble and fall in the ways into which they led them: and
from the ancient paths; or, "the paths of eternity" (b); which lead to eternal life; or which were of old marked out by the revealed will of God for the saints to walk in; and in which the patriarchs and people of God, in all former ages, did walk; and which were appointed from everlasting, and will remain for ever; and these are the good old paths in Jeremiah 6:16;
to walk in paths, in a way not cast up; a new way, unknown in former times; an unbeaten track, which the saints had never walked in; a rough path, unsafe and dangerous; and hence they stumbled, and fell, and came to ruin; as follows:
(z) "quod obliti sunt", Schmidt. (a) "frustra adolebunt, vel adolent", Pagninus, Calvin. (b) "semitae quae a seculo, seu antiquo", vid. Schmidt; so Targum; "semitis jam olim praescriptis", Piscator.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
15. Because—rather, "And yet"; in defiance of the natural order of things.
forgotten me—(Jer 2:32). This implies a previous knowledge of God, whereas He was unknown to the Gentiles; the Jews' forgetting of God, therefore, arose from determined perversity.
they have caused … to stumble—namely the false prophets and idolatrous priests have.
ancient paths—(Jer 6:16): the paths which their pious ancestors trod. Not antiquity indiscriminately, but the example of the fathers who trod the right way, is here commended.
not cast up—not duly prepared: referring to the raised center of the road. Calvin translates, "not trodden." They had no precedent of former saints to induce them to devise for themselves a new worship.
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