|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:20-28 Notwithstanding all their advantages, Israel had become like the wild vine that bears poisonous fruit. Men are often as much under the power of their unbridled desires and their sinful lusts, as the brute beasts. But the Lord here warns them not to weary themselves in pursuits which could only bring distress and misery. As we must not despair of the mercy of God, but believe that to be sufficient for the pardon of our sins, so neither must we despair of the grace of God, but believe that it is able to subdue our corruptions, though ever so strong.
Verse 23. - How canst thou say, etc.? This is not a mere rhetorical fiction equivalent to "or if thou shouldst perhaps say," but probably represents an objection really made by the inhabitants of the kingdom of Judah. Their fault was not in neglecting the public worship of Jehovah in his appointed temple, but in superadding to this, idolatrous rites inconsistent with the spiritual religion taught by Jeremiah. The people did not, it seems, regard this as tantamount to "following Baalim," just as some converts to Christianity in our own foreign missions might exclaim against being accused of apostasy, because they secretly carry on certain heathen practices. The prophet, however, applies a more rigorous test to their conduct. Baalim; the plural of Baal, used for "other gods" (Jeremiah 1:16; comp. on ver. 8). Thy way in the valley. The valley in this context can only be that of Hinnom (see on Jeremiah 7:31), which from the time of Ahaz had been defiled with the rites of "Moloch, horrid king" (see ' Paradise Lost,' 1:392-396). Thou art a swift dromedary. Ewald would attach this half of the verse to ver. 24; and there is something to be said for this plan. Swift dromedary is, properly speaking, in the vocative. The ardor of the people for idolatry is expressed by the comparison of it to the uncontrollable instinct of brute beasts. The word rendered "dromedary" is in the feminine gender; it means strictly the young she-camel which has not yet had a foal. Traversing her ways; rather, interlacing her ways; i.e. running backwards and forwards at the impulse of passion.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
How canst thou say, I am not polluted,.... No man can say this; for all are defiled with sin; but this was the cast and complexion of these people in all ages; they were a generation of men that were pure in their own eyes, but were not cleansed from their filthiness; they fancied that their ceremonial washings and sacrifices cleansed them from moral impurities, when those only sanctified to the purifying of the flesh; still their iniquity remained marked before the Lord; they acted the part of the adulterous woman in Proverbs 30:20 to whom they are compared in the context; and, therefore, as wondering at their impudence, they having a whore's forehead, this question is put, how and with what face they could affirm this, and what follows:
I have not gone after Baalim? or, "the Baalim"; the idols of the people, as the Targum interprets it; for there were many Baals, as Baalzephon, Baalpeor, Baalzebub, and others:
see thy way in the valley; where idols were set up and worshipped; or through which the way lay, as Kimchi observes, to the hills and mountains where idolatry was frequently committed; perhaps no particular valley is meant, but any in which idols were worshipped, or which they passed through to the worshipping of them; though the Targum interprets it of the valley in which they dwelt, over against Baalpeor, so Jarchi and Abarbinel, when they worshipped that idol; and seems to design the valley of Shittim, Numbers 25:1, but rather, if any particular valley is intended, the valley of Hinnom seems to bid fair for it; and to this it may be the Septuagint version has respect, rendering it , "in the sepulchre of the multitude"; multitudes being burnt and buried here:
know what thou hast done; in the valley, especially in the valley of Hinnom, where they caused their children to pass through the fire to Molech:
thou art a swift dromedary. The Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi, interpret it a young camel; and so the word in the Arabic language signifies; and the epithet "swift" better agrees with that than with the dromedary. Curtius (z) makes mention of dromedary camels of great swiftness; but it may be this is to be understood, not of its swiftness in running, but of its impetuous lust, as Calvin observes; and, indeed, each of these creatures are very libidinous; and therefore these people are compared to them; See Gill on Micah 1:13, it follows:
traversing her ways; running about here and there after the male, burning with lust, sometimes one way, and sometimes another; and so these people sometimes run after one idol, and sometimes another, and followed a multitude of them. The Targum renders it, "which corrupts or depraves her ways". De Dieu observes, that the word in the Ethiopic language, signifies "the evening"; and so may intend walking in the evening, in the dark, rather than in the light; which, as it is the way of dromedaries, and almost of all beasts, so of harlots, to whom these people are likened; and he further observes, that, in the Arabic language, it signifies to make common, which agrees with adulterous persons, as these were in a spiritual sense. The word is only used in this place, and is deduced from, or has some relation to, the word which signifies a "shoelatchet", Genesis 14:23 as Jarchi and Kimchi observe; and may denote, as the shoe is bound and fastened with the latchet, the binding of her ways to her heart, as the former suggests, the strengthening and confirming of her in her evil ways, and her constant persisting therein; but the first sense of running here and there through lust is best; and is approved by Bynaeus (a) and by Buxtorf (b).
(z) (Curtius) L. 5. c. 2.((a) De Calceis Heb. l. 1. c. 7. sect. 4. (b) Lex. Heb. rad.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
23. (Pr 30:12).
Baalim—plural, to express manifold excellency: compare Elohim.
the valley—namely, of Hinnom, or Tophet, south and east of Jerusalem: rendered infamous by the human sacrifices to Moloch in it (compare Jer 19:2, 6, 13, 14; 32:35; see on Isa 30:33).
thou art—omit. The substantive that follows in this verse (and also that in Jer 2:24) is in apposition with the preceding "thou."
dromedary—rather, a "young she-camel."
traversing—literally, "enfolding"; making its ways complicated by wandering hither and thither, lusting after the male. Compare as to the Jews' spiritual lust, Ho 2:6, 7.
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