|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:4-13 What brought this ruin? 1. The people would not attend to reason; they would not act in the affairs of their souls with common prudence. Sin is backsliding; it is going back from the way that leads to life, to that which leads to destruction. 2. They would not attend to the warning of conscience. They did not take the first step towards repentance: true repentance begins in serious inquiry as to what we have done, from conviction that we have done amiss. 3. They would not attend to the ways of providence, nor understand the voice of God in them, ver. 7. They know not how to improve the seasons of grace, which God affords. Many boast of their religious knowledge, yet, unless taught by the Spirit of God, the instinct of brutes is a more sure guide than their supposed wisdom. 4. They would not attend to the written word. Many enjoy abundance of the means of grace, have Bibles and ministers, but they have them in vain. They will soon be ashamed of their devices. The pretenders to wisdom were the priests and the false prophets. They flattered people in sin, and so flattered them into destruction, silencing their fears and complaints with, All is well. Selfish teachers may promise peace when there is no peace; and thus men encourage each other in committing evil; but in the day of visitation they will have no refuge to flee unto.
Verse 8. - How do ye say, We are wise? Jeremiah is evidently addressing the priests and the prophets, whom he so constantly described as among the chief causes of Judah's ruin (comp. Ver. 10; Jeremiah 2:8, 26; Jeremiah 4:9; Jeremiah 5:31), and who, in Isaiah's day, regarded it as an unwarrantable assumption on the part of that prophet to pretend to instruct them in their duty (Isaiah 28:9). The law of the Lord is with us. "With us;" i.e. in our hands and mouths. (comp. Psalm 1:16). The word torah, commonly rendered" Law," is ambiguous, and a difference of opinion as to the meaning of this verse is inevitable. Some think these self-styled "wise" men reject Jeremiah's counsels on the ground that they already have the divinely given Law in a written form (comp. Romans 2:17-20), and that the Divine revelation is complete. Others that torah here, as often elsewhere in the prophets (e.g. Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 8:16; Isaiah 42:4), simply means "instruction," or "direction," and describes the authoritative counsel given orally by the priests (Deuteronomy 17:11) and prophets to those who consulted them on points of ritual and practice respectively. The usage of Jeremiah himself favors the latter view (see Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 18:18; and especially Jeremiah 26:4, 5, where "to walk in my Torah" is parallel to "to hearken to the words of my servants the prophets." The context equally points in this direction. The most natural interpretation, then, is this: The opponents of Jeremiah bade him keep his exhortations to himself, seeing that they themselves were wise and the divinely appointed teachers of the people. To this Jeremiah replies, not (as the Authorized Version renders) Lo, certainly in vain made he it, etc.; but, Yea, behold I for a lie hath it wrought - the lying pen of the scribes (so Authorized Version, margin). Soferim (scribes) is the term proper to all those who practiced the art of writing (sefer); it included, therefore, presumably at least, most, if not all, of the priests and prophets of whom Jeremiah speaks. There are indications enough that the Hebrew literature was not entirely confined to those whom we look up to as the inspired writers, and it is perfectly credible that the formalist priests and false prophets should have availed themselves of the pen as a means of giving greater currency to their teaching. Jeremiah warns his hearers to distrust a literature which is in the set-vice of false religious principles - a warning which prophets in the wider sense of the term ('The Liberty of Prophesyings') still have but too much occasion to repeat, tit is right, however, to mention another grammatically possible rendering, which is adopted by those who suppose torah in the preceding clause to mean the Mosaic Law: "Yea, behold, the lying pen of the scribes hath made (it) into a lie;" i.e. the professional interpreters of the Scriptures called scribes have, by their groundless comments and inferences, made the Scriptures (especially the noblest part, the Law) into a lie, so that it has ceased to represent the Divine will and teaching. The objections to this are:
(1) the necessity of supplying an object to the verb - the object would hardly have been omitted where its emission renders the meaning of the clause so doubtful;
(2) that this view attributes to the word soferim a meaning which only became prevalent in the time of Ezra (comp. Ezra 7:6, 11).]
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
How do ye say, we are wise,.... Which they were continually boasting of, though they were ignorant of the judgment of the Lord, and were more stupid than the stork, turtle, crane, and swallow:
and the law of the Lord is with us? this was the foundation of their boast, because the law was given to them, and not to the nations of the world, which knew not God, and therefore they must be a wise and understanding people; and this law continued with them, they had it in their synagogues, and in their houses, and read it, and heard, or at least they might and ought to have heard and read it, and in this they trusted; of this character and cast were the Jews in the times of Christ and his apostles, Romans 2:17 to which agrees the Targum,
"how say ye, we are wise, and in the law of the Lord we trust?''
Lo, certainly in vain made he it; either the law, which was made or given in vain by the Lord to this people, since they made no better use of it, and valued themselves upon having it, without acting according to it; or the pen of the scribe, which was made by him in vain to write it, as follows:
the pen of the scribes is in vain; in vain, and to no purpose, were the scribes employed in writing out copies of the law, when either it was not heard or read, or however the things it enjoined were not put in practice; or the pen of the scribes was in vain, when employed in writing out false copies of the law, or false glosses and interpretations of it, such as were made by the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ's time, and the fathers before them, by whose traditions the word of God was made of none effect: and so the Targum,
"therefore, lo, in vain the scribe hath made the lying pen to falsify;''
that is, the Scriptures. The words may be rendered,
"verily, behold, with a lie he wrought; the pen: is the lie of the scribes (h).''
(h) "utique ecce, mendacio operatus est; stylus mendacium scribarum est", Schmidt. Approved by Reinbeck. De Accent. Heb. p. 435.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. law … with us—(Ro 2:17). Possessing the law, on which they prided themselves, the Jews might have become the wisest of nations; but by their neglecting its precepts, the law became given "in vain," as far as they were concerned.
scribes—copyists. "In vain" copies were multiplied. Maurer translates, "The false pen of the scribes hath converted it [the law] into a lie." See Margin, which agrees with Vulgate.
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