Some divide Jeremiah 12 into three extracts Jeremiah 12:1-7, Jeremiah 12:14-17 from discourses of Jeremiah not preserved at length; others regard it as a connected discourse occasioned by a drought in the days of Josiah (compare Jeremiah 12:4); others see in the "evil neighbors" Jeremiah 12:14, an allusion to the bands of Syrians etc., who infested the land after Jehoiakim's revolt from Nebuchadnezzar. More probably the outburst of expostulation Jeremiah 12:1-4 was occasioned by the plot of the men of Anathoth, and upon it the rest follows naturally.
Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?Yet let me talk ... - Rather, yet will I speak with thee on a matter of right. This sense is well given in the margin. The prophet acknowledges the general righteousness of God's dealings, but cannot reconcile with it the properity of the conspirators of Anathoth This difficulty was often present to the minds of the saints of the Old Testament, see Job 21:7 ff; Psalm 37; Psalm 73.
Happy - Rather, secure, tranquil.
Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.Their veins - i. e., their heart. The reins were regarded by the Jews as the seat of the affections.
But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.Thou hast seen me ... - Rather, "Thou seest me and triest mine heart" at all times, and knowest the sincerity of its devotion" toward Thee."
Pull them out - The original is used Jeremiah 10:20 of the rending asunder of the cords of the tent, and Ezekiel 17:9 of the tearing up of roots. Jeremiah does not doubt God's justice, or the ultimate punishment of the wicked, but he wants it administered in a summary way.
Prepare - literally, "sanctify," i. e., devote.
How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.The Hebrew divides this verse differently. "How long shall the land mourn, and the herb of the whole field wither? Because of the wickedness of them that dwell therein cattle and fowl have ceased to be: for he will not see, say they, our latter end." The people mock the prophet, saying, In spite of all his threatenings we shall outlive him.
Jeremiah complained that at a time of great general misery powerful men throve upon the ruin of others: even the innocent cattle and fowl suffered with the rest. To him it seemed that all this might have been cured by some signal display of divine justice. If God, instead of dealing with men by general and slow-working laws, would tear (out some of the worst offenders from among the rest, the land might yet be saved.
If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?Yahweh rebukes Jeremiah's impatience, showing him by two proverbial sayings, that there were still greater trials of faith in store for him. Prosperous wickedness is after all a mere ordinary trial, a mere "running with the footmen;" he will have to exert far greater powers of endurance.
And if in the land ... - Rather, "and in a land of peace thou art secure; but how wilt thou do amid the pride of Jordan?" if thou canst feel safe only where things are tranquil, what wilt thou do in the hour of danger? The "pride of Jordan" is taken to, mean the luxuriant thickets along its banks, famous as the haunt of lions (compare Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44; Zechariah 11:3). What will the prophet do when he has to tread the tangled maze of a jungle with the lions roaring round him?
For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.Called a multitude - Rather, "called aloud." Compare Jeremiah 4:5. In all this Jeremiah was the type of Christ (compare Zechariah 13:6; Mark 3:21; John 7:5).
I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies.Yahweh shows that the downfall of the nation was occasioned by no want of love on His part, but by the nation's conduct.
Left - More correctly, cast away.
Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me: therefore have I hated it.Judah has not merely refused obedience, but become intractable and fierce, like an untamed lion. It has roared against God with open blasphemy. As His favor is life, so is His hatred death, i. e., Jerusalem's punishment shall be as if inflicted by one that hated her.
Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.Rather, "Is My heritage unto Me as a speckled bird? Are the birds upon her round about? Come, assemble all the wild beasts: bring them to devour her." By "a speckled" or parti-colored "bird" is probably meant some kind of vulture.
Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.Nebuchadnezzar and his confederate kings trampled Judah under foot, as heedless of the ruin they were inflicting as the shepherds would be who led their flocks to browse in spring upon the tender shoots of the vine.
They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.Desolate - The force of the protest lies in this word. Thrice the prophet uses it.
Layeth it to heart - Rather, laid it "to heart." The desolate land must put up its silent cry to God, because the people had refused to see the signs of the coming retribution.
The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness: for the sword of the LORD shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land: no flesh shall have peace.Through - in. Even these remote scaurs do not escape, polluted as they had been by the nation's idolatries.
Shall devour - Or, devoureth. These hosts of war come as Yahweh's sword.
No flesh shall have peace - "Flesh" in Genesis 6:3 means mankind as sinners; here, Judah. "Peace" in Hebrew has the wider signification of "welfare, happiness." Hence, their salutation in life was, "Peace be to thee," and in death "In Peace" was engraved upon their sepulchres.
They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns: they have put themselves to pain, but shall not profit: and they shall be ashamed of your revenues because of the fierce anger of the LORD.Shall reap ... shall not profit - Rather, have reaped ... have profited nothing. The force of the proverb is that all their labors had ended only in disappointment.
And they shall be ashamed of your revenues - Or, yea, be ashamed of your produce - the produce of the fields.
Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them.The prophet addresses the spoilers.
Evil neighbors - The Syrians, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and Philistines, who at all times took advantage of Judah's weakness. The special mercy to Judah was the prelude to mercy to the whole Gentile world.
And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.
And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.The accomplishment of this blessing depends upon both Judah and the Gentiles reversing their past conduct. Then shall the believing Gentile be admitted within the fold of the true, because spiritual, Israel - Christ's Church.
But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the LORD.