Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,Jeremiah 2:1. Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me — The discourse begun here is continued to the end of the fifth verse of the next chapter. In it God professes to retain the same kind and merciful disposition toward his people which he had manifested in their earlier days. He expostulates with them on their ungrateful returns for his past goodness, and shows that it was not want of love in him, but their own extreme and unparalleled wickedness, 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 he was under, through their continued obstinacy, of giving them further proofs of his displeasure. See Blaney.
Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.Jeremiah 2:2-3. Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem — In the most public parts of the city, that all may hear; saying, Thus saith the Lord — I deliver his message, and not my own. I come to you with a commission from God, and speak in God’s name. I remember thee, &c. — I remember my first kindness to thee, when I delivered thee out of Egypt; (see Hosea 2:15;) and espoused thee to myself, to be my own peculiar people. The covenant which God made with the Israelites, at mount Sinai, is commonly represented under the metaphor of a marriage contract. Upon this account idolatry is represented as spiritual adultery, because it is the same degree of unfaithfulness to God which an adulteress is guilty of in respect of her husband. When thou wentest after me in the wilderness — Out of that love and affection that thou didst manifest to me in following my conduct. Or rather, when thou wast led by me through the wilderness, and I took such care both to protect and provide for thee, and that by a train of miracles; in a land that was not sown — Or, as Houbigant reads it, in an uncultivated land. Israel was holiness to the Lord — A people dedicated to God; and the first-fruits of his increase — Or, as the first-fruits. As the first-fruits are holy to God, so was Israel. All that devour, or rather, devoured, him — For it refers to the time past, not to the future; and so the following words: all that were injurious to him; shall, or, did, offend — Were obnoxious and liable to punishment, as if they had devoured holy things, Proverbs 20:25. Evil shall come, rather, came, upon them — Some evil was inflicted on them from the Lord, who was always wont to stand forth for the vindication of his people; as upon the Egyptians, Amalekites, Sihon, Og, the Midianites, Canaanites, and others, as the four last books of Moses abundantly testify.
Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD.
Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel:Jeremiah 2:4-6. Hear, O house of Jacob, &c. — The prophet here directs his discourse to the twelve tribes, as he does afterward, Jeremiah 3:14, &c. For the captivity of the ten tribes was not so total but that there were some Israelites still remaining in the land among the Assyrian colonists. What iniquity have your fathers found in me? — That is, what injustice or unfaithfulness in not performing my part of the Sinai covenant? That they are gone far from me — Far from the love and fear of me, and from obedience to my laws; far from my worship and service; and have walked after vanity — Have followed after vain idols, incapable of affording them either protection or help. And are become vain — In their imaginations, Romans 1:21-22; fools, as senseless as the stocks or stones, of which they made their idols. Neither said they, Where is the Lord? — They made no inquiry after him, took no thought about their duty to him, nor expressed any desire to recover his favour; that brought us up out of the land of Egypt? — Working such a deliverance for us as had never been wrought for any people. That led us through the wilderness — Conducting and sustaining our whole nation in that barren desert for the space of forty years, by almost incessant miracles; through a land of deserts and pits — Through desolate and dangerous places; through a land of drought — Where we had no water but by a miracle; and of the shadow of death — Houbigant renders it, where death threatened us. A barren and deadly land, where no man could live; bringing forth nothing that could support life, and therefore where nothing but death could be expected; and, besides, possessed by great numbers of venomous and destructive creatures, such as scorpions, serpents, &c., and where we were exposed to the attacks of many enemies. A land that no man passed through — As having in it no accommodation for travellers, much less for habitation.
Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?
Neither said they, Where is the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?
And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.Jeremiah 2:7-8. And I brought you into a plentiful country — Hebrew, into the land of Carmel. Carmel was so fertile a part of Judea, that the word from thence came to be used to express a fruitful place in general. Canaan was as one great, fruitful field, Deuteronomy 8:7. When ye entered, ye defiled my land — By your sins, especially by your idolatries, Psalm 106:38; that sin being greatly aggravated by this circumstance, that the people thereby renounced God’s authority in that very land into which he had brought them, by a train of unparalleled wonders, and the propriety of which he had reserved to himself, though he had graciously bestowed upon them the use of it: see Leviticus 25:23. The priests said not, Where is the Lord? — That race of men, whom I exalted to the honourable office of ministering to me in holy things, neither inquired after me, nor cultivated any acquaintance or intercourse with me. And they that handle the law knew me not — They, whom I appointed to the important office of instructing others in the knowledge of me and their duty, (see Malachi 2:6-7,) were ignorant or regardless of it themselves. And this was the principal cause of that degeneracy of manners which prevailed among the people. The pastors also transgressed against me — By pastors here, distinguished from the priests and prophets, are meant the kings, princes, and chiefs of the nation; for the word pastor is used in the prophets for a magistrate, as well as for a teacher of the people, and ecclesiastical governor. And the prophets prophesied by Baal — Gave forth prophecies in the name of Baal, with a view to recommend him as a god. Or, they that should have taught the people the true worship of God, were themselves worshippers of, and advocates for, Baal, and drew others from God to the worship of that idol; and walked after things that do not profit — Namely, after idols; things that could not possibly do them any service, but were sure to bring ruin upon them. It appears from hence, that all orders and degrees of men in authority had contributed to that general corruption of manners, whereof Jeremiah complains.
The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.
Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children's children will I plead.Jeremiah 2:9. Wherefore I will yet plead with you — By my prophets, and by my judgments, as I pleaded with your fathers, that you may be left without excuse. And with your children’s children will I plead — According to the tenor of the law, wherein God threatens to visit the sins, particularly the sin of idolatry, of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation.
For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing.Jeremiah 2:10-11. For pass over the isles of Chittim — The neighbouring isles and peninsulas, which lay west of Judea, meaning especially the countries of Greece and Macedonia, and the islands and continents of Europe in general; the countries that were more polite and learned. And send unto Kedar — To Arabia, and the countries to the east and south, as the others lay to the west and north: send to them that are more rude and barbarous. And consider diligently — As a matter well worth your attention; and see if there be such a thing — As if he had said, If you search from east to west, from south to north, you will find no instance of apostacy from the objects of their worship like this of yours. Hath a nation changed their gods? — The gods worshipped by their forefathers? or shown a disposition to change them? Which are yet no gods? — But mere imaginary beings, or images made by men’s hands, or the creatures of the living and true God. But my people have changed their glory, have relinquished the worship of the infinite and eternal Jehovah, their Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, Redeemer, Friend, and Father, to whom they owe their all, and whose worship and service, favour and protection, were their greatest glory. For that which doth not profit — For those idols which never did, nor can, do them any good; that have no essence or power; and of which they must necessarily be ashamed.
Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.
Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.Jeremiah 2:12-13. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this — A pathetical expression, in the poetic style, signifying that the wickedness of these apostates from God was so great, that the very inanimate creatures, could they be sensible of it, might well stand amazed at it: that the heavens might be affrighted to behold it, and the celestial bodies withdraw their light and influences from that part of the world where such enormities were practised. “Such rhetorical apostrophes import the unusualness, and likewise the indignity, of the things spoken of; implying them to be such that, if men take no notice of them, the elements themselves will testify against such practices.” — Lowth. See note on Isaiah 1:2. For my people have committed two evils — Two remarkable evils, ingratitude and folly: they have acted contrary both to their duty and to their interest; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters — In whom they had an abundant and constant supply of all that comfort and relief they stood in need of, and had it freely; and hewed them out cisterns — Have had recourse to creatures, and to schemes of their own devising; to gods of their own making, for relief in their necessities, for deliverance out of, or support and comfort in, their troubles. Broken cisterns — False at the bottom, and leaky, so that they can hold no water — They have acted as foolishly as persons would do who should reject the waters of a clear, perpetual spring, to drink rain-water, received in cisterns, which could neither be so sweet nor so wholesome as that of pure springs; and not only so, but should betake themselves to such cisterns as, being broken, could hold no water, or none for any length of time, and therefore could give them no assurance of finding any upon having recourse to them. God may, indeed, be justly compared to a perpetual spring, as he is the fountain or origin of all good things; the author and giver of all blessings, both spiritual and temporal, from whom all good gifts are derived, as from an inexhaustible source; see Psalm 36:9. “And wherever else men place their happiness, whether 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 or conduits. Hereby is strongly set forth the folly of the Jews in renouncing the worship of the true God, and their dependance upon him, and betaking themselves to the worship of idols, and the alliance and protection of idolaters.” — Lowth.
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? why is he spoiled?Jeremiah 2:14. Is Israel a servant? is he a home-born slave? — 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? These interrogations imply, and have the force of, a negative. As if he had said, Is not Israel the son, the chosen and peculiar people of God? Why then hath the Lord treated him as a common slave, and given him up into the power of tyrannical lords and masters? The sense is, God redeemed Israel from the bondage of Egypt, and adopted him to be his son, Exodus 4:22. So that the servitude he now undergoes, and his being made a prey to so many foreign enemies, cannot be owing to his birth, or primitive condition, but must be imputed to his sins, of which his slavery is the consequence. Compare Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 52:3.
The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant.Jeremiah 2:15-16. The young lions roared upon them — Lions, in the figurative style of prophecy, denote powerful princes and conquerors; see Jeremiah 50:17; where the king of Assyria is mentioned as one of those lions which had devoured him, and Nebuchadnezzar as another. If we consider the prophet as speaking here of what was past, by the young lions he probably means the kings of Syria and Assyria, who laid the country waste, not only of the ten tribes, but also Judah and Benjamin; and carried the Israelites into captivity; see Isaiah 1:7. But the words כפרים ישׁאגוare more properly rendered, The young lions shall roar upon him; and so may be understood of Pharaoh-necho, king of Egypt, and Nebuchadnezzar, whose successive hostilities against the kingdom of Judah were foreseen by the prophet, and are probably here foretold. It is true, the following verbs of this verse are in the past time, but the context favours interpreting them of the future. Nor is it unusual for the prophets to speak of events yet to come, and foreseen by them, as if they had been already accomplished. They made his land waste, his cities are burned, &c.
That Jeremiah speaks here of the future, and not of the past, appears from this: that in the time of Josiah, when this prophecy was uttered, the country was not in the condition here described; the land had not been reduced to desolation, nor the cities burned with fire; but the determination of the Lord was past, and the prophet clearly foresaw that these calamities would come. Also the children of Noph, &c., have broken the crown of thy head — By the children of Noph and Tahapanes are meant the Egyptians, these being the two principal cities of Egypt, called by heathen writers Memphis and Taphanes, or Daphnæ Pelusicæ. “This no doubt alludes,” says Blaney, “to the severe blow which the nation received in a capital part, when the good King Josiah was defeated by the Egyptians, and slain in battle; or when, afterward, upon the deposition of Jehoahaz, the glory of the monarchy was debased, by its being changed into a tributary and dependant kingdom, 2 Kings 23:29-34, and 2 Chronicles 35:20.
Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head.
Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, when he led thee by the way?Jeremiah 2:17. Hast thou not procured this unto thyself? — Are not all these calamities owing to thy sins, thy known and wilful sins? By their sinful confederacies with the nations, and especially their conformity to them in their idolatrous customs and usages, they had made themselves very mean and contemptible, as all those do that have made a profession of religion, and afterward throw it off. Nothing now appeared of that which, by their constitution, made them both honourable and formidable, and therefore the neighbouring nations neither respected nor feared them. But this was not all: they had provoked God to give them up into the hands of their enemies, who, after becoming a dreadful scourge to them, at last subdued them, and overturned their government. And thus they brought their miseries upon themselves, in forsaking the Lord their God, in revolting from their allegiance to him, and so throwing themselves out of his protection; for protection and allegiance go together. When he led thee, &c. — Hebrew, מולכךְ בעת בדרךְ, at the time, the very time, he was leading thee by the way. Then, when he was leading thee on to a happy peace and settlement, and thou wast arrived at the very borders of it, thou didst draw back, and forsake thy guide. We may observe here, that although Josiah was a very pious prince, and exerted himself to the utmost to restore the worship of God, breaking down the altars and groves, and beating the graven images into powder, &c., 2 Chronicles 34., 35., nevertheless, from the complaints of Jeremiah, and his reproofs of their idolatry, it sufficiently appears that the people were far from being reformed.
And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?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, and Dr. Waterland renders, the Nile; (see note on Isaiah 42; Isaiah 3;) and of the Euphrates, called here the river, by way of eminence. The expressions allude to Jeremiah 2:13, where human assistances are styled broken cisterns, and opposed to God, who, by reason of his all-sufficiency, is called the fountain of living waters. To drink of the waters of these rivers might possibly allude, further, both to the strong propensity which the Israelites had to return to Egypt, and that which they showed 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.
Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see 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.Jeremiah 2:19. Thy own wickedness shall correct thee — The miseries that your own sins have brought upon you, one would suppose, might be sufficient to reclaim you from your evil courses, and induce you to return to God, by a sincere repentance, Hosea 2:7. Know therefore — Upon the whole matter; and see that it is an evil thing that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God — For that is the thing that makes thine enemies, enemies indeed, and thy friends, friends in vain. The sense of the clause is, Call to mind what thou hast found by experience, and reflect seriously upon it, and thou canst not but be convinced how dear the forsaking of God hath cost thee. And that my fear — Or, the fear of me; or, that thou hast not my fear in thee, saith the Lord — Consider this well, for it is the ground of all thy sin and suffering, in order that thy correction may not end in thy utter ruin. This whole discourse of Jeremiah is a kind of pleading, wherein the prophet maintains the cause of God against his people.
For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot.Jeremiah 2:20-21. For of old time I have broken thy yoke — That is, I have delivered thee from the bondage and tyranny that thou wast under, of old time, in Egypt; as also divers times besides. See the book of Judges. And burst thy bands — Alluding either to the bands and fetters with which prisoners were wont to be bound, Jeremiah 40:4, or those bands wherewith yokes were usually fastened upon the necks of beasts. And thou saidst, I will not transgress — When the deliverance was fresh, thou didst form good resolutions. This translation is according to the marginal reading of the Masoretes; but in the Hebrew text, confirmed by the LXX., Syriac, and Vulgate, we read לא אעבוד, I will not serve, namely, Jehovah. According to this reading, which seems very just and unexceptionable, and is approved by Houbigant and Dr. Waterland, the meaning of the passage is, that even after the Jews had been freed, by God, from their Egyptian bondage, and admitted into an immediate covenant and alliance with him, they had been guilty of the utmost ingratitude in refusing obedience to the divine law, and particularly in respect to the prohibition of idolatry. When upon every high hill, and under every green tree, &c. — Alluding to their worshipping their idols upon the hills, and under the trees; thou wanderest, playing the harlot — Worshipping false gods. As idolatry is frequently called whoredom in the Scripture language, so the prophet describes the Israelites under the image of a strolling harlot, seeking for lovers wherever she can, without any shame. Yet I planted thee a noble vine — Hebrew, the vine of Sorek; concerning which see note on Isaiah 5:2. Israel is here compared to a shoot, or branch, taken from a generous or good vine, and transferred to another soil, where it degenerates. Wholly a right seed — Without any mixture; the offspring of those true believers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: and the laws which I gave thee, and the means of grace which I afforded thee, were sufficient to have made thee fruitful in every good work. How then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine? — That is, one which has degenerated from the nature of the vine whence it was taken, and bears worse fruit than that did. The constitution of the Israelitish government, both in church and state, was excellent; their laws righteous, and all their ordinances instructive, and very significant; and there was a generation of good men among them, when they first settled in Canaan. For we learn, Joshua 24:31, that Israel served the Lord, and kept close to him, all the days of Joshua, and of the elders that outlived Joshua. They were then wholly a right seed, likely to replenish the vineyard they were planted in with choice vines: but it proved otherwise; the very next generation knew not the Lord, nor the works that he had done, Jdg 2:10, and they grew worse and worse, till they became the degenerate plant of a strange vine — The very reverse of what they were at first. Their constitution was now quite broken, and there was nothing in them of that good which one might have expected from a people so happily formed; nothing of the purity or piety of their ancestors; but their vine was, according to Moses’s prediction, as the vine of Sodom.
Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?
For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD.Jeremiah 2:22. For though thou wash thee with nitre, &c. — Though thou shouldest use ever so many methods of washing away thy sins, such as the rites of expiation prescribed by the law, or practised by idolaters; though thou shouldest insist ever so much upon thy own innocence and righteousness, yet the marks or stains of thy sins will always appear in the sight of God, till they are done away by his pardoning mercy, exercised toward thee in consequence of thy repentance and reformation. “The nitre here mentioned is not what we call nitre, or salt-petre, but a native salt of a different kind, distinguished among naturalists by the name of natrum, or the nitre of the ancients. It is found in abundance in Egypt, and in many parts of Asia, where it is called soap-earth, because it is dissolved in water, and used like soap in washing.” — Blaney.
How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways;Jeremiah 2:23-24. How canst thou say, I am not polluted? — With what face canst thou go about to excuse thyself, or deny what is so evident, and so truly charged upon thee? see Jeremiah 2:20. I have not gone after Baalim — The word is plural, because meant to comprehend all their idols; being a name usually given to several of them, as Baal-peor, Numbers 25:3; Baal-zebub, 2 Kings 1:16. Because they had the temple, and sacrifices offered therein, &c., they still persuaded themselves that they worshipped the true God, though they joined their idolatries with his worship. Thus the Papists, though they make use of idols in their worship, yet pretend they are not idolaters. See thy way in the valley — Whether of Hinnom, (where they burned their children in sacrifice,) or in any valleys where thou hast been frequent in thy idolatries. Know what thou hast done — Look on, and consider thy ways. Thou art a swift dromedary, traversing her ways — Or, as a swift dromedary. The prophet compares their fondness for a variety of idols to the eagerness with which, in the time of breeding, the swift dromedaries are wont to traverse the plain, and run to and fro in every direction. “And the impossibility of restraining one of those fleet animals, when hurried away by the impetuous call of nature, is represented as a parallel to that unbridled lust and eagerness with which the people of Judah ran after the gratification of their passion for idolatry, called spiritual whoredom.” — Blaney. A wild ass — Or, as a wild ass; used to the wilderness — Another similitude, for the more lively description of the same thing. That snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure — This should rather be rendered, When she snuffeth up the wind in her lust; meaning the time when the female asses seek the males by the wind, smelling them afar off. In her occasion — When she is desirous of the male; who can turn her away? — She bears down all opposition. All that seek her will not weary themselves — They will not bestow their labour in vain, but will let her take her course, and wait their time and opportunity for taking her. In her month they shall find her — Hebrew, בחדשׁה, which Blaney renders, when her heat is over; or, in her renewal, deriving the noun from the verb חדשׁ, to renew. “That is,” says he, “when the heat is abated, and she begins to come about again to the same state as before the fit came on. The LXX. seem so to have understood it: εν τη ταπεινωσει αυτης ευρησουσιν αυτην, ‘when she is humbled, they shall find her.’ And perhaps it was designed to insinuate to the Jews, by way of reproach, that they were less governable than even the brute beast, which, after having followed the bent of appetite for a little time, would cool again, and return quietly home to her owners: but the idolatrous fit in them seemed never to abate, nor to suffer the people to return to their duty. Or else it may mean, that when their affairs took a new turn, and became adverse, then would be the time when, being humbled, they would again have recourse to the true God who alone could save them.” The expression, in her month, is explained in the margin of our ancient Bible to mean, when she is with foal, an interpretation which many commentators follow. Thus Henry: “They that seek her will have a little patience till she is big with young, heavy, and unwieldy; and then they shall find her, and she cannot outrun them.” And he thus applies it: “The time will come when the most fierce will be tamed, and the most wanton will be manageable: when distress and anguish come upon them, then their ears will be open to discipline; that is the month in which you may find them.” Psalm 141:5-6.
A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.
Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.Jeremiah 2:25. Withhold thy foot from being unshod, &c. — “Do not wear out thy shoes, or sandals, and expose thyself to thirst and weariness in undertaking long journeys, to make new alliances with idolaters.” Thus Lowth, and many other expositors. “But I rather take it,” says Blaney, “to be a warning to beware of the consequences of pursuing the courses they were addicted to: as if it had been said, Take care that thou dost not expose thyself, by thy wicked ways, to the wretched condition of going into captivity unshod, as the manner is represented Isaiah 20:4; and of serving thine enemies in hunger, and in thirst, and in want of the necessaries of life,” Deuteronomy 28:48. But thou saidst, There is no hope — The language of desperate sinners, who are resolved to continue in their wickedness, in spite of every reason that can be offered to the contrary. No; for I have loved strangers — Strange gods, idols; and after them will I go — The Jews probably did not really speak in this manner, but they acted thus: this, the prophet signifies was the language of their conduct. By their actions they professed that idolatry which they denied with their mouths.
As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets,Jeremiah 2:26-28. As the thief is ashamed — As the thief has nothing to say for himself, but is perfectly confounded when he is taken in the very act, so the house of Israel hath no manner of plea wherewith to defend or excuse their idolatry. They, their kings, their princes — Whose duty it was to have restrained them from such practices by their authority; their priests, and their prophets — Who ought to have set them a better example, and have given them better instruction. Saying to a stock, Thou art my father — Giving the title of father, which belongs to God, as the sovereign Creator and Preserver of all things, (see Jeremiah 3:19,) to senseless images, made of wood and stone. They did not, indeed, think themselves to be created or made by these images, but thus they addressed the gods whom they thought to be present in the consecrated images. But as there was in fact no such deity residing in the image, but it was a mere nothing, a fiction of the idolaters, their worship in reality centred in, or went no higher than, the image itself. For they have turned their back unto me — A token of contempt and aversion; and not their face — Which they turn wholly toward their idols. But in the time of their trouble — A time which is approaching; they will say, Arise, and save us — As they did formerly; see the margin. When they prove, by experience, the vanity of their idols, and their own folly in relying on things that cannot help or save them, and in rejecting me, then they will apply to me for relief and aid. But where are thy gods? — Thy idols, the gods of thy own making? Let them arise — From the places where they are fixed; if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble — In thy great distress, when thou art in such need of help. For according to the number of thy cities are thy gods — For thou hast a sufficient number of them, every country and city having its peculiar deity, imitating the heathen, who, according to Varro, had above thirty thousand gods. Make trial, if any, or all of them together, can help thee.
Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.
But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.
Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the LORD.Jeremiah 2:29-30. Wherefore will ye plead with me? — Why do you insist upon your innocence? See Jeremiah 2:35. Why do you lay claim to my former promises, as if you had not forfeited your title to them by your sins? In vain have I smitten your children — That is, the children or people of Judah. They had been under divine rebukes of many kinds, whereby God designed to bring them to repentance, but it was in vain: they did not answer God’s end in afflicting them; their consciences were not awakened, nor their hearts softened and humbled, nor were they induced to seek unto God by repentance and prayer. They received no correction — Though they were corrected, yet they would not be instructed and reformed. They did not receive, that is, they did not submit to, or comply with, the correction; but in their hearts fretted against and opposed the Lord. Observe, reader, it is a great loss thus to lose an affliction. Your own sword hath devoured your prophets — You are so far from receiving and improving by God’s chastisements, that you take away the lives of those prophets who, in God’s name, reprove you, and call you to repentance. Thus Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, was put to death in the reign of Joash, 2 Chronicles 24:20-21. See also 1 Kings 19:1; 1 Kings 19:10; Nehemiah 9:26; Matthew 23:30-37.
In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.
O generation, see ye the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?Jeremiah 2:31-32. O generation — O wicked generation; see ye the word of the Lord — Consider what I say to you from the mouth of God. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? — Have ye not been plentifully provided for by me? Have I been backward in bestowing favours upon you? Have I not accommodated you with all necessaries? A land of darkness — Hebrew, ארצ מאפליה, rendered by the Vulgate, terra serotina, a land backward or late in producing its fruits. Our translation of the clause, however, a land of darkness, seems preferable, as darkness is often used to denote calamity and distress: see Jeremiah 13:16; Isaiah 5:30; Isaiah 8:22. “The meaning of the passage,” says Blaney, “is, Have I been wanting to you, while ye have been under my guidance, in providing you with good things, or have I brought you unto the gloom of trouble and distress?” Wherefore say my people, We are lords, &c. — We are our own masters, and will no more acknowledge thee as Lord over us, nor obey thy laws. This was the language, probably, not of the lips, but of the hearts and lives of the idolatrous Jews, who would not return to the worship and service of the true God. Can a maid forget her ornaments — How seldom is it, and unlikely, that a maid should forget her ornaments? or a bride her attire? — On which her thoughts and affections are placed? Yet my people have forgotten me — Their chief glory and ornament, on whose favour and protection they were wont justly to value themselves, and whereby they were distinguished from all other nations. Such was the folly and wickedness of God’s ancient people, called by his name, rescued from bondage and misery by his power, enriched with all temporal and spiritual blessings by his bounty, and guarded as the apple of his eye. Strange infatuation and weakness this, we are ready to exclaim, of the Jews! But are not multitudes of persons called Christians equally weak and foolish? Do not things of very small worth, and short duration, frequently occupy their thoughts, and even possess their hearts; things of as little value as the ornaments which vain women delight in, while things of the highest excellence and greatest necessity, things far superior to every visible and temporal object, such as salvation, grace, and glory, God, and Christ, and heaven, are overlooked and neglected? Reader, is not this thy practice? does not thy conscience accuse thee of this wickedness and folly?
Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways.Jeremiah 2:33-34. Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love — “The prophet,” says Lowth, “alludes to the practices of common harlots, who deck themselves, and use all inveigling arts, that they may recommend themselves to their gallants; in like manner,” the prophet intimates, “the Jews tried all methods to gain the friendship and assistance of foreign idolaters, who are called their lovers:” see Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 22:22. Houbigant’s translation of this verse is, “Why dost thou strew thy way, that thou mayest find lovers; and teachest thy ways to thy companions?” The original word, rendered trimmest, תישׂבי, properly means, to make good, right, or agreeable. Noldius expounds the clause, “Why dost thou justify thy ways, or insist upon thy innocence?” And the French interpret the verse, “Why wouldest 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. Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls, &c. — This would be better rendered, Also in thy skirts is found the blood of poor and innocent persons, for by souls is meant persons; and by the blood being found in their skirts, the prophet means their committing murders and oppressions, secretly, perhaps; but their guilt was as manifest as though the blood of the persons slain had been found sprinkled upon their garments. The LXX. render the clause εν ταις χερσι σου ευρεθησαν αιματα ψυχων αθωων, in thy hands have been found the blood of innocent souls, or persons. Their sacrificing of their little children to their idols, as well as their oppressing and murdering of adult persons, is intended to be comprised here. I have not found it by secret search — The LXX., with whom all the ancient versions agree, render the clause ουκ εν διορυγμασιν ευρον αυτους, I have not found them in digged holes, or ditches, but upon all these. The LXX. and Syriac render על כל אלה, here, upon every oak. “The meaning of which,” says Blaney, “is this: In the law it is commanded, (Leviticus 17:13,) that the blood of animals killed in hunting should be covered with dust, in order, no doubt, to create a horror at the sight of blood. In allusion to this command, it is urged against Jerusalem, (Ezekiel 24:7,) that she had not only shed blood in the midst of her, but that she had set it upon the top of a rock, and poured it not upon the ground to cover it with dust; that is, she had seemed to glory in the crime, by doing it in the most open and audacious manner, so as to challenge God’s vengeance. In like manner it is said here, that God had not discovered the blood that was shed in holes under ground, but that it was sprinkled upon every oak before which their inhuman sacrifices had been performed.”
Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these.
Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned.Jeremiah 2:35-36. Yet thou sayest — Or interrogatively, Darest thou say? Hast thou the impudence to affirm it? Because I am innocent — Clear of this whole charge; surely his anger shall turn from me — Shall not break out against me, Isaiah 5:25. Behold, I will plead with thee — I will proceed in my judgment against thee; because thou sayest, I have not sinned — Because thou continuest to justify thyself, as if I had no cause to be angry with thee. Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? — That is, thy actions. Why hast thou recourse to so many different expedients for relief? Why dost thou seek auxiliaries anywhere rather than cleave to me? Or act like those adulterous women, whose love is never fixed, but sometimes set on one, sometimes on another. 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. Blaney renders this last clause, “By means of Egypt also shalt thou be put to shame, even as thou hast been put to shame by Assyria.” “The people of Judah,” he observes, “seem to have courted the assistance of foreign nations, by a sinful compliance with their idolatrous customs. But this measure had already failed them, and they had been disappointed in their expectations from Assyria in the time of King Ahaz, who, as we read 2 Chronicles 28:16-21, called upon the king of Assyria to help him in his need; but he distressed him only, instead of helping him. In the same manner, also, it is here prophesied they would be served by the Egyptians, whose alliance would only disappoint them, and make them ashamed of having trusted to so ineffectual a support; and it turned out accordingly.” See Jeremiah 37:7-8.
Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria.
Yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head: for the LORD hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them.Jeremiah 2:37. Yea, thou shalt go forth from him — The ambassadors thou sendest to Egypt shall return with disappointment and confusion; and their hands on their heads — Condoling the desperate condition of their people. Or, Thou shalt go forth from hence, namely, into captivity, in a strange land. And thy hands upon thy head — As Tamar went forth from her brother Amnon, her garments torn, and her hands upon her head, insulted and despised, and in the greatest grief and misery; and Egypt, on which thou reliedst, shall not be able to prevent it, or to rescue thee out of captivity. For the Lord hath rejected thy confidences — Hath refused to give success to them, or hath rejected thee for thy confidences; or he disapproves thy confidences, namely, all thy dependances and refuges, which thou seekest out of him. And thou shalt not prosper in them — They shall not stand thee in any stead, nor give thee any satisfaction. As there is no counsel or wisdom that can prevail against the Lord, so there is none that can prevail without the Lord. Some read it, The Lord hath rejected thee for thy confidences; that is, because thou hast dealt so unfaithfully with him as to trust in his creatures, nay, in his enemies, when thou shouldest have trusted in him only, he has abandoned thee to that destruction from which thou thoughtest thus to have sheltered thyself; and then thou canst not prosper, for none ever either hardened himself against God, or estranged himself from God, and prospered.