They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.Jeremiah 3:1. They say — That is, men use to say, If a man put away his wife — Or give her a bill of divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1; and she go from him — In consequence thereof; and become another man’s — Engage herself to another; shall he return unto her? — He cannot take her again according to the law, Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Or, rather, will a man do such a thing? If the law were not against it, would any man be inclined to take such a woman again? Certainly not. Such playing fast and loose with the marriage-bond would be a horrid profanation of that ordinance, and would greatly pollute the land. Thus they had reason to expect, that God would refuse ever to take them again to be his people, who had not only been joined to one strange god, but had played the harlot with many lovers. If we had to do with a man like ourselves, after such provocations as we have been guilty of, he would be implacable, and we might despair of his ever being reconciled to us again. But he is God and not man, and therefore he adds, Yet return again to me — Namely, forsaking all those other lovers; which invitation implies a promise, that he would receive them upon their repentance and reformation.
Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.Jeremiah 3:2. Lift up thine eyes — Do but look and consider whether I charge thee wrongfully or not; unto the high places — The places of thy spiritual whoredoms or idolatries, their false gods being generally worshipped upon the hills and mountains, 2 Kings 21:3. Thy idolatries have been so frequent that thou canst scarcely show a place where some false god has not been worshipped. In the ways hast thou sat for them — To allure passengers. Thus the fondness of the people for idolatry is compared to the wantonness of a harlot, who lies in wait for men as for her prey; or, as the Arabian hides himself in the desert, to rob and spoil the unwary traveller. “The Arabs,” says Sir John Chardin, in a manuscript quoted by Harmer, “wait for caravans with the most violent avidity, looking about them on all sides, raising themselves upon their horses, running hither and thither, to see if they can perceive any smoke, or dust, or tracks on the ground, or any other marks of people passing along.” And with thy wickedness — Not only with thy idolatries hast thou polluted the land, but with all thy other wicked courses.
Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.Jeremiah 3:3. Therefore the showers have been withholden — Namely, by me, according to my threatening, Leviticus 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:23-24; that is, a drought was sent upon their land, either as a punishment of their wickedness, public sins bringing public judgments, or as an aggravation of it, in which case the clause ought to be read, Though the showers, &c.; that is, notwithstanding the great drought, whereby thou hast been chastised, thou hast not been brought to repentance; and there hath been no latter rain — Though the latter rain hath been withheld as well as the former: concerning which two seasons of rain, see notes on Deuteronomy 11:14, and Proverbs 16:15. Thou hadst a whore’s forehead — Notwithstanding all this, thou didst still remain impudent and obstinate, as one ashamed of nothing. “The general import of the passage is, that though God had begun, in some degree, to chastise his people, as he had threatened, with a view to their reformation, his chastisements had not produced the desired effect, for they continued as abandoned as before, without showing the least sign of shame or remorse.” — Blaney.
Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?Jeremiah 3:4-5. Wilt thou not from this time — Namely, that I have withholden showers, this time of conviction and correction; now that thou hast been made to see thy sins, and to smart for them, wilt thou not forsake them and return to me, saying, I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better with me than now? Or from this time that thou hast had so kind an invitation to return, and an assurance that thou shalt be well received. Wilt thou not cry unto me, My father? — Wilt thou not, as a child, humble thyself, and call upon me, whom thou hast greatly provoked, and own me as a father, for such I have been to thee? Psalm 103:13; Malachi 1:6; Malachi 3:17. Wilt thou not beg pardon for thy undutiful carriage toward me, and hope to find in me the tender compassion of a father toward a returning prodigal? Wilt thou not come and make thy complaints to me as to a father, and confide in me for relief and succour? Thou art the guide of my youth — The husband who didst espouse me, and become my guide in the days of my youth: alluding to the time when their manners had not been corrupted by idolatry. Though thou hast gone after many lovers, wilt thou not at length remember the love of thine espousals, and return to the husband of thy youth? Or the relation of a father may rather be referred to; as if he had said, Wilt thou not remember and lay to heart under whose eye and care thou wast brought up, and who was the guide of thy inexperienced years? In our return to God, we ought thankfully to remember that he was our guide when we were young in years, in the way of comfort; and we must faithfully covenant that he shall be our guide from henceforward in the way of duty, and that we will follow his guidance, and give ourselves up to his government. Will he reserve anger for ever? — Surely he will not, for he hath proclaimed his name, gracious and merciful. They seem to be the words of the people reasoning thus with themselves, for their encouragement to return to God. Repenting sinners may encourage themselves with this, that though God chide, he will not always chide; though he be angry, he will not keep his anger to the end; but though he cause grief he will have compassion. Behold, thou hast spoken, &c. — Or, as Blaney translates the clause, “Behold, thou hast spoken and done; thou hast wrought wickedness, and hast prevailed.” These are the words of God, or of the prophet speaking in God’s name, reminding them of, and reproving them for, their long and obstinate continuance in idolatry and other sins. The prophets had endeavoured to dissuade them from persevering in their evil courses, but their arguments had no weight with them; “they continued to do as they had said, or resolved; they carried their wicked thoughts into execution, in spite of all that was urged to the contrary.”
Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.
The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.Jeremiah 3:6. Then the Lord said unto me — “Here begins an entire new section, or distinct prophecy, which is continued to the end of the sixth chapter. It consists of two distinct parts. The first part contains a complaint against Judah for having exceeded the guilt of her sister Israel, whom God had already cast off for her idolatrous apostacy, Jeremiah 3:6-12. The prophet is hereupon sent to announce to Israel the promise of pardon upon her repentance, and the hopes of a glorious restoration in after times, which are plainly marked out to be the times of the gospel, when the Gentiles themselves were to become a part of the church, Jeremiah 3:12-21. In the second part, which begins Jeremiah 4:3, and is prefaced with an address to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, exhorting them to prevent the divine judgments by a timely repentance; the Babylonian invasion is clearly and fully foretold, with all the miseries which it would be attended with; and the universal and incorrigible depravity of the people is represented at large, and pointed out as the justly provoking cause of the national ruin.
In the days of Josiah the king — This date of the prophecy, or sermon, must be particularly observed, in order to the right understanding of it. It was delivered in the days of Josiah, who began a blessed work of reformation, in which he was hearty; but the people were not sincere in their compliance with it. To reprove them for that, and warn them of the consequences of their hypocrisy, is the scope of that which God here declares to the prophet, and which he delivers to them. Hast thou seen what backsliding Israel hath done — The case of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah is here compared, the ten tribes that revolted from the throne of David and the temple at Jerusalem, and the two tribes that adhered to both. The distinct history of these two kingdoms is given us in the two books of the Kings; by referring to the notes on which the reader will be enabled the better to understand this paragraph, and many other parts of this prophecy. When God asks, Hast thou seen what Israel has done? he refers to the prophet’s acquaintance with that history, for as he lived between sixty and seventy years after Israel was carried into captivity, he could not otherwise see what they had done. She hath gone up upon every high mountain: &c. — See note on Jeremiah 2:20. They had openly, and almost with common consent, apostatized from the worship appointed by God, insomuch that all their kings proved wicked and idolatrous: and no marvel, since from the time of their defection from the kingdom of David, they worshipped God by the golden calves at Dan and Beth-el, and hence easily proceeded from worshipping by the medium of images, to worship images themselves, and other false and imaginary deities.
And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.Jeremiah 3:7. After she had done all these things — For which she might justly have been abandoned; I said, Turn thou unto me — Namely, and I will receive thee. Though they had forsaken both the house of David and the house of Aaron, who both had their authority from God without dispute, yet God sent his prophets among them to call them to return to him, that is, to the worship of him only, not insisting so much upon their return to the house of David as to that of Aaron. We do not read that Elijah, that great prophet, ever mentioned their returning to the former, but only to the faithful service of the true God. It is serious and genuine piety that God regards more than any ritual observances, whether with respect to matters civil or religious. But she returned not — Which God observed, and with which he was much displeased; and her treacherous sister Judah saw it — A sister, because descended from the same common stock, Abraham and Jacob; and as Israel had the character of a back-slider, so Judah is called treacherous, because, though she professed to keep close to God when Israel had backslidden, and adhered to the kings and priests that were of God’s own appointing, yet she proved treacherous, false, and unfaithful to her profession and promises, as is stated in the following verses.
And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.Jeremiah 3:8. And I saw — As if he had said, That which others discerned not, I saw perfectly; namely, both her hypocrisy and her incorrigibleness, notwithstanding what had befallen Israel, whose correction should have instructed and reformed her. When for all the causes — The various idolatries and other sins, for which I had given her — That is, Israel; a bill of divorce — Delivered her up into the hands of the Assyrians, and thereby taken from her the title of being my church; yet her sister Judah feared not — Was neither afraid of giving me offence, nor of the like punishment; but went and played the harlot also — Was forward enough to worship any idol that was introduced, and to join in any idolatrous usage, although she had seen the judgment of God executed upon Israel before her eyes.
And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.Jeremiah 3:9-10. And through the lightness of her whoredom — “By this phrase,” says Blaney, “I take to be meant, that she was not nice in the choice of the objects, but was ready to prostitute herself to all that came in her way; that is, she eagerly fell in with all kinds of idolatrous worship indiscriminately, descending so low as to images of wood and stone.” That she defiled the land — Brought the whole land under the guilt of idolatry. Yet for all this — Though God saw what she did, and though she saw the shameful idolatry of Israel, and what she had suffered; yet Judah hath not turned unto me, &c. — When they had a good king that would have reformed the nation, they did not heartily concur with him in that good work. In the reigns of Manasseh and Amon, who were disposed to idolatry, the people were so too, and all the country was corrupted by it, none fearing the ruin which Israel, by this sin, had brought on themselves. God therefore tried whether they would manifest a different spirit and conduct under a good king, but the evil disposition was still the same, and they returned not to the Lord with all their hearts, but feignedly — They were forced indeed to an external compliance with Josiah, who went further in destroying idolatry than the best of his predecessors had done, joined with him in keeping a very solemn passover, and in professing to renew their covenants with God, 2 Chronicles 34:32; 2 Chronicles 35:17; but they were not sincere in all this, nor were their hearts right with God. For which reason God, at that very time, said, I will remove Judah out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, (2 Kings 23:27,) because Judah was not removed from their sin by the sight of Israel’s removal from their land.
And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.
And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.Jeremiah 3:11. And the Lord said unto me, &c. — The case of these sister kingdoms is here compared, and judgment given upon the comparison. Israel hath justified herself more than Judah — Hebrew, צדקה נפשׁה, hath justified her soul: so the LXX. εδικαιωσε την ψυχην, and the Vulgate. The meaning is, that of the two, Judah was the more guilty, because, though Israel’s sins were more numerous, and their idolatry had continued longer, yet in Judah that and other sins were more heinous, because Judah had sinned against greater light, and would not take warning by that desolation which God had brought upon the whole kingdom of Israel. Observe, reader, this comparative justification stood Israel in little stead. It will little avail us to say we are not so bad as others, when yet we are not really good ourselves. And God’s judgments upon others, if they be not the means of our reformation, will help to aggravate our destruction. The Prophet Ezekiel makes the same comparison between Jerusalem and Samaria, that Jeremiah here makes between Judah and Israel, nay, and between Jerusalem and Sodom, and Jerusalem is represented as being the worst of the three. See Ezekiel 23:11; and Ezekiel 16:48.
Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.Jeremiah 3:12-13. Go, and proclaim these words toward the north — “The sin of the ten tribes being attended with more favourable circumstances than that of Judah, the prophet is commanded to call them to repentance with promises of pardon. In order to this he is bid to direct his speech northward, that is, toward Assyria and Media, whither the ten tribes had been carried away captive, which countries lay north of Judea.” And say: Return, thou backsliding Israel — Repent of thy backslidings, return to thy allegiance; come back to that good way out of which thou hast turned aside. And I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you — Namely, more grievously than it has already fallen, or for ever; for otherwise his anger lay heavy upon them at this time. Observe, reader, God’s anger is ready to fall on sinners, as a lion falls on his prey, and there is none to deliver. But if they repent, it shall be turned away, for he is merciful, and will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity — Own thyself in a fault, and thereby take shame to thyself, and give glory to God. Confess and forsake thy sins; for he that confesseth and forsaketh shall find mercy. This will aggravate the condemnation of sinners, that the terms of pardon and peace were brought so low, and yet they would not come up to them. Sinner, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? How much more when he saith, Only acknowledge thine iniquity. The Hebrew, דעי עונן, is properly, Know thine iniquity, that is, in order to thy acknowledging and forsaking it. We must call our sins to mind, consider the number, greatness, and inexcusableness of them, that we may conceive a proper hatred to them, and sorrow for them, and thereby, and through faith in the divine mercy and grace in Christ, may obtain pardon and deliverance from them. That thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God — Against the infinite and eternal Jehovah, who had taken thee to be his peculiar people, and was in covenant with thee as thy God. And hast scattered thy ways to the strangers — To other gods, to idols, running hither and thither to worship them. The phrase is taken from the lewdness of common harlots, who promiscuously prostitute themselves to all comers: see Proverbs 30:20. The clause may be rendered, Thou hast wandered among strangers, or strange gods; that is, thou hast not repaired, or had recourse, to one strange god, but many; under every green tree — Alluding to the heathen performing the ceremonies of their idolatrous worship in groves, or under large spreading trees. And ye have not obeyed my voice — So that your sin is not a sin of ignorance, but of obstinacy, for you shut your ears against my counsels, sent by my prophets for reclaiming you.
Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD.
Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:Jeremiah 3:14. Turn, for I am married unto you — I am in covenant with you, and this covenant, notwithstanding all your unfaithfulness, I am ready to renew with you. Hebrew, בעלתי בכם, which Blaney translates, I have been a husband among you; observing, that God hereby “means to remind them that he had fulfilled the covenant on his part, by protecting and blessing them, as he had promised when he engaged to be their God: and therefore, as they had never any reason to complain of him, he urges them to return to their duty, and promises, in that case, to be still kinder to them than before.” I will take you one of a city, &c. — Some interpret these words thus: “I will receive you, though there should be but one from a city willing to return, and two from a province, or tribe.” This prophecy was accomplished in the letter, after the edict of Cyrus, when several of the Israelites returned to Palestine, but only by little and little, and, as it were, one by one. But undoubtedly it was intended to be understood chiefly, in a spiritual sense, of their conversion to Christianity, and their reception into the gospel church, into which they partly have been, and probably hereafter in greater numbers will be admitted, “not all at a time, or in a national capacity, but severally, as individuals, here and there one.” See Isaiah 27:12.
And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.Jeremiah 3:15. I will give you pastors according to my heart — This is likewise an evangelical promise, (compare Jeremiah 23:4,) implying that under the happy times here foretold all governors, both civil and ecclesiastical, should faithfully discharge their trust, in duly governing and instructing the people committed to their charge; and that all in authority should answer the character which God gives of David, namely, that he was a man after his own heart, whereas, at the time when Jeremiah lived, the princes, the priests, and prophets were the ringleaders in seducing the people, and enticing them to idolatry: see Jeremiah 2:8, and Lowth. “Those are pastors after God’s own heart,” says Henry, “that make it their business to feed the flock; not to feed themselves and fleece the flock, but to do all they can for the good of those that are under their charge; that feed them with wisdom and understanding — That is, wisely and understandingly, as David fed them, in the integrity of his heart and by the skilfulness of his hands, Psalm 78:72. Those that are not only pastors, or rulers, but teachers, must feed them with the word of God, which is wisdom and understanding, and is able to make us wise unto salvation.”
And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.Jeremiah 3:16. And when ye be multiplied — That is, when the kingdom of the Messiah shall be set up, and there shall be a vast increase of the members of the church by the accession of the Gentiles: for that the days of the Messiah are here intended, the Jewish masters themselves acknowledge; they shall say no more, The ark, &c. — The ark is here put for all the legal ceremonies, being, with the rites connected with it, the chief part thereof. The sense is, that whole worship, with all the rites and ceremonies belonging to it, shall wholly cease, Christ being come, who was the substance of what the ark and all other rites did but shadow out for a time. “Here,” says Blaney, “God comforts the Jews with an assurance that, though upon their return to him they might not find themselves in possession of exactly the same privileges as they had before, they should be no losers, but should receive ample indemnification, so as to leave them no just cause of regret. The ark of the covenant was the visible seat of God’s residence among his people; it was therefore the object of their boast; but after the destruction of the first temple they had it no more. But, to compensate this loss, they are told, in the next verse, that Jerusalem should be called the throne of Jehovah, to which, not the Jews only, but all nations should resort. By Jerusalem is probably meant the Christian Church: see Galatians 4:26; Revelation 21:2-3. The greater privileges of this latter would, of course, supersede all boast on account of those which had belonged to the Jewish Church at any time.”
Neither shall it come to mind — Hebrew, ולא יעלה על לב, which Blaney renders, Nor shall it be the delight of their heart; namely, as it formerly was, observing, that several passages of Scripture where the same phrase occurs show this to be the import of it. What value the Israelites set upon the ark, and how much they were attached to it, appears from many parts of their history. Neither shall they remember it — They shall forget the less in contemplation of the greater benefit. Neither shall they visit it — Or care for it, as Blaney translates יפקדו, which often signifies to look after a thing, which has been long lost or neglected, with a wish or design to recover or restore it. In this sense God is said to have visited his people, Exodus 3:16; Luke 1:68; that is, he again showed that he concerned himself about them. And so it is said of the people, Isaiah 26:16, O Lord, in trouble have they visited thee; that is, they, who before neglected thee, in their affliction turned their thoughts and desires toward thee. Neither shall that be done any more — It shall be no more in use; neither shall men trouble their thoughts about it, or mention it. The Hebrew, ולא יעשׂה עוד, is literally rendered by the LXX., και ου ποιηθησεται ετι, Nor shall it be made any more. So also the Vulgate, nec fiet ultra. The ark, once lost, was never to be made again, or restored: and for a good reason, which immediately follows; because, instead of the ark, Jerusalem itself, that is, the Christian Church, was to become the seat of God’s residence. It is probable that this great variety of expressions is used, not only to show that the ceremonies of the law of Moses should be totally and finally abolished, never to be used any more, but that it would be with difficulty that those who had been so long wedded to them would be weaned from them; and that they would not quite relinquish them till their holy city and holy house should both be levelled with the ground.
At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.Jeremiah 3:17. At that time — Of reformation, διορθωσεως, emendation, (Hebrews 9:10,) when things should be put into a better state by the coming of the Messiah; they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord — Instead of the ark, the Christian Church, typified by Jerusalem, shall be the place of God’s special residence, power, and glory; where he will rule and act, and display his glory, in and by his word and ordinances, and especially in and by the Messiah. And all the nations shall be gathered unto it — Not only the Jews and Israelites, but many of all nations: many of the heathen shall be brought to worship the true God, and to embrace the Christian faith. To the name of the Lord — Which shall be both manifested and called upon in his church, as formerly at Jerusalem. Neither shall they walk, &c. — Both Jews and Gentiles shall now conform themselves to the will of God. The word שׁררות, here rendered imagination, is derived from a root that signifies to see, and is sometimes applied to the judgment, and sometimes to the affections. Here it may comprehend both: they shall neither follow their own corrupt judgment nor affection, but wholly the word of God.
In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.Jeremiah 3:18. In those days the house of Judah, &c. — Judah and Israel shall be happily united; the enmity that was between them shall be taken away, and they shall walk one with another, in a friendly manner, in the ways of God. This implies their being incorporated in one body, by one spirit, under Christ their head, and that without distinction of nations. This reunion of Israel and Judah, and their joint participation of the blessings of the Messiah’s kingdom, is elsewhere foretold. See the margin. And they shall come together out of the land of the north — Namely, out of their captivity; to the land that I have given them — That is, the land of Canaan. Both Assyria and Chaldea fell into the hands of Cyrus, and his proclamation extended to all the Jews in all his dominions. And therefore we have reason to think that many of the house of Israel came with those of Judah out of the land of the north; though at first there returned but forty-two thousand, of whom we have an account, Ezra 2., yet Josephus saith, (Antiq., lib. 11. cap. 4,) that some years after, under Darius, Zerubbabel went and fetched up above four million of souls to the land that was given for an inheritance to their fathers. And we never read of such animosities and enmities between Israel and Judah as had been formerly. And the happy coalescence between Israel and Judah in Canaan was a type of their union, and that of Jews and Gentiles in the gospel church, when, all enmities being slain, they should become one flock under one shepherd. It may also be implied in these words, as many commentators think is expressly declared in many other passages of the ancient prophets, that in the latter days the Jews and Israelites, after their conversion to Christianity, shall actually return from their several dispersions to dwell, as a nation, in their own land.
But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me.Jeremiah 3:19. But I said — Namely, within myself, God is here represented as deliberating with himself, after the manner of men, in what way he might, consistently with his divine attributes, receive the Jewish people into his favour, and admit them into the Christian Church. How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land? — How can it be consistent with my divine holiness and justice to receive such a rebellious people into my favour, to own them for my children, and restore them to the possession of that goodly inheritance which I gave to their fathers. Judea is elsewhere called a pleasant land, the glory of all lands, and the land which God had espied out for his chosen people: see Daniel 8:9; and Daniel 11:16; Daniel 11:45; Ezekiel 20:6. A goodly heritage of the hosts of nations — The Hebrew, צבי צבאות גוים, is literally, the glory of hosts, or, multitudes of nations, that which they esteem glorious, a phrase of the same import with that now quoted from Ezekiel, the glory of all lands. This pleasant land, and glory of the hosts of nations, is here to be taken figuratively, for the Christian Church and the privileges of the gospel covenant. And the condition of adoption into the former, and of enjoying the latter, are expressly stated by Christ and his apostles to be the same as are here prescribed, namely, true faith in God, as our Father, our reconciled Father in Christ, (which faith is always preceded by the repentance required, Jeremiah 3:13,) and uniform obedience for the time to come. Thou shalt call me, My Father, and shalt not turn away from me — On these conditions I will put thee among the children.
Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD.Jeremiah 3:20-21. Surely, as a wife treacherously departeth, &c. — This may be rendered, As a woman is not faithful to her husband, or, her friend, as the Hebrew רעהsignifies. Here God returns to the carnal Israelites; so that the Jewish doctors seem to be right in calling the spirit of prophecy an abrupt spirit. So have you dealt treacherously with me — God, by thus reminding the Israelites of what they had formerly been, endeavours to bring them to repentance and new obedience for the time to come. A voice was heard, &c. — Here the prophet, foreseeing that some of them would at length be brought to true repentance for all their misdoings, represents them as bewailing themselves upon the high places, the scenes of their former idolatries. Compare Jeremiah 31:9; Jeremiah 50:4; Zechariah 12:10. Or, as some think, he alludes to the usual practice of praying upon the tops of houses in great calamities, Isaiah 15:3; and Isaiah 22:1; Jeremiah 7:29. For they have perverted their way — This is that which they lament: for this they bemoan themselves. They have forgotten the Lord their God — Of this they were now sensible, and for this they were humbled, as being the first step toward their apostacy. Observe well, reader, 1st, Sin is the perverting of our way; it is turning aside to crooked paths, and perverting that which is right. By it we embarrass ourselves, and bring ourselves into trouble and misery. 2d, Forgetting the Lord our God is at the bottom of all sin: if men would remember God, and their obligations to him, and consider that his eye is upon them, they would not transgress as they do. 3d, Prayers and tears well become those whose consciences tell them that they have perverted their way and forgotten their God.
A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God.
Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God.Jeremiah 3:22. Here begins a dialogue between God and his people, wherein he offers gracious terms of pardon to them, and they make sincere professions of obedience to him. Return, ye backsliding — Or revolted, children — Return to me, and to my worship and service; return to your duty. God is introduced as saying this upon hearing the weeping and supplications of the Israelites, acknowledging their sin, and humbling themselves for it. And I will heal your backslidings — Your revolts, or apostacies: I will take away the guilt of them, and save you from a refractory and revolting disposition. God heals our backslidings by his pardoning mercy, his composing peace, and his renewing grace. Behold, we come unto thee — We readily and cheerfully obey thy command, and comply with thy invitation. It is an echo to God’s call; an immediate, speedy answer, without delay; not we will come hereafter, but we do come now; we need not take time to consider of it. For thou art the Lord our God — Words expressing the strongest inducements to return to God imaginable, because God had an undoubted right to them and their services, was willing to accept them, and able to save them, Isaiah 55:7; chap. Jeremiah 14:22. Not only this latter part of the verse, but what follows, to the end of the chapter, is spoken of in the name of the Israelites, accepting the divine invitation, acknowledging the vanity of their misplaced trust, and professing the deepest contrition and shame for their misconduct. It is a description, not of what was really done by the Israelites in general, but of what was necessary to be done in order to their regaining God’s favour; and of what he foresaw would actually be done by such of them as should believe on the Messiah, when he came, and receive the privileges and blessings of the new covenant.
Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.Jeremiah 3:23. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills — From idols worshipped on hills and mountains. It is a continuation of that form of confession begun Jeremiah 3:22, drawn up with a reference to the present state of the idolatrous Israelites; wherein they express their abhorrence of those idols which they worshipped upon the hills and mountains, and declare their firm resolution of adhering to, and depending upon, the Lord their God. There being nothing in the original of this clause for salvation is hoped for, it has been differently interpreted by learned men. The LXX. render it, οντως εις ψευδος ησαν οι βουνοι, και η δυναμις των ορεων, Truly the hills and the power of the mountains were for a lie. And the Vulgate nearly to the same sense, Vere mendaces erant colles, et multitudo montium, Truly the hills were liars, and the multitude of mountains; that is, they were deceitful: they promised what they did not perform. To the same purpose the Syriac. Blaney renders the verse,
“Surely the hills are lies; the tumult of mountains: surely in Jehovah our God is the salvation of Israel.” “The people,” he observes, “acknowledge that the hills, the places sacred to idolatrous worship, and the tumultuous rites with which that worship was accompanied, (see 1 Kings 18:26; 1 Kings 18:28,) were mere impostures, deceiving and disappointing those that trusted in them; whereas Jehovah was indeed the author of salvation to his people.”
For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.Jeremiah 3:24-25. For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers — That is, the fruit of their labour, יגיע, which properly signifies labour and toil, being here put by a metonymy for the substance acquired by toil; that is, their labours have been followed by disappointment and shame; they have not reaped the expected fruit of them. Or sin, which causes shame, especially the sin of idolatry, has brought all our calamities upon us, the loss of our goods and substance, the dispersion of our families and nearest relations, and all the other miseries of our captivity: all these evils, which we and our forefathers have felt, are the effects of our idolatry, of which we are now heartily ashamed, and which had brought shame and confusion upon us. Blaney renders הבשׁת, (which we translate shame,) that thing of shame, meaning the idol which they worshipped, called by the same name, chap. Jeremiah 11:13; Hosea 10:10; “and with good reason,” says he, “because, in return for all the expense and pains bestowed upon it, it only frustrated the hopes of its votaries, and, as it follows in the next verse, left them mortified with disappointment, and overwhelmed with disgrace, for having deserted the service of a Being that could have saved them, in pursuit of so vile and worthless an object.” We lie down in our shame — Being unable to bear it. Our confusion covereth us — On account both of our sins and sufferings. Sin hath laid us under such rebukes of God’s providence, and such reproaches of our own consciences, as surround us and fill us with shame. These expressions, which set forth the greatness of their repentance and sorrow, are taken from those who cast themselves down upon the ground, and cover themselves with dust or ashes, out of grief and anguish of mind.
We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.