Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Jeremiah’s earliest discourses, viz. from the time of his call (b.c. 626) to a date shortly after that of Josiah’s reforms (b.c. 621).
These utterances as a whole describe the condition of things at this period, setting forth the corruption of the nation and the punishment to ensue. As the discourses were not committed to writing till b.c. 604, we can scarcely take them as a verbatim report of the prophet’s utterances, of which however they no doubt faithfully record the substance with probably some colouring of the original language here and there to adapt them to the state of affairs at the later date. The metrical form which appears in a large part of this Book is well shewn in the Hebrew of these chs. Here Jeremiah 2:2-3; Jeremiah 2:14-22; Jeremiah 2:25-32 give us good examples of the Ḳinah rhythm (see Intr. ch. 5), while the other vv. yield (with occasional slight changes of the MT.) other forms of metre Jeremiah 2:5-8; Jeremiah 2:23-24, a triple beat or accented syllable in each half verse; Jeremiah 2:9-13; Jeremiah 2:33-34; Jeremiah 2:36-37, a quadruple beat in each half).
The whole may be arranged in sections, thus:
-1Jeremiah 2:1 to Jeremiah 3:5 Jehovah’s faithfulness and Israel’s unfaithfulness; (2) Jeremiah 3:6 to Jeremiah 4:4 conditional offers of restoration; (3) Jeremiah 4:5-31 impending national disaster; (4) Jeremiah 5:1-31 the foe is at hand, Jerusalem is ripe for judgement; (5) Jeremiah 6:1-30 the Doom: these last three sections giving a more definite description of the approaching punishment.
Chs. Jeremiah 2:1 to Jeremiah 3:5. Jehovah’s faithfulness and Israel’s unfaithfulness
We may divide as follows.
-1Jeremiah 2:1-13 Israel’s ingratitude in return for Jehovah’s love; (2) Jeremiah 2:14-30 her sin and obstinacy under punishment; (3) Jeremiah 2:31-37 her disregard of Jehovah’s past favours; (4) Jeremiah 3:1-5 her faithlessness towards her Divine Spouse.
Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,2. the kindness of thy youths the love of thine espousals] This has been taken as meaning, the kindness and love (a) of Israel towards God, or (b) of God towards Israel. In favour of (a) is urged (i) the sense of the rest of the v., (ii) that the ‘kindness’ and ‘love’ spoken of evidently refer to the past, while God’s attitude of grace towards Israel is still the same that it has ever been. On the other hand for (b) it may be said (i) that the original word (חֶסֶד) is ordinarily used of God’s attitude to man (but see Isaiah 57:1; Hosea 6:4; Hosea 6:6), (ii) that even in the wilderness Israel was often unfaithful (cp. Jeremiah 7:25; Ezekiel 2:3; Ezekiel 20:13 ff.), (iii) that the whole tone of Deut., to which these prophecies (see Intr. iii. § 16) are so closely related in language, indicates God’s free choice of Israel and her ingratitude. In this latter case the sense will be (using a bold metaphor), “I have not forgotten my love for my young bride,” i.e. Israel’s consecration and my promise to defend her. For this metaphorical application of the thought of a marriage union between Jehovah and Israel, cp. Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 54:4 ff., Isaiah 62:4 f.
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.
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.3. Israel was holiness unto the Lord, the firstfruits of his increase] Cp. Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; cp. Jeremiah 26:18 and Amos 3:2. There is no moral significance attached to the word holiness here. It means simply setting apart from ordinary uses, dedication to God. Israel is as the most precious part of the harvest, that part which is consecrated as God’s portion. The notion was familiar through the yearly custom, prescribed Leviticus 23:10-14, that a measure of the firstfruits should be waved by the priest before the Lord, and that none of the harvest should be enjoyed till this rite had been fulfilled. Cp. Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 26:2 ff.
all that devour him shall be held guilty] The priest and his family alone were to eat of the firstfruits. No stranger was allowed to partake. If any unhallowed person profaned the firstfruits by taking of them, he bore “the iniquity that bringeth guilt.” See Leviticus 22:16 (where the Heb. root is the same as here). Thus the sense is that if unconsecrated (i.e. heathen) nations assail Israel, their fate shall be that of such as eat the firstfruits unlawfully.
Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel:4. all the families of the house of Israel] addressed not to the ten tribes only, but to the nation as a whole.
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?5. Has Israel had any excuse for their disloyalty to Me? None.
have walked after vanity] ‘vanity’ (lit. a breath) is here used in the same sense as in 1 Kings 16:13. Jehovah and His prophets regarded idols simply as unsubstantial, unreal things. Hence ‘vanity’ (i.e. idols) expresses their view. So in 1 Corinthians 8:4. Cp. Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 2:11, Jeremiah 16:19; 1 Samuel 12:21; Isaiah 44:9 f. Ch. Jeremiah 10:10 contrasts God as “the true God,” “the living God”; while the notions of that which is unreal and that which is positively injurious are combined in Jeremiah 16:19.
and are become vain] have their characters assimilated to the objects which they serve. Cp. Romans 1:21 f., they “became vain in their reasonings … they became fools.”
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?6. The prophet brings their thanklessness into bolder relief by depicting in the strongest colours the care lavished upon them of old. Utter forgetfulness is their return for the deliverance from Egyptian bondage, the preservation from the various dangers of the wilderness, and the bestowal of Canaan.
pits] one of the difficulties and dangers of travellers consisted in the rifts or clefts which had to be crossed or avoided by a circuitous route.
shadow of death] mg. (better) deep darkness. The difference depends on the vowels which we attach to the consonants of the Hebrew word. For its application, as here, to circumstances of peril, cp. Psalm 23:4; Psalm 44:19. The pathless desert is as bewildering as would be profound darkness.
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.7. a plentiful land] lit. a land of the Carmel. The word Carmel properly means a piece of ground fertile and well-cultivated (Jeremiah 4:26 R.V. mg.), but was commonly used as the actual name of one such spot of Palestine, the only promontory that the sea-board of the country possesses, jutting out into the Mediterranean, and bounding the great plain of Esdraelon.
defiled] with (i) idolatry, (ii) sacrifices of their children; so Ps. 104:37. The old inhabitants of Canaan were driven out for their sins (cp. Deuteronomy 9:4 ff; Deuteronomy 18:12, etc.). Israel has proved little better. See Jeremiah 3:2; Jeremiah 3:9.
mine heritage] Cp. Exodus 15:17; Psalm 79:1. Elsewhere it is generally Israel itself that goes by this name; e.g. Deuteronomy 32:9. Cp. Jeremiah 10:16; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Kings 8:51; Psalm 28:9; Psalm 78:71; Isaiah 19:25.
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.8. The wickedness of the people is matched and encouraged by that of the chief men both in Church and State.
For the denunciation of priests and false prophets on the part of Jeremiah, cp. Hosea and Micah (see Intr. iii. §§ 3, 5), Micaiah (in 1 Kings 22) and Isaiah (Isaiah 28:7). So later Ezekiel (Jeremiah 13:1 ff.).
Three classes of persons are spoken of.
(1) (this class is subdivided into two) the priests. The duty of the tribe of Levi was not only to serve at the altar, but to handle the law; i.e. to direct its administration, whether in accordance with oral or written regulations. Cp. Jeremiah 8:8 (with note), Jeremiah 18:18; Ezekiel 7:26; Malachi 2:7; also Deuteronomy 17:1 ff; Deuteronomy 33:10.
(2) the rulers (mg. Heb. shepherds), meaning, as elsewhere in the Old Testament, kings or princes. Cp. Jeremiah 3:15, Jeremiah 10:21, Jeremiah 23:1-4, Jeremiah 25:34; 1 Kings 22:17; Ezekiel 34:2. So in Homer the kings are “shepherds of the people.”
(3) the prophets, whose duty it was to declare the will of God from time to time, and urge upon the people reformation and a religious life. Jeremiah felt most keenly the wickedness of both priest and prophet, since in his own person he represented both orders, and “by a singularly tragical fate he lived precisely at that age at which both of those great institutions seemed to have reached the utmost point of degradation and corruption” (Stanley, Jewish Church, 11. pp. 439, 440). “He who by each of his callings was naturally led to sympathise with both, was the doomed antagonist of both, victim of one of the strongest of human passions, the hatred of Priests against a Priest who attacks his own order, the hatred of Prophets against a Prophet who ventures to have a voice and a will of his own” (ibid.).
said not, Where is the Lord?] i.e. they were indifferent to God’s will, and thought of nothing less than consulting Him.
transgressed] better, rebelled.
by Baal] lit. by the Baal. The singular is used collectively for false gods in general, and is equivalent to the plural, which occurs Jeremiah 2:23, Jeremiah 9:13. So Hosea uses the singular collectively in Jeremiah 2:8, Jeremiah 13:1; substituting the plural in Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 2:17, Jeremiah 11:2. The word is thus generic, denoting the local deities worshipped in various districts.
things that do not profit] See on Jeremiah 2:5.
Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children's children will I plead.9. plead] rather, contend, as both A.V. and R.V. rightly render in Isaiah 49:25; Isaiah 50:8. To the modern ear the word “plead” suggests intercession, entreaty, a sense which the Hebrew verb never bears.
For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing.10. the isles of Kittim] The Kittim are mentioned as descendants of Javan in Genesis 10:4. Josephus (Ant. I. vi. 1) identifies the original seat of the tribe with the town of Citium (Larnaka) in Cyprus. Gradually the name seems to have been extended, so as to include not only the neighbouring islands, but the coastlands of Italy and Greece. In Daniel 11:30 the “ships of K.” refer to the Roman expedition to Egypt against Antiochus Epiphanes b.c. 168. The word in 1Ma 1:1; 1Ma 8:5 means Macedonia.
Kedar] As Kittim represented the parts of the world that lay to the westward of Palestine, so Kedar represented those which lay to the eastward. Kedar was the second son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13) and seems from the many subsequent notices of his tribe in the Bible to have been destined to be in his posterity the most distinguished of the twelve brethren, princes, given in the genealogy. They were a pastoral tribe (Isaiah 42:11; Isaiah 60:7) and were bowmen (Isaiah 21:17) living on the north-west of Arabia, and extending to the borders of Palestine. In Psalm 120:5 they are spoken of as a barbarous tribe, to dwell amongst whom was to be utterly cut off from the worship of the true God. Even they, however, the Lord declares, do not furnish a parallel for the baseness which appertains to the Jews.
Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.11. a nation] i.e. a heathen nation.
which yet are no gods] Therefore it need not have occasioned surprise, if their worshippers had at some time deserted them. Heathen nations are loyal to their gods, unreal though they be. For reference to the question whether Jeremiah was a ‘speculative,’ or only a practical, monotheist, see Intr. ii. § 3 (a).
their glory] Jehovah, Whose very nature is glory, makes that glory known to Israel as His chosen people, and gives them a share in it. Cp. Deuteronomy 10:21; also 1 Samuel 4:21; Psalm 106:20.
be horribly afraid] lit. shudder, bristle with horror.
Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.12. be ye very desolate] lit. be ye dry. The heavens are bid to shrivel up in horror at the behaviour of the people. By a figure common in all poetry nature is called upon to adapt herself, as though a living being, to the complexion of human affairs. By a slight alteration of MT., however, we get (instead of “be ye very desolate”) the rendering of LXX, viz. exceedingly, as an epithet of the preceding verb. Render therefore, Shudder exceedingly. Cp. Psalm 50:4; Psalm 50:6; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13.
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.13. “Jehovah is a fountain of living water, having life in Himself, giving life to all.” (Co.) Israel has preferred cisterns, the contents of which, vapid and worthless in themselves, speedily disappear through leakage. For the figure of water as denoting spiritual blessing, cp. Isaiah 12:3; Isaiah 44:3. “The perennial spring of water that leaps and flashes as though it were a living thing, breaking ceaselessly forth from a hidden source, is the best image of that higher life bestowed on him to whom God has unveiled his face.” Hort, The Way, the Truth, and the Life, p. 99.
two evils] The sin of the heathen is idolatry, whereas this people have in addition renounced the service of the one true God.
cisterns] These were very familiar objects to those whom the prophet addressed. “There are thousands of these ancient cisterns in upper Galilee, where Josephus says there were two hundred and forty cities in his day, and the site of every one was pierced like a honeycomb with them” (Thomson, The Land and the Book, p. 287).
broken cisterns, that can hold no water] “No comparison could more keenly rebuke the madness of a people who changed their glory for that which doth not profit. The best cisterns, even those in solid rock, are strangely liable to crack … and if by constant care they are made to hold, yet the water collected from clay roofs or from marly soil has the colour of weak soapsuds, the taste of the earth or the stable, is full of worms, and in the hour of greatest need it utterly fails … I have never been able to tolerate this cistern water except in Jerusalem, where they are kept with scrupulous care, and filled from roofs both clean and hard” (ibid.).
Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? why is he spoiled?14. Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave?] An emphatic negative is the reply expected, as in Jeremiah 2:31. Israel is not a slave but a son. Why then is he spoiled? If (which is however doubtful) the early legislation, as given in Exodus 21:1-3, still held good, children born to a slave who married one of the slave girls in his master’s house, remained the permanent property of their owner. The meaning here will be, Is Israel permanently subjected to each whim of a cruel master? Cp. the somewhat similar passages, Jeremiah 8:4, Jeremiah 14:19; and specially Jeremiah 22:28, Jeremiah 49:1.
14–30. Israel’s sin and obstinacy under punishment
14–17. Co. points out that Jeremiah 2:13 connects naturally with Jeremiah 2:18. The cisterns from which Israel has sought water proving unavailable, she has tried the rivers of Egypt and Assyria. Accordingly, while holding that the vv. are genuine utterances of Jeremiah, he thinks with some considerable probability that they are misplaced here.
The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant.15. The young lions have roared upon him, and yelled] referring to the frequent Assyrian invasions. The lion was the symbol of Assyria (Nahum 2:12 f.). Cp. Isaiah 5:29 (of an attacking host).
burned up] Many prefer to render, slightly altering MT., are laid waste, desolated, as in Jeremiah 4:7.
Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head.16. also] even. The sense is, those in whom thou most trustedst.
Noph] Memphis, formerly the capital of Lower (i.e. Northern) Egypt, the word Noph representing some colloquial Semitic or Egyptian pronunciation of the name. Its site was near what is now Cairo.
Tahpanhes] now Tell Defneh, the Greek Daphnae Pelusii, which Herodotus mentions (Jeremiah 2:30) as a town in which a garrison was maintained against the Syrians and Arabians. It bears an important part in the history contained in the later chapters of Jeremiah. Johanan and the other captains went there in spite of the prophet’s directions (Jeremiah 43:7). It was on the eastern branch of the Nile, and commanded the road to Palestine, thus being a frontier post of great importance. The towns of Noph and Tahpanhes would both be well known to the Jews even in Josiah’s day, the former as a capital city, the latter from its position. The two places occur again in conjunction in Jeremiah 44:1, Jeremiah 46:14. The pyramids and extensive necropolis still draw multitudes of visitors to Memphis. The site of Tahpanhes has been excavated by Dr Flinders Petrie with interesting results relating to Ptolemaic and Roman times. See HDB. s.v.
have broken] mg. fed on. The latter rendering represents the sense of the Hebrew verb according to the vowel points assigned it by the Massoretes, but the figure is too strange a one to be easily accepted. That of the text, on the other hand, would require different vocalisation (yĕro‘uk for yir‘uk), but in this case too the figure is over strong for the circumstances; seeing what is meant is nothing more than some affliction coming from Egypt. At any rate it is best to render by a future rather than a present tense. There is however a third way of pointing the word which is far from improbable, though it also involves the transposing of two consonants, viz. yĕ‘aruk, “will shave the crown of your head.” It is true that we must assume the existence of the Hebrew verb in that sense, but the supposition is scarcely a precarious one, as the Hebrew for ‘razor’ is apparently derived from this root. In that case the v. may be paraphrased thus: the Assyrians have ravaged thee. The Egyptians, to whom some of you are looking for help, will presently fleece you (as they did, 2 Kings 23:35). A shaven head was the sign of disgrace or of mourning (Jeremiah 47:5, Jeremiah 48:37; Isaiah 3:17; Isaiah 3:24; Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 22:12).
Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, when he led thee by the way?17. when he led thee by the way] If the text be right, the reference is to wilderness journeyings. But there can be little doubt that the words (omitted by LXX) have arisen from a scribe’s error in writing twice over the first four Hebrew words of Jeremiah 2:18.
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?18. what hast thou to do in the way to Egypt] The thought is the same as that expressed in Isaiah 30:1-3. Ever since the time when Psammetichus I (b.c. 663–610), king of Egypt, reduced under his own sway the twelve separate kingdoms into which that country had been formed, there was a party of statesmen at Jerusalem who favoured an Egyptian alliance. This party Jeremiah constantly opposed.
to drink the waters of Shihor] to hold communication with Egypt, and espouse its cause. The figure has been already suggested by the mention of fountains and cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13).
Shihor] The word, which properly means turbid, is shewn by the context to be equivalent to the Nile, a word which itself denotes blue, or dark; so probably in Isaiah 23:3. Sometimes (as in Joshua 13:3; 1 Chronicles 13:5) the name is confined to the easternmost branch of the Nile.
what hast thou to do in the way to Assyria] Both Israel and Judah had vacillated for many reigns between Egypt and Assyria. Menahem king of Israel bribed Pul king of Assyria to support him, and to him also his successors Pekahiah and Pekah seem to have looked. Hoshea sought the aid of Egypt to enable him to throw off the Assyrian yoke, while Josiah met his death in fighting against it and on behalf of the Eastern empire, Assyria’s successor. Thus subservience now to one now to the other quarter was familiar to those whom Jeremiah addressed. Hosea (Jeremiah 7:2) had likened Israel in its vacillation to “a silly dove, without understanding.”
to drink the waters of the River] Euphrates, the great river, on which was built Babylon. Cp. Isaiah 8:7.
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.19. Thine own wickedness shall correct thee] Thy misdeeds shall bring their own punishment with them. Correct in the sense (now growing obsolete) of chastise. Cp. Jeremiah 10:24, Jeremiah 30:11, Jeremiah 46:28. So in Proverbs 29:17.
backslidings] lit. backturnings, apostasy. The Hebrew word with the exception of its occurrence in Prov. (Proverbs 1:32) and a doubtful use in Ezek. (Ezekiel 37:23, R.V. mg.) is confined to Hos. (Hosea 11:7, Hosea 14:4) and Jer., with whom it is a favourite (Jeremiah 3:22, Jeremiah 5:6, etc.).
and that my fear] depending on “it is an evil thing and a bitter.” In other words the evil and bitterness are twofold; (a) desertion, (b) indifference.
my fear] The fear of Me.
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.20. I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands] mg. thou hast is doubtless right. So LXX and Vulg. The identity of the archaic form of the pronominal ending for the 2nd person fem. with the ordinary 1st person sing. sufficiently accounts for the error. Israel’s rebellion is of long standing.
serve] The other reading, transgress, is no doubt later and formed by a very slight change in one of the letters of the verb in the original, which was made probably in consequence of the preceding verbs being taken to be in the 1st person.
didst bow thyself] The reference is to the rendering of idolatrous worship, renouncing of allegiance to the true God Who has espoused the people to Himself, and readiness to indulge in the gross immoralities of non-Israelitish cults. The passage appears to be an echo of Hosea 4:13 f. (cp. Amos 2:7), and the charge made in the last part not to be merely a metaphor denoting unfaithfulness to their Divine Spouse. The danger involved in retaining the places of worship which the heathen inhabitants had used is indicated by the command in Deuteronomy 12:2 f.
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?21. The fault did not lie in Jehovah’s planting, but in Israel’s perversity. Hosea 10:1 has the same illustration. Jeremiah has probably a reminiscence also of Isaiah 5:1 ff., where, however, Israel is not as here the vine, but the vineyard in which it is planted.
a noble vine] a Sorek vine, the word Sorek probably referring to the colour of the fruit, a vine bearing dark-purple grapes. It is the “choice vine” of Genesis 49:11.
how then art thou turned] That which had been sown, in other words the people, when first chosen to be God’s, was uncorrupt. How is it then, He asks, that such “right seed” can have produced such degenerate shoots?
degenerate plant] The Hebrew is harsh, and suggested emendations are rendered either (with LXX) bitterness, or (with Dr.) evil smell.
strange] foreign. For the word in this sense cp. Genesis 42:7; Exodus 21:8; Psalm 114:1 and so
And palmers for to seeken straunge strondes.
Chaucer, Cant. Tales, prol.
unto me] to my grief—a frequent use of the dative case.
For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD.22. lye] the same as washing-soda. “It occurs as an incrustation on the ground in Egypt, Persia and elsewhere, and is also a constituent in the water of certain saline lakes. The most famous of the latter are the ‘natron lakes’ in Egypt. They lie in the ‘natron valley’ about 60 miles W.N.W. of Cairo.” HDB. s. v. Nitre.
soap] As natron is a mineral so this is a vegetable alkali. Salsola kali (saltwort) is the chief plant among those used in its production, and is found in abundance on the Mediterranean coast of Palestine, as well as on the shores of the Dead Sea. This and other plants on being burnt furnish ashes, the lye of which (formed by passing water through them) was used for cleansing purposes. The immense heaps of rubbish frequently found in Palestine shew the extent of the manufacture. Soap-making by the admixture of oils and animal fat, now a prominent branch of industry in Palestine, was much later than Jeremiah’s time.
thine iniquity is marked] The original word occurs nowhere else in O.T. and apparently means stained. Cp. our expression, (iniquity) of the deepest dye.
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;23. If we may assume that this utterance relates to the time before Josiah’s reforms, the people could not deny that their worship at the high places included observances outside those belonging to Jehovah. They maintained, however, that it was to Him and not to the Baals, that their service was all the time actually rendered. The prophet here replies that in adopting heathen rites they ipso facto, whatever intention they might plead, rendered their worship abhorrent to the God of Israel.
Baalim] The Hebrew plural. See on Jeremiah 2:8.
the valley] The valley of Hinnom; see on Jeremiah 7:31. It was devoted under idolatrous kings to impure sacrifices and human offerings to Molech, who no doubt was one of the gods called collectively Baalim. (Cp. Jeremiah 7:31 f., Jeremiah 19:5, Jeremiah 32:35.) The valley was defiled by Josiah in order that such sacrifices might cease, and here dead bodies of men and animals were cast. From the Hebrew word in a Greek dress (Gehenna) comes one of the names for the place of future punishment, of which this valley was considered by the later Jews a symbol, and which some of them believed to contain the entrance to hell.
dromedary] better, as mg. young camel. The Hebrew denotes a female that has not yet had a foal.
traversing] (lit. entangling) running quickly hither and thither in the eagerness of her passion, crossing and recrossing her own course. So Israel runs now here now there, ever in search of a fresh object of devotion, and forsaking her lawful Spouse.
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.24. a wild ass used to the wilderness] revelling in uncontrolled licence. Cp. Job 39:5 ff. The noun is not a simile for the young camel of Jeremiah 2:23 (a metaphor within a metaphor), but a further metaphor for Israel. Some commentators propose to read the Heb. consonants with other vowels, giving the meaning heifer. But the whole expression requires, not an animal originally tame, but one “used to” a wilderness life. Co., however, would omit from a “wild ass” to “desire,” conjecturing that it is a gloss suggested by Jeremiah 14:6.
snuffeth up the wind] looking out for every occasion that offers to sin.
will not weary themselves, etc.] Her lovers (i.e. the Baals) need not trouble themselves. No courting of her favour will be wanted on their part. In the month of her pairing she will seek them eagerly.
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.25. Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst] Do not pursue thy shameless quest in recklessness and heat, till thy sandals are worn out, and thy throat parched. The words of the reply, the first part of which we might render, “Hopeless! No!” express the desperate determination to continue in sin.
strangers] i.e. foreign gods. Cp. Deuteronomy 32:16.
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,26. Israel, though insensible now to their disgrace, will realise it presently and all classes will be filled with confusion (as a detected thief) when the penalty arrives. Cp. Isaiah 1:29 ff.
ashamed] disconcerted by the failure of plans, a frequent sense of the word: cp. Jeremiah 2:36, Jeremiah 17:18, Jeremiah 48:13; Job 6:20; Joel 1:11.
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.27. The “stock” and “stone” symbolize the god worshipped, and doubtless include the wooden poles (Asherahs) and stone obelisks or pillars by which they were represented. The words addressed to them by the worshippers do not imply that the latter considered the spirits of their ancestors to be there embodied. Such worship was not a Hebrew practice. It was only as patrons or guardians of house or land that such titles as father or mother were given them.
which say] In this consists their disgrace. They attribute to their idols the honour due to the Creator alone.
in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us] Their idols are but fair-weather friends. When a crisis comes, they will recognise this, and appeal for help to Him Whom they have rejected.
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.28. Jehovah’s sarcastic answer to the people’s appeal. Do you cry to Me? Cry to the gods of your choice.
for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods] It cannot be through any scarcity in number that the gods whom thou hast chosen come not to thine aid. LXX add here, as they do in the parallel passage Jeremiah 11:13 (where MT. gives them a general support), “and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem they sacrifice to the Baal.”
Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the LORD.29. plead with me] remonstrate against My wrath. For “plead” see on Jeremiah 2:9, and cp. Jeremiah 12:1.
In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.30. your children] not literally such, nor yet young men slain in battle, but equivalent to the frequent expression “children of thy people” (e.g. Ezekiel 3:11; Ezekiel 33:2; Ezekiel 33:12; Ezekiel 33:17; Ezekiel 33:30), i.e. the people considered individually, as contrasted with the aggregate.
your prophets] Some commentators make the reference to be to such events as those recorded in 1 Kings 18:4-13, or to some unknown outbreak of violence. But the passage may well point to the comparatively recent massacres by Manasseh, traditionally including Isaiah (Isaiah 21:16).
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?31–37. Israel’s disregard of Jehovah’s past favours
31. O generation, see ye] O generation that ye are, see.
a wilderness] Have I been like a place where ye lacked sustenance? Not so. Cp. Hosea 2:8.
thick darkness] On the contrary ye have had the light of prophetic teaching. The mg. darkness from Jah (i.e. Jehovah) is a less likely expression to put into the Divine mouth.
We are broken loose] Cp. Genesis 27:40 (R.V.) “shalt break loose.” The notion of having power to carry out one’s own will, is at the bottom in each case.
Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.32. attire] sash, and so rendered by R.V. in Isaiah 3:20. The exact meaning is unknown, but it was plainly an indispensable part of a bride’s costume.
Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways.33. How trimmest thou thy way] lit. How thou makest thy way good! i.e. How cleverly thou goest about (to reach an immoral object)!
even the wicked women, etc.] even experts in immorality can learn fresh wickedness from thee. LXX (“thou hast done wickedly in corrupting thy ways”) very possibly represents a text superior to MT.
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.34. blood, etc.] “The allusion may be to deaths due to miscarriage of justice or the result of exaction (Jeremiah 7:6, Jeremiah 22:3 end, 17; cf. Micah 3:10; Psalm 94:21), or to the sacrifice of children (see Jeremiah 19:4; cf. Psalm 106:38) or possibly to the martyrdoms under Manasseh (2 Kings 21:16; 2 Kings 24:4).” Dr.
I have not found it at the place of breaking in] or perhaps not at house-breaking didst thou catch them. The allusion is to the law (Exodus 22:2) by which it was permitted to slay a thief caught in the act of breaking into a house. The persons whom Israel had thus treated were in no such position, but such was nevertheless their fate.
but upon all these] The words are obscure and probably the text of the whole verse is corrupt. As it stands, “these” must refer to the misdeeds indicated or to the (bloodstained) “skirts” incriminating the offenders. By a slight modification of the MT. we get the LXX rendering of “all these,” viz. every oak. This, however, can hardly be defended.
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.35. Israel protests that her innocence is proved by her prosperity, which marks Jehovah’s favour. He replies that judgement awaits her for her denial of guilt.
Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria.36. to change thy way] to turn from Assyria and seek the aid of Egypt. The negotiations here referred to are unknown. LXX, vocalising MT. differently, render, Why makest thou so light of changing thy way?
ashamed] See on Jeremiah 2:26.
thou shalt be ashamed of Egypt also] This was literally fulfilled, when the Egyptians were expected to raise the siege of Jerusalem in the reign of Zedekiah, but failed to do so (Jeremiah 37:5).
thou wast ashamed of Assyria] An instance of this occurred in the reign of Ahaz, when in spite of his presents to the king of Assyria, that monarch helped him not (2 Chronicles 28:21. See also Isaiah 7, 8).
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.37. From him also shalt thou go forth] The king of Egypt shall repulse thy advances, and thou shalt return mourning.
thine hands upon thine head] in disgrace and disappointment; cp. 2 Samuel 13:19.
thy confidences] those in whom thou confidest, Egypt and Assyria.