They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Their forefathers.—The Hebrew is more specific—their first fathers (as in Isaiah 43:27), with special reference to the idolatries of the forty years’ wandering and the first settlement in Canaan.
They went after other gods.—The Hebrew pronoun is emphatically repeated, as pointing back to the subject of the first clause of the verse, the men of Jeremiah’s own time—“they have gone after other gods.”They are turned back from me, or they are turned back from their own better courses in the time of David, to the sins of their forefathers that worshipped the golden calf, or the many idols which they worshipped in the time of the judges. They are all alike, both the ten tribes, which were
the house of Israel, and the two tribes, which made the kingdom of Judah, they have all broken the covenant which I made with their forefathers.
which refused to hear my words; sent unto them by the prophets, Isaiah, and others:
and they went after other gods to serve them; not their forefathers, though it was true of them; but the then present generation, that were in the conspiracy and rebellion against God; they put their schemes into execution, and worshipped and served the gods of the nations:
the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers; by their many transgressions, and especially by their idolatry; the house of Israel, or the ten tribes, had done so, many years ago, and were carried captive; and the house of Judah, or the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah, committing the same iniquities, might justly expect the like treatment.They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. The Northern kingdom’s apostasy and consequent punishment were already of long standing. Now Judah has followed their example in faithlessness to Jehovah, and has “turned back” after an interval of well doing under Josiah’s reforms.Verse 10. - Their forefathers. The Hebrew has "their fathers, the former ones." The allusion is to the sins of the Israelites in the wilderness, and in Canaan under the judges. The prophets are constantly pointing their hearers back to those early times, either for warning (as here) or for encouragement (Jeremiah 2:1; Hosea 2:15; Isaiah 1:26; Isaiah 63:11, 13). And they went after; rather and they (themselves) have gone after. The pronoun is expressed in the Hebrew, to indicate that the prophet's contemporaries are now the subject.
In Jeremiah 11:2-8 is a short summary of the covenant made with the fathers; in Jeremiah 11:9-13 is an account of the breaking of this covenant by Judah, and of the calamity which results therefrom; and in Jeremiah 11:14-17 further description of this calamity.
"The word which came to Jeremiah from Jahveh, saying: Jeremiah 11:2. Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Jeremiah 11:3. And say thou to them: Thus hath Jahve, the God of Israel, said: Cursed is the man that heareth not the words of this covenant, Jeremiah 11:4. Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the iron furnace, saying: Hearken to my voice, and do them according to all which I command you; so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God; Jeremiah 11:5. That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. And I answered and said: So be it, Jahveh. Jeremiah 11:6. Then said Jahveh to me: Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying: Hear ye the words of this covenant and do them. Jeremiah 11:7. For I have testified to your fathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt unto this day, testifying from early morning on: Hearken to my voice! Jeremiah 11:8. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked each in the stubbornness of their evil heart; and so I brought on them all the words of this covenant which I have commanded them to do, and they have not done them."
The form of address, Jeremiah 11:2 : hear ye (שׁמעוּ), and speak ye (דּבּרתּם), is noteworthy since we are not told who are to hear and speak; while at Jeremiah 11:3, in ואמרתּ Jeremiah receives the commission to declare the words of the covenant to the people, and to make known in the cities of Judah, etc. (Jeremiah 11:6). The difficulty is not removed by the plan adopted by Hitz. and Graf from the lxx, of changing ודבּרתּם into ודבּרתּם, "and speak them;" for the שׁמעוּ remains to be dealt with. To whom then, is it addressed? Schleussner proposed to change it into שׁמעה - a purely arbitrary change. In Jeremiah 11:4 "hearing" is used in the sense of giving ear to, obeying. And in no other sense can it be taken in Jeremiah 11:1. "The words of this covenant" are, as is clear from the succeeding context, the words of the covenant recorded in the Pentateuch, known from the reading of the Torah. The call to hear the words thereof can only have the meaning of: to give ear to them, take them to heart. Hence Chr. B. Mich. and Schnur. have referred the words to the Jews: Listen, ye Jews and ye citizens of Jerusalem, to the words of the covenant, and make them know to one another, and exhort one another to observe them. But this paraphrase is hardly consistent with the wording of the verse. Others fancied that the priests and elders were addressed; but if so, these must necessarily have been named. Clearly it is to the prophets in general that the words are spoken, as Kimchi observed; and we must not take "hear ye" as if the covenant was unknown to the prophets, but as intended to remind the prophets of them, that they might enforce them upon the people. Taken thus, this introductory verse serves to exalt the importance of the truths mentioned, to mark them out as truths which God had commanded all the prophets to proclaim. If it be the prophets in general who are addressed in Jeremiah 11:2, the transition to "and say thou" is easily explained. Jeremiah, too, must himself do that which was the bounden duty of all the prophets, must make the men of Judah and Jerusalem call to mind the curse overhanging transgressors of the covenant. The words: Cursed is the man, etc., are taken from Deuteronomy 27:26, from the directions for the engagement to keep the covenant, which the people were to solemnise upon their entry into Canaan, and which, acc. to Joshua 8:30., they did solemnise. The quotation is made freely from memory. Instead of "that heareth not the words of this covenant," we find in Deut. l.c.: "the confirmeth not (יקים) the words of this law to do them." The choice there of the word יקים is suggested by its connection with the act of solemnisation enjoined. The recitation and promulgation of the law upon Mount Gerizim and Ebal (Deuteronomy 27) had no other aim than that of solemnly binding the people to keep or follow the law; and this is what Jeremiah means by "hearing." The law to be established is the law of the covenant, i.e., the covenant made by Jahveh with Israel, and spoken of in Deuteronomy 28:68 and Deuteronomy 29:8 as the "words of this covenant." This covenant, which Moses had made with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab (Deuteronomy 28:68), was but a renewal of that solemnly concluded at Sinai (Exodus 24). And so Jeremiah speaks of this covenant as the one which Jahveh commanded the fathers in the day, i.e., at the time, of their leaving Egypt. "In the day that," etc., as in Jeremiah 7:22. "Out of the iron furnace:" this metaphor for the affliction endured by Israel in Egypt is taken from Deuteronomy 4:20. The words: hearken unto my voice and do them (the words of the covenant), suggest Deuteronomy 27:1-2; and the words: so shall ye be my people, suggest Deuteronomy 29:12, a passage which itself points back to ex. Jer 6:7 (Jeremiah 19:5.), Leviticus 27:12; Deuteronomy 7:6, etc. That I may establish, i.e., perform, the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, i.e., the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 7:8, etc.), promising to give them a land flowing, etc. The frequently repeated description of the promised land; cf. Exodus 3:8, Exodus 3:17; Deuteronomy 6:3, etc. כּיּום , as in Deuteronomy 2:30; Deuteronomy 4:20, etc., is not: at this time, now (Graf), but: as this day, meaning: as is even now the case, sc. that ye still possess this precious land. The assenting reply of the prophet: אמן יהוה, yea, or so be it (γένοιτο, lxx), Lord, corresponds to the אמן with which the people, acc. to Deuteronomy 27:15., were to take on themselves the curses attached to the breaking of the law, curses which they did take on themselves when the law was promulgated in Canaan. As the whole congregation did on that occasion, so here the prophet, by his "yea," expresses his adherence to the covenant, and admits that the engagement is yet in full force for the congregation of God; and at the same time indicates that he, on his part, is ready to labour for the fulfilment of the covenant, so that the people may not become liable to the curse of the law.
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