Jeremiah 11:20
But, O LORD of hosts, that judge righteously, that try the reins and the heart, let me see your vengeance on them: for to you have I revealed my cause.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Let me see thy vengeance on them.—The prayer, like that of the so-called vindictive Psalms (69, 109), belongs to the earlier stage of the religious life when righteous indignation against evil is not yet tempered by the higher law of forgiveness. As such it is not to be imitated by Christians, but neither is it to be hastily condemned. The appeal to a higher judge, the desire to leave vengeance in His hands, is in itself a victory over the impulse to take vengeance into our own hands. Through it, in most cases, the sufferer from wrong must pass before he can attain to the higher and more Christ-like temper which utters itself in the prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Unto thee have I revealed my cause.—i.e., laid it bare before thee. The thought and the phrase were characteristic of Jeremiah, and meet us again in Jeremiah 20:12.

Jeremiah 11:20. But, O Lord, thou judgest righteously — It is matter of comfort to us, when men deal unjustly with us, that we have a God to go to, who doth and will plead the cause of injured innocence, and appear against the injurious. God’s justice, which is a terror to the wicked, is a comfort to the godly. That triest the reins and the heart — That perfectly knowest what is in man, that discernest his most secret thoughts, desires, and designs. Let me see thy vengeance on them — That is, do justice between me and them in such a way as thou pleasest. “When men continue implacable in their malice,” says Lowth, “we may lawfully expect and desire that God will plead our cause, and judge us according to our righteousness. For the bringing wicked men to condign punishment tends both to the manifestation of God’s glory and the good government of the world. And to pray against our enemies in this sense, namely, not for the satisfying our private resentments, but the setting forth of God’s justice, is not contrary to the spirit of Christianity. So St. Paul prayed against Alexander the copper-smith, 2 Timothy 4:14.” It must be observed, however, that, according to the Hebrew text here, the words are merely a prediction; מהם אראה נקמתן, being literally, I shall see thy vengeance on them; that is, I foresee it, and predict it, though I lament they should have given occasion for it.11:18-23 The prophet Jeremiah tells much concerning himself, the times he lived in being very troublesome. Those of his own city plotted how they might cause his death. They thought to end his days, but he outlived most of his enemies; they thought to blast his memory, but it lives to this day, and will be blessed while time lasts. God knows all the secret designs of his and his people's enemies, and can, when he pleases, make them known. God's justice is a terror to the wicked, but a comfort to the godly. When we are wronged, we have a God to commit our cause to, and it is our duty to commit it to him. We should also look well to our own spirits, that we are not overcome with evil, but that by patient continuance in praying for our enemies, and in kindness to them, we may overcome evil with good.Like a lamb or an ox - Rather, "like a tame lamb." Jeremiah had lived at Anathoth as one of the family, never suspecting that, like a tame lamb, the time would come for him to be killed.

The tree with the fruit thereof - The words are those of a proverb or dark saying. All the Churches agree in understanding that under the person of Jeremiah these things are said by Christ.

20. triest … heart—(Re 2:23).

revealed—committed my cause. Jeremiah's wish for vengeance was not personal but ministerial, and accorded with God's purpose revealed to him against the enemies alike of God and of His servant (Ps 37:34; 54:7; 112:8; 118:7).

The prophet appealeth to God, and appealeth to him as one that knew both the innocency of his heart toward them, and the malice of their hearts toward him, and used to deal out justice impartially, and committeth his cause unto God, (as we are commanded, 1 Peter 2:23) and desires that God would avenge him, and that he might see the

vengeance; which words some learned interpreters think spoken not without some passion and mixture of human frailty. Others, not as a prayer so much as a prophecy. Others, not out of a desire of private revenge, but out of a pure zeal for the glory of God, whose prophet he was, and servant, in the delivery of those prophecies that were so ungrateful to them. But, O Lord of hosts, that judgest righteously,.... This is the prophet's appeal to God, as the Judge of the whole earth, who will do right; he found there was no justice to be done him among men; he therefore has recourse to a righteous God, who he knew judged righteous judgment:

that triest the reins and the heart; of all men; as of his own, so of his enemies; and which he mentions, not so much on his own account as theirs:

let me see thy vengeance on them; which imprecation arose from a pure zeal for God, for his glory, and the honour of his justice; and not from private revenge; and so no ways inconsistent with the character of a good man; though some consider the words as a prediction of what would befall them, and he should live to see accomplished; and render them, "I shall see &c." (q); and so the Targum,

"I shall see the vengeance of thy judgment on them:''

for unto thee have I revealed my cause; as a client to his patron; told his whole case, and left it with him, believing he would manage it for him, and do him justice. The Apostle Peter seems to have this passage in view, when speaking of Christ, 1 Peter 2:23.

(q) "videbo", Munster, Schmidt; "visurus sum", Junius & Tremellius.

But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy {p} vengeance on them: for to thee have I revealed my cause.

(p) Thus he spoke not out of hatred, but being moved with the Spirit of God, he desires the advancement of God's glory, and the verifying of his word, which is by the destruction of his enemies.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. that triest the reins and the heart] The reins (kidneys) were held to be the seat of the feelings, the heart that of the understanding. Cp. Jeremiah 5:21. Du. points out that here first in the Bible it is clearly set forth that Jehovah is cognisant of men’s thoughts. Cp. chs. Jeremiah 17:10 and Jeremiah 20:12.

unto thee have I revealed] upon thee have I rolled is the rendering proposed by some. That of the E.VV. however keeps closer to the original.Verse 20. - (Parallel passage, Jeremiah 20:12.) Unto thee have I revealed my cause. This is the literal rendering, but a comparison of Psalm 22:8 and Proverbs 16:3, suggests that the In meaning is Upon thee have I rolled my cause." This expression is certainly not only more forcible, but more appropriate than the other. Jeremiah's cause was not a secret which needed to be "revealed" to Jehovah, but a burden too heavy for so finely strung a nature to bear alone. Grammatically, the preferred meaning is quite justifiable, though less obvious, as there are other instances of an interchange of meanings between two classes of verbs (see on Jeremiah 33:6). Neither entreaty on their behalf nor their hypocritical worship will avert judgment. - Jeremiah 11:14. "But thou, pray not for this people, neither lift up for them cry or prayer; for I hear them not in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble. Jeremiah 11:15. What would my beloved in my house? they who practise guile? Shall vows and holy flesh remove they calamity from thee? then mayest thou exult. Jeremiah 11:16. A green olive, fair for its goodly fruit, Jahveh called thy name; with the noise of great tumult He set fire to it, and its branches brake. Jeremiah 11:17. And Jahveh of hosts, that planted thee, hath decreed evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah which they themselves have done, to provoke me, in that they have offered odours to Baal."

We have already, in Jeremiah 7:16, met with the declaration that the Lord will not accept any intercession for the covenant-breaking people (Jeremiah 11:14); the termination of this verse differs slightly in the turn to takes. - בּעד רעתם the ancient commentators have almost unanimously rendered: tempore mali eorum, as if they had read בּעת (this is, in fact, the reading of some codd.); but hardly on sufficient grounds. בּעד gives a suitable sense, with the force of the Greek ἀμφί, which, like the German um, passes into the sense of wegen, as the English about passes into that of concerning. - In Jeremiah 11:15-17 we have the reason why the Lord will hear neither the prophet's supplication nor the people's cry in their time of need. Jeremiah 11:15 is very obscure; and from the Masoretic text it is hardly possible to obtain a suitable sense. "The beloved" of Jahveh is Judah, the covenant people; cf. Deuteronomy 33:12, where Benjamin is so called, and Jeremiah 12:7, where the Lord calls His people ידידוּת נפשׁי. "What is to my beloved in my house?" i.e., what has my people to do in my house - what does it want there? "My house" is the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, as appears from the mention of holy flesh in the second clause. The main difficulty lies in the words עשׂותהּ המזמּתה הרבּים. Hitz. takes עשׂותהּ to be the subject of the clause, and makes the suffix point back to ידידי, which, as collective, is to be construed generis faem.: what should the accomplishment of his plans be to my beloved in my house? But as adverse to this we must note, a. the improbability of ידיד as used of the people being feminine; b. the fact that even if we adopt Hitz.'s change of המזמּתה into המזמּות, yet the latter word does not mean plans or designs to bring offerings. The phrase is clearly to be taken by itself as a continuation of the question; and the suffix to be regarded, with Ew., Umbr., etc., as pointing, in the Aramaic fashion, to the object following: they who practise guile. מזמּה, a thinking out, devising, usually of hurtful schemes, here guile, as in Psalm 139:20; Job 21:27. What is meant is the hypocrisy of cloaking their apostasy from God by offering sacrifices in the temple, of concealing their idolatry and passing themselves off as worshippers of Jahve. On the form מזמּתה, see Ew. 173, g, Gesen. 80, Rem. 2,f. הרבּים makes no sense. It belongs manifestly to the words which follow; for it can neither be subject to עשׂותהּ, nor can it be joined to המזמּתה as its genitive. The lxx render: μὴ εὐχαὶ καὶ κρέα ἅγια ἀφελοῦσιν ἀπὸ σοῦ τὰς κακίας σου; and following this, Dathe, Dahl., Ew., Hitz. hold הנדרים to be the original reading. On the other hand, Maur., Graf, and Ng. think we should read הרנּים (after Psalm 32:7) or הרנּים myinirah, crying, loud supplication; on the ground of Buxtorf's hint, Anticrit. p. 661, that probably the Alexandrians had הרבּים in their text, but, changing the ב for נ, read הרנים. We must make our choice between these two conjectures; for even if הרבּים did not stand in the codex used by the Alexandrians, it cannot have been the original word. The form רנּים is, indeed, sufficiently attested by רנּי פלט, Psalm 32:7; but the meaning of exultation which it has there is here wholly out of place. And we find no case of a plural to רנּה, which means both exultation and piteous, beseeching cry (e.g., Jeremiah 7:16). So that, although רנּה is in the lxx occasionally rendered by δέησις (Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:12, etc.) or προσευχή (1 Kings 8:28), we prefer the conjecture הנדרים; for "vow" is in better keeping with "holy flesh," i.e., flesh of sacrifice, Haggai 2:12, since the vow was generally carried out by offering sacrifice. - Nor do the following words, 'יעברוּ מעליך וגו, convey any meaning, without some alteration. As quoted above, they may be translated: shall pass away from thee. But this can mean neither: they shall be torn from thee, nor: they shall disappoint thee. And even if this force did lie in the words, no statement can begin with the following כּי רעתכי gniwollo. If this be a protasis, the verb is wanting. We shall have to change it, after the manner of the lxx, to יעברוּ מעליכי רעתכי: shall vows and holy flesh (sacrifice) avert thine evil from thee? For the form יעברוּ as Hiph. cf. ידרכוּ, Jeremiah 9:2. "Thine evil" with the double force: thy sin and shame, and the disaster impending, i.e., sin and (judicial) suffering. There is no occasion for any further changes. אז, rendered ἤ by the lxx, and so read או by them, may be completely vindicated: then, i.e., if this were the case, if thou couldst avert calamity by sacrifice, then mightest thou exult. Thus we obtain the following as the sense of the whole verse: What mean my people in my temple with their hypocritical sacrifices? Can vows and offerings, presented by you there, avert calamity from you? If it could be so, well might you shout for joy.

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