Jeremiah 11:4
Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall you be my people, and I will be your God:
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11:1-10 God never promised to bestow blessings on his rational creatures, while they persist in wilful disobedience. Pardon and acceptance are promised freely to all believers; but no man can be saved who does not obey the command of God to repent, to believe in Christ, to separate from sin and the world, to choose self-denial and newness of life. In general, men will hearken to those who speak of doctrines, promises, and privileges; but when duties are mentioned, they will not bend their ear.From the iron furnace - Rather, out of "the iron furnace," Egypt (see Deuteronomy 4:20). The constant reference to Deuteronomy shows how great had been the effect upon Jeremiah's mind of the public recitation of the "Book of the covenant" found in the temple. 4. in the day—that is, when. The Sinaitic covenant was made some time after the exodus, but the two events are so connected as to be viewed as one.

iron furnace—(De 4:20; 1Ki 8:51). "Furnace" expresses the searching ordeal; "iron," the long duration of it. The furnace was of earth, not of iron (Ps 12:6); a furnace, in heat and duration enough to melt even iron. God's deliverance of them from such an ordeal aggravates their present guilt.

do them—namely, the words of the covenant (Jer 11:3).

so, &c.—(Le 26:3, 12).

Which I commanded your fathers, which law (that you by your restipulation made a formal covenant) I that am the Lord, and so had a sovereign power to lay laws upon my creatures, commanded your fathers, in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace; and obliged them to obedience before I laid my law upon them, by bringing them out of the land of Egypt, from the furnace wherein iron is melted, which may either be taken literally (probably that was a piece of their work in Egypt) or metaphorically, serving at iron furnaces being a very hard and servile labour.

Saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you; for which kindness I required no more of them but a gentler service to me, in obeying my voice as to the things of this law which I gave them in charge.

So shall ye be my people, and I will be your God; nor did I only lay my commands upon them, but I also encouraged them to the obedience of it, by my gracious promise, that if they would, they should be a people, I would bless, protect, and defend, and bear the name of my people, and I would be their God to own and bless them. Which I commanded your fathers,.... To observe and keep:

in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: that is, quickly after, when they were in the wilderness, and before they came into the land of Canaan. The "day" seems to include the whole time from their coming out of Egypt, to their entrance into Canaan's land; it was in the first year of their coming out from thence that the law was given them on Mount Sinai, Exodus 19:1, and it was in the fortieth year, and when they were upon the borders of Canaan, that the covenant was made with them in the land of Moab, Deuteronomy 1:3, "from the iron furnace"; meaning Egypt, and their bondage and affliction in it, compared to an iron furnace for the grievousness of it, its long continuance, and the use of it to try and prove them; see Deuteronomy 4:20,

saying, obey my voice; in the law:

and do them; the commands of it, the words of the covenant:

according to all which I command you; everything was to be done that was commanded, and as it was commanded; a perfect and uniform obedience is to be yielded to the law, in order to enjoy the blessing, or a penalty is incurred:

so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God; this is the tenor of the covenant of works; covenant interest in God, according to the law, depends upon obedience; that is the condition of it; but the covenant of grace is not clogged with such a condition; but runs absolutely,

they shall be my people, and I will be their God, Jeremiah 32:39.

Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God:
4. in the day, etc.] Cp. Jeremiah 7:23.

the iron furnace] The place where iron is smelted represents figuratively the scene of the affliction. See for the expression Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51; and cp. Isaiah 48:10.

and do them] probably introduced by mistake from Jeremiah 11:6.Verse 4. - From the iron furnace; rather, out of the iron furnace. It is Egypt which is thus described (comp. Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51). The oppression in Egypt was like the furnace in which iron is rendered malleable by heat (so Isaiah 48:10, "I have tested thee in the furnace of affliction"). The cause of this calamity is that the shepherds, i.e., the princes and leaders of the people (see on Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 3:15), are become brutish, have not sought Jahveh, i.e., have not sought wisdom and guidance from the Lord. And so they could not deal wisely, i.e., rule the people with wisdom. השׂכּיל is here not merely: have prosperity, but: show wisdom, deal wisely, securing thus the blessed results of wisdom. This is shown both by the contrasted "become brutish" and by the parallel passage, Jeremiah 3:15. מרעיתם, their pasturing, equivalent to "flock of their pasturing," their flock, Jeremiah 23:1.

The calamity over which the people mourns is drawing near, Jeremiah 10:22. Already is heard the tremendous din of a mighty host which approaches from the north to make the cities of Judah a wilderness. קול שׁמוּעה is an exclamation: listen to the rumour, it is coming near. From a grammatical point of view the subject to "comes" is "rumour," but in point of sense it is that of which the rumour gives notice. Graf weakens the sense by gathering the words into one assertory clause: "They hear a rumour come." The "great commotion" is that of an army on the march, the clattering of the weapons, the stamping and neighing of the war-horses; cf. Jeremiah 6:23; Jeremiah 8:16. From the land of midnight, the north, cf. Jeremiah 1:14; Jeremiah 4:6, etc. "To make the cities," etc., cf. Jeremiah 4:7; Jeremiah 9:10. - The rumour of the enemy's approach drives the people to prayer, Jeremiah 10:23-25. The prayer of these verses is uttered in the name of the congregation. It begins with the confession: Not with man is his way, i.e., it is not within man's power to arrange the course of his life, nor in the power of the man who walks to fix his step (וbefore הכין merely marking the connection of the thought: cf. Ew. 348, a). The antithesis to לאדם and לאישׁ is ליהוה, with God; cf. Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 16:9 : Man's heart deviseth his way, but Jahveh establisheth the steps. The thought is not: it is not in man's option to walk in straight or crooked, good or evil ways, but: the directing of man, the way by which he must go, lies not in his own but in God's power. Hitz. justly finds here the wisdom that admits: "Mit unserer Macht ist nichts getan," - man's destiny is ordained not by himself, but by God. Upon this acquiescence in God's dispensation of events follows the petition: Chasten me, for I have deserved punishment, but chasten בּמשׁפּט, acc. to right, not in Thine anger; cf. Psalm 6:2; Psalm 38:2. A chastening in anger is the judgment of wrath that shall fall on obstinate sinners and destroy them. A chastening acc. to right is one such as is demanded by right (judgment), as the issue of God's justice, in order to the reclamation and conversion of the repentant sinner. "Lest Thou make me little," insignificant, puny; not merely, diminish me, make me smaller than I now am. For such a decrease of the people would result even from a gentle chastisement. There is no comparative force in the words. To make small, in other words, reduce to a small, insignificant people. This would be at variance with "right," with God's ordained plan in regard to His people. The expression is not equivalent to: not to make an utter end, Jeremiah 30:11, etc. The people had no call to pray that they might escape being made an utter end of; thus much had been promised by God, Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 5:10. - God is asked to pour forth His fury upon the heathen who know not the Lord nor call upon His name, because they seek to extirpate Jacob (the people of Israel) as the people of God, at this time found in Judah alone. The several words in Jeremiah 10:25 suggest the fury with which the heathen proceed to the destruction of Israel. The present verse is reproduced in Psalm 79:6-7, a psalm written during the exile, or at least after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; but in the reproduction the energetic expansion of the "devoured" is omitted.

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