Jeremiah 12:1
Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?
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(1) Yet let me talk with thee.—The soul of the prophet is vexed, as had been the soul of Job (Jeremiah 21:7), of Asaph (Psalms 73), and others, by the apparent anomalies of the divine government. He owns as a general truth that God is righteous, “yet,” he adds, I will speak (or argue) my cause (literally, causes) with Thee. He will question the divine Judge till his doubt is removed. And the question is the ever-recurring one, Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? (Comp. Psalm 37:1; Psalm 73:3.) The “treacherous dealing” implies a reference to the conspirators of the previous chapter.

Wherefore are all they happy . . .—Better, at rest, or secure.

Jeremiah 12:1. Righteous art thou, O Lord — The prophet, being about to inquire into the reasons and meaning of some of the divine dispensations, first recognises a truth of unquestionable certainty, namely, that God is righteous, that is, just and holy in all his ways. Thus he arms himself against the temptations wherewith he was assaulted, to envy the prosperity of the wicked, before he begins to plead with God concerning it. And, in imitation of him, when we are least able to understand the intent of the divine counsels and proceedings, we must still resolve to retain just thoughts of God, and must be confident of this, that he never did and never will do the least wrong to any of his creatures; that even when his judgments are unsearchable as a great deep, and altogether unaccountable, yet his righteousness is as conspicuous and immoveable as the great mountains, Psalm 36:6. Yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments — Not by way of accusing thee, but for my own satisfaction concerning thy dispensations in the government of the world. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? — Why are their designs and projects successful? Why are all they happy that deal very treacherously? — Why are the affairs and families of the perfidious and unjust in a prosperous state? Why dost thou permit this? What end of thy righteous government is to be answered by it? By all they, he means many of them, and is thought to have spoken thus with a special reference to the priests at Anathoth, who had conspired against his life. The prosperity of the wicked hath, in all ages, been a mystery, and hath served to furnish infidels with an objection against the providence of God, and, upon that account, hath been a source of temptation to many of God’s people.

12:1-6 When we are most in the dark concerning God's dispensations, we must keep up right thoughts of God, believing that he never did the least wrong to any of his creatures. When we find it hard to understand any of his dealings with us, or others, we must look to general truths as our first principles, and abide by them: the Lord is righteous. The God with whom we have to do, knows how our hearts are toward him. He knows both the guile of the hypocrite and the sincerity of the upright. Divine judgments would pull the wicked out of their pasture as sheep for the slaughter. This fruitful land was turned into barrenness for the wickedness of those that dwelt therein. The Lord reproved the prophet. The opposition of the men of Anathoth was not so formidable as what he must expect from the rulers of Judah. Our grief that there should be so much evil is often mixed with peevishness on account of the trials it occasions us. And in this our favoured day, and under our trifling difficulties, let us consider how we should behave, if called to sufferings like those of saints in former ages.Yet let me talk ... - Rather, yet will I speak with thee on a matter of right. This sense is well given in the margin. The prophet acknowledges the general righteousness of God's dealings, but cannot reconcile with it the properity of the conspirators of Anathoth This difficulty was often present to the minds of the saints of the Old Testament, see Job 21:7 ff; Psalm 37; Psalm 73.

Happy - Rather, secure, tranquil.


Jer 12:1-17. Continuation of the Subject at the Close of the Eleventh Chapter.

He ventures to expostulate with Jehovah as to the prosperity of the wicked, who had plotted against his life (Jer 12:1-4); in reply he is told that he will have worse to endure, and that from his own relatives (Jer 12:5, 6). The heaviest judgments, however, would be inflicted on the faithless people (Jer 12:7-13); and then on the nations co-operating with the Chaldeans against Judah, with, however, a promise of mercy on repentance (Jer 12:14-17).

1. (Ps 51:4).

let me talk, &c.—only let me reason the case with Thee: inquire of Thee the causes why such wicked men as these plotters against my life prosper (compare Job 12:6; 21:7; Ps 37:1, 35; 73:3; Mal 3:15). It is right, when hard thoughts of God's providence suggest themselves, to fortify our minds by justifying God beforehand (as did Jeremiah), even before we hear the reasons of His dealings.The prophet complaineth of the wicked’s prosperity; by faith seeth their ruin, Jeremiah 12:1-4. God admonisheth him of his brethren’s treachery against him, and lamenteth his heritage, Jeremiah 12:5-13. A return from captivity promised to the penitent, Jeremiah 12:14-17.

Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: the prophet begins hero with a recognition of God’s unquestionable righteousness and justice, in all his providential dispensations in the government of the world. Some read the latter part, should I plead with thee. But let it be should I plead; or, although or when I plead, that is, argue with thee; yet the prophet doth it not without a previous resolution to agree the Lord’s dispensations just, whatsoever he should say.

Yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments; yet, saith he, let me talk with thee, not by way of accusing thee, but for my own satisfaction concerning thy judicial dispensations in the government of the world.

Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal treacherously? by all they, he means many of them, and is thought to have spoken with a special relation to the priests at Anathoth, that had conspired against his life. The prosperity of the wicked hath in all times been a riddle, and a sore temptation to the best of God’s people; to Job, Job 21:7,13; to David, Psalm 37:1 73:3,12 94:3,4 Hab 1:4,5. Lord, saith Jeremiah, I know thy ways of providence are just and righteous, but they are dark and hidden from me, I cannot understand why thou doest this.

Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee,.... The six first verses of this chapter properly belong to the preceding, being of the same argument, and in strict connection with the latter part of it. Jeremiah appears to be under the same temptation, on account of the prosperity of the wicked, as Asaph was, Psalm 73:1 only he seems to have been more upon his guard, and less liable to fall by it; he sets out: with this as a first principle, an undoubted truth, that God was righteous, and could do nothing wrong and amiss, however unaccountable his providences might be to men: he did not mean, by entering the list with him, or by litigating this point, to charge him with any unrighteousness this he took for granted, and was well satisfied of, that the Lord was righteous, "though", says he, "I plead with thee" (t); so some read the words. De Dieu renders them interrogatively, "shall I plead with thee?" shall I dare to do it? shall I take that boldness and use that freedom with thee? I will. The Targum is the reverse,

"thou art more just, O Lord, than that I should contend before thy word:''

yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments; not of his laws, statutes, word, and ordinances, sometimes so called; but rather of his providences, which are always dispensed with equity and justice, though not always manifest; they are sometimes unsearchable and past finding out, and will bear a sober and modest inquiry into them, and debate concerning them; the people of God may take the liberty of asking questions concerning them, when they are at a loss to account for them. So the Targum,

"but I will ask a question of judgments before thee.''

The words may be rendered, "but I will speak judgments with thee" (u); things that are right; that are agreeable to the word of God and sound reason; things that are consistent with the perfections of God, particularly his justice and holiness; which are founded upon equity and truth; I will produce such reasons and arguments as seem to be reasonable and just.

Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? or they prosper in all their ways? whatever they take in hand succeeds; they enjoy a large share of health of body; their families increase, their trade flourishes, their flocks and herds grow large and numerous, and they have great plenty of all outward blessings; and yet they are wicked men, without the fear of God, regard not him, nor his worship and ways; but walk in their own ways which they have chosen, and delight in their abominations. Some understand this, as Jarchi, of Nebuchadnezzar, to whom God had given greatness and prosperity, to destroy the house of God; but by what follows, in the latter part of the next verse, it appears that God's professing people, the Jews, are meant, and most likely the priests at Anathoth.

Wherefore are all they happy; easy, quiet, secure, live in peace and plenty:

that deal very treacherously? with God and men, in religions and civil affairs.

(t) "etiamsi contendam tecum", Cocceius, Gataker. (u) "verum tamen judicia loquar tecum", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius, Schmidt.

{a} Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me speak with thee of thy judgments: Why doth the way of the wicked {b} prosper? why are they all happy that deal very treacherously?

(a) The prophet confesses God to be just in all his doings, although man is not able to give a reason for all his actions.

(b) This question has been always a great temptation to the godly, to see the wicked enemies of God in prosperity, and his dear children in adversity, as in Job 21:7, Ps 37:1,73:3, Hab 1:3.

1. Righteous art thou] God’s justice is established as the result of every enquiry into His ways. Jeremiah, while admitting this, yet asks how it can be reconciled with (i) the prosperity of the wicked, (ii) his own adversity.

plead] See on Jeremiah 2:9; Jeremiah 2:29.

the wicked] in this case the men of Anathoth. The general question was one which much exercised the men of the old dispensation, who had no clear view of any but temporal rewards and punishments. See Psalms 37, 39, 49, 73, and the book of Job, especially ch. Jeremiah 21:7, etc.

Jeremiah 12:1-6. See summary at commencement of section. Pe. points out that this passage is very important in religious history, since it is probably the first expression we have in Hebrew literature of the problem, Why do the wicked prosper? Habakkuk, who also deals with it (Jeremiah 1:13 ff.), is likely to have been at the earliest a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. (See Intr. p. xxx.) Du. rejects the passage on the ground that (a) Jeremiah expected the immediate overthrow of rich and poor alike, and that the wicked are not known to have been more prosperous than the godly in his time. But these arguments are inconclusive except perhaps for the later portion of Jeremiah 12:3, while the larger part of the passage seems to carry with it in point of style its own credentials.

Verse 1. - Painfully exercised by the mysteries of the Divine government, the prophet opens his grief to Jehovah. Righteous art thou, etc.; rather, Righteous wouldest thou be, O Jehovah, if I should plead with thee; i.e. if I were to bring a charge against thee, I should be unable to convict thee of injustice (comp. Psalm 51:4; Job 9:2). The prophet, however, cannot refrain from laying before Jehovah a point which seems to him irreconcilable with the Divine righteousness. The rendering, indeed, must be modified. Let me talk with thee of thy judgments should rather be, yet will I debate questions of right with thee. The questions remind us of those of Job in Job 21, 24. Thus to have been the recipient of special Divine revelations, and to be in close communion with God, gives no security against the occasional ingress of doubting thoughts and spiritual distress. Wherefore are all they happy, etc.? rather, secure. The statement must be qualified by what follows. In the general calamity the wicked still fare the best. Jeremiah 12:1"Righteous art Thou, Jahveh, if I contend with Thee; yet will I plead with Thee in words. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper, are all secure that deal faithlessly? Jeremiah 12:2. Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root; grow, yea, bring forth fruit. Near art Thou in their mouth, yet far from their reins. Jeremiah 12:3. But Thou, Jahveh, knowest me, seest me, and triest mine heart toward Thee. Tear them away like sheep to the slaughter, and devote them for a day of slaughter. Jeremiah 12:4. How long is the earth to mourn and the herb of the field to wither? For the wickedness of them that dwell therein, gone are cattle and fowl; for they say: He sees not our end. Jeremiah 12:5. If with the footmen thou didst run and they wearied thee, how couldst thou contend with the horses? and if thou trustest in the land of peace, how wilt thou do in the glory of Jordan? Jeremiah 12:6. For even thy brethren and they father's house, even they are faithless towards thee, yea, they call after thee with full voice. Believe them not, though they speak friendly to thee."

The prophet's complaint begins by acknowledging: Thou art righteous, Lord, if I would dispute with Thee, i.e., would accuse Thee of injustice. I could convict Thee of no wrong; Thou wouldst appear righteous and prove Thyself in the right. Psalm 51:6; Job 9:2. With אך comes in a limitation: only he will speak pleas of right, maintain a suit with Jahveh, will set before Him something that seems incompatible with God's justice, namely the question: Why the way of the wicked prospers, why they that act faithlessly are in ease and comfort? On this cf. Job 21:7., where Job sets forth at length the contradiction between the prosperity of the wicked and the justice of God's providence. The way of the wicked is the course of their life, their conduct. God has planted them, i.e., has placed them in their circumstances of life; like a tree they have struck root into the ground; they go on, i.e., grow, and bear fruit, i.e., their undertakings succeed, although they have God in their mouth only, not in their heart.

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