Jeremiah 12:2
Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.
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(2) Thou hast planted them.—The words express, of course, the questioning distrust of the prophet. The wicked flourish, so that one would think God had indeed planted them. Yet all the while they were mocking Him with hypocritical worship (here we have an echo of Isaiah 29:13), uttering His name with their lips while He was far from that innermost being which the Hebrew symbolised by the “reins.”

Jeremiah 12:2-3. Thou hast planted them — In a rich soil, by thy power: they have taken root; they grow — Their prosperity seems to be confirmed and settled by thy providence. Thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins — They talk of thee, and profess piety, but do not believe in and obey thee from their hearts; the true character this of hypocrites, who, according to Isaiah, honour God with their mouths, but their hearts are far from him, Isaiah 29:13. But thou, O Lord, knowest me — As if he had said, Thou knowest, O Lord, it is otherwise with me: I am maligned, and my life is hunted after, though my heart is upright before thee; and I have been faithful in declaring to the people that, and only that, which thou didst reveal to me: yet it is for this they seek my life. Pull them out like sheep, &c. — Or rather, as Dr. Waterland and Houbigant translate the clause, “Thou wilt separate them as sheep to be sacrificed, and set them apart for the day of slaughter.”

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.Their veins - i. e., their heart. The reins were regarded by the Jews as the seat of the affections. 2. grow—literally, "go on," "progress." Thou givest them sure dwellings and increasing prosperity.

near in … mouth … far from … reins—(Isa 29:13; Mt 15:8). Hypocrites.

Here are a people that indeed talk of thee, and one that only observeth their mouths would judge thou wert near to them, and they had communion with thee; but he that observeth their lives may easily discern that thou art far from their inward parts, they have neither fear of thee, nor love for thee, nor desire after thee, nor delight in thee, nor are they obedient to thee; yet thou hast planted them by thy power, and by thy providence they thrive, go on, and prosper.

Thou hast planted them,.... In the land of Canaan, fixed the bounds of their habitation, given them a firm and comfortable settlement; for all the good things, even of the wicked, come from God:

yea, they have taken root; as everything that is planted does not; but these did, though it was downwards in the earth, on which their hearts were set, and so were strengthened and established in their worldly circumstances:

they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit; but to themselves, not to God; not fruits of righteousness or good works; they grow, not in grace and holiness, but in their worldly substance; and they brought forth fruit, not such as were meet for repentance, but they had great riches, and numerous families; and so the Septuagint and Arabic versions, "they produce children, and bring forth fruit." The Targum is,

"they become rich, yea, they possess substance.''

Thou art near in their mouth; they often made use of the name of God, either in swearing by it, or praying to him in an external manner; they called themselves the Lord's people, and boasted of being his priests, and employed in his service; they took his covenant, and the words of his law, into their mouths, and taught them the people, and yet had no sincere regard for these things:

and far from their reins; from the affections of their hearts, and the desires of their souls; they had no true love for God, nor fear of him, nor faith in him. The Targum is,

"near are the words of thy law in their mouth, and far is thy fear from their reins.''

Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their {c} reins.

(c) They profess God in mouth, but deny him in heart, which is here meant by the reins, Isa 29:13, Mt 15:8.

2. planted] The same metaphor is used of the whole nation, 2 Samuel 7:10. The figure of a tree is worked out in the verse. They have been placed in security and have prospered throughout life. We may compare Isaiah 40:24 for the same figure applied in that case to the overthrow of those who are the objects of Divine wrath.

reins] See on Jeremiah 11:20.

Verse 2. - Far from their reins; i.e. from their heart (the seat of strong impulses and desires); comp. Psalm 16:7; Psalm 26:2. Jeremiah 12:2"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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