Jeremiah 13:20
Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given you, your beautiful flock?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Lift up your eyes.—The Hebrew verb is feminine and singular, the possessive pronoun masculine and plural. Assuming the reading to be correct, the irregularity may have been intended to combine the ideal personification of Jerusalem, the daughter of Zion, as the natural protectress of the other cities, with the concrete multitude of her inhabitants. The “beautiful flock” of those cities had been committed to her care, and she is now called to give an account of her stewardship.

Them that come from the north.—These are, of course, as in Jeremiah 1:14 and elsewhere, the invading army of the Chaldeans, and probably also their Scythian allies.

13:18-27 Here is a message sent to king Jehoiakim, and his queen. Their sorrows would be great indeed. Do they ask, Wherefore come these things upon us? Let them know, it is for their obstinacy in sin. We cannot alter the natural colour of the skin; and so is it morally impossible to reclaim and reform these people. Sin is the blackness of the soul; it is the discolouring of it; we were shapen in it, so that we cannot get clear of it by any power of our own. But Almighty grace is able to change the Ethiopian's skin. Neither natural depravity, nor strong habits of sin, form an obstacle to the working of God, the new-creating Spirit. The Lord asks of Jerusalem, whether she is determined not be made clean. If any poor slave of sin feels that he could as soon change his nature as master his headstrong lusts, let him not despair; for things impossible to men are possible with God. Let us then seek help from Him who is mighty to save.Jerusalem is asked where the cities, which once lay grouped round her, like a goodly flock of sheep, are gone? The question implies blame. 20. from … north—Nebuchadnezzar and his hostile army (Jer 1:14; 6:22).

flock … given thee—Jeremiah, amazed at the depopulation caused by Nebuchadnezzar's forces, addresses Jerusalem (a noun of multitude, which accounts for the blending of plural and singular, Your eyes … thee … thy flock), and asks where is the population (Jer 13:17, "flock") which God had given her?

He speaks to them as if their enemy was even then upon their march, that if they did but look they might see him coming.

Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock? the prophet either speaks to the king, or to the rulers, or chief of the congregation of Judah. Proverbs 14:28, In the multitude of the people is the king’s honour. So in the multitude of subjects, or of members, lies much of the honour of a church or state. Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north,.... There are a Keri and a Cetib of the words "lift up" and "behold"; they are written in the singular number, and may be considered as directed to the king, as the words following are; and they are read in the plural number, the state and whole body of the people being called upon to observe the Chaldean army, which came from the north; and is represented as on the march, just at hand to invade, besiege, take, and carry them captive. The Septuagint version renders it, "lift up thine eyes, O Jerusalem"; and the Arabic version, "O Israel: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?" that is, the people, as the Targum interprets it, which were committed to the care and charge of the king, as sheep into the hands of a shepherd; and were a fine body of people, chosen of God and precious, distinguished above all others by wholesome and righteous laws and statutes, and special privileges; a people who were a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, and a peculiar people, the glory of the whole earth; but now carried, or about to be carried, captive. It is no unusual thing to represent a king as a shepherd, and his people as a flock, guided, governed, and protected by him, and who is accountable for his trust to the King of kings; see Psalm 78:71. Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the {i} flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?

(i) He asks the king, where his people is become.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. Lift up your eyes, and behold] The verbs in MT. are fem. and sing., with a variant (Ḳ’ri) mas. and pl. The pronoun, probably by a slip, is pl. It is better to read with LXX, Lift up thine eyes, O Jerusalem.

the north] Cp. Jeremiah 4:6, Jeremiah 6:1; Jeremiah 6:22.

the flock] See on Jeremiah 13:17.

20–27. Lament for the calamities brought about by Jerusalem’s sin

See, O Jerusalem, the northern foe descends on thee. What has become of thy goodly nation? How wilt thou endure those who were erst thy friends, now become thy rulers? What shall be thy pangs? And dost thou ask, Wherefore? It is the penalty of thy sin. Evil, through inveterate custom, has become as immutable a thing with thee as is the Ethiopian’s skin or the leopard’s spotted hide. Scattered like the chaff that is whirled along by the desert wind, thou shalt have this for thy lot because of thy faithlessness. Shame and disgrace are the results of the lewd practices which thou hast openly carried on. Canst thou ever become clean again?

The date may well be that of the battle of Carchemish (b.c. 605), which exposed Judah defenceless to Nebuchadnezzar. The foe spoken of cannot be the Scythians (see on Jeremiah 1:13), as they never were “friends,” whereas for the attempt to be on friendly terms with the Eastern powers we may cp. Jeremiah 2:36, Jeremiah 4:30.Verses 20, 21. - The captivity being still (in spite of the perfect tense) a thing of the future, the prophet can seek to awaken the conscience of the careless under-shepherd by showing how serf-caused is his (or rather her) punishment. Verse 20. - Lift up your eyes. The verb is fern. sing., the pronoun (in suffix form) masc. plu, - a clear indication that the person addressed is a collective. Probably the "daughter of Zion" is intended, which, in a certain sense, might be called the "shepherd" or leader of the rest of the nation. From the north. Again this horror of the north as the source of calamity (see on Jeremiah 14). How the Lord will destroy His degenerate people, and how they may yet escape the impending ruin. - Jeremiah 13:12. "And speak unto them this word: Thus hath Jahveh the God of Israel said, Every jar is filled with wine. And when they say to thee, Know we not that every jar is filled with wine? Jeremiah 13:13. Then say to them: Thus hath Jahve said: Behold, I fill all inhabitants of this land - the kings that sit for David upon his throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all inhabitants of Jerusalem - with drunkenness, Jeremiah 13:14. And dash them one against another, the fathers and the sons together, saith Jahve; I will not spare, nor pity, nor have mercy, not to destroy them. - Jeremiah 13:15. Hear ye and give ear! Be not proud, for Jahveh speaketh. Jeremiah 13:16. Give to Jahveh, your God, honour, ere He bring darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the mountains of dusk, and ye look for light, but He turn it into the shadow of death and make it darkness. Jeremiah 13:17. But if ye hear it not, then in concealment shall my soul weep for the pride, and weep and run down shall mine eye with tears, because the flock of Jahve is carried away captive."

To give emphasis to the threatening conveyed in the symbolical action, the kind and manner of the destruction awaiting them is forcibly set before the various ranks in Judah and Jerusalem by the interpretation, in Jeremiah 13:12-14, of a proverbial saying and the application of it to them. The circumstantial way in which the figurative saying is brought in in Jeremiah 13:12, is designed to call attention to its import. נבל, an earthenware vessel, especially the wine jar (cf. Isaiah 30:24; Lamentations 4:2), is here the emblem of man; cf. Jeremiah 18:6; Isaiah 29:16. We must not, as Ng. does, suppose the similar to be used because such jars are an excellent emblem of that carnal aristocratic pride which lacked all substantial merit, by reason of their being of bulging shape, hollow within and without solidity, and of fragile material besides. No stress is laid on the bulging form and hollowness of the jars, but only on their fulness with wine and their brittleness. Nor can aristocratic haughtiness be predicated of all the inhabitants of the land. The saying: Every jar is filled with wine, seemed so plain and natural, that those addressed answer: Of that we are well aware. "The answer is that of the psychical man, who dreams of no deeper sense" (Hitz.). Just this very answer gives the prophet occasion to expound the deeper meaning of this word of God's. As one fills all wine jars, so must all inhabitants of the land be filled by God with wine of intoxication. Drunkenness is the effect of the intoxicating wine of God's wrath, Psalm 60:5. This wine Jahveh will give them (cf. Jeremiah 25:15; Isaiah 51:17, etc.), so that, filled with drunken frenzy, they shall helplessly destroy one another. This spirit will seize upon all ranks: upon the kings who sit upon the throne of David, not merely him who was reigning at the time; upon the priests and prophets as leaders of the people; and upon all inhabitants of Jerusalem, the metropolis, the spirit and temper of which exercises an unlimited influence upon the temper and destiny of the kingdom at large. I dash them one against the other, as jars are shivered when knocked together. Here Hitz. finds a foreshadowing of civil war, by which they should exterminate one another. Jeremiah was indeed thinking of the staggering against one another of drunken men, but in "dash them," etc., adhered simply to the figure of jars or pots. But what can be meant by the shivering of pots knocked together, other than mutual destruction? The kingdom of Judah did not indeed fall by civil war; but who can deny that the fury of the various factions in Judah and Jerusalem did really contribute to the fall of the realm? The shattering of the pots does not mean directly civil war; it is given as the result of the drunkenness of the inhabitants, under which they, no longer capable of self-control, dash against and so destroy one another. But besides, the breaking of jars reminds us of the stratagem of Gideon and his 300 warriors, who, by the sound of trumpets and the smashing of jars, threw the whole Midianite camp into such panic, that these foes turned their swords against one another and fled in wild confusion: Judges 7:19., cf. too 1 Samuel 14:20. Thus shall Judah be broken without mercy or pity. To increase the emphasis, there is a cumulation of expressions, as in Jeremiah 21:7; Jeremiah 15:5, cf. Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 7:4, Ezekiel 7:9, etc.

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