Jeremiah 13:20
Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?
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(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.

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). Jeremiah 13:20The fall of the kingdom, the captivity of Judah, with upbraidings against Jerusalem for her grievous guilt in the matter of idolatry. - Jeremiah 13:18. "Say unto the king and to the sovereign lady: Sit you low down, for from your heads falls the crown of your glory. Jeremiah 13:19. The cities of the south are shut and no man openeth; Judah is carried away captive all of it, wholly carried away captive. Jeremiah 13:20. Lift up your eyes and behold them that come from midnight! Where is the flock that was given thee, thy glorious flock? Jeremiah 13:21. What wilt thou say, if He set over thee those whom thou hast accustomed to thee as familiar friends, for a head? Shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail? Jeremiah 13:22. And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore cometh this upon me? for the plenty of thine iniquity are thy skirts uncovered, thy heels abused. Jeremiah 13:23. Can an Ethiopian change his skin, and a leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to doing evil. Jeremiah 13:24. Therefore will I scatter them like chaff that flies before the wind of the wilderness. Jeremiah 13:25. This is thy lot, thine apportioned inheritance from me, because thou hast forgotten me and trustedst in falsehood. Jeremiah 13:26. Therefore will I turn thy skirts over thy face, that thy shame be seen. Jeremiah 13:27. Thine adultery and thy neighing, the crime of thy whoredom upon the ills, in the fields, I have seen thine abominations. Woe unto thee, Jerusalem! thou shalt not be made clean after how long a time yet!"

From Jeremiah 13:18 on the prophet's discourse is addressed to the king and the queen-mother. The latter as such exercised great influence on the government, and is in the Books of Kings mentioned alongside of almost all the reigning kings (cf. 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 10:13, etc.); so that we are not necessarily led to think of Jechoniah and his mother in especial. To them he proclaims the loss of the crown and the captivity of Judah. Set yourselves low down (cf. Gesen. 142, 3, b), i.e., descend from the throne; not in order to turn aside the threatening danger by humiliation, but, as the reason that follows show, because the kingdom is passing from you. For fallen is מראשׁתיכם, your head-gear, lit., what is about or on your head (elsewhere pointed מראשׁות, 1 Samuel 19:13; 1 Samuel 26:7), namely, your splendid crown. The perf. here is prophetic. The crown falls when the king loses country and kingship. This is put expressly in Jeremiah 13:19. The meaning of the first half of the verse, which is variously taken, may be gathered from the second. In the latter the complete deportation of Judah is spoken of as an accomplished fact, because it is as sure to happen as if it had taken place already. Accordingly the first clause cannot bespeak expectation merely, or be understood, as it is by Grotius, as meaning that Judah need hope for no help from Egypt. This interpretation is irreconcilable with "the cities of the south." "The south" is the south country of Judah, cf. Joshua 10:40; Genesis 13:1, etc., and is not to be taken according to the prophetic use of "king of the south," Daniel 11:5, Daniel 11:9. The shutting of the cities is not to be taken, with Jerome, as siege by the enemy, as in Joshua 6:1. There the closedness is otherwise illustrated: No man was going out or in; here, on the other hand, it is: No man openeth. "Shut" is to be explained according to Isaiah 24:10 : the cities are shut up by reason of ruins which block up the entrances to them; and in them is none that can open, because all Judah is utterly carried away. The cities of the south are mentioned, not because the enemy, avoiding the capital, had first brought the southern part of the land under his power, as Sennacherib had once advanced against Jerusalem from the south, 2 Kings 18:13., Jeremiah 19:8 (Graf, Ng., etc.), but because they were the part of the kingdom most remote for an enemy approaching from the north; so that when they were taken, the land was reduced and the captivity of all Judah accomplished. For the form הגלת see Ew. 194, a, Ges. 75, Rem. 1. שׁלומים is adverbial accusative: in entirety, like מישׁרים, Psalm 58:2, etc. For this cf. גּלוּת, Amos 1:6, Amos 1:9.

The announcement of captivity is carried on in Jeremiah 13:20, where we have first an account of the impression which the carrying away captive will produce upon Jerusalem (Jeremiah 13:20 and Jeremiah 13:21), and next a statement of the cause of that judgment (Jeremiah 13:22-27). In שׂאי and ראי a feminine is addressed, and, as appears from the suffix in עיניכם, one which is collective. The same holds good of the following verses on to Jeremiah 13:27, where Jerusalem is named, doubtless the inhabitants of it, personified as the daughter of Zion - a frequent case. Ng. is wrong in supposing that the feminines in Jeremiah 13:20 are called for by the previously mentioned queen-mother, that Jeremiah 13:20-22 are still addressed to her, and that not till Jeremiah 13:23 is there a transition from her in the address to the nation taken collectively and regarded as the mother of the country. The contents of Jeremiah 13:20 do not tally with Ng.'s view; for the queen-mother was not the reigning sovereign, so that the inhabitants of the land could have been called her flock, however great was the influence she might exercise upon the king. The mention of foes coming from the north, and the question coupled therewith: Where is the flock? convey the thought that the flock is carried off by those enemies. The flock is the flock of Jahveh (Jeremiah 13:17), and, in virtue of God's choice of it, a herd of gloriousness. The relative clause: "that was given thee," implies that the person addressed is to be regarded as the shepherd or owner of the flock. This will not apply to the capital and its citizens; for the influence exerted by the capital in the country is not so great as to make it appear the shepherd or lord of the people. But the relative clause is in good keeping with the idea of the idea of the daughter of Zion, with which is readily associated that of ruler of land and people. It intimates the suffering that will be endured by the daughter of Zion when those who have been hitherto her paramours are set up as head over her. The verse is variously explained. The old transll. and comm. take פּקד על in the sense of visit, chastise; so too Chr. B. Mich. and Ros.; and Ew. besides, who alters the text acc. to the lxx, changing יפקד into the plural יפקדוּ. For this change there is no sufficient reason; and without such change, the signif. visit, punish, gives us no suitable sense. The phrase means also: to appoint or set over anybody; cf. e.g., Jeremiah 15:3. The subject can only be Jahveh. The words from ואתּ onwards form an adversative circumstantial clause: and yet thou hast accustomed them עליך, for אליך rof ,, to thee (cf. for למּד c. אל, Jeremiah 10:2). The connection of the words אלּפים לראשׁ depends upon the sig. assigned to אלּפים. Gesen. (thes.) and Ros. still adhere to the meaning taken by Luther, Vat., and many others, viz., principes, princes, taking for the sense of the whole: whom thou hast accustomed (trained) to be princes over thee. This word is indeed the technical term for the old Edomitish chieftains of clans, Genesis 36:15., and is applied as an archaic term by Zechariah 9:7 to the tribal princes of Judah; but it does not, as a general rule, mean prince, but familiar, friend, Ps. 655:14, Proverbs 16:28, Micah 7:5; cf. Jeremiah 11:19. This being the well-attested signification, it is, in the first place, not competent to render עליך over or against thee (adversus te, Jerome); and Hitz.'s exposition: thou hast instructed them to thy hurt, hast taught them a disposition hostile to thee, cannot be justified by usage. In the second place, אלפים cannot be attached to the principal clause, "set over thee," and joined with "for a head:" if He set over thee - as princes for a head; but it belongs to "hast accustomed," while only "for a head" goes with "if He set" (as de Wet., Umbr., Ng., etc., construe). The prophet means the heathen kings, for whose favour Judah had hitherto been intriguing, the Babylonians and Egyptians. There is no cogent reason for referring the words, as many comm. do, to the Babylonians alone. For the statement is quite general throughout; and, on the one hand, Judah had, from the days of Ahaz on, courted the alliance not of the Babylonians alone, but of the Egyptians too (cf. Jeremiah 2:18); and, on the other hand, after the death of Josiah, Judah had become subject to Egypt, and had had to endure the grievous domination of the Pharaohs, as Jeremiah had threatened, Jeremiah 2:16. If God deliver the daughter of Zion into the power of these her paramours, i.e., if she be subjected to their rule, then will grief and pain seize on her as on a woman in childbirth; cf. Jeremiah 6:24; Jeremiah 22:23, etc. אשׁת לדה, woman of bearing; so here, only, elsewhere יולדה (cf. the passages cited); לדה is infin., as in Isaiah 37:3; 2 Kings 19:3; Hosea 9:11.

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