Therefore thus said the LORD; Ask you now among the heathen, who has heard such things: the virgin of Israel has done a very horrible thing.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ask ye now among the heathen.—The appeal of Jeremiah 2:10-11 is renewed. Judah had not been true, even as heathen nations were true, to its inherited faith and worship. The virgin daughter of Israel (Isaiah 1:8; Jeremiah 14:17)—the epithet is emphasised, as contrasted with the shame that follows—had fallen from a greater height to a profounder depth of debasement.Jeremiah 18:13-14. Ask ye now among the heathen — Such an apostacy as you are guilty of (see Jeremiah 18:15) is not to be paralleled among the heathen. Compare Jeremiah 2:10. Who hath heard such things — When did people ever behave toward their idols, which yet were no gods, as my people have behaved toward me? The virgin of Israel — That people who were dedicated to me as a chaste virgin, have since corrupted themselves, and gone a whoring after idols. Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon, &c. — “The two similitudes in this verse are evidently designed to illustrate the unnatural and absurd conduct of the Jewish nation in deserting their own God, and adopting the superstitions of a strange idolatry, in preference to the good old paths which God had ordained for them to walk in. As to the first, Lebanon, it must be observed, was the highest mountain in Israel, lying to the north of it, and having its summit almost always covered with snow; from the whiteness of which it is supposed to have derived its name.” See Ancient Univ. Hist. vol. 1. book 1. p. 570, fol. The same circumstance is also recorded by Tacitus, Hist. lib. 5. c. 6. “Præcipuum montium Libanum erigit, mirum dictu, tantos inter ardores opacum fidumque nivibus.” If we follow the translation in our text, the sense is, It is as strange and unreasonable for men to forsake the true God for idols, as it would be for a thirsty traveller to forego the cold refreshing streams that come in his way, flowing from the melting snows of Lebanon, or the clear waters issuing from a pure spring, in order that he might drink of the stagnant waters of some muddy pool. But, it is to be observed, the words a man, and which cometh, are not in the Hebrew, but supplied by our translators, and considerably alter the sense, which literally is, Will the snow of Lebanon cease from the rock of the field? That is, Will it cease to flow, &c. And by the rock of the field, may be meant the rocks on the level ground on the very top of Lebanon; from which the snow, being melted, flowed down into the vales at the bottom of the mountain. Or, shall the cold overflowing waters, running down, fail? The Vulgate translates the verse to exactly the same sense, “Nunquid deficiet de petra agri nix Libani; aut evelli possunt aquæ erumpentes frigidæ, et defluentes?” And the LXX. to nearly that sense, Μη εκλειψουσιν απο πετρας μασοι, η χιων απο του Λιβανου; μη εκκλινη υδωρ βιαιως ανεμω φερομενον; Shall the breasts (that is, the springs) fail from the rock, or snow from Lebanon? Shall water, borne along violently by the wind, turn aside? The sense of the verse seems to be, that the Jews ought no more to have failed in their adherence to the true God, and his service, than the snow on mount Lebanon, or the waters which flow from that mountain into the fields under it, ever fail; in other words, That, as the works of nature preserve their order, and fail not of answering the ends for which they were appointed; so the Jews ought not to have failed of performing their duty to, and showing forth the praises of, Him who chose them to be his peculiar people, and conferred singular privileges upon them in order to these very ends.
virgin of Israel—(2Ki 19:21). It enhances their guilt, that Israel was the virgin whom God had specially betrothed to Him.
horrible thing—(Jer 5:30).
virgin; it is a term given to Zidon, Isaiah 23:12, and to Babylon, Isaiah 47:1. The horrible thing which they had done was their forsaking God, their God, a thing not usual amongst the heathens, as God tells them, Jeremiah 2:11.
ask ye among the Heathen; inquire among the nations of the world, the Gentiles that know not the true God, and have not the external revelation of his will, only the dim light of nature to guide them; and see if anything like this is to be found among them, as with this people, favoured with the law of God, his word and ordinances to direct them, and his prophets to teach and instruct them; suggesting that they were worse than the Heathens, and that it would be more tolerable for them, one day, than for these people:
who hath heard such things? as expressed in the preceding verses; such desperate words, such bold and daring expressions, such impious resolutions; for generally, when persons are reproved and threatened for sin, they promise amendment; or what is after related concerning their idolatries; intimating that nothing like it was ever heard of among the Gentiles; see Jeremiah 2:10;
the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing; the congregation of Israel, as the Targum; the people of the Jews, ironically so called; because they had been espoused to the Lord as a chaste virgin, and ought to have remained so, pure and incorrupt in the worship of him; but had committed spiritual adultery, that is, idolatry; even very gross acts of it; horrible to hear and think of; enough to make a man's hair stand an end to be told of; or what was very filthy and abominable, and to be loathed and detested, which is explained, Jeremiah 18:15; unless it can be thought to refer to what goes before, concerning their dreadful resolution to continue in their evil ways.Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)13. Ask ye now among the nations] Cp. ch. Jeremiah 2:10 f., Jeremiah 5:30.
the virgin of Israel] The people collectively (see on Jeremiah 4:11), tended with the utmost care by the Almighty, have in spite of it all broken through the sanctity which hedged them around. Cp. Jeremiah 14:17 for the collective use of the expression.Verse 13. - Will a man leave the anew of Lebanon, etc.? This passage is unusually obscure. Literally we must, it would seem, render, Doth the snow of Lebanon fail from the rock of the field (or possibly, cease to flow from the rock unto the field)? This is explained as pointing a contrast to the infidelity of God's people. "The snow never leaves the summit of Lebanon; the waters which take their rise therein never dry up; but my people have forgotten the law of their being, the source of their prosperity." The rendering of the first clause is, however, grammatically dubious (there is no example of this construction of 'azabh), and all the old versions point to (or at least favor) a reading, Shaddai (the Almighty) instead of sadai (the field). If we keep the text, we must explain "the rock of the field" on the analogy of "my mountain in the field" (Jeremiah 17:3), as meaning "the rock which commands a wide prospect over the open lowland country," i.e. Mount Lebanon. The cold flowing waters; i.e. the numerous "streams from Lebanon," referred to in Song of Solomon 4:15. That come from another place; i.e. whoso sources are foreign. But as this does not suit the connection, it is better to take the Hebrew word (zarim), usually rendered "foreign," in the sense of "pressing or hurrying along," with Ewald, Graf, and virtually Henderson. It thus becomes descriptive of these streams "as contracted within narrow channels while descending through the gorges and defiles of the rocks." Camp. "like an oppressing stream," Isaiah 59:19 (a cognate verb). Be forsaken. The Hebrew text has "be plucked up' (i.e. destroyed?); but as this is unsuitable, we must transpose two letters (as in not a few other cases), and render, dry up. So Gesenius, Graf, Keil, Delitzsch, and Payne Smith. Jeremiah 18:6-10 the Lord discloses to the prophet the truth lying in the potter's treatment of the clay. The power the potter has over the clay to remould, according to his pleasure, the vessel he had formed from it if it went wrong; the same power God possesses over the people of Israel. This unlimited power of God over mankind is exercised according to man's conduct, not according to a decretum absolutum or unchangeable determination. If he pronounces a people's overthrow or ruin, and if that people turn from its wickedness, He repeals His decree (Jeremiah 18:7.); and conversely, if He promises a people welfare and prosperity, and if that people turn away from Him to wickedness, then too He changes His resolve to do good to it (Jeremiah 18:9.). Inasmuch as He is even now making His decree known by the mouth of the prophet, it follows that the accomplishment of Jeremiah's last utterances is conditioned by the impression God's word makes on men. רגע, adv., in the moment, forthwith, and when repeated equals now...now, now...again. Ng. maintains that the arrangement here is paratactic, so that the רגע does not belong to the nearest verb, but to the main idea, i.e., to the apodosis in this case. The remark is just; but the word does not mean suddenly, but immediately, and the sense is: when I have spoken against a people, and this people repents, then immediately I let it repent me. נחם על as in Joel 2:13, etc. With "to pluck up," etc., "to build," etc., cf. Jeremiah 1:10. "Against which I spake," Jeremiah 18:8, belongs to "that people," and seems as if it might be dispensed with; but is not therefore spurious because the lxx have omitted it. For הרעה the Keri has הרע, the most usual form, Jeremiah 7:30, Numbers 32:13; Judges 2:11, etc.; but the Chet. is called for by the following הטּובה and מרעתו. להיטיב הטּובה, to show kindness, cf. Numbers 10:32.
The emblematical interpretation of the potter with the clay lays a foundation for the prophecy that follows, Jeremiah 18:11-17, in which the people are told that it is only by reason of their stiffnecked persistency in wickedness that they render threatened judgment certain, whereas by return to their God they might prevent the ruin of the kingdom.
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