Jeremiah 18:15
Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up;
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(15) Vanity.—The word is not that commonly so translated (as in Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 10:8; Ecclesiastes 1:2, et al., q. 5), but that which had been used of idols in Jeremiah 2:30; Jeremiah 4:30; Jeremiah 6:29, rendered “in vain.” See also Ezekiel 13:6; Ezekiel 13:8-9.

They have caused.—No persons have been named, but the prophet clearly has in view the prophets and teachers who had led the people astray.

To stumble in their ways from the ancient paths.—The preposition “from” is not in the Hebrew, and does not improve the sense. The words “the ancient paths,” literally, the paths of the age, or of eternity, are in apposition with “their ways,” and point to the old immemorial faith of the patriarchs, a faith not of to-day or yesterday. The second “paths” is a different word from the first, and implies rather the “by-ways,” as contrasted with the “way cast up,” the raised causeway, the “king’s highway,” on which a man could not well lose his way.

Jeremiah 18:15-17. Because my people have forgotten me — The fountain of living waters; have forgotten what I am in myself, and what I have been, and am still ready to be to them; have lost their knowledge of me, and their remembrance of what I have done for them; they have burned incense to vanity — To vain idols, the products of men’s vain imaginations, and serving no good purpose whatever; and they have caused them to stumble, &c. — “The worship of idols hath perverted them from following the old, beaten track, plainly set forth in the law of Moses, and in the examples of former ages; (see Jeremiah 6:16;) and hath engaged them in such new and untried ways of worship as will end in their ruin.” — Lowth. To make their land desolate — Though the Jews did not practise idolatry and other sins with this view for they wished nothing less than the desolation of their country; yet they acted as if they wished it, and God had sufficiently warned them it was an effect which would follow upon their conduct. And a perpetual hissing — To be hissed at perpetually by way of insult and scorn, by those who pass by. I will scatter them as with an east wind, &c. — The east wind, being dry and blasting, is commonly used to express the calamities of war, and such like wasting judgments. But the words may perhaps be more intelligibly rendered, As the east wind the stubble, so will I scatter them before the enemy. And I will show them the back and not the face — I will manifest the same aversion from them which they have shown from me; I will not favour but be against them. The metaphor is taken from the custom of kings and princes, which is, to turn their backs on, or go away from, those supplicants whose petitions they will not grant.

18:11-17 Sinners call it liberty to live at large; whereas for a man to be a slave to his lusts, is the very worst slavery. They forsook God for idols. When men are parched with heat, and meet with cooling, refreshing streams, they use them. In these things men will not leave a certainty for an uncertainty; but Israel left the ancient paths appointed by the Divine law. They walked not in the highway, in which they might travel safely, but in a way in which they must stumble: such was the way of idolatry, and such is the way of iniquity. This made their land desolate, and themselves miserable. Calamities may be borne, if God smile upon us when under them; but if he is displeased, and refuses his help, we are undone. Multitudes forget the Lord and his Christ, and wander from the ancient paths, to walk in ways of their own devising. But what will they do in the day of judgment!Because - "For." Jeremiah returns to, and continues the words of, Jeremiah 18:13.

Vanity - A word meaning "falsehood," which signifies that the worship of idols is not merely useless but injurious.

They have caused them to stumble - Judah's prophets and priests were they who made her to err Jeremiah 5:31. The idols were of themselves powerless for good or evil.

In their ways ... - Or, "in their ways, the everlasting paths, to walk in byways, in a road not cast up. The paths of eternity" carry back the mind not to the immediate but to the distant past, and suggest the good old ways in which the patriarchs used to walk. The "road cast up" means one raised sufficiently to keep it out of the reach of floods etc.

15. Because—rather, "And yet"; in defiance of the natural order of things.

forgotten me—(Jer 2:32). This implies a previous knowledge of God, whereas He was unknown to the Gentiles; the Jews' forgetting of God, therefore, arose from determined perversity.

they have caused … to stumble—namely the false prophets and idolatrous priests have.

ancient paths—(Jer 6:16): the paths which their pious ancestors trod. Not antiquity indiscriminately, but the example of the fathers who trod the right way, is here commended.

them—the Jews.

not cast up—not duly prepared: referring to the raised center of the road. Calvin translates, "not trodden." They had no precedent of former saints to induce them to devise for themselves a new worship.

Forgotten and forsaken are much the same thing, differing only as the cause and the effect; for if men remembered God as they ought to do, they would not forsake him. By

vanity he means idols; which are called vanity, not only because they are in themselves nothing of what they are pretended to be, and because the worshipping of them is a high degree of sin, which is often called vanity in Scripture, but because the service of them is of no use nor profit, or advantage; and any expectations from them are idle and vain, for which there is no ground at all. Whether the false prophets or the idols are here said to cause them to stumble by receding from the

ancient paths is uncertain. The words may either be translated paths of eternity, or paths of antiquity; the most and best translate it as we do. Quid veturn primurn, The ways of truth are the most ancient ways; the ways wherein Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the ancient patriarchs did walk.

To walk in paths, or in a way not cast up, not fitting for God’s people to walk in. Proverbs 15:19, The way of the righteous is said to be a way made plain, Heb. raised up as a causey. Wicked men, in opposition to these ways, are said to walk

in a way not cast up.

Because my people hath forgotten me,.... Or, "that they have forgotten me" (z); this is the horrible thing they have done, which was unheard of among the Gentiles, who were always tenacious of their gods, and the worship of them; and that foolish and unwise thing, which was like leaving pure flowing streams of water for dirty puddles. This is to be understood of their forsaking the worship of God, as the Targum interprets it, and following after idols:

they have burnt incense to vanity; to idols, which are vain empty things, and which cannot give their worshippers what they expect from them: or, "in vain they burn incense" (a); even to the true God, while they also sacrificed unto idols; which to do was an abomination to the Lord, Isaiah 1:13; and especially burning incense to idols must be a vain thing; and so the Targum,

"to no profit a they burn incense or spices:''

and they have caused them to stumble in their ways; that is, either the idols they worshipped, or the false prophets caused the professing people of the Jews to stumble and fall in the ways into which they led them: and

from the ancient paths; or, "the paths of eternity" (b); which lead to eternal life; or which were of old marked out by the revealed will of God for the saints to walk in; and in which the patriarchs and people of God, in all former ages, did walk; and which were appointed from everlasting, and will remain for ever; and these are the good old paths in Jeremiah 6:16;

to walk in paths, in a way not cast up; a new way, unknown in former times; an unbeaten track, which the saints had never walked in; a rough path, unsafe and dangerous; and hence they stumbled, and fell, and came to ruin; as follows:

(z) "quod obliti sunt", Schmidt. (a) "frustra adolebunt, vel adolent", Pagninus, Calvin. (b) "semitae quae a seculo, seu antiquo", vid. Schmidt; so Targum; "semitis jam olim praescriptis", Piscator.

Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the {e} ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up;

(e) That is, the way of truth which God had taught by his law, Jer 6:16.

15. For] This continues the thought of the 13th v., Jeremiah 18:14 being parenthetic.

vanity] lit. unreality, meaning idols, but a different word from that used in Jeremiah 2:5, where see notes. Here the sense is materially or morally unsubstantial or groundless. See Dr. Parallel Psalter, p. 464.

they have caused] The pronoun must refer to the idols (2 Chronicles 28:23); but it is better, as the LXX’s rendering suggests, to translate have stumbled, thus retaining “the people” as the subject.

in the ancient paths] Cp. ch. Jeremiah 6:16.

not cast up] not raised above the inequalities and obstructions of the adjoining fields.

Verse 15. - Because my people hath forgotten me; rather, Surely, etc.; or better still, Yet surely. It is not uncommon for a particle of asseveration to acquire a contrasting force from the context; see e.g. Jeremiah 3:20; Isaiah 53:4; and, still more completely parallel, Isaiah 2:6; Jeremiah 9:1, where Authorized Version, with substantial correctness, has "nevertheless." Israel "forgot" Jehovah (as Jeremiah 2:32); no doubt he was responsible for so doing, but still it was not "of malice preponse." To vanity; i.e. to the unreal idol-gods. And they have caused them to stumble; viz. the idol-gods; these are responsible (.for they have a real existence in the consciousness of their worshippers) for this interruption of Israel's spiritual progress (comp. 2 Chronicles 28:23). In their ways from the ancient paths. "From," however, is interpolated by the Authorized Version; the Hebrew places "the ancient paths" in apposition to "their ways," "Stand ye in the ways," Jeremiah cried at an earlier period, "and see, and ask for the old paths, which is the good way" (Jeremiah 6:16). These "old" or "ancient" paths were ideally "their ways," the ways appointed for the Jews to walk in. To walk in paths; rather, in tracks, footpaths leading up and down and often ending in nothing; or, in other terms, in a way not cast up (Isaiah 40:3, 4, gives a graphic picture of the operation of "casting up a way"). Jeremiah 18:15The application at Jeremiah 18:15 is introduced by a causal כּי. Ew. wrongly translates: that my people forgot me. כּי means for; and the causal import is founded on the main idea of Jeremiah 18:13 : A very horrible thing hath Israel done; for it hath done that which is unheard of in the natural world, it hath forsaken me, the rock of safety; cf. Jeremiah 2:32. They burn odours, i.e., kindle sacrifices, to the vanity, i.e., the null gods, cf. Psalm 31:7, i.e., to Baal, Jeremiah 7:9; Jeremiah 11:13, Jeremiah 11:17. The subject to יכשׁלוּם may be most simply supplied from the idea of "the vanity:" the null gods made them to stumble; cf. for this idea 2 Chronicles 28:23. This seems more natural than to leave the subject indefinite, in which case the false prophets (cf. Jeremiah 23:27) or the priests, or other seducers, would be the moving spirits. "The ancient paths" is apposition to "their ways:" upon their ways, the paths of the old time, i.e., not, however, the good old believing times, from whose ways the Israelites have but recently diverged. For עולם never denotes the time not very long passed away, but always old, immemorial time, here specially the time of the patriarchs, who walked on the right paths of faithfulness to God, as in Jeremiah 6:16. Hitz. and Graf have taken "the ancient paths" as subject: the old paths have made the Israelites to stumble on their ways, which gives a most unnatural idea, while the "paths of the earliest time" is weakened into "the example of their ancestors;" and besides, the parallelism is destroyed. As "by-paths" is defined by the apposition "a way not cast up," so is "on their ways" by "the ancient paths." The Chet. שׁבוּלי is found only here; the Keri is formed after Psalm 77:20. A way not cast up is one on which one cannot advance, reach the goal, or on which one suffers hurt and perishes. - In Jeremiah 18:16 the consequences of these doings are spoken of as having been wrought out by themselves, in order thus to bring out the God-ordained causal nexus between actions and their consequences. To make their land an object of horror to all that set foot on it. שׁרוּקות occurs only here, while the Keri שׁריקות is found only in Judges 5:16 for the piping of shepherds, from שׁרק, to hiss, to pipe. In connection with שׁמּה as expression of horror or amazement, Jeremiah elsewhere uses only שׁרקה, cf. Jeremiah 19:8; Jeremiah 25:9, Jeremiah 25:18; Jeremiah 29:18; Jeremiah 51:37, so that here the vowelling should perhaps be שׁרוּקת. The word does not here denote the hissing equals hissing down or against one, by way of contempt, but the sound midway between hissing and whistling which escapes one when one looks on something appalling. On "every one that passeth by shall be dismayed," cf. 1 Kings 9:8. הניע בּראשׁו only here equals הניע ראשׁ, to move the head to and fro, shake the head; a gesture of malicious amazement, cf. Psalm 22:8; Psalm 109:25, like מנוד ראשׁ, Psalm 44:15. - In Jeremiah 18:17 the Lord discloses the coming punishment. Like an east wind, i.e., a violent storm-wind (cf. Psalm 48:8), will I scatter them, cf. Jeremiah 13:24. Because they have turned to Him the back and not the face (cf. Jeremiah 2:27), so will He turn His back on them in the day of their ruin, cf. Ezekiel 35:5.
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