Jeremiah 18:20
Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have dig a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before you to speak good for them, and to turn away your wrath from them.
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(20) They have digged a pit for my soul.—The image has become so familiar that we have all but lost its vividness. What it meant here (as in Psalm 57:6) was that the man was treated as a beast, the prophet who sought their good as the wolf or the jackal whom they entrapped and slew.

Remember that I stood before thee.—The phrase is used frequently, though not uniformly, of the act of worship, of the communion of the soul with God (comp. Jeremiah 7:10; Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 19:17; Deuteronomy 29:10; 1Kings 19:11), and is clearly used in this sense here. The prophet refers to his repeated though fruitless entreaties for the people in Jeremiah 14, 15. It is interesting to note the description of Jeremiah, in 2 Maccabees 15:14, as “a lover of the brethren who prayeth much for the people and the holy city.” Men had come to recognise that the spirit of intercession had been the prophet’s dominant characteristic.

18:18-23 When the prophet called to repentance, instead of obeying the call, the people devised devices against him. Thus do sinners deal with the great Intercessor, crucifying him afresh, and speaking against him on earth, while his blood is speaking for them in heaven. But the prophet had done his duty to them; and the same will be our rejoicing in a day of evil.Jeremiah had been laboring earnestly to avert the ruin of his country, but the Jews treated him as farmers do some noxious animal which wastes their fields, and for which they dig pitfalls. 20. In the particulars here specified, Jeremiah was a type of Jesus Christ (Ps 109:4, 5; Joh 15:25).

my soul—my life; me (Ps 35:7).

I stood before thee … to turn away thy wrath—so Moses (Ps 106:23; compare Eze 22:30). So Jesus Christ, the antitype of previous partial intercessors (Isa 59:16).

Shall evil be recompensed for good? to requite good for evil is divine, God maketh his sun to shine, and his rain to fall, upon the just and unjust; to requite evil for evil, or good for good, is but human, what the nature of reasonable men prompt them to; but to requite evil for good is diabolical, and the character of those that are the children of the evil one.

For they have digged a pit for my soul; Lord, saith the prophet, these men have done thus, they have laid snares for my life; though thou knowest that as a prophet I stood before thee, both preaching and praying for their good. Their wrath is kindled to a great height against me, and thou knowest my business was, both in my preachings to them, and prayers for them,

to turn away thy wrath from them. Lord, remember this, both for good to me, and for vengeance upon them. Shall evil be recompensed for good?.... For all the good that I have done them, shall this be all the recompence I shall have, to be evilly treated by them, to have my good name, and even life, taken away by them? shall this be suffered to be done? and, if it is, shall it go unpunished? the prophet taxes the people with ingratitude, which he afterwards instances in, and proves:

for they have digged a pit for my soul; or "life"; they lay in wait to take it away; or they had formed a design against it, and brought a charge and accusation against him, in order to take it away, under colour of law and justice. Kimchi interprets it of poison, which they would have had him drank of:

remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them; he was an intercessor for them with God; pleaded with him on their behalf, that good things might be bestowed upon them, and that wrath might be averted from them; so Christ did for the Jews that crucified him, Luke 23:34; this is an instance of their ingratitude; that though he had been an advocate for them, stood in the gap between God and them, and was importunate for their good, yet this was all the recompense he had from them; they sought his life to take it away. This kindness of his for them was forgotten by them; but he trusts the Lord will remember it, and not suffer them to act the base part they intended; and now he determines no more to plead their cause, but to imprecate evils upon them, as follows:

Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.
20. Shall evil be recompensed for good?] Jeremiah had interceded for the people in times past, e.g. ch. Jeremiah 14:7; Jeremiah 14:21.Such obduracy is unheard of amongst the peoples; cf. a like idea in Jeremiah 2:10. שׁעררת equals שׁערוּרה, Jeremiah 5:30. מאד belongs to the verb: horrible things hath Israel very much done equals very horrible things have they done. The idea is strengthened by Israel's being designated a virgin (see on Jeremiah 14:17). One could hardly believe that a virgin could be guilty of such barefaced and determined wickedness. In Jeremiah 18:14. the public conduct is further described; and first, it is illustrated by a picture drawn from natural history, designed to fill the people with shame for their unnatural conduct. But the significance of the picture is disputed. The questions have a negative force: does it forsake? equals it does not forsake. The force of the first question is conditioned by the view taken of מצּוּר ; and שׂדי may be either genitive to צוּר, or it may be the accusative of the object, and be either a poetic form for שׂדה, or plural c. suff. 1. pers. (my fields). Chr. B. Mich., Schur., Ros., Maur., Neum. translate according to the latter view: Does the snow of Lebanon descending from the rock forsake my fields? i.e., does it ever cease, flowing down from the rock, to water my fields, the fields of my people? To this view, however, it is to be opposed, a. that "from the rock" thus appears superfluous, at least not in its proper place, since, according to the sense given, it would belong to "snow of Lebanon;" b. that the figure contains no real illustrative truth. The watering of the fields of God's people, i.e., of Palestine or Judah, by the snow of Lebanon could be brought about only by the water from the melting snow of Lebanon soaking into the ground, and so feeding the springs of the country. But this view of the supply for the springs that watered the land cannot be supposed to be a fact of natural history so well known that the prophet could found an argument on it. Most recent commentators therefore join מצּוּר שׂדי, and translate: does the snow of Lebanon cease from the rock of the field (does it disappear)? The use of עזב with מן is unexampled, but is analogous to עזב חסד מעם, Genesis 24:27, where, however, עזב is used transitively.

But even when translated as above, "rock of the field" is variously understood. Hitz. will have it to be Mount Zion, which in Jeremiah 17:3 is called my mountain in the field, and Jeremiah 21:13, rock of the plain; and says the trickling waters are the waters of Gihon, these being the only never-drying water of Jerusalem, the origin of which has never been known, and may have been commonly held to be from the snow of Lebanon. Graf and Ng., again, have justly objected that the connection between the snow of Lebanon and the water-springs of Zion is of too doubtful a kind, and does not become probable by appeal to Psalm 133:3, where the dew of Hermon is said to descend on the mountains of Zion. For it is perfectly possible that a heavy dew after warm days might be carried to Jerusalem by means of the cool current of air coming down from the north over Hermon (cf. Del. on Psalm 133:3); but not that the water of the springs of Jerusalem should have come from Lebanon. Like Ew., Umbr., Graf, and Ng., we therefore understand the rock of the field to be Lebanon itself. But it is not so called as being a detached, commanding rocky mountain, for this is not involved in the sig. of שׂדי (see on Jeremiah 17:3); nor as bulwark of the field (Ng.), for צוּר does not mean bulwark, and the change of מצּוּר into מצור, from מצור, a hemming in, siege, would give a most unsuitable figure. We hold the "field" to be the land of Israel, whence seen, the summit of Lebanon, and especially the peak of Hermon covered with eternal snows might very well be called the rock of the field.

(Note: "Hermon is not a conical mountain like Tabor, with a single lofty peak and a well-defined base, but a whole mountain mass of many days' journey in circuit, with a broad crest of summits. The highest of these lie within the Holy Land, and, according to the measurements of the English engineers, Majors Scott and Robe (1840), rise to a height of 9376 English feet - summits encompassed by far-stretching mountain ridges, from whose deep gloomy valleys the chief rivers of the country take their rise.... Behind the dark green foremost range (that having valleys clothed with pine and oak forests) high mountains raise their domes aloft; there is a fir wood sprinkled with snow as with silver, a marvellous mingling of bright and dark; and behind these rises the broad central ridge with its peaks covered with a deep and all but everlasting snows." - Van de Velde, Reise, i. S. 96f. Therewith cf. Robins. Phys. Geogr. p. 315: "In the ravines round about the highest of the two peaks, snow, or rather ice, lies the whole year round. In summer this gives the mountain, when seen from a distance, the appearance of being surrounded with radiant stripes descending from its crown.")

Observe the omission of the article before Lebanon, whereby it comes about that the name is joined appellatively to "snow:" the Lebanon-snow. And accordingly we regard the waters as those which trickle down from Hermon. The wealth of springs in Lebanon is well known, and the trickling water of Lebanon is used as an illustration in Sol 4:15. ינּתשׁוּ, are rooted up, strikes us as singular, since "root up" seems suitable neither for the drying up of springs, nor for: to be checked in their course. Dav. Kimchi thought, therefore, it stood for ,ינּתשׁוּomittuntur; but this word has not this signification. Probably a transposition has taken place, so that we have ינתשׁו for ינּשׁתוּ, since for נשׁת in Niph. the sig. dry up is certified by Isaiah 19:5. The predicate, too, זרים is singular. Strange waters are in 2 Kings 19:24 waters belonging to others; but this will not do here. So Ew. derives זר from זרר, press, urge, and correspondingly, קרים from קוּר, spring, well up: waters pouring forth with fierce pressure. In this case, however, the following נוזלים would be superfluous, or at least feeble. Then, מים קרים, Proverbs 25:25, is cold water; and besides, זרר means constinxit, compressit, of which root-meaning the sig. to press forth is a contradiction. There is therefore nothing for it but to keep to the sig. strange for זרים; strange waters equals waters coming from afar, whose springs are not known, so that they could be stopped up. The predicate cold is quite in keeping, for cold waters do not readily dry up, the coldness being a protection against evaporation. Such, then, will be the meaning of the verse: As the Lebanon-snow does not forsake the rock, so the waters trickling thence do not dry up. From the application of this general idea, that in inanimate nature faithfulness and constancy are found, to Israel's bearing towards God arises a deeper significance, which shows why this figure was chosen. The rock in the field points to the Rock of Israel as the everlasting rock, rock of ages (Isaiah 30:29 and Isaiah 26:4), and the cold, i.e., refreshing waters, which trickle from the rock of the field, point to Jahveh, the fountain of living water, Jeremiah 2:13 and Jeremiah 17:13. Although the snow does not forsake Lebanon, Israel has forgotten the fountain of living water from which water of life flows to it; cf. Jeremiah 2:13.

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