Jeremiah 2:11
Has a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) Hath a nation . . .—Emphatically a heathen “nation,” as contrasted with the “people” of Jehovah. They were faithful to their false gods; Israel was unfaithful to the true. The words “changed their glory” find an echo in Romans 1:23, though here they express the thought that the worship of Jehovah was the true glory of Israel as a people, and that they had wilfully abandoned it.

Jeremiah

STIFF-NECKED IDOLATERS AND PLIABLE CHRISTIANS

Jeremiah 2:11
.

The obstinacy of the adherents of idolatry is in striking contrast with Israel’s continual tendency to forsake Jehovah. It reads a scarcely less forcible lesson to many nominal and even to some real Christians.

I. That contrast carries with it a disclosure of the respective origins of the two kinds of Religion.

The strangeness of the contrasted conduct is intensified when we take into account the tremendous contrast between the two Objects of worship. Israel’s God was Israel’s ‘Glory’; the idol-worshipper bowed down before ‘that which doth not profit,’ and yet no experience of God could bind His fickle worshippers to Him, and no experience of the impotence of the idol could shake its votaries’ devotion. They cried and were not heard. They toiled and had no results. They broke their teeth on ‘that which is not bread,’ and filled their mouths with gritty ashes that mocked them with a semblance of nourishment and left them with empty stomachs and excoriated gums, yet by some strange hallucination they clung to ‘vanities,’ while Israel was always hankering after opportunity to desert Jehovah. The stage of civilisation partly accounts for the strange fascination of idolatry over the Israelites. But the deeper solution lies in the fact that the one religion rises from the hearts of men, corresponds to their moral condition, and is largely moulded by their lower nature; while the other is from above, corresponds, indeed, with the best and deepest longings and needs of souls, but contravenes many of their most clamant wishes, and necessarily sets before them a standard high and difficult to reach. Men make their gods in their own image, and are conscious of no rebuke nor stimulus to loftier living when they gaze on them. The God of Revelation bids men remake themselves in His image, and that command requires endless effort. The average man has to put a strain on his intellect in order to rise to the apprehension of God, and a still more unwelcome strain on his moral nature to rise to the imitation of God. No wonder, then, if the dwellers on the low levels should cleave to them, and the pilgrims to the heights should often weary of their toil and be distressed with the difficulty of breathing the thin air up there, and should give up climbing and drop down to the flats once more.

II. That contrast carries with it a rebuke.

Many voices echo the prophet’s contrast nowadays. Our travelling countrymen, especially those of them who have no great love for earnest religion, are in the habit of drawing disparaging contrasts between Buddhists, Brahmins, Mohammedans, any worshippers of other gods and Christians. One may not uncharitably suspect that a more earnest Christianity would not please these critics much better than does the tepid sort, and that the pictures they draw both of heathenism and of Christianity are coloured by their likes and dislikes. But it is well to learn from an enemy, and caricatures may often be useful in calling attention to features which would escape notice but for exaggeration. So we may profit by even the ill-natured and distorted likenesses of ourselves as contrasted with the adherents of other religions which so many ‘liberal-minded’ writers of travels delight to supply.

Think, then, of the rebuke which the obstinate adherence of idolaters to their idols gives to the slack hold which so many professing Christians have on their religion.

Think of the way in which these lower religions pervade the whole life of their worshippers, and of how partial is the sway over a little territory of life and conduct which Christianity has in many of its adherents. The absorption in worship shown by Mohammedans, who will spread their prayer carpets anywhere and perform their drill of prayers without embarrassment or distraction in the sight of a crowd, or the rapt ‘devotion’ of fakirs, are held up as a rebuke to us ‘Christians’ who are ashamed to be caught praying. One may observe, in mitigation, that the worship which is of the heart is naturally more sensitive to surrounding distractions than that which is a matter of posturing and repetition by rote. But there still remains substance enough in the contrast to point a sharp arrow of rebuke.

And there is no denying that in these ‘heathen’ religions, religion is intertwined with every act of life in a fashion which may well put to shame many of us. Remember how Paul had to deal at length with the duty of the Corinthians in view of the way in which every meal was a sacrifice to some god, and how the same permeation of life with religion is found in all these ‘false faiths.’ The octopus has coiled its tentacles round the whole body of its victim. Bad and sad and mad as idolatry is, it reads a rebuke to many of us, who keep life and religion quite apart, and lock up our Christianity in our pews with our prayer-books and hymnaries.

Think of the material sacrifices made by idolaters, in costly offerings, in painful self-tortures, and in many other ways, and the niggardliness and self-indulgence of so many so-called Christians.

III. The contrast suggests the greatness of the power which can overcome even such obstinate adherence to idols.

There is one, and only one, solvent for that rock-like obstinacy-the Gospel. The other religions have seldom attempted to encroach on each other’s territory, and where they have, their instrument of conversion has generally been the sword. The Gospel has met and mastered them all. It, and it only, has had power to draw men to itself out of every faith. The ancient gods who bewitched Israel, the gods of Greece, the gods of our own ancestors, the gods of the islands of the South Seas, lie huddled together, in undistinguished heaps, like corpses on a battlefield, and the deities of India and the East are wounded and slowly bleeding out their lives. ‘Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, the idols are upon the beasts,’ all packed up, as it were, and ready to be carried off.

The rate of progress in dethroning them varies with the varying national conditions. It is easier to cut a tunnel through chalk than through quartz.

IV. That contrast carries with it a call for Christian effort to spread the conquering Gospel.2:9-13 Before God punishes sinners, he pleads with them, to bring them to repentance. He pleads with us, what we should plead with ourselves. Be afraid to think of the wrath and curse which will be the portion of those who throw themselves out of God's grace and favour. Grace in Christ is compared to water from a fountain, it being cooling and refreshing, cleansing and making fruitful: to living water, because it quickens dead sinners, revives drooping saints, supports and maintains spiritual life, and issues in eternal life, and is ever-flowing. To forsake this Fountain is the first evil; this is done when the people of God neglect his word and ordinances. They hewed them out broken cisterns, that could hold no water. Such are the world, and the things in it; such are the inventions of men when followed and depended on. Let us, with purpose of heart, cleave to the Lord only; whither else shall we go? How prone are we to forego the consolations of the Holy Spirit, for the worthless joys of the enthusiast and hypocrite!A nation - A Gentile nation, in strong antithesis to people, the appellation of Israel.

Their glory - Though the worship of the one true God is a nation's greatest glory, yet it is irksome because it puts a constraint on human passions.

That which doth not profit - Israel had exchanged the prosperity which was God's reward of obedience for the calamities which resulted from idol-worship.

11. glory—Jehovah, the glory of Israel (Ps 106:20; Ro 1:23). The Shekinah, or cloud resting on the sanctuary, was the symbol of "the glory of the Lord" (1Ki 8:11; compare Ro 9:4). The golden calf was intended as an image of the true God (compare Ex 32:4, 5), yet it is called an "idol" (Ac 7:41). It (like Roman Catholic images) was a violation of the second commandment, as the heathen multiplying of gods is a violation of the first.

not profit—(Jer 2:8).

Hath a nation changed their gods? q.d. No, they are unmovable and fixed to their idols, although they are false gods; what they receive from their fathers they tenaciously hold.

Their glory, viz. the true God, who was their glory; a metonymy of the adjunct, Psalm 106:20; and who always did them good, giving them cause to glory in him, and to make their boast of him.

For that which doth not profit; for those which never did or can do them good, that have no essence or power; but of whom they must necessarily be ashamed, as Jeremiah 2:26. Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods?.... Though they are not by nature gods which they worship, only nominal and fictitious deities, yet they did not change them for others; but when they once embraced the worship of them, continued therein; so did the Chittim, the inhabitants of the isles, who though they traded to distant countries, from place to place; and so the Kedarenes, who dwelt in tents, and fed cattle, and moved from one desert to another, and from one pasture to another, as Jarchi observes; yet they carried their gods with them, and did not exchange them for new ones where they came. The Jewish writers say (b), that the Kedarenes worshipped water, and the Chittim fire; and though they knew that water would quench fire, yet the latter would not change their gods. Kimchi and Abendana relate it just the reverse, and say the Kedarenes worshipped fire, and the Chittim water, which is most likely; and so it is said elsewhere (c).

But my people have changed their glory; the true God, who is glorious in himself, and whom they should have glorified, and have counted it their highest honour and glory that they knew him, and were the worshippers of him; yet they changed him, their glory, into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass, Psalm 106:20, wherefore it is justly added,

for that which doth not profit; meaning Baal, and such like idols; see the note on Jeremiah 2:8.

(b) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 5. 2.((c) Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 60. 3.

Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their {q} glory for that which doth not {r} profit.

(q) That is, God who is their glory, and who makes them glorious above all other people, reproving the Jews that they were less diligent to serve the true God, than were the idolaters to honour their vanities.

(r) Meaning the idols who were their destruction, Ps 106:36.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. a nation] i.e. a heathen nation.

which yet are no gods] Therefore it need not have occasioned surprise, if their worshippers had at some time deserted them. Heathen nations are loyal to their gods, unreal though they be. For reference to the question whether Jeremiah was a ‘speculative,’ or only a practical, monotheist, see Intr. ii. § 3 (a).

their glory] Jehovah, Whose very nature is glory, makes that glory known to Israel as His chosen people, and gives them a share in it. Cp. Deuteronomy 10:21; also 1 Samuel 4:21; Psalm 106:20.

be horribly afraid] lit. shudder, bristle with horror.Verse 11. - Hath a nation changed their gods? Has any heathen nation ever changed its idol-god for another? The prophet clearly implies a negative answer; and yet it must be admitted that the adoption of a new religion, under the pressure of conquest or a higher foreign civilization is not an unknown phenomenon in the ancient world. Glory; i.e. source of all outward prosperity (comp. Psalm 3:3," my Glory, and the Lifter up Of my head"). Religion was, in fact, the root of national life in antiquity; contrast our own division between the sacred and the secular Jehovah elsewhere receives the title "the Pride of Israel" -Authorized Version, rather weakly, "the Excellency of Israel" -(Amos 8:7; Hosea 5:5. Comp. the parallel passages, Psalm 106:20; Romans 1:23). But Israel did not remain true to its first love; it has forgotten the benefits and blessings of its God, and has fallen away from Him in rebellion.

Jeremiah 2:4-5

"Hear the word of Jahveh, house of Jacob, and all families of the house of Israel. Jeremiah 2:5. Thus saith Jahveh, What have your fathers found in me of wrongfulness, that they are gone far from me, and have gone after vanity, and are become vain? Jeremiah 2:6. And they said not, Where is Jahveh that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us in the wilderness, in the land of steppes and of pits, in the land of drought and of the shadow of death, in a land that no one passes through and where no man dwells? Jeremiah 2:7. And I brought you into a land of fruitful fields, to eat its fruit and its goodness: and ye came and defiled my land, and my heritage ye have made an abomination. Jeremiah 2:8. The priests said not, Where is Jahveh? and they that handled the law knew me not: the shepherds fell away from me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and after them that profit not are they gone." The rebuke for ungrateful, faithless apostasy is directed against the whole people. The "house of Jacob" is the people of the twelve tribes, and the parallel member, "all families of the house of Israel," is an elucidative apposition. The "fathers" in Jeremiah 2:5 are the ancestors of the now living race onwards from the days of the Judges, when the generation arising after the death of Joshua and his contemporaries forsook the Lord and served the Baals (Judges 2:10.). עול, perversity, wrongfulness, used also of a single wicked deed in Psalm 7:4, the opposite to acting in truth and good faith. Jahveh is a God of faithfulness (אמוּנה); in Him is no iniquity (אין עול), Deuteronomy 32:4. The question, what have they found...? is answered in the negative by Jeremiah 2:6. To remove far from me and follow after vanity, is tantamount to forsaking Jahveh and serving the false gods (Baals), Judges 2:11. הבל, lit., breath, thence emptiness, vanity, is applied so early as the song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:21, to the false gods, as being nonentities. Here, however, the word means not the gods, but the worship of them, as being groundless and vain; bringing no return to him who devotes himself to it, but making him foolish and useless in thought and deed. By the apostle in Romans 1:21 יהבּלוּ is expressed by ἐματαιώ́θησαν. Cf. 2 Kings 17:15, where the second hemistich of our verse is applied to the ten tribes.

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