Jeremiah 2:12
Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.
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(12) Be astonished, O ye heavens.—The adjuration had been made familiar by a like utterance in Isaiah 1:2; Deut. 32 1 “Astonished”—in the old sense, “thunder-stricken,” stupefied. The whole universe is thought of as shocked and startled at the offence against its Creator.

Jeremiah 2:12-13. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this — A pathetical expression, in the poetic style, signifying that the wickedness of these apostates from God was so great, that the very inanimate creatures, could they be sensible of it, might well stand amazed at it: that the heavens might be affrighted to behold it, and the celestial bodies withdraw their light and influences from that part of the world where such enormities were practised. “Such rhetorical apostrophes import the unusualness, and likewise the indignity, of the things spoken of; implying them to be such that, if men take no notice of them, the elements themselves will testify against such practices.” — Lowth. See note on Isaiah 1:2. For my people have committed two evils — Two remarkable evils, ingratitude and folly: they have acted contrary both to their duty and to their interest; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters — In whom they had an abundant and constant supply of all that comfort and relief they stood in need of, and had it freely; and hewed them out cisterns — Have had recourse to creatures, and to schemes of their own devising; to gods of their own making, for relief in their necessities, for deliverance out of, or support and comfort in, their troubles. Broken cisterns — False at the bottom, and leaky, so that they can hold no water — They have acted as foolishly as persons would do who should reject the waters of a clear, perpetual spring, to drink rain-water, received in cisterns, which could neither be so sweet nor so wholesome as that of pure springs; and not only so, but should betake themselves to such cisterns as, being broken, could hold no water, or none for any length of time, and therefore could give them no assurance of finding any upon having recourse to them. God may, indeed, be justly compared to a perpetual spring, as he is the fountain or origin of all good things; the author and giver of all blessings, both spiritual and temporal, from whom all good gifts are derived, as from an inexhaustible source; see Psalm 36:9. “And wherever else men place their happiness, whether in false religions, or in the uncertain comforts of worldly blessings, they will find themselves as wretchedly disappointed as those who expect to find water in broken cisterns or conduits. Hereby is strongly set forth the folly of the Jews in renouncing the worship of the true God, and their dependance upon him, and betaking themselves to the worship of idols, and the alliance and protection of idolaters.” — Lowth.

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!Be astonished - The King James Version uses this word as equivalent "to be stupefied."

Desolate - Or, "be dry." In horror at Israel's conduct the heavens shrivel and dry up.

12. Impassioned personification (Isa 1:2).

horribly afraid—rather, be horrified."

be … very desolate—rather, "be exceedingly aghast" at the monstrous spectacle. Literally, "to be dried up," or "devastated," (places devastated have such an unsightly look) [Maurer].

Be astonished, O ye heavens; angels, say some, but rather the visible heavenly bodies; a pathetical expression in a poetical prosopopoeia, as Deu 4:26 32:1, intimating that it is such a tiring that the very inanimate creatures, could they be sensible of it, would be astonished.

Be horribly afraid; the Hebrew imports as much as,

let your hair be lifted up; such a fright, as we usually say, makes our hair stand on end; such a trembling as some dreadful tempest doth sometimes cause in a man. Be ye very desolate; lose your brightness, lustre, and shining, as the sun, that heavenly body, seemed to do when Christ suffered, Matthew 27:45; or melting, the heinousness of such a thing, as it were, dissolving them.

Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this,.... Meaning either the angels in heaven, or the heavens themselves, by a personification:

and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord; all which may be signified by storms and tempests, by thunder and lightning, and by the sun's withdrawing its light. This is said to aggravate the wickedness committed, as if the heavens blushed and were ashamed, and were confounded and amazed at it; and as if, on account of it, the Jews deserved not the benefit of the heavens, and the orbs in them.

Be astonished, O ye {s} heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.

(s) He shows that the insensible creatures abhor this vile ingratitude, and as it were tremble for fear of God's great judgments against the same.

12. be ye very desolate] lit. be ye dry. The heavens are bid to shrivel up in horror at the behaviour of the people. By a figure common in all poetry nature is called upon to adapt herself, as though a living being, to the complexion of human affairs. By a slight alteration of MT., however, we get (instead of “be ye very desolate”) the rendering of LXX, viz. exceedingly, as an epithet of the preceding verb. Render therefore, Shudder exceedingly. Cp. Psalm 50:4; Psalm 50:6; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13.

Verse 12. - Be astonished. "Be appalled" would more nearly express the force of the Hebrew (so Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8). Be ye very desolate; literally, become dry; i.e. not so much "shrivel and roll up" (on the analogy of Isaiah 34:4), as "become stiff with horror." Jeremiah 2:12Such backsliding from God is unexampled and appalling. Jeremiah 2:9. "Therefore will I further contend with you, ad with your children's children will I contend. Jeremiah 2:10. For go over to the islands of the Chittim, and see; and send to Kedar, and observe well, and see if such things have been; Jeremiah 2:11. whether a nation hath changed it gods, which indeed are no gods? but my people hath changed its glory for that which profits not. Jeremiah 2:12. Be horrified, ye heavens, at this, and shudder, and be sore dismayed, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 2:13. For double evil hath my people done; me have they forsaken, the fountain of living waters, to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, the hold no water."

In the preceding verses the fathers were charged with the backsliding from the Lord; in Jeremiah 2:9 punishment is threatened against the now-living people of Israel, and on their children's children after them. For the people in its successive and even yet future generations constitutes a unity, and in this unity a moral personality. Since the sins of the fathers transmit themselves to the children and remoter descendants, sons and grandsons must pay the penalty of the fathers' guilt, that is, so long as they share the disposition of their ancestors. The conception of this moral unity is at the foundation of the threatening. That the present race persists in the fathers' backsliding from the Lord is clearly expressed in Jeremiah 2:17. In "I will further chide or strive," is intimated implicite that God had chidden already up till now, or even earlier with the fathers. ריב, contend, when said of God, is actual striving or chastening with all kinds of punishment. This must God do as the righteous and holy one; for the sin of the people is an unheard of sin, seen in no other people. "The islands of the Chittim" are the isles and coast lands of the far west, as in Ezekiel 27:6; כּתּים having originally been the name for Cyprus and the city of Cition, see in Genesis 10:4. In contrast with these distant western lands, Kedar is mentioned as representative of the races of the east. The Kedarenes lived as a pastoral people in the eastern part of the desert between Arabia Petraea and Babylonia; see in Genesis 25:13 and Ezekiel 27:21. Peoples in the two opposite regions of the world are individualizingly mentioned instead of all peoples. התבּוננוּ, give good heed, serves to heighten the expression. אם equals הןintroduces the indirect question; cf. Ew. 324, c. The unheard of, that which has happened amongst no people, is put interrogatively for rhetorical effect. Has any heathen nation changed its gods, which indeed are not truly gods? No; no heathen nation has done this; but the people of Jahveh, Israel, has exchanged its glory, i.e., the God who made Himself known to it in His glory, for false gods that are of no profit. כּבוד is the glory in which the invisible God manifested His majesty in the world and amidst His people. Cf. the analogous title given to God, ,נּאון ישׂראל Amos 8:7; Hosea 5:5. The exact antithesis to כּבודו would be בּשׁת, cf. Jeremiah 3:24; Jeremiah 11:13; but Jeremiah chose לאto represent the exchange as not advantageous. God showed His glory to the Israelites in the glorious deeds of His omnipotence and grace, like those mentioned in Jeremiah 2:5 and Jeremiah 2:6. The Baals, on the other hand, are not אלהים, but, אלילים nothings, phantoms without a being, that bring no help or profit to their worshippers. Before the sin of Israel is more fully set forth, the prophet calls on heaven to be appalled at it. The heavens are addressed as that part of the creation where the glory of God is most brightly reflected. The rhetorical aim is seen in the piling up of words. חרב, lit., to be parched up, to be deprived of the life-marrow. Israel has committed two crimes: a. It has forsaken Jahveh, the fountain of living water. ,מים חיּיםliving water, i.e., water that originates and nourishes life, is a significant figure for God, with whom is the fountain of life (Psalm 36:10), i.e., from whose Spirit all life comes. Fountain of living water (here and Jeremiah 17:13) is synonymous with well of life in Proverbs 10:11; Proverbs 13:14; Proverbs 14:27, Sir. 21:13. b. The other sin is this, that they hew or dig out wells, broken, rent, full of crevices, that hold no water. The delineation keeps to the same figure. The dead gods have no life and can dispense no life, just as wells with rents or fissures hold no water. The two sins, the forsaking of the living God and the seeking out of dead gods, cannot really be separated. Man, created by God and for God, cannot live without God. If he forsake the living God, he passes in spite of himself into the service of dead, unreal gods. Forsaking the living God is eo ipso exchanging Him for an imaginary god. The prophet sets the two moments of the apostasy from God side by side, so as to depict to the people with greater fulness of light the enormity of their crime. The fact in Jeremiah 2:11 that no heathen nation changes its gods for others, has its foundation in this, that the gods of the heathen are the creations of men, and that the worship of them is moulded by the carnal-mindedness of sinful man; so that there is less inducement to change, the gods of the different nations being in nature alike. But the true God claims to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and does not permit the nature and manner of His worship to depend on the fancies of His worshippers; He makes demands upon men that run counter to carnal nature, insisting upon the renunciation of sensual lusts and cravings and the crucifixion of the flesh, and against this corrupt carnal nature rebels. Upon this reason for the fact adduced, Jeremiah does not dwell, but lays stress on the fact itself. This he does with the view of bringing out the distinction, wide as heaven, between the true God and the false gods, to the shaming of the idolatrous people; and in order, at the same time, to scourge the folly of idolatry by giving prominence to the contrast between the glory of God and the nothingness of the idols.

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