Jeremiah 2:23
How can you say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see your way in the valley, know what you have done: you are a swift dromedary traversing her ways;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) How canst thou say . . .?—The prophet hears, as it were, the voice of the accused criminal, with its plea of “not guilty.” Had not the worship of Jehovah been restored by Josiah? Had he not, acting on Hilkiah’s counsels, suppressed Baal-worship (2Kings 23:4-5; 2Chronicles 34:4)? The answer to such pleas is to point to the rites that were still practised openly or in secret. In the “valley” of Ben-Hinnom, which Josiah had defiled (2Kings 23:10), the horrid ritual of Molech (Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2) was still in use (Jeremiah 7:31), reviving, we may believe, on the death of Josiah; and this, though not actually the worship of Baal, was at least as evil, and probably, in the confluence of many forms of worship which marked the last days of the monarchy of Judah, was closely associated and practically identified with it, both by the prophet and the people (Jeremiah 19:5; Jeremiah 32:35).

A swift dromedary.—Better, she-camel, the Hebrew word not pointing to any specific difference. The words paint with an almost terrible vividness the eager, restless state of the daughter of Zion in its harlot-like lust for the false gods of the heathen. The female camel, in the uncontrollable violence of its brute passion, moving to and fro with panting eagerness—that was now the fit image for her who had once been the betrothed of Jehovah.

Jeremiah 2:23-24. How canst thou say, I am not polluted? — With what face canst thou go about to excuse thyself, or deny what is so evident, and so truly charged upon thee? see Jeremiah 2:20. I have not gone after Baalim — The word is plural, because meant to comprehend all their idols; being a name usually given to several of them, as Baal-peor, Numbers 25:3; Baal-zebub, 2 Kings 1:16. Because they had the temple, and sacrifices offered therein, &c., they still persuaded themselves that they worshipped the true God, though they joined their idolatries with his worship. Thus the Papists, though they make use of idols in their worship, yet pretend they are not idolaters. See thy way in the valley — Whether of Hinnom, (where they burned their children in sacrifice,) or in any valleys where thou hast been frequent in thy idolatries. Know what thou hast done — Look on, and consider thy ways. Thou art a swift dromedary, traversing her ways — Or, as a swift dromedary. The prophet compares their fondness for a variety of idols to the eagerness with which, in the time of breeding, the swift dromedaries are wont to traverse the plain, and run to and fro in every direction. “And the impossibility of restraining one of those fleet animals, when hurried away by the impetuous call of nature, is represented as a parallel to that unbridled lust and eagerness with which the people of Judah ran after the gratification of their passion for idolatry, called spiritual whoredom.” — Blaney. A wild ass — Or, as a wild ass; used to the wilderness — Another similitude, for the more lively description of the same thing. That snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure — This should rather be rendered, When she snuffeth up the wind in her lust; meaning the time when the female asses seek the males by the wind, smelling them afar off. In her occasion — When she is desirous of the male; who can turn her away? — She bears down all opposition. All that seek her will not weary themselves — They will not bestow their labour in vain, but will let her take her course, and wait their time and opportunity for taking her. In her month they shall find her — Hebrew, בחדשׁה, which Blaney renders, when her heat is over; or, in her renewal, deriving the noun from the verb חדשׁ, to renew. “That is,” says he, “when the heat is abated, and she begins to come about again to the same state as before the fit came on. The LXX. seem so to have understood it: εν τη ταπεινωσει αυτης ευρησουσιν αυτην, ‘when she is humbled, they shall find her.’ And perhaps it was designed to insinuate to the Jews, by way of reproach, that they were less governable than even the brute beast, which, after having followed the bent of appetite for a little time, would cool again, and return quietly home to her owners: but the idolatrous fit in them seemed never to abate, nor to suffer the people to return to their duty. Or else it may mean, that when their affairs took a new turn, and became adverse, then would be the time when, being humbled, they would again have recourse to the true God who alone could save them.” The expression, in her month, is explained in the margin of our ancient Bible to mean, when she is with foal, an interpretation which many commentators follow. Thus Henry: “They that seek her will have a little patience till she is big with young, heavy, and unwieldy; and then they shall find her, and she cannot outrun them.” And he thus applies it: “The time will come when the most fierce will be tamed, and the most wanton will be manageable: when distress and anguish come upon them, then their ears will be open to discipline; that is the month in which you may find them.” Psalm 141:5-6.2:20-28 Notwithstanding all their advantages, Israel had become like the wild vine that bears poisonous fruit. Men are often as much under the power of their unbridled desires and their sinful lusts, as the brute beasts. But the Lord here warns them not to weary themselves in pursuits which could only bring distress and misery. As we must not despair of the mercy of God, but believe that to be sufficient for the pardon of our sins, so neither must we despair of the grace of God, but believe that it is able to subdue our corruptions, though ever so strong.In their defense of themselves (compare Jeremiah 2:35), the people probably appealed to the maintenance of the daily sacrifice, and the Mosaic ritual: and even more confidently perhaps to Josiah's splendid restoration of the temple, and to the suppression of the open worship of Baal. All such pleas availed little as long as the rites of Moloch were still privately practiced.

Thy way in the valley - i. e., of Hinnom (see 2 Kings 23:10 note). From the time of Ahaz it had been the seat of the worship of Moloch, and the prophet more than once identifies Moloch with Baal. "Way" is put metaphorically for "conduct, doings."

Traversing - Interlacing her ways. The word describes the tangled mazes of the dromedary's course, as she runs here and there in the heat of her passion.

23. (Pr 30:12).

Baalim—plural, to express manifold excellency: compare Elohim.

see—consider.

the valley—namely, of Hinnom, or Tophet, south and east of Jerusalem: rendered infamous by the human sacrifices to Moloch in it (compare Jer 19:2, 6, 13, 14; 32:35; see on [894]Isa 30:33).

thou art—omit. The substantive that follows in this verse (and also that in Jer 2:24) is in apposition with the preceding "thou."

dromedary—rather, a "young she-camel."

traversing—literally, "enfolding"; making its ways complicated by wandering hither and thither, lusting after the male. Compare as to the Jews' spiritual lust, Ho 2:6, 7.

How canst thou say? with what face canst thou go about to excuse thyself, or deny what is so evident, and so truly charged upon thee? Jeremiah 2:20.

I have not gone after Baalim: the word is plural, as comprehensive of all their idols, Hosea 11:2, and is a name usually given to several of them, as Baal-zebub, 2 Kings 1:16, and Baal-peor, Numbers 25:3, and therefore their worshipping of many. Because they had the temple and sacrifices, &c., they still persuaded themselves that they worshipped the true God, though they joined their idolatries with it; as the papists though they make use of idols in worship, yet would not be accounted idolaters.

Thy way; the filthiness thou hast left behind thee, whereby thou mayst be traced, where thou leftest, as it were, thy footsteps, and monuments of thy frequent idolatries.

Thy way in the valley; thy frequent course in the valleys, whether of Hinnom, where they burnt their children’s bones in sacrifice, Jeremiah 7:31, or in any valleys where thou hast been frequent in thy idolatries; it seems to be thus largely taken.

Know what thou hast done; look on and consider thy ways, as Jeremiah 2:19.

Thou art a swift dromedary; or, thou art as, &c.; or, O dromedary, a beast much used by carriers in Arabia, being rife there. See on Isaiah 60:6.

Traversing; a metaphor taken from creatures that are hunted, that keep no direct path; alluding to the nature of the she dromedary, which in gendering time runs capering this way, and crossing that way, making many vagaries to find out sometimes one male, sometimes another, without any rule or order; setting forth hereby the disposition of this people, that were so mad upon their idols, that they ran sometimes after this, and sometimes after that, called wandering, Jeremiah 2:20, and that with great eagerness, fitly termed traversing, much like the description of a whore, Proverbs 7:11,12; the word being no where found but here, and being derived from a word that signifies a shoe-latchet, If any be curious, let the learned consult Synop. Critic., and the English reader the English Annotations on the place. How canst thou say, I am not polluted,.... No man can say this; for all are defiled with sin; but this was the cast and complexion of these people in all ages; they were a generation of men that were pure in their own eyes, but were not cleansed from their filthiness; they fancied that their ceremonial washings and sacrifices cleansed them from moral impurities, when those only sanctified to the purifying of the flesh; still their iniquity remained marked before the Lord; they acted the part of the adulterous woman in Proverbs 30:20 to whom they are compared in the context; and, therefore, as wondering at their impudence, they having a whore's forehead, this question is put, how and with what face they could affirm this, and what follows:

I have not gone after Baalim? or, "the Baalim"; the idols of the people, as the Targum interprets it; for there were many Baals, as Baalzephon, Baalpeor, Baalzebub, and others:

see thy way in the valley; where idols were set up and worshipped; or through which the way lay, as Kimchi observes, to the hills and mountains where idolatry was frequently committed; perhaps no particular valley is meant, but any in which idols were worshipped, or which they passed through to the worshipping of them; though the Targum interprets it of the valley in which they dwelt, over against Baalpeor, so Jarchi and Abarbinel, when they worshipped that idol; and seems to design the valley of Shittim, Numbers 25:1, but rather, if any particular valley is intended, the valley of Hinnom seems to bid fair for it; and to this it may be the Septuagint version has respect, rendering it , "in the sepulchre of the multitude"; multitudes being burnt and buried here:

know what thou hast done; in the valley, especially in the valley of Hinnom, where they caused their children to pass through the fire to Molech:

thou art a swift dromedary. The Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi, interpret it a young camel; and so the word in the Arabic language signifies; and the epithet "swift" better agrees with that than with the dromedary. Curtius (z) makes mention of dromedary camels of great swiftness; but it may be this is to be understood, not of its swiftness in running, but of its impetuous lust, as Calvin observes; and, indeed, each of these creatures are very libidinous; and therefore these people are compared to them; See Gill on Micah 1:13, it follows:

traversing her ways; running about here and there after the male, burning with lust, sometimes one way, and sometimes another; and so these people sometimes run after one idol, and sometimes another, and followed a multitude of them. The Targum renders it, "which corrupts or depraves her ways". De Dieu observes, that the word in the Ethiopic language, signifies "the evening"; and so may intend walking in the evening, in the dark, rather than in the light; which, as it is the way of dromedaries, and almost of all beasts, so of harlots, to whom these people are likened; and he further observes, that, in the Arabic language, it signifies to make common, which agrees with adulterous persons, as these were in a spiritual sense. The word is only used in this place, and is deduced from, or has some relation to, the word which signifies a "shoelatchet", Genesis 14:23 as Jarchi and Kimchi observe; and may denote, as the shoe is bound and fastened with the latchet, the binding of her ways to her heart, as the former suggests, the strengthening and confirming of her in her evil ways, and her constant persisting therein; but the first sense of running here and there through lust is best; and is approved by Bynaeus (a) and by Buxtorf (b).

(z) (Curtius) L. 5. c. 2.((a) De Calceis Heb. l. 1. c. 7. sect. 4. (b) Lex. Heb. rad.

How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not {h} gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift {i} dromedary traversing her ways;

(h) Meaning that hypocrites deny that they worship the idols, but that they honour God in them, and therefore they call their doings God's service.

(i) He compares the idolaters to these beasts, because they never cease running to and fro: for both valleys and hills are full of their idolatry.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. If we may assume that this utterance relates to the time before Josiah’s reforms, the people could not deny that their worship at the high places included observances outside those belonging to Jehovah. They maintained, however, that it was to Him and not to the Baals, that their service was all the time actually rendered. The prophet here replies that in adopting heathen rites they ipso facto, whatever intention they might plead, rendered their worship abhorrent to the God of Israel.

Baalim] The Hebrew plural. See on Jeremiah 2:8.

the valley] The valley of Hinnom; see on Jeremiah 7:31. It was devoted under idolatrous kings to impure sacrifices and human offerings to Molech, who no doubt was one of the gods called collectively Baalim. (Cp. Jeremiah 7:31 f., Jeremiah 19:5, Jeremiah 32:35.) The valley was defiled by Josiah in order that such sacrifices might cease, and here dead bodies of men and animals were cast. From the Hebrew word in a Greek dress (Gehenna) comes one of the names for the place of future punishment, of which this valley was considered by the later Jews a symbol, and which some of them believed to contain the entrance to hell.

dromedary] better, as mg. young camel. The Hebrew denotes a female that has not yet had a foal.

traversing] (lit. entangling) running quickly hither and thither in the eagerness of her passion, crossing and recrossing her own course. So Israel runs now here now there, ever in search of a fresh object of devotion, and forsaking her lawful Spouse.Verse 23. - How canst thou say, etc.? This is not a mere rhetorical fiction equivalent to "or if thou shouldst perhaps say," but probably represents an objection really made by the inhabitants of the kingdom of Judah. Their fault was not in neglecting the public worship of Jehovah in his appointed temple, but in superadding to this, idolatrous rites inconsistent with the spiritual religion taught by Jeremiah. The people did not, it seems, regard this as tantamount to "following Baalim," just as some converts to Christianity in our own foreign missions might exclaim against being accused of apostasy, because they secretly carry on certain heathen practices. The prophet, however, applies a more rigorous test to their conduct. Baalim; the plural of Baal, used for "other gods" (Jeremiah 1:16; comp. on ver. 8). Thy way in the valley. The valley in this context can only be that of Hinnom (see on Jeremiah 7:31), which from the time of Ahaz had been defiled with the rites of "Moloch, horrid king" (see ' Paradise Lost,' 1:392-396). Thou art a swift dromedary. Ewald would attach this half of the verse to ver. 24; and there is something to be said for this plan. Swift dromedary is, properly speaking, in the vocative. The ardor of the people for idolatry is expressed by the comparison of it to the uncontrollable instinct of brute beasts. The word rendered "dromedary" is in the feminine gender; it means strictly the young she-camel which has not yet had a foal. Traversing her ways; rather, interlacing her ways; i.e. running backwards and forwards at the impulse of passion. In Jeremiah 2:17 the question as to the cause of the evil is answered. זאת is the above-mentioned evil, that Israel had become a prey to the foe. This thy forsaking of Jahveh makes or prepares for thee. תּעשׂה is neuter; the infin. עזבך is the subject of the clause, and it is construed as a neuter, as in 1 Samuel 18:23. The fact that thou hast forsaken Jahveh thy God has brought this evil on thee. At the time when He led thee on the way. The participle מוליך is subordinated to עת in the stat. constr. as a partic. standing for the praeterit. durans; cf. Ew. 337, c. בּדּרך is understood by Ros. and Hitz. of the right way (Psalm 25:8); but in this they forget that this acceptation is incompatible with the בּעת, which circumscribes the leading within a definite time. God will lead His people on the right way at all times. The way on which He led them at the particular time is the way through the Arabian desert, cf. Jeremiah 2:6, and בּדּרך is to be understood as in Deuteronomy 1:33; Exodus 18:8; Exodus 23:20, etc. Even thus early their fathers forsook the Lord: At Sinai, by the worship of the golden calf; then when the people rose against Moses and Aaron in the desert of Paran, called a rejecting (נאץ) of Jahveh in Numbers 14:11; and at Shittim, where Israel joined himself to Baal Peor, Numbers 25:1-3. The forsaking of Jahveh is not to be limited to direct idolatry, but comprehends also the seeking of help from the heathen; this is shown by the following 18th verse, in which the reproaches are extended to the present bearing of the people. ' מה־לּך לדרך וגו, lit., what is to thee in reference to the way of Egypt (for the expression, see Hosea 14:9), i.e., what hast thou to do with the way of Egypt? Why dost thou arise to go into Egypt, to drink the water of the Nile? שׁחור, the black, turbid stream, is a name for the Nile, taken from its dark-grey or black mud. The Nile is the life-giving artery of Egypt, on whose fertilizing waters the fruitfulness and the prosperity of the country depend. To drink the waters of the Nile is as much as to say to procure for oneself the sources of Egypt's life, to make the power of Egypt useful to oneself. Analogous to this is the drinking the waters of the river, i.e., the Euphrates. What is meant is seeking help from Egyptians and Assyrians. The water of the Nile and of the Euphrates was to be made to furnish them with that which the fountain of living water, i.e., Jahveh (Jeremiah 2:14), supplied to them. This is an old sin, and with it Israel of the ten tribes is upbraided by Hosea (Hosea 7:11; Hosea 12:2). From this we are not to infer "that here we have nothing to do with the present, since the existing Israel, Judah, was surely no longer a suitor for the assistance of Assyria, already grown powerless" (Hitz.). The limitation of the reproach solely to the past is irreconcilable with the terms of the verse and with the context (Jeremiah 2:19). מה־לּך לדרךcannot grammatically be translated: What hadst thou to do with the way; just as little can we make תּיסּרך hath chastised thee, since the following: know and see, is then utterly unsuitable to it. תּיסּרך and תּוכיחך are not futures, but imperfects, i.e., expressing what is wont to happen over again in each similar case; and so to be expressed in English by the present: thy wickedness, i.e., thy wicked work, chastises thee. The wickedness was shown in forsaking Jahveh, in the משׁבות, backslidings, the repeated defection from the living God; cf. Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 5:6; Jeremiah 14:7. As to the fact, we have no historical evidence that under Josiah political alliance with Egypt or Assyria was compassed; but even if no formal negotiations took place, the country was certainly even then not without a party to build its hopes on one or other of the great powers between which Judah lay, whenever a conflict arose with either of them. - וּדעי, with the Vav of consecution (see Ew. 347, a): Know then, and at last comprehend, that forsaking the Lord thy God is evil and bitter, i.e., bears evil and bitter fruit, prepares bitter misery for thee. "To have no fear of me" corresponds "to forsake," lit., thy forsaking, as second subject; lit.,: and the no fear of me in thee, i.e., the fact that thou hast no awe of me. פּחדּתי, awe of me, like פּחדּך in Deuteronomy 2:25.
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