Jeremiah 2:3
Israel was holiness to the LORD, and the first fruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come on them, said the LORD.
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(3) Holiness unto the Lord.—The thought was that expressed in the inscription on the gold plate worn on the high priest’s forehead (Exodus 28:36), and in the term “holy thing” (Leviticus 22:10; Matthew 7:6), applied to the consecrated gifts which were the portion of the priests. The prophet was taught that Israel, as a nation, had a priestly character, and was consecrated to the Lord as the “firstfruits” of the great harvest of the world. Compare the use of the same figure in James 1:18; Romans 11:16.

All that devour him shall offend.—The imagery of the firstfruits is continued. The Hebrew for the word “offend” is used for transgressions against the ceremonial law in Leviticus 5:5; Leviticus 5:19; Numbers 5:7. Here, however, it is probably better rendered, shall be condemned, or shall be made to suffer, as in Psalm 34:21-22, where the Authorised version has “shall be desolate.” Those who devour Israel—the enemies and invaders, the tyrants and oppressors—are guilty as of a sacrilege that will not remain unpunished.

2:1-8 Those who begin well, but do not persevere, will justly be upbraided with their hopeful and promising beginnings. Those who desert religion, commonly oppose it more than those who never knew it. For this they could have no excuse. God's spiritual Israel must own their obligations to him for safe conduct through the wilderness of this world, so dangerous to the soul. Alas, that many, who once appeared devoted to the Lord, so live that their professions aggravate their crimes! Let us be careful that we do not lose in zeal and fervency, as we gain knowledge.Render: "Israel" is an offering consecrated to Yahweh, His firstfruits of increase. The firstfruits were God's consecrated property, His portion of the whole harvest. Pagan, i. e., unconsecrated, nations must not meddle with Israel, because it is the nation consecrated to God. If they do, they will bring such guilt upon themselves as those incur who eat the first-fruits Leviticus 22:10, Leviticus 22:16. 3. holiness unto the Lord—that is, was consecrated to the service of Jehovah (Ex 19:5, 6). They thus answered to the motto on their high priest's breastplate, "Holiness to the Lord" (De 7:6; 14:2, 21).

first-fruits of his increase—that is, of Jehovah's produce. As the first-fruits of the whole produce of the land were devoted to God (Ex 23:19; Nu 18:12, 13), so Israel was devoted to Him as the first-fruit and representative nation among all nations. So the spiritual Israel (Jas 1:18; Re 14:4).

devour—carrying on the image of first-fruits which were eaten before the Lord by the priests as the Lord's representatives; all who ate (injured) Jehovah's first-fruits (Israel), contracted guilt: for example, Amalek, the Amorites, &c., were extirpated for their guilt towards Israel.

shall come—rather, "came."

Israel was holiness, or

holy, the abstract for the concrete, i.e. a people dedicated to God; thus the word is used Leviticus 21:7 27:14; set apart from other people for myself by peculiar laws and rites.

And the first-fruits of his increase: this supplement

and is better left out, it being not in the text, and rendering the sense more obscure; therefore better read, either, being the first-fruits, by apposition; or, as the first-fruits, i.e. as the first-fruits were holy to God, so was Israel.

All that devour; or rather, devoured; for it refers to the time past, not to the future, and so the following words; all that were injurious to him

shall offend; or, did offend, were obnoxious, and liable to punishment, as he that devoured that which is holy, Proverbs 20:25.

Shall come upon them; came upon them: some evil was inflicted on them from the Lord, that was always wont to stand up for the vindication of his people, as upon the Egyptians, Amalekites, Sihon, Og, the Midianites, Canaanites, and others, as the four last books of Moses do abundantly testify; and by these expressions is insinuated that now they are like to find it otherwise, Jeremiah 1:7; this minding of them what God had done for them making way for the closer setting home the following reproofs. Israel was holiness unto the Lord,.... When first brought out of Egypt into the wilderness, by the Lord's choice and separation of them to be a holy people to him above all others; by covenant with him, and profession of him; and by his giving them holy laws, and placing a sanctuary among them; and by their high priest, who represented them in the most holy place; and had on the front of his mitre written,

holiness unto the Lord; so the spiritual Israel are chosen in Christ to be holy, and he is made sanctification to them; they are sanctified in him, and by his Spirit; they are called with a holy calling, and unto holiness; and, under the influence of grace, live holy lives and conversations, which the grace of God teaches, and young converts are remarkable for; their consciences being just awakened, and their hearts tender:

and the firstfruits of his increase; Israel was the first nation that God separated for himself; and this being the firstfruits, shows that he would separate others also, and take out of the Gentiles a people for his name, which he has since done; and the elect of God among the Israelites were the firstfruits of his chosen ones elsewhere; it were some of them that first believed in Christ, and received the firstfruits of the Spirit; and all converted ones are a kind of firstfruits of his creatures; the grace they receive at conversion is the firstfruits of a later increase of it, and even of eternal glory:

all that devour him shall offend; or, "all that eat him shall be guilty" (x); and be condemned and punished, who eat up the Lord's people, as they eat bread; see Psalm 53:4, these shall not go unpunished; for his people are as the apple of his eye, and whoever touches and hurts them fall under the divine displeasure, and will be looked upon as criminals and offenders, and will be judged and condemned as such. The allusion is to the eating of the firstfruits, which only belonged to the priests; nor might any of the increase be eaten until the firstfruits were brought to them, Leviticus 23:10. This is expressed in the Chaldee paraphrase of the text,

"whosoever eats of them (the firstfruits) is guilty of death; for as the beginning of the harvest, the sheaf of oblation, whoever eats of it before the priests, the sons of Aaron, have offered of it upon the altar, shall be guilty or condemned; so all that spoil the house of Israel shall be guilty or condemned;''

so Jarchi and Kimchi:

evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord; that is, the evil of punishment, either in this world, or in that which is to come, or in both.

(x) "rcos fuisse", Junius & Tremellius; "rei peragebantur", Piscator; "rei fiunt", Cocceius.

Israel was {c} holiness to the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase: all {d} that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD.

(c) Chosen above all others to serve the Lord only and the first offered to the Lord of all other nations.

(d) Whoever challenged this people, or else annoyed them, was punished.

3. Israel was holiness unto the Lord, the firstfruits of his increase] Cp. Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; cp. Jeremiah 26:18 and Amos 3:2. There is no moral significance attached to the word holiness here. It means simply setting apart from ordinary uses, dedication to God. Israel is as the most precious part of the harvest, that part which is consecrated as God’s portion. The notion was familiar through the yearly custom, prescribed Leviticus 23:10-14, that a measure of the firstfruits should be waved by the priest before the Lord, and that none of the harvest should be enjoyed till this rite had been fulfilled. Cp. Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 26:2 ff.

all that devour him shall be held guilty] The priest and his family alone were to eat of the firstfruits. No stranger was allowed to partake. If any unhallowed person profaned the firstfruits by taking of them, he bore “the iniquity that bringeth guilt.” See Leviticus 22:16 (where the Heb. root is the same as here). Thus the sense is that if unconsecrated (i.e. heathen) nations assail Israel, their fate shall be that of such as eat the firstfruits unlawfully.Verse 3. - Israel was holiness, etc. Israel was a consecrated people (comp. Exodus 19:5, 6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:19). Isaiah, fond as he is of the phrase "Israel's Holy One," does not expressly enforce the correlative truth, as Jeremiah does here. The first-fruits of his increase; rather, his firstfruits of increase. Israel is compared to the firstfruits (reshith) of the land, which were devoted to the house of the Lord (Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:12, 13). So in Amos 6:1, the title given him is "the chief [margin, 'firstfruits'] of the nations" (in Jeremiah 31:7, a synonymous and cognate word, rosh, takes the place of reshith for "chief"). All that devour him shall offend; rather, all that ate him incurred guilt, or became guilty of a trespass. Foreigners were forbidden to eat of consecrated things; by breaking this law they became guilty of a "trespass," having invaded the rights of Jehovah (Leviticus 22:10, 15, 16). The word for "trespass" is the same as that rendered "guilt." God holds judgment upon the inhabitants of Judah in this very way, viz., by bringing these nations and permitting them to set up their lordship before the gates of Jerusalem, and against all cities of Judah. The suffix in אותם refers to ישׁבי, Jeremiah 1:14, and אותם stands by later usage for אתּם, as frequently in Jer.; cf. Ew. 264, b. 'דּבּר משׁפּטים את־פ, speak judgment, properly, have a lawsuit with one, an expression peculiar to Jeremiah - cf. Jeremiah 4:12; Jeremiah 12:1; Jeremiah 39:5; Jeremiah 52:9, and 2 Kings 25:6 - is in substance equivalent to נשׁפּט את, plead with one, cf. Jeremiah 12:1 with Jeremiah 2:35, Ezekiel 20:35., and signifies not only remonstrating against wrong doing, but also the passing of condemnation, and so comprehends trial and sentencing; cf. Jeremiah 39:5; Jeremiah 42:9. "All their wickedness" is more exactly defined in the following relative clauses; it consists in their apostasy from God, and their worship of heathen gods and idols made by themselves; cf. Jeremiah 19:4, 1 Kings 11:33, 2 Kings 22:17. קטּר, offer odours, cause to rise in smoke, used not of the burning of incense alone, but of all offerings upon the altar, bloody offerings and meat-offerings; hence frequently in parallelism with זבח; cf. Hosea 4:13; Hosea 11:2, etc. In the Pentateuch the Hiphil is used for this sense. Instead of the plural מעשׂי, many MSS give the singular מעשׂה as the ordinary expression for the productions of the hand, handiwork; cf. Jeremiah 25:6-7, Jeremiah 25:14; Jeremiah 32:30; 2 Kings 22:17, etc.; but the plural too is found in Jeremiah 44:8; 2 Chronicles 34:25, and is approved by these passages. The sense is no way affected by this variation.
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