Jeremiah 2:31
O generation, see you the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness to Israel? a land of darkness? why say my people, We are lords; we will come no more to you?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) O generation, see ye.—The pronoun occupies a different position in the Hebrew, “O generation, you, I mean, see ye.” The prophet speaks to the men who are actually his contemporaries. They are to look to the word of the Lord. Has He been to them as a waste land, a land of thick darkness (literally, according to one interpretation, darkness of Jah, in the sense of intensity), that they are thus unmindful of Him? So in Song of Solomon 8:6 we have “flame of Jah,” as representing the Hebrew, in the margin, and “very vehement flame” in the text, of the Authorised version.

We are lords.—Better, We rove at will, as in Genesis 27:40, where, however, the Authorised version gives “when thou shalt have the dominion.” The sense is practically the same. Israel claims the power to do as she likes.

Jeremiah 2:31-32. O generation — O wicked generation; see ye the word of the Lord — Consider what I say to you from the mouth of God. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? — Have ye not been plentifully provided for by me? Have I been backward in bestowing favours upon you? Have I not accommodated you with all necessaries? A land of darkness — Hebrew, ארצ מאפליה, rendered by the Vulgate, terra serotina, a land backward or late in producing its fruits. Our translation of the clause, however, a land of darkness, seems preferable, as darkness is often used to denote calamity and distress: see Jeremiah 13:16; Isaiah 5:30; Isaiah 8:22. “The meaning of the passage,” says Blaney, “is, Have I been wanting to you, while ye have been under my guidance, in providing you with good things, or have I brought you unto the gloom of trouble and distress?” Wherefore say my people, We are lords, &c. — We are our own masters, and will no more acknowledge thee as Lord over us, nor obey thy laws. This was the language, probably, not of the lips, but of the hearts and lives of the idolatrous Jews, who would not return to the worship and service of the true God. Can a maid forget her ornaments — How seldom is it, and unlikely, that a maid should forget her ornaments? or a bride her attire? — On which her thoughts and affections are placed? Yet my people have forgotten me — Their chief glory and ornament, on whose favour and protection they were wont justly to value themselves, and whereby they were distinguished from all other nations. Such was the folly and wickedness of God’s ancient people, called by his name, rescued from bondage and misery by his power, enriched with all temporal and spiritual blessings by his bounty, and guarded as the apple of his eye. Strange infatuation and weakness this, we are ready to exclaim, of the Jews! But are not multitudes of persons called Christians equally weak and foolish? Do not things of very small worth, and short duration, frequently occupy their thoughts, and even possess their hearts; things of as little value as the ornaments which vain women delight in, while things of the highest excellence and greatest necessity, things far superior to every visible and temporal object, such as salvation, grace, and glory, God, and Christ, and heaven, are overlooked and neglected? Reader, is not this thy practice? does not thy conscience accuse thee of this wickedness and folly?2:29-37 The nation had not been wrought upon by the judgements of God, but sought to justify themselves. The world is, to those who make it their home and their portion, a wilderness and a land of darkness; but those who dwell in God, have the lines fallen to them in pleasant places. Here is the language of presumptuous sinners. The Jews had long thrown off serious thoughts of God. How many days of our lives pass without suitable remembrance of him! The Lord was displeased with their confidences, and would not prosper them therein. Men employ all their ingenuity, but cannot find happiness in the way of sin, or excuse for it. They may shift from one sin to another, but none ever hardened himself against God, or turned from him, and prospered.Or, "O generation" that ye are! An exclamation Of indignation at their hardened resistance to God.

A land of darkness - This word is written in Hebrew with two accents, as being a compound, signifying not merely darkness, but the darkness of Yahweh, i. e., very great darkness.

We are lords - Others render it: We rove about, wander about at our will, go where we like.

31. The Hebrew collocation is, "O, the generation, ye," that is, "O ye who now live." The generation needed only to be named, to call its degeneracy to view, so palpable was it.

wilderness—in which all the necessaries of life are wanting. On the contrary, Jehovah was a never-failing source of supply for all Israel's wants in the wilderness, and afterwards in Canaan.

darkness—literally, "darkness of Jehovah," the strongest Hebrew term for "darkness; the densest darkness"; compare "land of the shadow of death" (Jer 2:6).

We are lords—that is, We are our own masters. We will worship what gods we like (Ps 12:4; 82:6). But it is better to translate from a different Hebrew root: "We ramble at large," without restraint pursuing our idolatrous lusts.

O generation; or, O ye men of this generation, a note of admiration; or rather, O generation, a note of compellation: it is to you I speak,

see ye the word of the Lord, i.e. look well to it, consider it; as the rod is to teach, and therefore ought to be heard, Micah 6:9, so the word is to be considered of, and therefore ought to be looked into, Jeremiah 2:19. He speaketh here not so much of the doctrine of the word as of the thing itself: q.d. You shall see the thing with your eyes, because you give the doctrine the hearing only, as we use to say, i.e. your ears are shut against it.

Have I been a wilderness? here God challengeth them again to tell him what unkindness he had showed them, as before, Jeremiah 2:5. Have I been like the wilderness of Arabia? have not I accommodated you with all necessaries at all times? Deu 32:13,14 Eze 34:13-15; nay, in the wilderness itself I was not a wilderness unto you: an account whereof Nehemiah gives, Nehemiah 9:15-23. And you have the story of it Psalm 78.

A land of darkness: divers interpreters derive this word from a different root, and accordingly render the sense variously. Some from a root that signifies to fade or fall, as a land where fruits fall off before they be ripe, bringing nothing to perfection; and so Tremelius and Junius translate it, Isaiah 28:1,4: q.d. Have you found me to fail your expectations in any thing that I have promised you? Joshua 21:45 23:14. Others derive it from a word that signifies late, as a land that brings forth its fruit late in the year, which either ripeneth not, or ripeneth unkindly: q.d. Have you found me backward in any thing to do you good? have I not fed you to the full? Others from darkness, properly thick darkness, Exodus 10:22 Joel 2:2. And it is the more significant, because Jah, the name of God, is added to it; q.d. the darkness of God; as a sleep of God, for a deep sleep, 1 Samuel 26:12; flame of God, for a vehement flame, Song of Solomon 8:6; as if it were a land uninhabitable, because of the total want of light: q.d. Have I been a God of no use or comfort to them, that they thus leave me? Have they had nothing from me but misery and affliction? as this notion of darkness may import, Isaiah 8:22 Lamentations 3:2. Hence the LXX. express it by a land bringing forth thorns. Or this expression, a land of darkness, may be put by apposition to the former.

Say, i.e. in their heart.

We are lords; words of pride and boasting: God had endeavoured to make them sensible that all their happiness they owed to him, and now, q.d. you rule as lords without us; see 1 Corinthians 4:8; now you cast me off: or rather, We are well enough established in our government by foreign aids, and compacts with the Egyptians, and Assyrians, &c., and have rulers of our own; we have no such great need of thee. Hence the LXX. render it in the passive voice, We will not be ruled; which agrees with the text words of the verse, Deu 32:15,16. Something of this appeared in Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:15,16, and Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 32:25; neither was David wholly clear, Psalm 30:6. O generation, see ye the word of the Lord,.... Take notice of it, consider it; or, hear it, as the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions. Jarchi and Kimchi think (i) the pot of manna was brought out, and shown them, to be looked at by them, for the conviction of them, and confirmation of what follows:

have I been a wilderness unto Israel? no: the Israelites were plentifully supplied by him when in the wilderness, and since they were brought into a land flowing with milk and honey; so that they stood in need of nothing; they had a constant supply of all good things:

or a land of darkness? of misery, distress, and poverty; where no light of joy, comfort, and prosperity, is; a land that never sees the light, or enjoys the benefit of the sun, and so is barren and unfruitful; "a land of thorns", as the Septuagint version; or, "a desert and uncultivated land", as the Targum, and Syriac and Arabic versions. It may be rendered, "a land of the darkness of God" (k); that is, of the greatest darkness, of thick and gross darkness, alluding to that in Egypt; as the flame of God, and mountains of God, Sol 8:6, as Ben Melech and Kimchi observe:

wherefore say my people, we are lords; and can reign without thee; or we have kings and princes, and have no need of thee, so Kimchi; but the word used seems to have another meaning, and to require another sense. The Targum is, "we are removed"; and the Vulgate Latin version, "we have gone back"; to which agrees the Jewish Midrash (l), mentioned by Jarchi, and confirmed with a passage out of the Misna (m), "we are separated from thee"; we have departed from thee, turned our backs on thee, have forsaken thee, and left thy ways and worship; and to do so was very ungrateful, when the Lord had so richly supplied them, that they had not lacked any good thing; and this sense agrees with what follows:

we will come no more unto thee? some render it, "we have determined" (n); as having the same sense with the Arabic word, which signifies to "will" or determine anything; and then the meaning is, we are determined, we are resolved to come no more to thee, to attend thy worship and service any more; and so the Targum,

"we will not return any more to thy worship.''

(i) So Mechilta apud Yalkut in loc. (k) "terra caliginis Dei", Gataker, Gussetius; "caliginis Jah", Montanus. (l) Midrash R. Tanchuma, apud Jarchi in loc. Vid. Yalkut Simeoni, in Ioc. (m) Misn. Trumot, c. 10. sect. 3. & Machshirin, c. 3. sect. 3.((n) "voluimus non veniemus", &c, De Dieu; "decrevimus non veniemus", Cocceius.

O generation, see ye the word of the LORD. Have I been a {s} wilderness to Israel? a land of darkness? why say my people, We are lords; {t} we will come no more to thee?

(s) Have I not given them abundance of all things?

(t) But will trust in our own power and policy.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
31–37. Israel’s disregard of Jehovah’s past favours

31. O generation, see ye] O generation that ye are, see.

a wilderness] Have I been like a place where ye lacked sustenance? Not so. Cp. Hosea 2:8.

thick darkness] On the contrary ye have had the light of prophetic teaching. The mg. darkness from Jah (i.e. Jehovah) is a less likely expression to put into the Divine mouth.

We are broken loose] Cp. Genesis 27:40 (R.V.) “shalt break loose.” The notion of having power to carry out one’s own will, is at the bottom in each case.Verse 31. - O generation, see ye. It is doubtful whether generation here means "contemporaries" (equivalent to "men of this generation"), or, like γενεά sometimes in the New Testament, a class of men united by moral affinity (comp. Psalm 14:5; Psalm 78:8). In the latter case we should rather attach the pronoun in "see ye" to "O generation," and render "O (evil) generation that ye are!" So Hitzig, Keil, and Payne Smith; Ewald and Delitzsch adopt the first rendering. Have I been a wilderness, etc.? "Have I not been the source of light and happiness to my people, and of all temporal blessings?" (comp. Jeremiah 2:6). So the Divine speaker in Isaiah 45:19, "I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain," or more literally, "in chaos" (same word as in Genesis 1:2); "chaos" and "the wilderness" are both images of that which is utterly unremunerative. A land of darkness. This is, of course, not literally accurate as a description of the Arabian desert. "Darkness" is here used as a synonym for "misery." Cloud and rain occupy precisely opposite places in the estimation of nomadic and agricultural peoples respectively. "The Bedouins," says an Arabic scholast, "always follow the rain and the places where raindrops fall;" whereas a townsman of Mecca calls himself "child of the sun." So Indra and Varuna, originally belonging to the cloudy and rainy sky, are in the Vedic hymns endowed with solar traits. It should be added here that it is an old problem, and too difficult a one for us to investigate, whether we should render "the darkness of Jah" (Jehovah) or (as Authorized Version) simply "darkness." The former rendering will mean very great darkness, such as Jehovah sends in judgment (e.g. to the Egyptians, Exodus 10:21-23). On this question, see Dr. Ginsburg on Song of Solomon 8:6 (where a similar doubt exists), Geiger's 'Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel,' p. 276; Ewald, 'Lehrbuch der Hebraischen Sprache,' § 270 e. We are lords; rather, we have broken loose. It is, however, a difficult word, which only occurs elsewhere in Genesis 26:40; Hosea 12:1; Psalm 55:3. In Jeremiah 2:24 בּחדשׁהּ is variously interpreted. Thus much is beyond all doubt, that the words are still a part of the figure, i.e., of the comparison between the idolatrous people and the wild ass. The use of the 3rd person stands in the way of the direct reference of the words to Israel, since in what precedes and in what follows Israel is addressed (in 2nd pers.). חדשׁ can thus mean neither the new moon as a feast (L. de Dieu, Chr. B. Mich.), still less tempus menstruum (Jerome, etc.), but month; and the suffix in הדשׁהּ is to be referred, not with Hitz. to תּאנתהּ, but to פּרה. The suffixes in מבקשׁיה and ימצאוּנה absolutely demand this. "Her month" is the month appointed for the gratification of the wild ass's natural impulse, i.e., as Bochart rightly explains it (Hieroz. ii. p. 230, ed. Ros.) mensis quo solent sylvestres asinae maris appetitu fervere. The meaning of the comparison is this: the false gods do not need anxiously to court the favour of the people; in its unbridled desires it gives itself up to them; cf. Jeremiah 3:2; Hosea 2:7, Hosea 2:15. With this is suitably coupled the warning of Jeremiah 2:25 : hold back, i.e., keep thy foot from getting bare (יהף is subst. not adjective, which would have had to be fem., since רגל is fem.), and thy throat from thirst, viz., by reason of the fever of running after the idols. This admonition God addresses by the prophet to the people. It is not to wear the sandals off its feet by running after amours, nor so to heat its throat as to become thirsty. Hitz. proposes unsuitably, because in the face of the context, to connect the going barefoot with the visiting of the sanctuary, and the thirsting of the throat (1 Kings 18:26) with incessant calling on the gods. The answer of the people to this admonition shows clearly that it has been receiving an advice against running after the gods. The Chet. וגורנך is evidently a copyists's error for וּגרונך. The people replies: נואשׁ, desperatum (est), i.e., hopeless; thy advice of all in vain; cf. Jeremiah 18:12, and on Isaiah 57:10. The meaning is made clearer by לוא: no; for I love the aliens, etc. זרים are not merely strange gods, but also strange peoples. Although idolatry is the matter chiefly in hand, yet it was so bound up with intriguing for the favour of the heathen nations that we cannot exclude from the words some reference to this also.
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