Jeremiah 23:1
Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXIII.

(1) Woe be unto the pastors . . .—The message that follows in Jeremiah 23:1-8 comes as a natural sequel to that of Jeremiah 22. The unfaithful shepherds who had been there denounced are contrasted with those, more faithful to their trust, whom Jehovah will raise up. As before, in Jeremiah 2:8 and elsewhere, we have to remember that the “pastors” are (like the “shepherds of the people” in Greek poets) the civil rulers, not the prophets or the priests, of Israel. The parallelism with the prophecy of Ezekiel 34, delivered about the same time in the land of exile, is suggestive either of direct communication between the two writers, or of traditional lines of thought common to the two priest-prophets.

The sheep of my pasture.—The words assert the claims of Jehovah to be the true Shepherd of His people. (Comp. Psalm 79:13; Psalm 100:3.)

Jeremiah 23:1. Wo be unto the pastors — Or, as הויis by some rendered, Alas for the pastors! or, Ho the pastors! For it may be a particle of calling, as the LXX. and Syriac represent it, and not of commination, as in our translation. The word pastors comprehends both civil and ecclesiastical governors: see note on Jeremiah 2:8. This acceptation of the word agrees with the prophet’s complaint elsewhere, that their rulers, as well as their priests and prophets, were rather corrupters than reformers of the people’s manners. And the Messiah himself, whose coming is foretold, Jeremiah 23:5, for the rectifying of these disorders, was both a king and a priest.

23:1-8 Woe be to those who are set to feed God's people, but take no concern to do them good! Here is a word of comfort to the neglected sheep. Though only a remnant of God's flock is left, he will find them out, and they shall be brought to their former habitations. Christ is spoken of as a branch from David's family. He is righteous himself, and through him all his people are made righteous. Christ shall break the usurped power of Satan. All the spiritual seed of believing Abraham and praying Jacob shall be protected, and shall be saved from the guilt and dominion of sin. In the days of Christ's government in the soul, the soul dwells at ease. He is here spoken of as the Lord our Righteousness. He is so our Righteousness as no creature could be. His obedience unto death is the justifying righteousness of believers, and their title to heavenly happiness. And their sanctification, as the source of all their personal obedience is the effect of their union with him, and of the supply of this Spirit. By this name every true believer shall call him, and call upon him. We have nothing to plead but this, Christ has died, yea, rather is risen again; and we have taken him for our Lord. This righteousness which he has wrought out to the satisfaction of law and justice, becomes ours; being a free gift given to us, through the Spirit of God, who puts it upon us, clothes us with it, enables us to lay hold upon it, and claim an interest in it. The Lord our Righteousness is a sweet name to a convinced sinner; to one that has felt the guilt of sin in his conscience; seen his need of that righteousness, and the worth of it. This great salvation is far more glorious than all former deliverances of his church. May our souls be gathered to Him, and be found in him.The pastors - shepherds, i. e., civil rulers Jeremiah 2:8.

The sheep of My pasture - literally, of My pasturing, the sheep of whom I am shepherd. The people do not belong to the rulers but to God.

CHAPTER 23

Jer 23:1-40. The Wicked Rulers to Be Superseded by the King, Who Should Reign over the Again United Peoples, Israel and Judah.

This forms the epilogue to the denunciations of the four kings, in Jer 21:1-22:30.

1. pastors—Shallum, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah (Eze 34:2).Woe against wicked pastors; the scattered flock shall be gathered; Christ shall rule and save them, Jeremiah 23:1-8: against false prophets, Jeremiah 23:9-32, and mockers of the true, Jeremiah 23:33-40.

There is the like woe against the

pastors denounced Ezekiel 34:2. Interpreters judge that by the pastors are to be understood the civil magistrates, for Jeremiah 23:9 he denounceth the judgments of God against their ecclesiastical officers. The civil magistrates at this time in Judah were great tyrants; and whereas God had committed his people (whom he calls the sheep of his pasture) to them in trust, that they should protect and govern them, and that they might live under them godly and peaceable lives, in all prosperity, they had acted quite contrary to their trust, and worried the people like wolves, instead of feeding them like shepherds. God took notice of their oppressions, and by the prophet denounceth this woe against them, to verify that of Solomon, Ecclesiastes 5:8.

Woe be unto the pastors,.... Or, "O ye shepherds" or "governors", as the Targum; the civil rulers and magistrates, kings and princes of the land of Israel; since ecclesiastical rulers, the priests and prophets, are mentioned as distinct from them in Jeremiah 23:9; whose business it was to rule and guide, protect and defend, the people: but, instead of that, they were such

that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, saith the Lord God; set them bad examples, led them into idolatry and other sins, which were the cause of their ruin, and of their being carried captive, and scattered in other countries; and their sin was the more aggravated, inasmuch as these people were the Lord's pasture sheep, whom he had an interest in, and a regard unto, and had committed them to the care and charge of these pastors or governors, to be particularly taken care of.

Woe be to {a} the shepherds that destroy and scatter the {b} sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.

(a) Meaning the prince's governors and false prophets as in Eze 34:2.

(b) For which I have special care, and have prepared good pastures for them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. the shepherds] See on Jeremiah 2:8, Jeremiah 22:22, and for the figure of sheep cp. Psalm 74:1; Psalm 95:7; Psalm 100:3; Ezekiel 34:31.

Jeremiah 23:1-8. See introd. summary to section. We should have expected, as the natural sequel to the three preceding passages, a direct reference to the reign of Zedekiah. Probably we may attribute the absence of it to Jeremiah’s unwillingness to attack one whom he recognised as merely a weak tool in the hands of the princes, the “shepherds” of Jeremiah 23:1. But see further on Jeremiah 23:5-8.

Du. and Erbt make the whole passage to be late, while individual parts have been disputed, e.g. 7, 8 by Gi. and with some hesitation by Co. Others than Du. reject the most striking vv., viz. 5, 6, but Co. (so Gi.) emphatically maintains their genuineness. See notes below.

Jeremiah 23:1The gathering again of the flock, scattered by the evil shepherds, by meant of the righteous branch from the stock of David. - Jeremiah 23:1. "Woe to shepherds that destroy and scatter the flock of my pasturing! saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:2. Therefore thus saith Jahveh, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds that feed my people: Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and not visited them; behold, I will visit on you the evil of your doings, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:3. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all lands whither I have driven them, and bring them back to their pasture, that they may be fruitful and increase; Jeremiah 23:4. And will raise up over them shepherds that shall feed them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor be lacking, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:5. Behold, days come, saith Jahveh, that I raise up unto David a righteous branch, that shall reign as king, and deal wisely, and do right and justice in the land. Jeremiah 23:6. In his days Judah shall have welfare, and Israel dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called: Jahveh our Righteousness. Jeremiah 23:7. Therefore, behold, days come, saith Jahveh, that they shall no more say: By the life of Jahveh who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt, Jeremiah 23:8. But: By the life of Jahveh who brought up and led forth the seed of the house of Israel out of the land towards midnight, and out of all the lands whither I had driven them, and they shall dwell in their own land."

This portion is the conclusion of the prophecy concerning the shepherds of Israel, Jeremiah 22. In Jeremiah 23:1 and Jeremiah 23:2 what has been foretold concerning the last kings of Judah is condensed into one general sentence, so as thus to form a point of connection for the declaration of salvation which follows at Jeremiah 23:3, consisting in the gathering again of the people, neglected and scattered by the evil shepherds, by means of the righteous branch of David. The Lord cries woe upon the shepherds. רעים without article, because the matter concerns all evil shepherds, and is not applied till Jeremiah 23:2 to the evil rulers of Judah. Venema rightly says: Generale vae pastoribus malis praemittitur, quod mox ad pastores Judae applicatur. It is so clear from the context as to have been generally admitted by recent comm., that by shepherds are meant not merely the false prophets and priests, nor even these along with the kings; cf. on Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 25:34., and Ezekiel 34. The flock of my pasturing, in other words, the flock, which I feed; for מרעית sig. both the feeding (cf. Hosea 13:6) and the place where the flock feeds, cf. Jeremiah 25:36; Psalm 74:1. Israel is called the flock of Jahveh's pasturing inasmuch as He exerts a special care over it. The flock bad shepherds, the ungodly monarchs on the throne of David, have brought to ruin and scattered. The scattering is in Jeremiah 23:2, cf. with Jeremiah 23:3, called a driving out into the lands; but the "destroying" must be discovered from the train of thought, for the clause: ye have not visited them (Jeremiah 23:2), intimates merely their neglect of the sheep committed to their charge. What the "destroying" more especially is, we may gather from the conduct of King Jehoiakim, described in Jeremiah 22:13.; it consists in oppression, violence, and the shedding of innocent blood; cf. Ezekiel 34:2-3. With לכן, Jeremiah 23:2, is made the application of the general sentence, Jeremiah 23:1, to the shepherds of Israel. Because they are such as have scattered, driven away, and not visited the flock of the Lord, therefore He will punish in them the wickedness of their doings. In the לא פקדתּם אתם is summed up all that the rulers have omitted to do for the flock committed to their care; cf. the specification of what they have not done, Ezekiel 34:4. It was their duty, as Ven. truly says, to see ut vera religio, pabulum populi spiritual, recte et rite exerceretur. Instead of this, they have, by introducing idolatry, directly encouraged ungodliness, and the immorality which flows therefrom. Here in "ye have not visited them" we have the negative moment made prominent, so that in Jeremiah 23:3 may follow what the Lord will do for His scattered flock. Cf. the further expansion of this promise in Ezekiel 34:12. We must note "I have driven them," since in Jeremiah 23:2 it was said that the bad shepherds had driven the flock away. The one does not exclude the other. By their corrupting the people, the wicked shepherds had occasioned the driving out; and this God has inflicted on the people as punishment. But the people, too, had their share in the guilt; but to this attention is not here directed, since the question deals only with the shepherds.

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