Jeremiah 23:1
Woe be to the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! said 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.Against Jehoiachin or Jechoniah. - Jeremiah 22:24. "As I live, saith Jahveh, though Conjahu, the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, yet would I pluck him thence, Jeremiah 22:25. And give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them of whom thou art afraid, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans; Jeremiah 22:26. And will cast thee and thy mother that bare thee into another land where ye were not born; and there shall ye die. Jeremiah 22:27. And into the land whither they lift up their soul to return, thither shall they not return. Jeremiah 22:28. Is this man Conjahu a vessel despised and to be broken, or an utensil wherein one has no pleasure? Jeremiah 22:29. O land, land, land, hear the word of Jahveh! Jeremiah 22:30. Thus hath Jahveh said: Write down this man as childless, as a man that hath no prosperity in his life; for no man of his seed shall prosper that sitteth upon the throne of David and ruleth widely over Judah."

The son and successor of Jehoiakim is called in 2 Kings 24:6., 2 Chronicles 36:8., Jeremiah 52:31, Jehojachin, and in Ezekiel 1:2, Jojachin; here, Jeremiah 22:24, Jeremiah 22:28, and Jeremiah 37:1, Conjahu; in Jeremiah 24:1, Jeconjahu; and in Jeremiah 27:20; Jeremiah 28:4; Jeremiah 29:2, Esther 2:6; 1 Chronicles 3:16, Jeconjah. The names Jeconjahu and abbreviated Jeconjah are equivalent to Jojachin and Jehojachin, i.e., Jahveh will establish. Jeconjah was doubtless his original name, and so stands in the family register, 1 Chronicles 3:16, but was at his accession to the throne changed into Jehojachin or Jojachin, to make it liker his father's name. The abbreviation of Jeconjahu into Conjahu is held by Hgstb. Christol. ii. p. 402, to be a change made by Jeremiah in order by cutting off the y (will establish) to cut off the hope expressed by the name, to make "a Jeconiah without the J, a 'God will establish' without the will." For two reasons we cannot adopt this as the true view: 1. The general reason, that if Jeremiah had wished to adumbrate the fate of the three kings (Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Jehoiachin) by making changes in their names, he would then have changed the name of Jehoiakim in like manner as he did that of Jehoahaz into Shallum, and that of Jehoiachin into Conjahu. The argument by which Hgstb. seeks to justify the exception in the one case will not hold its own. Had Jeremiah thought it unseemly to practise a kind of conceit, for however solemn a purpose, on the name of the then reigning monarch, then neither could he have ventured on the like in the case of Jehoiachin; for the present prediction was not, as Hgstb. assumed, uttered before his accession, but, as may be seen from the title king of Judah, Jeremiah 22:24, after he had ascended the throne, was actually king. Besides. 2. the name Conjahu occurs also at Jeremiah 37:1, in a historical heading, as of equal dignity with Jeconjahu, Jeremiah 29:2; Jeremiah 28:4, etc., where a name proper only to prophetic discourse would not have been in place. The passages in which the prophets express the character and destiny of a person in a name specially formed for the purpose, are of another kind. There we have always: they shall call his name, or: his name shall be; cf. Jeremiah 33:16; Isaiah 9:5; Isaiah 62:4; Ezekiel 48:35. That the name Jeconjah has not merely the prophet's authority, is vouched for by 1 Chronicles 3:15; Esther 2:6, and by the historical notices, Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 27:20; Jeremiah 28:4; Jeremiah 29:2. And the occurrence of the name Jojachin only in 2 Kings 24; 2 Chronicles 36:1; Jeremiah 52:31, and Ezekiel 1:2 is in consequence of the original documents used by the authors of these books, where, so to speak, the official names were made use of; whereas Jeremiah preferred the proper, original name which the man bore as the prince-royal and son of Jehoiakim, and which was therefore the current and best known one.

The utterance concerning Jechoniah is more distinct and decided than that concerning Jehoiakim. With a solemn oath the Lord not only causes to be made known to him that he is to be cast off and taken into exile, but further, that his descendants are debarred from the throne for ever. Nothing is said of his own conduct towards the Lord. In 2 Kings 24:9 and 2 Chronicles 36:9 it is said of him that he did that which was displeasing to the Lord, even as his father had done. Ezekiel confirms this sentence when in Ezekiel 19:5-9 he portrays him as a young lion that devoured men, forced widows, and laid cities waste. The words of Jahveh: Although Conjahu were a signet ring on my right hand, convey no judgment as to his character, but simply mean: Although he were as precious a jewel in the Lord's eyes as a signet ring (cf. Haggai 2:23), the Lord would nevertheless cast him away. כּי before אם introduces the body of the oath, as in Jeremiah 22:5, and is for rhetorical effect repeated before the apodosis, as in 2 Samuel 3:9; 2 Samuel 2:27, etc. Although he were, sc. what he is not; not: although he is (Graf); for there is no proof for the remark: that as being the prince set by Jahveh over His people, he has really as close a connection with Him. Hitz.'s explanation is also erroneous: "even if, seeking help, he were to cling so closely to me as a ring does to the finger." A most unnatural figure, not supported by reference to Sol 8:6. As to אתּקנךּ, from נתק with ן epenth., cf. Ew. 250, b. - From Jeremiah 22:25 on, the discourse is addressed directly to Jechoniah, to make his rejection known to him. God will deliver him into the hand of his enemies, whom he fears, namely, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans, and cast him with his mother into a strange land, where he shall die. The mother was called Nehushta, 2 Kings 24:8, and is brought forward in 29:2 as גּבירה. On the fulfilment of this threatening, see 2 Kings 24:12, 2 Kings 24:15; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2. The construction הארץ is like that of הגּפן נכריּה, Jeremiah 2:21; and the absence of the article from אחרת is no sufficient reason for holding it to be a gloss (Hitz.), or for taking the article in הארץ to be a slip caused by על הארץ, Jeremiah 22:27. To lift up their souls, i.e., to direct their longings, wishes, towards a thing, cf. Deuteronomy 24:15; Hosea 4:8, etc. - The further sentence on Jechoniah was not pronounced after he had been carried captive, as Ng. infers from the perfects הוּטלוּ and השׁלכוּ. The perfects are prophetic. The question: Is this man a vessel despised and to be broken (עצב, vas fictile)? is an expression of sympathising regret on the part of the prophet for the unhappy fate of the king; but we may not hence conclude that Jeremiah regarded him as better than his father. The prophet's sympathy for his fate regarded less the person of the unfortunate king than it did the fortunes of David's royal seed, in that, of Jechoniah's sons, none was to sit on the throne of David (Jeremiah 22:30). Ew. has excellently paraphrased the sense: "Although there is many a sympathising heart in the land that bitterly laments the hard fate of the dear young king, who along with his infant children has been (? will be) dragged away, yet it is God's unchangeable decree that neither he nor any of his sons shall ascend the throne of David." נפוּץ, not: broken, but: that shall be broken (cf. Ew. 335, b). Wherefore are they - he and his seed - cast out? At his accession Jehoiachin was eighteen years old, not eight, as by an error stands in 2 Chronicles 36:9, see on 2 Kings 24:8; so that when taken captive, he might well enough have children, or at least one son, since his wives are expressly mentioned in the account of the captivity, 2 Kings 24:15. That the sons mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:16 and 1 Chronicles 3:17 were born to him in exile, cannot be inferred from that passage, rightly understood, see on that passage. The fact that no sons are mentioned in connection with the carrying captive is simply explained by the fact that they were still infants.

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