Jeremiah 23:15
Therefore thus said the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Wormwood . . . water of gall.—See Notes on Jeremiah 8:14; Jeremiah 9:15.

Profaneness.—The root-meaning of the Hebrew word is that of “veiling,” hence that of simulated holiness, or, as in the margin, “hypocrisy;” but the associations of the word attached to it the further sense of the hypocrisy that desecrates, so that “profaneness” is, on the whole, the best rendering. The corresponding concrete noun is rendered in Isaiah 9:17 by “hypocrite;” in Psalm 35:16 by “hypocritical mocker;” above, in Jeremiah 23:11, by “profane.”

Jeremiah 23:15. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets — The priests also, and all ecclesiastical guides, are included. Behold, I will feed them with wormwood — Will afflict them with most bitter calamities. For from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth — Or, hypocrisy, which seems rather to be the meaning of חנפה, the word here used. Certain it is, that this was a vice they were generally addicted to. These false prophets affected to be looked upon as pious, while they indulged themselves in various acts of wickedness; and as this could not be totally concealed, the people took example from them, and indulged themselves in vice, while they put on the garb of piety. The Jewish nation continued much in this habit even to the times of Christ, as is sufficiently evident from what is said of the Pharisees in the New Testament.23:9-22 The false prophets of Samaria had deluded the Israelites into idolatries; yet the Lord considered the false prophets of Jerusalem as guilty of more horrible wickedness, by which the people were made bold in sin. These false teachers would be compelled to suffer the most bitter part of the Lord's indignation. They made themselves believe that there was no harm in sin, and practised accordingly; then they made others believe so. Those who are resolved to go on in evil ways, will justly be given up to believe strong delusions. But which of them had received any revelation of God, or understood any thing of his word? There was a time coming when they would reflect on their folly and unbelief with remorse. The teaching and example of the true prophets led men to repentance, faith, and righteousness. The false prophets led men to rest in forms and notions, and to be quiet in their sins. Let us take heed that we do not follow unrighteousness.Profaneness - Desecration. 15. gall—poison (see on [922]Jer 8:14; Jer 9:15). Under the term prophets he comprehendeth all the ecclesiastical guides of Jerusalem at this time, whether priests or prophets. He threatens to

feed them with wormwood; some think the word is better translated poison: by wormwood, or poison, and the water of gall, he threatens great and fatal judgments that he would bring upon them. And he giveth the reason why God would deal so severely with that order of men, who seemed by their office and employment to have the nearest relation to himself, because they were the fountain of wickedness, those from whom wickedness flowed out over the whole land. This was either by their conniving at wicked men’s sins, for fear of displeasing them; or by teaching them licentious doctrine, that gave a liberty to the flesh; or by their vile lives setting the people patterns of sin. And indeed thus it is generally, when ministers, and such as are to teach others, are wicked, either in their doctrine or practice, they are a fountain of wickedness; wickedness floweth from them to the whole city, town, parish where they are employed: and on the contrary it is observed, that where God gives a place a good ministry, goodness in one degree or other floweth from them to the whole city, town, or parish; though all are not converted, yet the generality are civilized and restrained from those gross and brutish immoralities which other places abound with. Ill ministers must look for the severest indignation of God. Others sin, and shall die in their sins; but they teach others to break God’s commandments, and have the sins of many to answer for, who perish either by their flatteries, or loose doctrine, or looser lives and examples. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets,.... Concerning the false prophets, as the Targum; their sin is before declared, and now their punishment:

behold, I will feed them with wormwood; with some bitter affliction and calamity; so the Targum,

"behold, I will bring upon them distress bitter as wormwood;''

they that have been fed with dainties, and lived upon the fat of the land; their views in pleasing the people with their lies being to serve their own bellies; now they shall fare after another manner:

and make them drink the water of gall: or, "the juice of hemlock", as some; or "poison", as others; "the savour of death", so Kimchi; as they poisoned the people with their false doctrines, they shall drink poison themselves; they shall not only have that which is bitter and unpleasant, but that which is noxious and hurtful; not only a bitter potion, but a destructive one. The Targum is,

"I will cause them to drink a cup of the curse, bad as the heads of serpents;''

as pernicious as poison; see Jeremiah 8:14;

for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land; by their false doctrines, and bad examples, debauchery, irreligion, and wickedness of all kinds, were encouraged, and spread all over the land; Jerusalem, the metropolis of the nation, being infected by them, the contagion spread from thence throughout the country. Evil teachers have a bad influence all around them; from whom, and from whence, true doctrine and real religion should have been propagated; from them, and thence, was the source of all impiety and pollution. Some render it, "hypocrisy" (z), or "flattery"; as if by means of the hypocrisy and flattery of these false prophets, all manner of sin was countenanced; and the like hypocritical spirit and behaviour everywhere prevailed.

(z) "hypocrisis", Vatablus, Piscastor, Cocceius, Schmidt.

Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with {m} wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.

(m) Read Jer 8:14.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. Behold, I will.…] identical with words in Jeremiah 9:15, where see notes. Here it may be originally a marginal note by a copyist, reminiscent of that passage.

wormwood] Cp. Deuteronomy 29:18; Proverbs 5:4; Lamentations 3:15.Verse 15. - On the punishment here threatened, see note on Jeremiah 9:15. Against the False Prophets. - Next to the kings, the pseudo-prophets, who flattered the people's carnal longings, have done most to contribute to the fall of the realm. Therefore Jeremiah passes directly from his discourse against the wicked kings to rebuking the false prophets; and if we may presume from the main substance, the latter discourse belongs to the same time as the former. It begins

Jeremiah 23:9-11

With a description of the pernicious practices of these persons. - Jeremiah 23:9. "Concerning the prophets. Broken is mine heart within me; all my bones totter. I am become like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of Jahveh and because of His holy words. Jeremiah 23:10. For of adulterers the land is full, for because of the curse the land withereth, the pastures of the wilderness dry up; and their course is become evil, and their strength not right. Jeremiah 23:11. For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in mine house found I their wickedness, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:12. Therefore their way shall be to them as slippery places in darkness, they shall be thrown down and fall therein; for I bring evil upon them, the year of their visitation, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:13. In the prophets of Samaria saw I folly; they prophesied in the name of Baal, and led my people Israel astray. Jeremiah 23:14. But in the prophets of Jerusalem saw I an horrible thing, committing adultery and walking in falsehood, and they strengthen the hands of the wicked, that none returneth from his wickedness. They are all become to me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. Jeremiah 23:15. Therefore thus saith Jahveh of hosts concerning the prophets: Behold, I feed them with wormwood, and give them to drink water of bitterness; for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth over all the land."

"Concerning the prophets" is the heading, as in Jeremiah 46:2; Jeremiah 48:1; Jeremiah 49:1, Jeremiah 49:7, Jeremiah 49:23, Jeremiah 49:28; and corresponds to the woe uttered against the wicked shepherds, Jeremiah 23:1. It refers to the entire portion vv. 9-40, which is thus distinguished from the oracles concerning the kings, Jeremiah 21:1-14 and 22. It might indeed be joined, according to the accents, with what follows: because of the prophets is my heart broken; but as the cause of Jeremiah's deep agitation is given at the end of the second half-verse: because of Jahveh, etc., it is not likely the seer would in one sentence have given two different and quite separate reasons. The brokenness of his heart denotes the profoundest inward emotion yet not despondency by reason of sin and misery, like "a broken heart" in Psalm 34:19; Psalm 51:19, etc., but because of God's wrath at the impious lives of the pseudo-prophets. This has overcome him, and this he must publish. This wrath had broken his heart and seized on all his bones, so that they nervelessly tremble, and he resembles a drunken man who can no longer stand firm on his feet. He feels himself inwardly quite downcast; he not only feels the horrors of the judgment that is to befall the false prophets and corrupt priests who lead the people astray, but knows well the dreadful sufferings the people too will have to endure. The verb רחף occurs only twice in the Piel besides in the present passage; in Genesis 1:2, of the Spirit of God that in the beginning of creation brooded over the waters of the earth, and Deuteronomy 32:11, of the eagle that flutters over her young - in Arabic rchf, to be soft. The root meaning of the word is doubtless: to be flaccid; here accordingly, to totter, to sway to and fro. "Because of Jahveh" is more fully explained by "because of the words of His holiness," i.e., the words which God as holy has made known to him regarding the unholy ongoings of the pseudo-prophets. - From Jeremiah 23:10 onwards come the sayings of God which have so terribly agitated the prophet. The land is full of adulterers. Adultery in the literal sense is mentioned by way of example, as a reckless transgression of God's commands, then much in vogue, whereby the moral foundations of the kingdom were broken up. In Jeremiah 23:14 the prophets are said to commit adultery and walk in lying, cf. Jeremiah 29:23 and Jeremiah 5:7. By reason of this vice a curse lies on the land, under which it is withering away. The clause "for because of the curse," etc., is not to be taken as parenthesis (Ng.), but as co-ordinate with the previous clause, giving the second, or rather the chief ground, why Jeremiah is so deeply distressed. The reason of this is not so much the prevailing moral corruption, as the curse lying on the land because of the moral corruption of its inhabitants. אלה is not perjury (Chald., Rashi, Kimchi), but the curse wherewith God punishes the transgression of His covenant laws, cf. Jeremiah 11:3, Jeremiah 11:8, Deuteronomy 28:15., Jeremiah 29:19. The words are modelled after Isaiah 24:4.; and הארץ is not the population, but the land itself, which suffers under God's curse, and which is visited with drought; cf. Jeremiah 12:4. The next words point to drought. נאות מדבּר as in Jeremiah 9:9. By ותּהי the further description of the people's depravity is attached to the first clause of the verse. Their course is become evil; their running or racing, i.e., the aim and endeavour of the ungodly. The suffix on this word מרוּצתם refers not to "adulterers," but ad sensum to the inhabitants of the land. Their strength is not-right, i.e., they are strong, valiant in wrong; cf. Jeremiah 9:2. For - so goes Jeremiah 23:11 - both prophets and priests, who should lead the people in the right way, are profane, and desecrate by their wickedness even the house of God, presumably by idolatry; cf. Jeremiah 32:34. There is no reason for thinking here, as Hitz. does, of adultery practised in the temple.

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