Jeremiah 23:16
Thus said the LORD of hosts, Listen not to the words of the prophets that prophesy to you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) They make you vain.—i.e., they befool, deceive you. As the next verse shows, they filled the people with vain hopes of peace. This was then, as always, the crucial test between the true prophet and the false. The one roused the conscience, caused pain and anger by his reproofs; the other soothed and quieted men with a false assurance (Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 14:13). They invented a vision which did not come to them from the mouth of Jehovah. (Comp. Deuteronomy 13:1-5.)

Jeremiah 23:16-17. Thus saith the Lord, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets — People are under no religious obligation to hear what is contrary to the revealed will of God, or to obey those who enjoin things which that does not require. They make you vain — Or rather, they deceive you, as the words may be properly rendered: or they make you trust to and undertake vain things. The inhabitants of Jerusalem were fed by these false prophets with the vain hopes of being able to drive the Babylonians from their walls, and raise the siege of the city; yea, and of shaking off the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar entirely, and being quite free for the future. They speak a vision of their own heart — A pretended vision which they have framed themselves. They say still — That is, they persist to say; unto them that despise me — That are destitute even of my fear, and therefore slight my authority, and violate my commands; The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace — Whereas, in truth, I have said the contrary, and have assured them, There is no peace to the wicked — Thus they both make me to patronise sin, and to contradict myself.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.How were the people to know the false prophets from the true? The former bring a message that fills with vain hopes, or "speak a vision" out of their own invention. 16. make you vain—They seduce you to vanity, that is, idolatry, which will prove a vain trust to you (Jer 2:5; 2Ki 17:15; Jon 2:8), [Gesenius]. Rather, "they delude you with vain promises of security" (Jer 23:17; compare Ps 62:10) [Maurer].

of their own heart—of their own invention (Jer 23:21; Jer 14:14).

People are under no religious obligation to hear any thing but the revealed will of God, and are not to obey those that call to them for what that doth not call to them; nor to listen to them, the scope of whose teaching is but to make them vain, sinfully vain, or to deceive their souls; no man is under an obligation to deceive himself. They pretend to visions, that God hath revealed his mind to them in the same way as he useth to reveal himself to true prophets; but there is no such thing, it is but a fiction of their own. Our Lord, Matthew 7:15, gives us the same way to know false prophets: Jeremiah 23:20, By their fruits you shall know them. Let their external mission be what and which way it will, if what they teach agree not with the revealed will of God, they are false prophets. Many of these priests were regularly enough descended, and the prophets regularly enough educated and constituted, yet by this showed themselves false prophets, that what they published was not from God, nor agreed with his revealed will; therefore the people were under no religious obligation to hearken to them. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you,.... Do not hear them; stop your ears at what they say; give no credit to them. The Targum is,

"do not receive the words of the false prophets that prophesy unto you:''

they make you vain; they filled their heads with vain and empty things, and their hearts with vain hopes, which deceived them; so the Targum,

"they deceive you;''

they taught them vain things, and made them vain and sinful in their lives and conversations; and therefore were not to be hearkened to:

they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord; what they imagined they saw was a device of their own hearts, and what was agreeable to them, which must be bad enough; a produce of their own brains; an invention of their own; mere doctrines of men, and not such as come from the mouth of God, are his revealed will, and according to his word; and therefore not to be hearkened to; for nothing is to be heard and received, in matters of religion, but what is according to the revelation of God's will in his word; see Isaiah 8:20. The Targum is,

"they speak to you the wickedness of their hearts, and not by the word of the Lord.''

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not to the words of the prophets that prophesy to you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own {n} heart, and not from the mouth of the LORD.

(n) Which they have invented of their own brain.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. teach you vanity] deceive you with vain hopes, speak peace to those who are going on still in wicked courses. Cp. next v. This is a test whereby the false may be distinguished from the true prophet.

of their own heart] imagined by themselves.

16–18. See introd. summary to section.Verses 16-22. - A warning addressed to the people against the false prophecies (comp. Ezekiel 13.). Verse 16. - They make you vain; i.e. fill you with vain imaginations. A similar phrase occurs in Jeremiah 2:5, on which see note. A vision of their own heart; the heart being the center of the intellectual as well as of the moral life, according to the Hebrew conception. 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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