Jeremiah 23:17
They say still to them that despise me, The LORD has said, You shall have peace; and they say to every one that walks after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come on you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Imagination.—As before (Jeremiah 3:17 and elsewhere), stubbornness. The tendency of all that the false prophets uttered was to confirm the people in their sins, not to lead them to repentance. It is noticeable that the Hebrew verb for “hath said” is not the same as the received formula of the true prophets, “The Lord hath spoken.” The prophet seems to indicate in this way that those whom he condemns placed the Divine message on a level with a man’s every-day utterance. They were self-convicted by the very phrase they used.

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.Still - "Continually." This verse gives the chief test by which the false prophet is to be detected, namely, that his predictions violate the laws of morality. 17. say still—Hebrew, "say in saying," that is, say incessantly.

peace—(Jer 6:14; Eze 13:10; Zec 10:2).

imagination—Hebrew, "obstinacy."

no evil—(Mic 3:11).

Lewd and corrupt ministers are a hatred and abomination in the house of the Lord to all serious good people, and are therefore obliged to make themselves a party of those that are like themselves, whose favour they cannot have without indulging them in their lusts. Hence they prophesy

peace to the vilest and worst of men, who have no patience of being daily alarmed with hearing of the wrath of God due and like to come upon them for their sins. Hence they promise no evil to those that walk according to the counsels of their own heart, that is, sinfully, for, Genesis 6:5, Every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil, and that continually. Hence a sinful course is very often expressed in Scripture under this notion of walking after the imaginations of our own heart, as Deu 29:19; but it is most in prophecy; see Jeremiah 3:17 7:21 9:14 13:10 16:12 18:12. Hence a religious walking is called a self denying. None have a worse guide of their actions in their lapsed state, before regeneration, than their own hearts. They say still unto them that despise me,.... That despised the word, worship, and ordinances of the Lord; with such mockers and scoffers at religion, such abandoned creatures, they associated themselves; finding that their prophecies and doctrines met with approbation and success among them. The Septuagint version is, "they say to them that put away the word of the Lord"; reject it, and cast it behind their backs; see Acts 13:46;

the Lord hath said, ye shall have peace; all manner of prosperity; that they should dwell in their own land, and not go into captivity, and enjoy the good things of it in peace and prosperity; this they pretended they had from the Lord; which was an aggravation of their sins; not only to tell a lie, but to tell it in the name of the Lord, and in direct opposition to what the true prophets said from the mouth of the Lord, particularly Jeremiah:

and they say unto everyone that walketh after the imagination of his own heart; which is evil, and that continually, Genesis 6:5; whose course of life is after the lusts of his own wicked heart; and a worse guide than these a man cannot well have: and this is a true character and description of an unregenerate man, who walks after the flesh, and not after the Spirit; after his own carnal heart, and the dictates of it; and not according to the will and word of God: and yet to such, to whom the Lord says, "there is no peace", the false prophets said,

no evil shall come upon you; no evil of punishment for the evil of sin, as the prophets of the Lord had threatened; such as the sword, famine, pestilence, and captivity.

They say still to them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye {o} shall have peace; and they say to every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.

(o) Read Jer 6:14,8:11.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye] The mg. is supported by Syr., and is to be preferred, involving only a change of vowels. The MT. for “hath said” is an expression which does not elsewhere introduce the words of the Lord.

stubbornness] See Jeremiah 3:17.

No evil shall come upon you] Cp. Jeremiah 4:10, Jeremiah 6:14, Jeremiah 14:13.Verse 17. - Unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said. The Septuagint and the Syriac render the same text (the consonants are alone the text) with different vowels, thus: "Unto those who despise the word of the Lord." In favor of this it may be urged that the phrase, "The Lord hath said," is nowhere else used in this abrupt way to introduce a real or supposed revelation, and Hitzig and Graf accordingly accept it. Ye shall have peace; as Jeremiah 6:14. After the imagination; rather, in the stubbornness (see on Jeremiah 3:17). 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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