Jeremiah 23:22
But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) If they had stood in my counsel.—Better, as before, council. The test of the true mission is seen in results. Are the people better or worse for the prophet’s work? What are the fruits of his teaching? (Comp. Matthew 7:20.) The question meets us, Is this always a test? Was Jeremiah’s own work successful in this sense? Must not the true teacher speak “whether they [men] will hear, or whether they will forbear?” (Ezekiel 2:5.) The answer is found (1) in the fact that true teaching seldom fails altogether of its work; (2) that where it seems to fail it satisfies the other test, and at least stirs and rouses men from lethargy, even if it stirs them to antagonism. It is never satisfied with speaking smooth things and acquiescing in the evil that surrounds it.

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.They should have turned them ... - The work of the true prophet, which is to turn men from evil unto good. 22. stood in … counsel—(Jer 23:18).

they should have turned them from their evil way—They would have given such counsels to the people as would have turned them from their sins (Jer 25:5; Isa 55:11), and so would have averted punishment. Their not teaching the law in which God's counsel is set forth proves they are not His prophets, though they boast of being so (Mt 7:15-20).

These false prophets did not prophesy without the approbation of the rulers of the ecclesiastical state amongst the Jews in their corrupt state, but so they might, and yet not be sent of God. The judgment of a Divine mission for the revelation of God’s mind unto people must not be merely from their external mission, (which yet they ought to have in a church that is in order,) but from the faithful discharge of their ministry. Those whom God sends, and who are truly acquainted with his counsels, will cause his people to hear, not their own conceits and inventions, but the word of the Lord. God sendeth none upon any other errand but to reveal his will and tell his mind unto people.

Then, saith the prophet,

they should have turned them from their evil way; that is, they would have made this their scope, business, and end, to turn sinners from their sinful ways; and though possibly their labours would not have had so good an effect upon all, yet they would have had an effect upon some to turn them from their evil doings. But if they had stood in my counsel,.... As they boasted they did; or, as they reproached the true prophets, and charged them with vanity and arrogance, in talking as if they had; had this been truly their case, as it was that of the prophets of the Lord:

and had caused my people to hear my words; or, "then they would have caused my people to hear my words"; had it been so, they would have heard first the words of the Lord themselves in secret and privately, and then they would have caused the people to have heard them; they would not have gone to them with their own lies; they would not have dared to have done that; they would have delivered nothing but what they had heard from the Lord:

then they should, or, "and they would",

have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings; and not have strengthened their hands, and hardened them in their wickedness, and so kept them from repentance and reformation, Jeremiah 23:14. The Lord argues from the efficacy and success of the ministry of the word to the truth of it, and their miss:, on from him; for though a good ministry is not always successful, at least so successful as could be wished for, and as it might reasonably be expected it would; yet it is more or less so; and at least it has a tendency to bring men off from their evil practices; and it attempts to do it, though it may fail in the execution; whereas a wicked ministry, such as this of the false prophets, had no tendency hereunto; nor was it the design of it; nor did they attempt it; but, on the contrary, encouraged and hardened men in sin.

But if they had stood in my counsel, and {r} had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.

(r) He shows the difference between the true prophets and the false, between the hireling and the true minister.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
22. my council] See Jeremiah 23:18.Warning against the lying prophecies of the prophets. - Jeremiah 23:16. "Thus saith Jahveh of hosts: Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you! They deceive you; a vision of their heart they speak, not out of the mouth of Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:17. They say still unto my despisers: 'Jahveh hath spoken: Peace shall ye have;' and unto every one that walketh in the stubbornness of his heart they say: 'There shall no evil come upon you.' Jeremiah 23:18. For who hath stood in Jahveh's counsel, that he might have seen and heard His word? who hath marked my word and heard it? Jeremiah 23:19. Behold a tempest from Jahveh, fury goeth forth, and eddying whirlwind shall hurl itself upon the head of the wicked. Jeremiah 23:20. The anger of God shall not turn till He have done and till He have performed the thoughts of His heart. At the end of the days shall ye be well aware of this. Jeremiah 23:21. I have not sent the prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. Jeremiah 23:22. But if they had stood in my counsel, they would publish my words to my people and bring them back from their evil way and from the evil of their doings."

The warning against these prophets is founded in Jeremiah 23:16 on the fact that they give out the thoughts of their own hearts to be divine revelation, and promise peace and prosperity to all stiff-necked sinners. מהבּלים, lit., they make you vain, i.e., make you to yield yourselves to vain delusion, seduce you to false confidence. This they do by their speaking visions, i.e., revelations of their heart, not what God has spoken, revealed to them. As an illustration of this, Jeremiah 23:17 tells that they prophesy continued peace or well-being to the despisers of God. The infin. abs. אמור after the verb. fin. intimates the duration or repetition of the thing. דּבּר יהוה are words of the false prophets, with which they give out that their prophesyings are God's word. Since we nowhere else find sayings of Jahveh introduced by דּבּר יהוה, but usually by 'כּה אמר י, the lxx have taken offence at that formula, and, reading דבר, join the words with למנאצי: τοῖς ἀπωθουμένοις τὸν λόγον κυρίου. To this reading Hitz. and Gr. give the preference over the Masoretic; but they have not noticed that they thus get an unsuitable sense. For דבר יהוה in prophetic language never denotes the Mosaic law or the "moral law" (Hitz.), but the word of God published by the prophets. By their view of "word of Jahveh" they would here obtain the self-inconsistent thought: to the despisers of divine revelation they proclaim as revelation. The Masoretic reading is clearly right; and Jeremiah chose the unusual introductory formula to distinguish the language of the pseudo-prophets from that of the true prophets of the Lord. וכל־הלך ב' is prefixed absolutely: and as concerning every one that walks...they say, for: and to every one...they say. On the "stubbornness of their heart," see on Jeremiah 3:17. With the speech of the false prophets, cf. Jeremiah 14:13 and Jeremiah 6:14. - In Jeremiah 23:18 a more comprehensive reason is given to show that these prophets are not publishing God's decrees. The question: Who hath stood? has negative force equals None hath stood. By this Jeremiah does not deny the possibility of this universally, but only of the false prophets (Hitz.). This limitation of the words is suggested by the context. To the true prophets the Lord reveals His סוד, Amos 3:7. ויראוישׁמע are not to be taken jussively: let him see and hear (Hitz.), for the foregoing interrogation is not a conditional clause introducing a command. The imperfects with ו are clauses of consequence or design, and after a preceding perfect should be rendered in English by the conditional of the pluperfect. Seeing the word of God refers to prophetic vision. The second question is appended without at all conveying any inference from what precedes; and in it the second verb (with ו consec.) is simply a strengthening of the first: who hath hearkened to my word and heard it? The Masoretes have quite unnecessarily changed the Chet. דּברי .tehC into דּברו. In the graphic representation of the prophets, the transition to the direct speech of God, and conversely, is no unusual thing. The change of ויּשׁמע into ישׁמע, unnecessary and even improper as it is, is preferred by Graf and Ng., inasmuch as they take the interrogative מי in both clauses in the sense of quisquis and understand the verse thus: He who has but stood in the counsel of the Lord, let him see and hear His word (i.e., he must see and hear His word); and he that hath marked my word, let him publish it (i.e., he must publish it). This exposition becomes only then necessary, if we leave the context out of view and regard the question as being to the effect that no one has stood in God's counsel - which Jeremiah could not mean. Not to speak of the change of the text necessary for carrying it through, this view does not even give a suitable sense. If the clause: He that has stood in the counsel of the Lord, he must proclaim His word, is to be regarded as having a demonstrative force, then the principal idea must be supplied, thus namely: "and it is impossible that it should be favourable to those who despise it." In Jeremiah 23:19 Jeremiah publishes a real word of the Lord, which sounds very differently from the words of the false prophets. A tempest from Jahveh will burst over the heads of the evil-doers, and the wrath of God will not cease until it has accomplished the divine decree. "A tempest from Jahveh" is defined by "fury" in apposition as being a manifestation of God's wrath; and the whole first clause is further expanded in the second part of the verse. The tempest from Jahveh goes forth, i.e., breaks out, and as whirling tornado or eddying whirlwind bursts over the head of the wicked. יחוּל is to be taken in accordance with מתחולל: twist, whirl, cf. 2 Samuel 3:29. "The thoughts of His heart" must not be limited to what God has decreed de interitu populi (Calv.); it comprehends God's whole redemptive plan in His people's regard-not merely the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah, but also the purification of the people by means of judgments and the final glorification of His kingdom. To this future the next clause points: at the end of the days ye shall have clear knowledge of this. "The end of the days" is not merely the completion of the period in which we now are (Hitz., Gr. Ng., etc.), but, as universally, the end of the times, i.e., the Messianic future, the last period of the world's history which opens at the close of the present aeon; see on Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14, etc. התבּונן is strengthened by בּינה yb dene: attain to insight, come to clearer knowledge.

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