Jeremiah 23:23
Am I a God at hand, said the LORD, and not a God afar off?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Am I a God at hand . . .?—This and the two questions that follow are essentially the same in thought. The false prophets acted as if God were far away out of their sight (Psalm 10:11; Psalm 73:11; Psalm 94:7), not knowing or caring what men did, as if their affairs, as it has been epigrammatically said, came under a “colonial department.” The true prophet feels that He is equally near, equally God, in all places alike. Familiar as the word omnipresence is to us—so familiar as almost to have lost its power—the fact, when we realise it, is as awful now as it was when it presented itself to the souls of Patriarch, Psalmist, or Prophet. (Genesis 16:13; Psalm 32:6-7; Psalm 73:23-26; Psalm 139:7-12; Amos 9:2-4; Job 11:8-9.

Jeremiah 23:23-24. Am I a God at hand and not a God afar off? — Do these false prophets imagine that I am only a God in some particular places, and that I cannot see or know things done privately, or at a distance from the place where they suppose me to be? Do they think to impose upon me, or vent their own dreams in my name, and I not discover them? As if either distance or secrecy could place any thing out of the reach of my power and knowledge. Atheism, or ignorance of God, is generally the foundation of a wicked life. Men think God does not see, or does not regard them and their actions, and will not call them to an account for them, and therefore they go on in their trespasses. By a God at hand, some understand, in heaven: as if he had said, Do you think my eyes are limited like yours, so that I cannot see men’s practices though at a distance from the place of my peculiar and glorious residence? Others interpret the particle with respect to time; Am I a god of yesterday, like the idols? Am not I the Ancient of days? the eternal God, of whose majesty, omniscience, and omnipresence you ought to have been sensible? Can any hide himself in secret places — Can any man hide his projects or intentions, his thoughts or desires, his words or works, that I shall not see them? Surely not. No arts or concealments can hide any man’s practices or even the counsels of his heart from the eye of God, nor in any respect deceive his judgment of them. Do not I fill heaven and earth, namely, by my essential presence, as well as by my universal providence? Am I not continually present, and continually active through all parts of the universe? As I am above all, so I am through all, and in all, Ephesians 4:6.23:23-32 Men cannot be hidden from God's all-seeing eye. Will they never see what judgments they prepare for themselves? Let them consider what a vast difference there is between these prophecies and those delivered by the true prophets of the Lord. Let them not call their foolish dreams Divine oracles. The promises of peace these prophets make are no more to be compared to God's promises than chaff to wheat. The unhumbled heart of man is like a rock; if not melted by the word of God as a fire, it will be broken to pieces by it as a hammer. How can they be long safe, or at all easy, who have a God of almighty power against them? The word of God is no smooth, lulling, deceitful message. And by its faithfulness it may certainly be distinguished from false doctrines.At hand - Or, near. An appeal to the omnipotence of God in demonstration of the wickedness of the prophets. His power is not limited, so that He can notice only things close to Him, but is universal. 23. Let not the false prophets fancy that their devices (Jer 23:25) are unknown to Me. Are ye so ignorant as to suppose that I can only see things near Me, namely, things in heaven, and not earthly things as being too remote? Atheism is generally the foundation of ill life. Men say God sees them not, the Almighty doth not regard. them. By a God at hand many understand heaven: Do you think that my eyes are limited like yours, that I cannot see their practices, though far off from me; that is, from the place of my glorious residence? Others interpret the particle with respect to time: Am I a God of yesterday, like the idols? Am not I the Ancient of days, the eternal God, whose majesty and omniscience you ought to have taken notice of? Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord,.... Or "near" (f); that is, in heaven; and only sees, and hears, and observes persons and things there, being near unto him:

and not a God afar off? that sees, and hears, and takes notice of persons and things at a distance, even on earth. The meaning is, that he certainly was; and that persons and things on earth were as much under his cognizance and notice, as persons and things in heaven; which was quite contrary to the notions of these atheistical prophets and people; who, like Heathens, thought that God did not concern himself about persons and things on earth. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, without the interrogative, "I am a God near, saith the Lord, and not afar off". The meaning is, that God is alike near in one place as in another; which is a very great truth; and a very comfortable one it is to the people of God, to whom he is near in all places, and at all times; he is a present help in time of trouble; he is near them, to hear their cries, and grant their requests; he is near to give them assistance in a time of need, and to deliver them out of all their troubles; to afford them his gracious presence, and to indulge them with communion with himself; to communicate all good things to them; to speak comfortably to them; to take them by the hand, and lead them in the way everlasting: he is at their right hand to uphold them with his, and to strengthen them with strength in their souls; to advise and counsel, and direct them; to rebuke their enemies, and save them from them that condemn them; and indeed there are no people like them, who have God so nigh unto them, in all things they call upon him for, Deuteronomy 4:7; and though he may seem at times to be afar off, and stand at a distance from them; when he hides his face; withdraws his gracious influences; does not appear at once for their relief in distress; but suffers them to he afflicted in one way or another; yet in reality he is not; but is nigh unto them when they call upon him: and this truth is as uncomfortable and dreadful to wicked men, who cannot go from his spirit, or flee from his presence; which is everywhere, in heaven and hell, in the earth and seas, even in the uttermost parts of them; there his eye is upon them, and his right hand can reach them: he is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. The Targum is,

"I God have created the world from the beginning, saith the Lord; and I God will renew the world for the righteous;''

see 2 Peter 3:13; and some interpret the words of time, as well as of place; as if the sense was this, am I a God of late date, as the gods of the Heathens are? no, I am not: am I not a God from eternity who was before the world was, and the Creator of it, which they are not? verily I:am: but the former sense is best, and most agreeable with the context, and what follows.

(f) "e propinquo", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "vel propinquus", Schmidt.

Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God {s} afar off?

(s) Do I not see your falsehood, however you cloak it, and wherever you commit it?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23, 24. The connexion of thought has been variously explained. (i) The LXX make Jeremiah 23:23 an affirmation, not a question. God, as universally present, can never be at a distance, and this agrees with Jeremiah 23:24. Afterwards, the v. was made interrogative to meet the difficulty connected with the later Jewish conception, viz. that God dwelt wholly apart from men. So Gi. The connexion, however, is still somewhat obscure. (ii) Jehovah is not accessible to the first person who rashly, like you, claims intimacy, but only to one known and consecrated from his birth, “a chosen vessel” (Acts 9:15). But if one is thus chosen, he must accept the office. He cannot hide himself. So Co. The contrast thus made between Jeremiah 23:23-24 is the weak point here. (iii) These false prophets cannot hide themselves. God is omnipresent and sees through their deceptive claims. We can hardly say more than that this is perhaps the least unsatisfying of the interpretations.Verses 23-32. - Jehovah has observed and will punish the false pretensions of the prophets. Verses 23, 24. - Am I a God at hand, etc.? ("At hand" equivalent to "near.") Eliphaz may again assist us with an illustration. "And thou sayest " - he is expostulating with Job - "What doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud? thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; yea, he walketh upon the vault of heaven" (Job 22:13, 14). It might seem, from the preponderance of the false prophets ever the true, as if Jehovah were unaware of the mischief. Not so; Jehovah is omnipresent. 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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