Jeremiah 23:25
I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.
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(25) I have dreamed . . .—The words point to the form of the claim commonly made by the false prophets. Dreams took their place among the recognised channels of divine revelation (Genesis 40:8; Genesis 41:16; Joel 2:28; Daniel 7:1), but their frequent misuse by the false prophets brought them into discredit, and the teaching of Deuteronomy 13:1-5 accordingly brought the “dreamer of dreams” no less than the prophet to the test whether what he taught was in accordance with the law of Jehovah. The iteration of “I have dreamed” represents the affected solemnity with which the false prophets proclaimed their visions. Of the disparagement of dreams, consequent on this abuse, we have a striking example in Ecclesiastes 5:3, and later still in Ecclesiasticus 34:1-7.

Jeremiah 23:25-27. I have heard what the prophets say, &c. — I am perfectly acquainted with what these prophets have thought and said, though they think I take no notice of it, and so continue to act the same counterfeit part over again. Saying, I have dreamed — I have had a divine vision, or have received information from God in a dream. This, it appears, the false prophets often pretended, when they had received nothing of the kind. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets? — How long shall I bear with them while they prophesy the deceit of their own hearts? while they utter, for prophecies, that which they have feigned or devised themselves? Will they never see what an affront they put upon me, what an abuse they put upon my people, and what judgments they are preparing for themselves? To cause my people to forget my name by their dreams, &c. — They act as if they designed to draw my people off from worshipping and serving me, and from all regard to my laws and ordinances and to the true prophets. Indeed, their palming upon the people counterfeit revelations, and fathering their own fancies upon divine inspiration, was the ready way to bring all religion into contempt, and make men turn atheists and infidels.

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.In Deuteronomy 13:1 "a dreamer of dreams" is used in a bad sense, and with reason. God communicating His will by dreams was a thing too easy to counterfeit for it not to be misused. 25. dreamed—I have received a prophetic communication by dream (Nu 12:6; De 13:1, &c. Joe 2:28). Visions and dreams were two usual ways by which under the law God made himself known of old to his prophets, making them sometimes, being awake, to hear a voice; sometimes attended with, and proceeding upon, some visible appearance, sometimes not: at other times causing them being asleep, to dream; and in their sleep revealing to them, as in a dream, what his will was they should declare and publish to his people. These false prophets speaking what came into their own heads, and suited their own lust, or the lusts of a debauched people to whom they spake, would pretend that God had revealed to them what they so published in a dream; not in the mean time considering God took notice of these their little arts by which they cheated the people. But saith God, I am a God that know afar off as well as at hand, and I have heard what they say, prophesying lies as from me, and pretending that I had in dreams revealed them to them.

I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name,.... Or, "I hear what the prophets say" (g), &c. though they thought God was at a distance from them, in the highest heavens, and neither saw, nor heard, nor took any notice of what was done on earth, they were greatly mistaken; he heard and observed with indignation the false doctrines and lying prophecies which they delivered out in his name to the people, whether in public or in private; for he is the Lord God omniscient and omnipresent; and therefore, though they deceived the people, they could not deceive him; who knew all their schemes and all their designs, from what principles they acted, and with what views;

saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed; not a common dream, but a divine dream; this was one way in which the Lord formerly made known his mind and will to his servants, Numbers 12:6; wherefore these false prophets, in imitation of the true ones, and in order to gain credit from the people, pretended they had a dream from the Lord, in which such and such things were revealed to them; and this is repeated by them for the greater certainty of it, and to raise the people's attention as to something very uncommon and extraordinary. So the Targum,

"saying, a word of prophecy has been shown to me in a dream.''

Now, though the people could not contradict them, or know any otherwise than as they might observe that they agreed not with the word of God, or with his will, as made known by the true prophets of the Lord; for if a man says he has dreamed so and so, another cannot say he has not; because no man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of a man that is in him; yet God, that knows all things, knew that these were all lies and impostures, and that they had never had a dream from him, or any revelation of his will in that way.

(g) "dicunt", Calvin, Cocceius.

I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I {t} have dreamed, I have dreamed.

(t) I have a prophecy revealed to me as in Nu 12:6.

25. I have dreamed, I have dreamed] These were the words with which they caught the ear of the crowd, and so gained a sure hearing for their pretended revelations. But another kind of test was needed (see Introd. pp. xxxii. f.), and this the false prophets failed to supply.

25–29. See introd. summary to section.

Verse 25. - I have dreamed. Jeremiah mentions it as one of the marks of a false prophet that he appealed to his dreams (comp. Jeremiah 29:8); true prophecy contented itself with less ambiguous media of communication with the unseen world. It may be objected that Abraham (Genesis 15:12), at any rate, and Abimelech (Genesis 20:3) received Divine revelations in dreams; but these were not officially prophets. Nathan and the contemporaries of the author of Job had messages from God by night, but these are called, not dreams, but visions (2 Samuel 7:14, comp. 17; Job 4:13). Deuteronomy (and this is one of its striking points of agreement with Jeremiah) expressly describes a false prophet as "a dreamer of dreams" (Deuteronomy 13:1; comp. 1 Samuel 28:6). Two passages in the Old Testament seem inconsistent with this discouragement of dreams as a medium of revelation - Numbers 12:6, where the Lord is said to make himself known to prophets by visions and dreams, and Joel 2:28, where the prophetic dreams of the old men are one of the features of a Messianic description; but it is noteworthy that the first of these refers to the primitive period of Israel's history, and the second to the distant Messianic age. In its classical period prophecy kept itself sedulously aloof from a field on which it had such compromising companionship (comp. Ecclesiastes 5:7). Jeremiah 23:25Jeremiah 23:23-32, in continuation, an intimation that God knows and will punish the lying practices of these prophets. - Jeremiah 23:23. "Am I then a God near at hand, saith Jahveh, and not a God afar off? Jeremiah 23:24. Or can any hide himself in secret, that I cannot see him? saith Jahveh. Do not I will the heaven and the earth? saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:25. I have heard what the prophets say, that prophesy falsehood in my name, saying: I have dreamed, I have dreamed. Jeremiah 23:26. How long? Have they it in their mind, the prophets of the deceit of their heart, Jeremiah 23:27. Do they think to make my people forget my name by their dreams which they tell one to the other, as their fathers forgot my name by Baal? Jeremiah 23:28. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word in truth. What is the straw to the corn? saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:29. Is not thus my word - as fire, saith Jahveh, and as a hammer that dasheth the rock in pieces? Jeremiah 23:30. Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets that steal my words one from the other. Jeremiah 23:31. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith Jahveh, that take their tongues and say: God's word. Jeremiah 23:32. Behold, I am against the prophets that prophesy lying dreams, saith Jahve, and tell them, and lead my people astray with their lies and their boasting, whom yet I have not sent nor commanded them, and they bring no good to this people, saith Jahveh."

The force of the question: Am I a God at hand, not afar off? is seen from what follows. Far and near are here in their local, not their temporal signification. A god near at hand is one whose domain and whose knowledge do not extend far; a God afar off, one who sees and works into the far distance. The question, which has an affirmative force, is explained by the statement of Jeremiah 23:24 : I fill heaven and earth. Hitz. insists on understanding "near at hand" of temporal nearness, after Deuteronomy 32:17 : a God who is not far hence, a newly appeared God; and he supposes that, since in the east, from of old, knowledge is that which is known by experience, therefore the greatness of one's knowledge depends on one's advancement in years (Job 15:7, Job 15:10; Job 12:12, etc.); and God, he says, is the Ancient of days, Daniel 7:9. But this line of thought is wholly foreign to the present passage. It is not wealth of knowledge as the result of long life or old age that God claims for Himself in Jeremiah 23:24, but the power of seeing into that which is hidden so that none can conceal himself from Him, or omniscience. The design with which God here dwells on His omniscience and omnipresence too (cf. 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1) is shown in Jeremiah 23:25. The false prophets went so far with their lying predictions, that it might appear as if God did not hear or see their words and deeds. The Lord exposes this delusion by calling His omniscience to mind in the words: I have heard how they prophesy falsehood in my name and say, I have dreamed, i.e., a dream sent by God, have had a revelation in dreams, whereas according to Jeremiah 23:26 the dream was the deceit of their heart - "spun out of their own heart" (Hitz.). Jeremiah 23:26 is variously interpreted. Hitz. supposes that the interrogative ה (in הישׁ) is made subordinate in the clause, and that the question is expressed with a double interrogative. He translates: How long still is there anything left in the heart of the prophets? as much as to say: how long have they materials for this? But there is a total want of illustrations in point for this subordination and doubling of the interrogative; and the force given to the ישׁ is quite arbitrary, since we should have had some intimation of what it was that was present in their hearts. Even the repetition of the interrogative particles is unexplained, and the connecting of ישׁ with a participle, instead of with the infinitive with ל, cannot be defended by means of passages where החל is joined with an adjective and the idea "to be" has to be supplied. L. de Dieu, followed by Seb. Schmidt, Chr. B. Mich., Ros., Maur., Umbr., Graf, was right in taking "How long" by itself as an aposiopesis: how long, sc. shall this go on? and in beginning a new question with הישׁ, a question continued and completed by the further question: "Do they think," etc., Jeremiah 23:27. Is it in the heart of the prophets, i.e., have the prophets a mind to prophesy falsehood? do they mean to make men forget my name? Against holding Jeremiah 23:27 as a resumption of the question there is no well-founded objection. Ng. affirms that after החשׁבים we must in that case have here הם as recapitulation of the subject; but that is rendered unnecessary by the subject's being contained in the immediately preceding words. The conjecture propounded by Ng., to change הישׁ into האשׁ: how long still is the fire in the heart of the prophets? needs no refutation. To make to forget the name of the Lord is: so to banish the Lord, as seen in His government and works, from the people's heart, that He is no longer feared and honoured. By their dreams which they relate one to the other, i.e., not one prophet to the other, but the prophet to his fellow-man amongst the people. בּבּעל, because of the Baal, whom their fathers made their god, cf. Judges 3:7; 1 Samuel 12:9. - These lies the prophets ought to cease. Jeremiah 23:28. Each is to speak what he has, what is given him. He that has a dream is to tell the dream, and he that has God's word should tell it. Dream as opposed to word of the Lord is an ordinary dream, the fiction of one's own heart; not a dream-revelation given by God, which the pseudo-prophets represented their dreams to be. These dreams are as different from God's word as straw is from corn. This clause is supported, Jeremiah 23:29, by a statement of the nature of God's word. It is thus (כּה), namely, as fire and as a hammer that smashes the rocks. The sense of these words is not this: the word of God is strong enough by itself, needs no human addition, or: it will burn as fire the straw of the man's word mixed with it. There is here no question of the mixing of God's word with man's word. The false prophets did not mingle the two, but gave out their man's word for God's. Nor, by laying stress on the indwelling power of the word of God, does Jeremiah merely give his hearers a characteristic by which they may distinguish genuine prophecy; he seeks besides to make them know that the word of the Lord which he proclaims will make an end of the lying prophets' work. Thus understood, Jeremiah 23:29 forms a stepping-stone to the threatenings uttered in Jeremiah 23:30-32 against the lying prophets. The comparison to fire does not refer to the reflex influence which the word exerts on the speaker, so as that we should with Rashi and Ros. cf. Jeremiah 20:9; the fire comes before us as that which consumes all man's work that will not stand the test; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:12. The comparison to a hammer which smashes the rock shows the power of God, which overcomes all that is earthly, even what is firmest and hardest; cf. Hebrews 4:12. Its effect and accomplishment nothing can hinder.

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