Thus shall you say every one to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, What has the LORD answered? and, What has the LORD spoken?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Thus shall ye say . . .—The words are a protest against the high-sounding phrase, “This is the burden, the oracle of Jehovah.” This, with which the false prophets covered their teachings of lies, the prophet rejects, and he calls men back to the simpler terms, which were less open to abuse. The true prophet’s message was to be called an “answer” when men had come to him with questions—a “word of the Lord” when it was spoken to them without any previous inquiry.
what hath the Lord answered? and what hath the Lord spoken? they might lawfully and laudably inquire of the prophet what answer he had received from the Lord, and what it was that he had said to him, provided they were serious in it, and asked with meekness and fear: the word of God should be reverently spoken of, and attended to.Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 35. - What hath the Lord answered? i.e. a simpler phraseology is to be used, Jehovah hath answered, saying, or, Jehovah hath spoken, according as a definite question had been put before the prophet or not. Jeremiah 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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