Jeremiah 3:1
They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.
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(1) The parable of the guilty wife who is condemned in spite of all her denials is carried out to its logical results.

They say.—Better, So to speak, as introducing a new application of the figure. The direct reference is to Deuteronomy 24:4, which forbade the return to the past husband as an abomination, a law which the recent discovery of the Book of the Law (2Kings 22:10-11) had probably brought into prominence. But there is also an obvious allusion to the like imagery in Hosea. There the prophet had done, literally or in parable, what the law had forbidden (Hosea 2:16; Hosea 3:3), and so had held out the possibility of return and the hope of pardon. Jeremiah has to play a sterner part. and to make the apostate adulteress at least feel that she had sinned too deeply to have any claims to forgiveness. It might seem as if Jehovah could not now return to the love of His espousals, and make her what she once had been.

Yet return again to me, saith the Lord.—The words sound in the English like a gracious invitation, and—in spite of the authority of many interpreters who take it as an indignant exclamation, and return to me! an invitation given in irony, and so equivalent to rejection, as though that return were out of the question—it must, I think, be so taken. The prophet has, as we have seen, the history of Hosea in his mind, where there had been such a call to return (Hosea 2:19; Hosea 3:3), and actually refers to it and repeats it in Jeremiah 3:7; Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 3:14. It surely implies a want of insight into the character of Jeremiah to suppose that he ever came before men as proclaiming an irrevocable condemnation, excluding the possibility of repentance.

Jeremiah 3:1. They say — That is, men use to say, If a man put away his wife — Or give her a bill of divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1; and she go from him — In consequence thereof; and become another man’s — Engage herself to another; shall he return unto her? — He cannot take her again according to the law, Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Or, rather, will a man do such a thing? If the law were not against it, would any man be inclined to take such a woman again? Certainly not. Such playing fast and loose with the marriage-bond would be a horrid profanation of that ordinance, and would greatly pollute the land. Thus they had reason to expect, that God would refuse ever to take them again to be his people, who had not only been joined to one strange god, but had played the harlot with many lovers. If we had to do with a man like ourselves, after such provocations as we have been guilty of, he would be implacable, and we might despair of his ever being reconciled to us again. But he is God and not man, and therefore he adds, Yet return again to me — Namely, forsaking all those other lovers; which invitation implies a promise, that he would receive them upon their repentance and reformation.

3:1-5 In repentance, it is good to think upon the sins of which we have been guilty, and the places and companies where they have been committed. How gently the Lord had corrected them! In receiving penitents, he is God, and not man. Whatever thou hast said or done hitherto, wilt thou not from this time apply to me? Will not this grace of God overcome thee? Now pardon is proclaimed, wilt thou not take the benefit? They will hope to find in him the tender compassions of a Father towards a returning prodigal. They will come to him as the Guide of their youth: youth needs a guide. Repenting sinners may encourage themselves that God will not keep his anger to the end. All God's mercies, in every age, suggest encouragement; and what can be so desirable for the young, as to have the Lord for their Father, and the Guide of their youth? Let parents daily direct their children earnestly to seek this blessing.They say - Or, That is to say. The prophet has completed his survey of Israel's conduct, and draws the conclusion that as an adulterous wife could not be taken back by her husband, so Israel has forfeited her part in the covenant with God. Apparently the opening word, which literally means "to say," only introduces the quotation in the margin.

Yet return again to me - Or, "and thinkest thou to return unto me!" The whole argument is not of mercy, but is the proof that after her repeated adulteries, Israel could not again take her place as wife. To think of returning to God, with the marriage-law unrepealed, was folly.


Jer 3:1-25. God's Mercy notwithstanding Judah's Vileness.

Contrary to all precedent in the case of adultery, Jehovah offers a return to Judah, the spiritual adulteress (Jer 3:1-5). A new portion of the book, ending with the sixth chapter. Judah worse than Israel; yet both shall be restored in the last days (Jer 3:6-25).

1. They say—rather, as Hebrew, "saying," in agreement with "the Lord"; Jer 2:37 of last chapter [Maurer]. Or, it is equivalent to, "Suppose this case." Some copyist may have omitted, "The word of the Lord came to me," saying.

shall he return unto her—will he take her back? It was unlawful to do so (De 24:1-4).

shall not—Should not the land be polluted if this were done?

yet return—(Jer 3:22; Jer 4:1; Zec 1:3; compare Eze 16:51, 58, 60). "Nevertheless," &c. (see on [895]Isa 50:1).God’s forbearance with the idolatry of Judah, who is worse than Israel, Jeremiah 3:1-11. Both called to repent, with gospel promises, Jeremiah 3:12-19. Misery by sin; salvation only of God, Jeremiah 3:20-25.

They say; or, Men use to say. If this, with the four following verses, belong to the former chapter, then it seems to express God’s condescension to them: q. d. Though if a woman forsake her husband, and be married to another man, the law will not permit him to receive her again; yet God would receive thee again upon thy returning to him; but thou choosest rather obstinately to adhere to thy other confidences, wherein thou shalt not prosper. But if we look upon them as beginning a new argument, then here God declares his readiness to receive them again upon their repentance, though it be very unusual for husbands so to do, when their wives have proved treacherous unto them, in betaking themselves to other husbands; and so this chapter may very well begin with such a proverbial speech, They say, or, Men use to say, or, It is commonly said. Put away his wife; or give her a bill of divorce, Deu 24:1. Shall he return unto her again? q. d. He cannot take her again, according to the law, Deu 24:1-4. Or rather, will a man do such a thing? If the law were not against it, would any man be so easily wrought upon as to take her again? No, certainly. It is an argument from the less to the greater, to set forth God’s great lenity towards them: q.d. If a husband should turn away his wife merely because he pleased her not, though she gave him no just cause, and she should bestow herself on another, he would not be reconciled to her, neither might he take her again; but you have gone a whoring from me, and sufficiently provoked me to reject and turn you off. I will dispense with my own law for your sakes, and will act by my prerogative; I am ready to be reconciled, to follow them that fly from me, as in the close of the verse, and Zechariah 1:3 Matthew 3:7. God will pardon sins of apostacy, and falls after repentance.

Shall not that land be greatly polluted? Heb. in being profane be profaned. Would not so great a sin greatly pollute a state or nation? Leviticus 18:27,28. It must needs be polluted by such marriages to and fro, and promiscuous couplings, Deu 24:4.

With many lovers; not with one only, as being sufficient to make thee an adulteress, but a common strumpet, joining in fellowship with divers associates and companions, or many idols.

They say, if a man put away his wife,.... Or, "saying" (w); wherefore some connect those words with the last verse of the preceding chapter, as if they were a continuation of what the Lord had been there saying, that he would reject their confidences; so Kimchi; but they seem rather to begin a new section, or a paragraph, with what were commonly said among men, or in the law, and as the sense of that; that if a man divorced his wife upon any occasion,

and she go from him; departs from his house, and is separated from bed and board with him:

and become another man's, be married to another, as she might according to the law:

shall he return unto her again? take her to be his wife again; her latter husband not liking her, or being dead? no, he will not; he might not according to the law in Deuteronomy 24:4 and if there was no law respecting this, it can hardly be thought that he would, it being so contrary to nature, and to the order of civil society:

shall not that land be greatly polluted? either Judea, or any other, where such usages should obtain; for this, according to the law, was causing the land to sin, filling it with it, and making it liable to punishment for it; this being an abomination before the Lord. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions, render it, "shall not that woman be defiled?" she is so by the latter husband; and that is a reason why she is not to be received by the former again, Deuteronomy 24:4,

but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; or served many idols; the number of their gods having been according to the number of their cities, Jeremiah 2:28,

yet return again to me, saith the Lord; by repentance, and doing their first works, worshipping and serving him as formerly; so the Targum,

"return now from this time to my worship, saith the Lord.''

The Vulgate Latin version adds, "and I will receive thee"; this is an instance of great grace in the Lord, and which is not to be found among men.

(w) "dicendo", Montanus, Vatablus, Janius & Tremellius.

They {a} say, If a man shall put away his wife, and she shall go from him, and become another man's, shall he return to her again? shall not that land {b} be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many {c} lovers; yet {d} return again to me, saith the LORD.

(a) According as it is written, De 24:4.

(b) If he take such a one to wife again.

(c) That is, with idols, and with them whom you have put your confidence in.

(d) And I will not cast you off, but receive you, according to my mercy.

Ch. Jeremiah 3:1-5. Israel’s faithlessness towards her Spouse

1. They say] The Hebrew is simply saying. Either the opening words of Jeremiah 3:6 have been displaced and should stand here, or a similar introductory clause has accidentally dropped out. The connexion of thought is: the Lord refuses to recognise either Egypt or Assyria as the lawful spouse of His people, at the same time saying that as they have chosen to forsake Him for them, He will act in accordance with the law of divorce and will refuse to receive Israel again.

shall he return unto her again?] According to Deuteronomy 24:1-4, when a woman left her husband in accordance with a bill of divorce and was married to another, even a bill of divorce given her by her new husband did not enable the former one to take her back. As the illustration applies to Israel’s return to Jehovah, not His to her, there is something to be said for the LXX’s reading, viz. Shall she indeed return to him? The form of the MT. has been accounted for as a reference to Deut. as above, although we cannot say that the Deuteronomic code on the matter was as yet in operation. Moreover the case contemplated in that passage is one of divorce, and Israel had not been divorced. In the time of Saul the marriage of a divorced woman to a second husband did not preclude her from returning to the former one (see 1 Samuel 25:44; 2 Samuel 3:14 f.). The prophet, however, may be here thinking of the contraction of an illegitimate union by a divorced woman. “His argument is apparently this: If a man divorces his wife and she lives with another man, how can her first husband take her back, defiled as she is for him? But Judah’s case is still worse, for she has not been divorced, and has contracted an adulterous union not with one lover but with many.” Pe.

yet return] and thinkest thou to return (as mg.). An expression of surprise. It is impossible surely to play fast and loose with God in such a matter—a thing forbidden even in human affairs.

Verse 1. - They say, etc.; as the margin of Authorized Version correctly states, the Hebrew simply has "saying." Various ingenious attempts have been made to explain this. Hitzig, for instance, followed by Dr. Payne Smith, thinks that "saying" may be an unusual equivalent for "that is to say," "for example," or the like; while the Vulgate and Rashi, followed by De Wette and Rosenmüller, assume an ellipsis, and render, "It is commonly said," or "I might say." But far the most natural way is to suppose that "saying" is a fragment of the superscription of the prophecy, the remainder of which has been accidentally placed in ver. 6, and that we should read, "And the word of the Lord came unto me in the days of Josiah the king, saying." So J. D. Michaelis, Ewald, Graf, Naegelsbach. If a man put away his wife. The argument is founded on the law of Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which forbade an Israelite who had divorced his wife to take her again, if in the interval she had been married to another. The Jews had broken a still more sacred tie, not once only, but repeatedly; they worshipped "gods many and lords many;" so that they had no longer any claim on Jehovah in virtue of his "covenant" with his people. Shall he return, etc.? rather, Ought he to return? The force of the term is potential (comp. Authorized Version of Genesis 34:7, "which thing ought not to be done"). Shall not in the next clause is rather would not. Yet return again to me. So Peshito, Targum, Vulgate, and the view may seem to be confirmed by the invitations in vers. 12, 14, 22. But as it is obviously inconsistent with the argument of the verse, and as the verb may equally well be the infinitive or the imperative, most recent commentators render, "And thinkest thou to return to me?" (literally, and returning to me! implying that the very idea is inconceivable). Probably Jeremiah was aware that many of the Jews were dissatisfied with the religious condition of the nation (comp. ver. 4). Jeremiah 3:1As a divorced woman who has become another man's wife cannot return to her first husband, so Judah, after it has turned away to other gods, will not be received again by Jahveh; especially since, in spite of all chastisement, it adheres to its evil ways. Jeremiah 3:1. "He saith, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, can he return to her again? would not such a land be polluted? and thou hast whored with many partners; and wouldst thou return to me? saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 3:2. Lift up thine eyes unto the bare-topped hills and look, where hast thou not been lien with; on the ways thou sattest for them, like an Arab in the desert, and pollutedst the land by thy whoredoms and by thy wickedness. Jeremiah 3:3. And the showers were withheld, and the latter rain came not; but thou hadst the forehead of an harlot woman, wouldst not be ashamed. Jeremiah 3:4. Ay, and from this time forward thou criest to me, My father, the friend of my youth art thou. Jeremiah 3:5. Will he always bear a grudge and keep it up for ever? Behold, thou speakest thus and dost wickedness and carriest it out." This section is a continuation of the preceding discourse in Jeremiah 2, and forms the conclusion of it. That this is so may be seen from the fact that a new discourse, introduced by a heading of its own, begins with Jeremiah 3:6. The substance of the fifth verse is further evidence in the same direction; for the rejection of Judah by God declared in that verse furnishes the suitable conclusion to the discourse in Jeremiah 2, and briefly shows how the Lord will plead with the people that holds itself blameless (Jeremiah 2:35).

(Note: The contrary assertion of Ew. and Ngelsb. that these verses do not belong to what precedes, but constitute the beginning of the next discourse (Jeremiah 3-6), rests upon an erroneous view of the train of thought in this discourse. And such meagre support as it obtains involves a violation of usage in interpreting ושׁוב as: yet turn again to me, and needs further the arbitrary critical assertion that the heading in Jeremiah 3:6 : and Jahveh said to me in the days of Josiah, has been put by a copyist in the wrong place, and that it ought to stand before Jeremiah 3:1. - Nor is there any reason for the assumption of J. D. Mich. and Graf, that at Jeremiah 3:1 the text has been mutilated, and that by an oversight ויהי has dropped out; and this assumption also contradicts the fact that Jeremiah 3:1-5 can neither contain nor begin any new prophetic utterance.)

But it is somewhat singular to find the connection made by means of לאמר, which is not translated by the lxx or Syr., and is expressed by Jerome by vulgo dicitur. Ros. would make it, after Rashi, possem dicere, Rashi's opinion being that it stands for ישׁ לי לימר. In this shape the assumption can hardly be justified. It might be more readily supposed that the infinitive stood in the sense: it is to be said, one may say, it must be affirmed; but there is against this the objection that this use of the infinitive is never found at the beginning of a new train of thought. The only alternative is with Maur. and Hitz. to join לאמר with what precedes, and to make it dependent on the verb מאס in Jeremiah 2:37 : Jahveh hath rejected those in whom thou trustest, so that thou shalt not prosper with them; for He says: As a wife, after she has been put away from her husband and has been joined to another, cannot be taken back again by her first husband, so art thou thrust away for thy whoredom. The rejection of Judah by God is not, indeed, declared expressis verbis in Jeremiah 3:1-5, but is clearly enough contained there in substance. Besides, "the rejection of the people's sureties (Jeremiah 2:37) involves that of the people too" (Hitz.). לאמר, indeed, is not universally used after verbis dicendi alone, but frequently stands after very various antecedent verbs, in which case it must be very variously expressed in English; e.g., in Joshua 22:11 it comes after ישׁמעוּ, they heard: as follows, or these words; in 2 Samuel 3:12 we have it twice, once after the words, he sent messengers to David to say, i.e., and cause them say to him, a second time in the sense of namely; in 1 Samuel 27:11 with the force of: for he said or thought. It is used here in a manner analogous to this: he announces to thee, makes known to thee. - The comparison with the divorced wife is suggested by the law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Here it is forbidden that a man shall take in marriage again his divorced wife after she has been married to another, even although she has been separated from her second husband, or even in the case of the death of the latter; and re-marriage of this kind is called an abomination before the Lord, a thing that makes the land sinful. The question, May he yet return to her? corresponds to the words of the law: her husband may not again (לשׁוּב) take her to be his wife. The making of the land sinful is put by Jer. in stronger words: this land is polluted; making in this an allusion to Leviticus 18:25, Leviticus 18:27, where it is said of similar sins of the flesh that they pollute the land.

With "and thou hast whored" comes the application of this law to the people that had by its idolatry broken its marriage vows to its God. זנה is construed with the accus. as in Ezekiel 16:28. רעים, comrades in the sense of paramours; cf. Hosea 3:1. רבּים, inasmuch as Israel or Judah had intrigued with the gods of many nations. ושׁוב אלי .snoi is infin. abs., and the clause is to be taken as a question: and is it to be supposed that thou mayest return to me? The question is marked only by the accent; cf. Ew. 328, a, and Gesen. 131, 4, b. Syr., Targ., Jerome, etc. have taken ושׁוב as imperative: return again to me; but wrongly, since the continuity is destroyed. This argument is not answered by taking ו copul. adversatively with the sig. yet: it is on the contrary strengthened by this arbitrary interpretation. The call to return to God is incompatible with the reference in Jeremiah 3:2 to the idolatry which is set before the eyes of the people to show it that God has cause to be wroth. "Look but to the bare-topped hills." שׁפים, bald hills and mountains (cf. Isaiah 41:18), were favoured spots for idolatrous worship; cf. Hosea 4:13. When hast not thou let thyself be ravished? i.e., on all sides. For שׁגּלתּ the Masoretes have here and everywhere substituted שׁכּבתּ, see Deuteronomy 28:30; Zechariah 14:2, etc. The word is here used for spiritual ravishment by idolatry; here represented as spiritual fornication. Upon the roads thou sattest, like a prostitute, to entice the passers-by; cf. Genesis 38:14; Proverbs 7:12. This figure corresponds in actual fact to the erection of idolatrous altars at the corners of the streets and at the gates: 2 Kings 23:8; Ezekiel 16:25. Like an Arab in the desert, i.e., a Bedouin, who lies in wait for travellers, to plunder them. The Bedouins were known to the ancients, cf. Diod. Sic. 2:48, Plin. Hist. Nat. vi. 28, precisely as they are represented to this day by travellers. - By this idolatrous course Israel desecrated the land. The plural form of the suffix with the singular זנוּת is to be explained by the resemblance borne both in sound and meaning (an abstract) by the termination וּת to the plural ות; cf. Jeremiah 3:8, Zephaniah 3:20, and Ew. 259, b. רעתך refers to the moral enormities bound up with idolatry, e.g., the shedding of innocent blood, Jeremiah 2:30, Jeremiah 2:35. The shedding of blood is represented as defilement of the land in Numbers 35:33.

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