Jeremiah 3:11
And the LORD said to me, The backsliding Israel has justified herself more than treacherous Judah.
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(11) Hath justified herself.—Literally, hath justified her soul, has put in a better plea in her defence. The renegade was better than the traitress. Even open rebellion was better than hypocrisy, as the publicans and sinners in the Gospel story were better than the Pharisees (Matthew 21:31).

Jeremiah 3:11. And the Lord said unto me, &c. — The case of these sister kingdoms is here compared, and judgment given upon the comparison. Israel hath justified herself more than Judah — Hebrew, צדקה נפשׁה, hath justified her soul: so the LXX. εδικαιωσε την ψυχην, and the Vulgate. The meaning is, that of the two, Judah was the more guilty, because, though Israel’s sins were more numerous, and their idolatry had continued longer, yet in Judah that and other sins were more heinous, because Judah had sinned against greater light, and would not take warning by that desolation which God had brought upon the whole kingdom of Israel. Observe, reader, this comparative justification stood Israel in little stead. It will little avail us to say we are not so bad as others, when yet we are not really good ourselves. And God’s judgments upon others, if they be not the means of our reformation, will help to aggravate our destruction. The Prophet Ezekiel makes the same comparison between Jerusalem and Samaria, that Jeremiah here makes between Judah and Israel, nay, and between Jerusalem and Sodom, and Jerusalem is represented as being the worst of the three. See Ezekiel 23:11; and Ezekiel 16:48.3:6-11 If we mark the crimes of those who break off from a religious profession, and the consequences, we see abundant reason to shun evil ways. It is dreadful to be proved more criminal than those who have actually perished in their sins; yet it will be small comfort in everlasting punishment, for them to know that others were viler than they.Hath justified herself - Judah had had the benefit of the warning given by Israel's example. Both abandon Yahweh's service for idolatry, but Israel is simply "apostate," Judah is also false.

The verse is important,

(1) as accounting for the destruction of Jerusalem so soon after the pious reign of Josiah. Manasseh's crimes had defiled the land, but it was by rejecting the reforms of Josiah that the people finally profaned it, and sealed their doom:

(2) As showing that it is not by the acts of its government that a nation stands or falls. Ahaz and Manasseh lent the weight of their influence to the cause of idolatry: Hezekiah and Josiah to the cause of truth. But the nation had to determine which should prevail. Excepting a remnant it embraced idolatry, and brought upon itself ruin: in the remnant the nation again revived Jeremiah 24:5, Jeremiah 24:7.

11. justified herself—has been made to appear almost just (that is, comparatively innocent) by the surpassing guilt of Judah, who adds hypocrisy and treachery to her sin; and who had the example of Israel to warn her, but in vain (compare Eze 16:51; 23:11).

more than—in comparison with.

Was less vile, hath more to say for herself; Judah’s sin being greatly aggravated compared with Israel, Ezekiel 16:51 23:11. See Luke 18:14. For though Israel’s sins were more, and their idolatry continued, yet in Judah it was more heinous,

1. Because of their unruly headstrongness, that broke the reins and restraint which their external worship ought to have had upon them.

2. Because of their stupid security in not being warned by the judgments that they had seen befall Israel for the very same things.

3. Because of their intolerable pride, boasting that their state was still unshaken.

4. Because of their gross perfidiousness in making promises, and breaking them, which Israel did not, because she brought not herself under such solemn and frequent obligations: see Jeremiah 3:7. LastLy, Because they were a great deal more zealous in their idolatries than Israel was, viz. under Manasseh, when they slew all the prophets of the Lord. And the Lord said unto me,.... To the Prophet Jeremiah, as in Jeremiah 3:6 and at or about the same time:

the backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah; that is, was comparatively more righteous; of the two she appeared the most righteous; though neither of them could vindicate their conduct, or justify themselves before God; see Luke 18:14. Judah was most to blame, because that after Israel committed idolatry, and was carried captive, she took no warning by it, but fell into the same sin; and in Manasseh's time committed greater idolatries, and more wickedness, than ever Israel did; and more than even the Amorites themselves, and other Heathen nations, had done, 2 Kings 21:6 and though a reformation was made in Josiah's time, it was only feignedly, it was not cordial and hearty; and therefore she is all along here charged with perfidy and treachery.

And the LORD said to me, The backsliding Israel hath {n} justified herself more than treacherous Judah.

(n) Israel has not declared herself as wicked as Judah, who yet has had more admonitions and examples to call her to repentance.

11–13. In spite of (i) greater privileges, (a) succession of kings of the same family, (b) the Temple, (c) Levites; (ii) the warning example of Israel, Judah has proved faithless and hypocritical as well (Jeremiah 3:4). Therefore the prophet is bidden to look toward the North (Assyria) whither the captives had been led. Upon sincere acknowledgment of sin pardon will ensue.Verse 11. - It is very noteworthy that Jeremiah should have still so warm a feeling for the exiles of the northern kingdom (more than a hundred years after the great catastrophe). Hath justified herself. "To justify" can mean "to show one's self righteous," as well as "to make one's self righteous," just as "to sanctify" can mean, "to show one's self holy" (Isaiah 8:13), as well as "to make one's self holy." In spite of Israel's apostasy, she has shown herself less worthy of punishment than Judah, who has had before her the warning lesson of Israel's example, and who has been guilty of the most hateful of all sins, hypocrisy (comp. ver. 7). Henceforward, forsooth, it calls upon its God, and expects that His wrath will abate; but this calling on Him is but lip-service, for it goes on in its sins, amends not its life. הלוא, nonne, has usually the force of a confident assurance, introducing in the form of a question that which is held not to be in the least doubtful. מעתּה, henceforward, the antithesis to מעולם, Jeremiah 2:20, Jeremiah 2:27, is rightly referred by Chr. B. Mich. to the time of the reformation in public worship, begun by Josiah in the twelfth year of his reign, and finally completed in the eighteenth year, 2 Chronicles 34:3-33. Clearly we cannot suppose a reference to distress and anxiety excited by the drought; since, in Jeremiah 3:3, it is expressly said that this had made no impression on the people. On אבי, cf. Jeremiah 2:27. אלּוּף נערי (cf. Proverbs 2:17), the familiar friend of my youth, is the dear beloved God, i.e., Jahveh, who has espoused Israel when it was a young nation (Jeremiah 2:2). Of Him it expects that He will not bear a grudge for ever. נטר, guard, then like τηρεῖν, cherish ill-will, keep up, used of anger; see on Leviticus 19:18; Psalm 103:9, etc. A like meaning has ישׁמר, to which אף, iram, is to be supplied from the context; cf. Amos 1:11. - Thus the people speaks, but it does evil. דּבּרתּי, like קראתי in Jeremiah 3:4, is 2nd pers. fem.; see in Jeremiah 2:20. Hitz. connects דּבּרתּי so closely with ותּעשׂי as to make הרעות the object to the former verb also: thou hast spoken and done the evil; but this is plainly contrary to the context. "Thou speakest" refers to the people's saying quoted in the first half of the verse: Will God be angry for ever? What they do is the contradiction of what they thus say. If the people wishes that God be angry no more, it must give over its evil life. הרעות, not calamity, but misdeeds, as in Jeremiah 2:33. תּוּכל, thou hast managed it, properly mastered, i.e., carried it through; cf. 1 Samuel 26:25; 1 Kings 22:22. The form is 2nd pers. fem., with the fem. ending dropped on account of the Vav consec. at the end of the discourse, cf. Ew. 191, b. So long as this is the behaviour of the people, God cannot withdraw His anger.
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