Jeremiah 3:12
Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.
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(12) Toward the north.—The prophet utters his message as towards the far land of Assyria and the cities of the Medes to which the ten tribes of Israel had been carried away captive (2Kings 17:6; 2Kings 17:23). He had a word of glad tidings for the far-off exiles.

Return, thou backsliding Israel.—It is hard to reproduce the pathetic assonance of the original, “Shubah, mashubah,”turn back, thou that hast turned away; return, thou renegade.

I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you.—Literally, my face; the face so awful in its wrath.

I will not keep anger for ever.—With perhaps a latent reference to the hope held out in Hosea 3:5, and to the words which Judah had uttered in her hypocrisy (Jeremiah 3:5), but which were truer of Israel.

Jeremiah 3:12-13. Go, and proclaim these words toward the north — “The sin of the ten tribes being attended with more favourable circumstances than that of Judah, the prophet is commanded to call them to repentance with promises of pardon. In order to this he is bid to direct his speech northward, that is, toward Assyria and Media, whither the ten tribes had been carried away captive, which countries lay north of Judea.” And say: Return, thou backsliding Israel — Repent of thy backslidings, return to thy allegiance; come back to that good way out of which thou hast turned aside. And I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you — Namely, more grievously than it has already fallen, or for ever; for otherwise his anger lay heavy upon them at this time. Observe, reader, God’s anger is ready to fall on sinners, as a lion falls on his prey, and there is none to deliver. But if they repent, it shall be turned away, for he is merciful, and will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity — Own thyself in a fault, and thereby take shame to thyself, and give glory to God. Confess and forsake thy sins; for he that confesseth and forsaketh shall find mercy. This will aggravate the condemnation of sinners, that the terms of pardon and peace were brought so low, and yet they would not come up to them. Sinner, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? How much more when he saith, Only acknowledge thine iniquity. The Hebrew, דעי עונן, is properly, Know thine iniquity, that is, in order to thy acknowledging and forsaking it. We must call our sins to mind, consider the number, greatness, and inexcusableness of them, that we may conceive a proper hatred to them, and sorrow for them, and thereby, and through faith in the divine mercy and grace in Christ, may obtain pardon and deliverance from them. That thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God — Against the infinite and eternal Jehovah, who had taken thee to be his peculiar people, and was in covenant with thee as thy God. And hast scattered thy ways to the strangers — To other gods, to idols, running hither and thither to worship them. The phrase is taken from the lewdness of common harlots, who promiscuously prostitute themselves to all comers: see Proverbs 30:20. The clause may be rendered, Thou hast wandered among strangers, or strange gods; that is, thou hast not repaired, or had recourse, to one strange god, but many; under every green tree — Alluding to the heathen performing the ceremonies of their idolatrous worship in groves, or under large spreading trees. And ye have not obeyed my voice — So that your sin is not a sin of ignorance, but of obstinacy, for you shut your ears against my counsels, sent by my prophets for reclaiming you.

3:12-20 See God's readiness to pardon sin, and the blessings reserved for gospel times. These words were proclaimed toward the north; to Israel, the ten tribes, captive in Assyria. They are directed how to return. If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive them. These promises are fully to come to pass in the bringing back the Jews in after-ages. God will graciously receive those that return to him; and by his grace, he takes them out from among the rest. The ark of the covenant was not found after the captivity. The whole of that dispensation was to be done away, which took place after the multitude of believers had been greatly increased by the conversion of the Gentiles, and of the Israelites scattered among them. A happy state of the church is foretold. He can teach all to call him Father; but without thorough change of heart and life, no man can be a child of God, and we have no security for not departing from Him.The north - The ten tribes, settled by Salmanezer in the north of Assyria.

I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you - literally, I will not cause my face "to fall upon you:" i. e., "I will not receive you with averted looks." The "and" before this clause should be omitted, as also before the next clause, "I will not keep ..."

I will not keep - All God's promises and threats are conditional upon man's conduct.

12. Go—not actually; but turn and proclaim towards the north (Media and Assyria, where the ten tribes were located by Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser, 2Ki 15:29; 17:6; 18:9, 11).

Return … backsliding—Hebrew, Shubah, Meshubah, a play on sounds. In order to excite Judah to godly jealousy (Ro 11:14), Jehovah addresses the exiled ten tribes of Israel with a loving invitation.

cause … anger to fall—literally, "I will not let fall My countenance" (compare Ge 4:5, 6; Job 29:3), that is, I will not continue to frown on you.

keep—"anger" is to be supplied (see on [896]Jer 3:5).

Go: it may possibly be used here as an adverb of exciting, namely, to go, as is usual; or it notes speed, Go quickly, out of hand; not locally, but set thy face, Jeremiah 2:2, or feet, that way, or by thy office address thyself to them, viz. by way of proclamation, crying aloud; possibly implying the distance of place: this voice may in time reach them, though a great way off. Or rather the deafness of Israel, or the obdurateness of Judah, that they might hear what God saith to Israel, conceive hope, and be reclaimed by their example, and be excited to emulation.

Toward the north, i.e. to Assyria and Media, and the regions thereabouts, that lay northward from Judea, whither the ten tribes were carried by Tiglath-pileser and Shulmaneser, 2 Kings 15:29 17:6.

And I will not cause mine anger; upon condition of returning to their former true worship of God, that thereby Judah might be awakened, he promiseth that he will not let his anger, or his face, as in the Hebrew, (because anger principally appears in the face,) his angry face, or countenance, to be upon them; so it is used Leviticus 17:10 Psalm 34:16; and not be inexorable, viz.

for ever, which is to be supplied from the next words; for otherwise his anger lay heavy upon them at this time.

To fall a metaphor from things on high that drop down to the hurt of whatever is under them, and so Jeremiah 23:34: compare Genesis 19:24.

For I am merciful: here is the ground of this conditional promise, taken from the nature of God, that sinners may not despair, Psalm 86:15 103:8,9, &c.

Go and proclaim these words towards the north,.... With his face thitherwards, towards Babylon, which lay north of Judea, and was the metropolis of Assyria, where the ten tribes were carried captive; and though they were dispersed in the cities of Media and Persia, which lay eastward, yet Babylon being the head of the empire, respect is had to that; not that the prophet was to go thither to them, or to prophesy in the land of the north, as the Targum paraphrases the words: for the word "go", as Jarchi observes, is only expressive of a command on the part of God; and of readiness, as Kimchi says, on the part of the prophet to obey, but not of local motion; he was to read these words, as the latter of these suggests, in Jerusalem, before the elders of Judah, with a respect to Israel, as if they were before him; and the design of this was to show that the Lord was gracious and merciful, and ready to receive backsliders; and to stimulate Judah to repentance, and to turn unto the Lord:

and say, return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord not return from the land of their captivity, though that they shall return in the last day Kimchi thinks is here intimated; and Jarchi says some of them did return, in the eighteenth year of Josiah; but return from their idols to the living God: and for their encouragement it is added,

and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; or, "my face" (d); by frowning upon them, expressing displicency with them, and anger towards them; the meaning is, that he would not continue his resentments, or cause his anger to fall upon them any more, or at least not for ever, as Kimchi interprets it; he had caused his anger to fall upon them like a mighty storm of rain, by carrying them captive; but now he intimates, should they repent and return, he would remove his anger from them, and not cause it to return any more:

for I am merciful, saith the Lord; so he proclaimed himself before Moses, Exodus 34:6 and of this they had had often instances and proofs:

and I will not keep anger for ever; or, "thy sins", as the Targum; I will not mark and observe them, or reserve them for punishment, but will mercifully forgive them; See Gill on Jeremiah 3:5.

(d) "non faciam cadere facies meas super vos", Schmidt.

Go and proclaim these words toward {o} the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.

(o) While the Israelites were now kept in captivity by the Assyrians, to whom he promises mercy, if they will repent.

12. look in anger] lit. as mg. cause my countenance to fall upon you. For the falling of the countenance in this sense, cp. Genesis 4:5.

Verse 12. - Israel, therefore, shall be recalled from exile. Her sins are less than those of Judah, and how long and bitterly has she suffered for them! Toward the north. For Israel had been carried captive into the regions to the north of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11). Comp. the pro-raise in Jeremiah 31:8. I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; rather, my face to fall towards you (i.e. upon your return). Jeremiah 3:12Israel's return, pardon, and blessedness. - Jeremiah 3:11. "And Jahveh said to me, The backsliding one, Israel, is justified more than the faithless one, Judah. Jeremiah 3:12. Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, Turn, thou backsliding one, Israel, saith Jahveh; I will not look darkly on you, for I am gracious, saith Jahveh; I will not always be wrathful. Jeremiah 3:13. Only acknowledge thy guilt, for from Jahveh thy God art thou fallen away, and hither and thither hast thou wandered to strangers under every green tree, but to my voice ye have not hearkened, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 3:14. Return, backsliding sons, saith Jahveh; for I have wedded you to me, and will take you, one out of a city and two out of a race, and will bring you to Zion; Jeremiah 3:15. And will give you shepherds according to my heart, and they will feed you with knowledge ad wisdom. Jeremiah 3:16. And it comes to pass, when ye increase and are fruitful in the land, in those days, saith Jahveh, they will no more say, 'The ark of the covenant of Jahveh;' and it will no more come to mind, and ye will not longer remember it or miss it, and it shall not be made again. Jeremiah 3:17. In that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of Jahveh; and to it all peoples shall gather themselves, because the name of Jahveh is at Jerusalem: and no longer shall they walk after the stubbornness of their evil heart. Jeremiah 3:18. In those days shall the house of Judah go along with the house of Israel, and together out of the land of midnight shall they come into the land which I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers." In Jeremiah 3:11, from the comparison of the faithless Judah with the backsliding Israel, is drawn the conclusion: Israel stands forth more righteous than Judah. The same is said in other words by Ezekiel 16:51.; cf. (Ezek.) Jeremiah 23:11. צדק in Piel is to show to be righteous, to justify. נפשׁהּ, her soul, i.e., herself. Israel appears more righteous than Judah, not because the apostasy and idolatry of the Israelites was less than that of the people of Judah; in this they are put on the same footing in Jeremiah 3:6-10; in the like fashion both have played the harlot, i.e., stained themselves with idolatry (while by a rhetorical amplification the apostasy of Judah is in Jeremiah 3:9 represented as not greater than that of Israel). But it is inasmuch as, in the first place, Judah had the warning example of Israel before its eyes, but would not be persuaded to repentance by Israel's punishment; then again, Judah had more notable pledges than the ten tribes of divine grace, especially in the temple with its divinely-ordained cultus, in the Levitical priesthood, and in its race of kings chosen by God. Hence its fall into idolatry called more loudly for punishment than did that of the ten tribes; for these, after their disruption from Judah and the Davidic dynasty, had neither a lawful cultus, lawful priests, nor a divinely-ordained kingship. If, then, in spite of these privileges, Judah sank as far into idolatry as Israel, its offence was greater and more grievous than that of the ten tribes; and it was surely yet more deserving of punishment than Israel, if it was resolved neither to be brought to reflection nor moved to repentance from its evil ways by the judgment that had fallen upon Israel, and if, on the contrary, it returned to God only outwardly and took the opus operatum of the temple-service for genuine conversion. For "the measure of guilt is proportioned to the measure of grace." Yet will not the Lord utterly cast off His people, Jeremiah 3:12. He summons to repentance the Israelites who had now long been living in exile; and to them, the backsliding sons, who confess their sin and return to Him, He offers restoration to the full favours of the covenant and to rich blessings, and this in order to humble Judah and to provoke it to jealousy. The call to repentance which the prophet is in Jeremiah 3:12 to proclaim towards the region of midnight, concerns the ten tribes living in Assyrian exile. צפנה, towards midnight, i.e., into the northern provinces of the Assyrian empire the tribes had been carried away (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11). שׁוּבה, return, sc. to thy God. Notwithstanding that the subject which follows, משׁבה, is fem., we have the masculine form here used ad sensum, because the faithless Israel is the people of the ten tribes. לא אפּיל פּני, I will not lower my countenance, is explained by Genesis 4:5; Job 29:24, and means to look darkly, frowningly, as outward expression of anger; and this without our needing to take פּני for כּעסי as Kimchi does. For I am חסיד, gracious; cf. Exodus 34:6. As to אטּור, see on Jeremiah 3:5.
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