Jeremiah 3:13
Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD.
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(13) Only acknowledge . . .—This was the one sufficient, indispensable condition of pardon—the confession that kept nothing back, and made no vain excuses.

Hast scattered thy ways.—The phrase is a strong one, thou hast left traces of thy way everywhere, i.e., hast gone this way and that in search of new and alien forms of worship. The “green tree” as before (Jeremiah 2:20) was the familiar scene of the hateful worship.

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.Acknowledge - literally, "know thy iniquity;" know that thy doings are iniquitous.

Scattered thy ways - Wandered in search of those idolatries which foreign nations practice.

13. Only acknowledge—(De 30:1, 3; Pr 28:13).

scattered thy ways, &c.—(Jer 2:25). Not merely the calves at Beth-el, but the idols in every direction, were the objects of their worship (Eze 16:15, 24, 25).

Only acknowledge thine iniquity; which will be the evidence of thy repentance, without which thou canst not lay claim to any pardon, Proverbs 28:13 Isaiah 55:7. This is spoken by way of limitation, lest the Israelites should fancy a too easy pardon from God’s merciful nature. Exhortations to repentance should always accompany the exhibition of promises.

Hast scattered thy ways to the strangers, viz. to other nations, or rather to other gods, or to idols, running here and there, up and down, like a light, impudent harlot. sometimes to one, sometimes to another, thus sucking in divers superstitions, called

scattering thy ways, Jeremiah 3:6 2 Kings 17:4,9,10 Jer 2:23,25. Feet, whereby we go on in ways; a metaphorical metonymy. Ye have not obeyed my voice; so that your sin is not a sin of ignorance, but of obstinacy, shutting your ears against my counsels, which I sent you by my prophets for your reclaiming, 2 Kings 17:13, &c.

Only acknowledge thine iniquity,.... Or, "know" (e) it; unless a man knows his sin, and is convicted of it, he will never repent of it, or turn from it; and when he is made sensible of it, and sorry for it, he ought to acknowledge and confess it before God, against whom he has sinned; this is what is insisted upon, and all that is insisted upon; and it is the least that can be done, and is what every sensible sinner will do, who upon it may expect the discovery of pardoning grace and mercy, Psalm 32:5,

that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God; against his law, his declared mind and will, and notwithstanding he is the Lord thy God; against a God of love, grace, and mercy, who had loaded them with his benefits, and followed them with his goodness; all which aggravates the sin they had been guilty of:

and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree; a phrase expressive of whoredom; it is an euphemism, the same with , as Jarchi observes, "the opening of the feet", to everyone that passes by, to be lain with, Ezekiel 16:25 and is to be understood of the multiplied idolatries of Israel; and that as harlots run about here and there, and prostitute themselves to whomsoever they meet with, so they worshipped the strange gods of the Heathens everywhere, in all their cities, upon every mountain and hill, and under every green tree; see Jeremiah 2:20 so the Targum,

"and thou hast corrupted thy way, thou hast joined thyself to the people that worship idols under every green tree:''

and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord: the voice of his command in the law, which forbids idolatry; and his voice by his prophets, which reproved them for it, and exhorted them to repentance; but they regarded neither.

(e) "scito", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus.

Only acknowledge thy iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast {p} scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD.

(p) There was no way which you did not hunt to seek after the idols, and to go on a pilgrimage.

13. hast scattered thy ways] hast wandered hither and thither. Cp. Jeremiah 2:23.

strangers] foreign gods. Cp. Jeremiah 2:25.

Verse 13. - This condition of restoration to favor. Israel is to acknowledge, or perceive, notice, recognize, her guilt. And hast scattered thy ways; alluding to that "gadding about" in quest of foreign alliances, reproved in the preceding chapter (Jeremiah 2:36). Comp. "interlacing her ways," Jeremiah 2:23. Jeremiah 3:13An indispensable element of the return is: Acknowledge thy guilt, thine offence, for grievously hast thou offended; thou art fallen away (פּשׁע), and תּפזּרי את־דּרכיך, lit., hast scattered thy ways for strangers; i.e., hither and thither, on many a track, hast thou run after the strange gods: cf. Jeremiah 2:23.

The repeated call שׁוּבוּ, Jeremiah 3:14, is, like that in Jeremiah 3:12, addressed to Israel in the narrower sense, not to the whole covenant people or to Judah. The "backsliding sons" are "the backsliding Israel" of Jeremiah 3:7, Jeremiah 3:8, Jeremiah 3:11., and of Jeremiah 3:22. In Jeremiah 3:18 also Judah is mentioned only as it is in connection with Israel. בּעלתּי בכם, here and in Jeremiah 31:32, is variously explained. There is no evidence for the meaning loathe, despise, which Ges. and Diet. in the Lex., following the example of Jos. Kimchi, Pococke, A Schultens, and others, attribute to the word בּעל; against this, cf. Hgstb. Christol. ii. p. 375; nor is the sig. "rule" certified (lxx διότι ἐγὼ κατακυριεύσω ὑμῶν); it cannot be proved from Isaiah 26:13. בּעל means only, own, possess; whence come the meanings, take to wife, have oneself married, which are to be maintained here and in Jeremiah 31:32. In this view Jerome translates, quia ego vir vester; Luther, denn ich will euch mir vertrauen; Hgstb., denn ich traue euch mir an;-the reception anew of the people being given under the figure of a new marriage. This acceptation is, however, not suitable to the perf. בּעלתּי, for this, even if taken prophetically, cannot refer to a renewal of marriage which is to take place in the future. The perf. can be referred only to the marriage of Israel at the conclusion of the covenant on Sinai, and must be translated accordingly: I am your husband, or: I have wedded you to me. This is demanded by the grounding כּי; for the summons to repent cannot give as its motive some future act of God, but must point to that covenant relationship founded in the past, which, though suspended for a time, was not wholly broken up.

(Note: Calvin gives it rightly: "Dixerat enim, se dedisse libellum repudii h. e. quasi publicis tabulis se testatum fuisse, nihil amplius sibi esse conjunctionis cum populo illo. Nam exilium erat instar divortii. Jam dicit: Ego sum maritus vester. Nam etiamsi ego tam graviter laesus a vobis fuerim, quia fefellistis fidem mihi datam, tamen maneo in proposito, ut sim bovis maritus; perinde ac si mihi semper fidem praestitissetis, iterum assuman vos, inqiut.")

The promise of what God will do if Israel repents is given only from ולקחתּי (with ו consec.) onwards. The words, I take you, one out of a city, two out of a race, are not with Kimchi to be so turned: if even a single Israelite dwelt in a heathen city; but thus: if from amongst the inhabitants of a city there returns to me but one, and if out of a whole race there return but two, I will gather even these few and bring them to Zion. Quite aside from the point is Hitz.'s remark, that in Micah 5:1, too, a city is called אלף, and is equivalent to משׁפּחה. The numbers one and two themselves show us that משׁפּחה is a larger community than the inhabitants of one town, i.e., that it indicates the great subdivisions into which the tribes of Israel were distributed. The thought, then, is this: Though but so small a number obey the call to repent, yet the Lord will save even these; He will exclude from salvation no one who is willing to return, but will increase the small number of the saved to a great nation. This promise is not only not contradictory of those which declare the restoration of Israel as a whole; but it is rather a pledge that God will forget no one who is willing to be saved, and shows the greatness of the divine compassion.

As to the historical reference, it is manifest that the promise cannot be limited, as it is by Theodrt. and Grot., to the return from the Assyrian and Babylonian exile; and although the majority of commentators take it so, it can as little be solely referred to the Messianic times or to the time of the consummation of the kingdom of God. The fulfilment is accomplished gradually. It begins with the end of the Babylonian exile, in so far as at that time individual members of the ten tribes may have returned into the land of their fathers; it is continued in Messianic times during the lives of the apostles, by the reception, on the part of the Israelites, of the salvation that had appeared in Christ; it is carried on throughout the whole history of the Church, and attains its completion in the final conversion of Israel. This Messianic reference of the words is here the ruling one. This we may see from "bring you to Zion," which is intelligible only when we look on Zion as the seat of the kingdom of God; and yet more clearly is it seen from the further promise, Jeremiah 3:15-17, I will give you shepherds according to my heart, etc. By shepherds we are not to understand prophets and priests, but the civil authorities, rulers, princes, kings (cf. Jeremiah 2:8, Jeremiah 2:26). This may not only be gathered from the parallel passage, Jeremiah 23:4, but is found in the כּלבּי, which is an unmistakeable allusion to 1 Samuel 13:14, where David is spoken of as a man whom Jahveh has sought out for Himself after His heart (כּלבבו), and has set to be prince over His people. They will feed you דּעה . Both these words are used adverbially. דּעה is a noun, and השׂכּיל an infin.: deal wisely, possess, and show wisdom; the latter is as noun generally השׂכּל , Daniel 1:17; Proverbs 1:3; Proverbs 21:16, but is found also as infin. absol. Jeremiah 9:23. A direct contrast to these shepherds is found in the earlier kings, whom Israel had itself appointed according to the desire of its heart, of whom the Lord said by Hosea, They have set up kings (to themselves), but not by me (Hosea 8:4); kings who seduced the people of God to apostasy, and encouraged them in it. "In the whole of the long series of Israelitish rulers we find no Jehoshaphat, no Hezekiah, no Josiah; and quite as might have been expected, for the foundation of the throne of Israel was insurrection" (Hgstb.). But if Israel will return to the Lord, He will give it rulers according to His heart, like David (cf. Ezekiel 34:23; Hosea 3:5), who did wisely (משׂכּיל ) in all his ways, and with whom Jahveh was (1 Samuel 18:14.; cf. 1 Kings 2:3). The knowledge and wisdom consists in the keeping and doing of the law of God, Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 29:8. As regards form, the promise attaches itself to the circumstances of the earlier times, and is not to be understood of particular historical rulers in the period after the exile; it means simply that the Lord will give to Israel, when it is converted to Him, good and faithful governors who will rule over it in the spirit of David. But the Davidic dynasty culminates in the kingship of the Messiah, who is indeed named David by the prophets; cf. Jeremiah 22:4.

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