Turn, O backsliding children, said the LORD; for I am married to you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Turn, O backsliding children.—In his desire to individualise his call to repentance, the prophet drops his parable, or rather combines the sign and the thing signified, with the same assonance as before—turn back, ye children who have turned away.
I am married unto you.—The tender pity of Jehovah leads Him to offer pardon even to the adulterous wife. Jeremiah had learned, in all their fulness, the lessons of Hosea 1-3.
One of a city, and two of a family.—The latter word is the wider in its range of the two—a clan, or tribe, that might embrace many cities. The limitation to the “one” and the “two” is after the manner of Isaiah’s reference (Isaiah 1:9) to the “remnant” that should be saved, and reminds of the “ten righteous men” who might have saved the cities of the plain (Genesis 18:32).Jeremiah 3:14. Turn, for I am married unto you — I am in covenant with you, and this covenant, notwithstanding all your unfaithfulness, I am ready to renew with you. Hebrew, בעלתי בכם, which Blaney translates, I have been a husband among you; observing, that God hereby “means to remind them that he had fulfilled the covenant on his part, by protecting and blessing them, as he had promised when he engaged to be their God: and therefore, as they had never any reason to complain of him, he urges them to return to their duty, and promises, in that case, to be still kinder to them than before.” I will take you one of a city, &c. — Some interpret these words thus: “I will receive you, though there should be but one from a city willing to return, and two from a province, or tribe.” This prophecy was accomplished in the letter, after the edict of Cyrus, when several of the Israelites returned to Palestine, but only by little and little, and, as it were, one by one. But undoubtedly it was intended to be understood chiefly, in a spiritual sense, of their conversion to Christianity, and their reception into the gospel church, into which they partly have been, and probably hereafter in greater numbers will be admitted, “not all at a time, or in a national capacity, but severally, as individuals, here and there one.” See Isaiah 27:12.
One of a city, and two of a family - The family (in Hebrew) is far larger than a city, as it embraces all the descendants of a common ancestor. Thus, the tribe of Judah was divided into only four or five families. However national the apostasy, it does not involve in its guilt the few who are faithful, and the promises are still their rightful possession.
take you one of a city—Though but one or two Israelites were in a (foreign) city, they shall not be forgotten; all shall be restored (Am 9:9). So, in the spiritual Israel, God gathers one convert here, another there, into His Church; not the least one is lost (Mt 18:14; Ro 11:5; compare Jer 24:5-7).
family—a clan or tribe.Turn, O backsliding children; for I am married unto you; I am in covenant with you, Deu 29:1,10-12, &c., and this covenant, notwithstanding all your unfaithfulness, I am ready to renew with you, Hosea 2:19,20.
One of a city, and two of a family: this word family is not always to be taken strictly for a household; for then the expression would seem to imply more in a family than in a city; but frequently for a country or nation; compare Genesis 12:3, with Genesis 22:18; see Jeremiah 1:15; or for a tribe; and this may partly respect the fewness of those that will be found penitents and return. God will have a sprinkling in every city, and in every family, or tribe, or country. But chiefly it respects God’s exact care of them, that being now married to them, there shall not be one in a city, or two in a country or tribe, but he will find them out; if there be but one or two, he will not overlook them: this seems to be intimated Isaiah 27:12, a text that points at the same thing.
I will bring you to Zion, i.e. to JerusaLem, a type of the church; a double metonymy of the subject. It is the manner of the prophets, when they are treating of temporal deliverances, especially from Babylon, frequently to break out abruptly into the spiritual deliverance by Christ, and so probably he doth here; and therefore bringing them to Zion must be understood, either of joining them to his church under the Messiah, or bringing them again to worship with Judah at Jerusalem; as may seem to be intimated, Jeremiah 31:6; but the ten tribes did never return into their own land, and therefore that text must be understood of a spiritual going up to Zion, viz. when all Israel shall be saved, Romans 11:26. See Isaiah 56:7,8 66:20; and this chapter, Jeremiah 3:18. Thus we may look upon this part of the prophecy to have respect, partly to what God was at that time about to do, in this verse; and partly what he would hereafter do, when they should be again settled in their own land, under the Messiah, Jeremiah 3:16-19. Jeremiah 3:22 and the arguments used to engage to it follow,
for I am married unto you; in a civil sense as a nation, Jeremiah 31:32, and in a spiritual sense to a remnant of them; Christ is the bridegroom, the church is the bride, which he has secretly betrothed to himself in eternity; openly in time, at the conversion of everyone of them; and will more publicly at the last day, when all are gathered in and prepared for him. This relation, as it is a very near one, so it is very astonishing, considering the disparity between the two parties, and it always continues; love, the bond of it, never alters; the covenant, in which this transaction is carried on, is ever sure; and Christ always behaves agreeably to it; wherefore it is base ingratitude to backslide; and reason there is sufficient why his backsliding spouse should return to him. The Septuagint version is, "because I will rule over you." agreeable to which is Jarchi's note,
"because I am your Lord, and it is not for my glory, (or honour) to leave you in the hand of enemies.''
Kimchi's father interprets the word used by "I loath you", or I am weary of you; the reverse of which is the Targum,
"for I am well pleased with you;''
and so the Syriac version, "I delight in you"; which carries in it a much more engaging argument to return, and agrees with what follows:
and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family: or tribe, or country; for sometimes a whole country is called a family, as in Jeremiah 1:15 and here it must design more than a city; for otherwise there are many families in a city; the meaning is, according to Kimchi, that though there may be but one Jew in a city of the Gentiles, or two only in a nation, the Lord would take them from thence; and, according to others, that though one or two, or a few, here and there one of the backsliders, should return to him by true repentance, he would receive them graciously; the smallness of their number would be no objection to him; which is a sense not to be despised: but the phrase seems to denote the distinguishing grace of God to his people; which appears in the choice of them in his Son; the redemption of them by him; and the sanctification of them by his Spirit; and very few are the objects of his grace, as it were one of a city, and two of a tribe; however, they shall none of them be lost, notwithstanding their backslidings, to which they are bent: for it is added,
and I will bring you to Zion; to the church of God here, a Gospel church state, whither to come is the great privilege of the saints, Hebrews 12:22 and to the Zion above, the heavenly state, where all the chosen and ransomed, and sanctified ones, shall come, with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads, Isaiah 35:10 and all as the fruit of distinguishing and efficacious grace.Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)14. one of … family] Very small places were called “cities,” while “family” must mean a considerable number, a clan, or even a larger group. Cp. Jeremiah 8:3, Jeremiah 25:9.
14–18. Much here is probably a later editorial insertion (see Intr. iv. § 8), for (i) the picture (Jeremiah 3:14) of a very limited number of the captives returning from Assyria, and settling in Jerusalem, while afterwards (Jeremiah 3:16) spreading over the land, is inconsistent with Jeremiah 31:7 ff., (ii) we have no warrant for thinking that Jeremiah (Jeremiah 3:17) expected all nations to gather at Jerusalem to worship, (iii) Jeremiah 3:18 contemplates a return of Judah and Israel together from exile, but the earlier part of the ch. emphasizes the difference of treatment to be accorded to the two. Is the reference to the Ark (Jeremiah 3:16) also late? After Solomon’s time its history is obscure. Was it carried off by Shishak (1 Kings 14:26), or removed by Manasseh (as suggested by 2 Chronicles 33:7) to be replaced, according to the Chronicler’s tradition (2 Chronicles 35:3), by Josiah, though there is no confirmation of this in the parallel account in 2 Kings 23. We therefore cannot be sure that it existed in Jeremiah’s time. The post-exilic Temple had no Ark (Josephus, Wars, V. Jeremiah 3:5). But whether the Ark was still in existence or not, this part of Jeremiah 3:16 is probably a genuine fragment, though displaced, for the prophet’s attitude towards the Ark, as symbolical of the old Covenant which was destined to yield to the new one for which he looked (Jeremiah 31:31 ff.), is paralleled by his view as to the Temple (Jeremiah 7:4).Verse 14. - Turn, O backsliding children. There is a play upon words, or rather upon senses, in the original, "Turn, ye turned away ones" (comp. ver. 12). To whom is this addressed? To the Israelites in the narrower sense, for there is nothing to indicate a transition. Long as they have been removed from the paternal hearth, they are still "sons." For I am married unto you. The same Hebrew phrase occurs in Jeremiah 31:32. Its signification has been a subject of dispute. From the supposed necessities of exegesis in Jeremiah 31:32, some (e.g. Pococke and Gesenins) have translated, "for I have rejected you," but the connection requires not "for" but "though," which, however, is an inadmissible rendering; besides, the Hebrew verb in question nowhere has the sense of "reject" elsewhere (yet the Septuagint already has it, virtually at least, in Jeremiah 31:32, q.v.). The literal meaning is for I have been a lord over you, i.e. a husband. Israel is despondent, and fears to return. Jehovah repeats his invitation, assuring Israel that he does not regard the marriage bond as broken. He is still (in spite of ver. 8) the husband, and Israel the bride (comp. Hosea 2; Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 54:6, etc.). One of a city, and two of a family. The promises of God are primarily to communities, but this does not prevent him from devoting the most special care to individuals. "One of a city, and two of a family," even though there should be but one faithful Lot in a city, and two such in a family (larger than a city, a single tribe containing only a few mishpa-khoth, or clans), yet I will admit these few to the promised blessings." Calvin's remark is worth noticing: "Hie locus dignus est observatu, quia ostendit Deus non esse, cur alii alios expectent; deinde etiam si corpus ipsum populi putreseat in suis peccatis, tamen si pauci ad ipsum redeant, se illis etiam fore placabilem." The historical facts to which the prophecy corresponds are variously regarded. Theodoret, Grotius, etc., suppose it to have been fulfilled exclusively in the return from Babylon; St. Jerome and others think rather of the Messianic period. Hengstenberg finds a continuous fulfillment, beginning at the time of Cyrus, when many belonging to the ten tribes joined themselves to the returning Judahites. He finds a further continuation in the times of the Maccabees, and in fact a continually growing fulfillment in preparation for that complete one brought in by Christ, when the premised blessings were poured out upon the whole δωδεκάφυλον (Luke 2:36). "Zion and the holy land were at that time the seat of the kingdom of God, so that the return to the latter was inseparable from the return to the former." Dr. Guthe, however, the latest critical commentator on Jeremiah, thinks that the passage can be explained otherwise, viz." from each city one by one, and from each family two by two." This gives a more obvious explanation; but the ordinary rendering is more natural, and the explanation based upon it is in the highest degree worthy of the Divine subject. The doubt, of course, is whether in the Old Testament a special providence is extended elsewhere so distinctly to the individual. But Jeremiah is pre-eminently an individualizing prophet; he feels the depth and reality of individual as opposed to corporate life as no one else among the prophets. (At any rate, one point is clear, that the prophet foresees that the number of the exiles who return will be but small compared with the increase to be divinely vouchsafed to them; see ver. 16.) Jeremiah 3:7 and Jeremiah 3:8 are connected in this sense: vidi quod quum adulteram Israelitidem dimiseram, tamen non timeret ejus perfida soror Juda. If we compare Jeremiah 3:7 and Jeremiah 3:8 together, the correspondence between the two comes clearly out. In the first half of either verse Israel is spoken of, in the second Judah; while as to Israel, both verses state how God regarded the conduct of Israel, and as to Judah, how it observed and imitated Israel's conduct. וארא corresponds to ואמר in Jeremiah 3:7. God thought the backsliding Israel will repent, and it did not, and this Judah saw. Thus, then, God saw that even the repudiation of the backsliding Israel for her adultery incited no fear in Judah, but Judah went and did whoredom like Israel. The true sense of Jeremiah 3:8 is rendered obscure or difficult by the external co-ordination to one another of the two thoughts, that God has rejected Israel just because it has committed adultery, and, that Judah nevertheless feared not; the second thought being introduced by Vav. In reality, however, the first should be subordinated to the second thus: that although I had to reject Israel, Judah yet feared not. What God saw is not the adultery and rejection or divorce of Israel, but that Judah nevertheless had no fear in committing and persisting in the self-same sin. The כּי belongs properly to לא יראה, but this relation is obscured by the length of the prefixed grounding clause, and so לא יראה is introduced by ,על־כּל־אדות וגו' .ו yb decud literally: that for all the reasons, because the backslider had committed adultery, I put her away and gave her a bill of divorce; yet the faithless Judah feared not. In plain English: that, in spite of all my putting away the backsliding Israel, and my giving her...because she had committed adultery, yet the faithless Judah feared not. On ספר כּריתוּת, cf. Deuteronomy 24:1, Deuteronomy 24:3.
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