Jeremiah 3:16
And it shall come to pass, when you be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, said the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) In those days.—No time had been named, but the phrase had become familiar for the far-off better time of the true king of the Messianic kingdom.

They shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord.—Noteworthy both for its exceeding boldness and as containing the germ, or more than the germ, of the great thought of the New Covenant developed in Jeremiah 31:31. The ark, the very centre of the worship of Israel, the symbol and, it might seem, more than the symbol, of the Divine presence, that, too, should pass away, as the brasen serpent had become Nehushtan (2Kings 18:4), and take its place as belonging only to the past. Foremost among the prophets was Jeremiah to perceive and proclaim that

“God fulfils Himself in many ways.”

The legend of 2 Maccabees 2:4-5, that Jeremiah had hidden the tabernacle and the ark in a cave that they might be restored in the latter days, presents a singular contrast to the higher thoughts of the prophet.

Neither shall it come to mind.—Literally, come upon the heart, which throughout the Old Testament implies the intellect rather than the affections.

Neither shall they visit it.—Better, shall they miss it, as men miss what they value. The words probably refer to the feelings with which the ark had been restored to its place by Josiah (2Chronicles 35:3) after its displacement by Manasseh (2Chronicles 33:7).

Neither shall that be done any more.—Better, neither shall it [the ark] be made any more. It shall be left to decay and perish, and none shall care to reconstruct it. The words had, of course, a fulfilment in the ritual of the second Temple, where there was no ark in the Holy of Holies, and that loss was probably what Jeremiah foresaw most clearly, and for which he sought to prepare his people, as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 8:13) did to prepare those of his time for the more entire destruction of the Temple and its worship. But even within this horizon the thought was bold in itself and pregnant with yet greater truths.

Jeremiah 3:16. And when ye be multiplied — That is, when the kingdom of the Messiah shall be set up, and there shall be a vast increase of the members of the church by the accession of the Gentiles: for that the days of the Messiah are here intended, the Jewish masters themselves acknowledge; they shall say no more, The ark, &c. — The ark is here put for all the legal ceremonies, being, with the rites connected with it, the chief part thereof. The sense is, that whole worship, with all the rites and ceremonies belonging to it, shall wholly cease, Christ being come, who was the substance of what the ark and all other rites did but shadow out for a time. “Here,” says Blaney, “God comforts the Jews with an assurance that, though upon their return to him they might not find themselves in possession of exactly the same privileges as they had before, they should be no losers, but should receive ample indemnification, so as to leave them no just cause of regret. The ark of the covenant was the visible seat of God’s residence among his people; it was therefore the object of their boast; but after the destruction of the first temple they had it no more. But, to compensate this loss, they are told, in the next verse, that Jerusalem should be called the throne of Jehovah, to which, not the Jews only, but all nations should resort. By Jerusalem is probably meant the Christian Church: see Galatians 4:26; Revelation 21:2-3. The greater privileges of this latter would, of course, supersede all boast on account of those which had belonged to the Jewish Church at any time.”

Neither shall it come to mind — Hebrew, ולא יעלה על לב, which Blaney renders, Nor shall it be the delight of their heart; namely, as it formerly was, observing, that several passages of Scripture where the same phrase occurs show this to be the import of it. What value the Israelites set upon the ark, and how much they were attached to it, appears from many parts of their history. Neither shall they remember it — They shall forget the less in contemplation of the greater benefit. Neither shall they visit it — Or care for it, as Blaney translates יפקדו, which often signifies to look after a thing, which has been long lost or neglected, with a wish or design to recover or restore it. In this sense God is said to have visited his people, Exodus 3:16; Luke 1:68; that is, he again showed that he concerned himself about them. And so it is said of the people, Isaiah 26:16, O Lord, in trouble have they visited thee; that is, they, who before neglected thee, in their affliction turned their thoughts and desires toward thee. Neither shall that be done any more — It shall be no more in use; neither shall men trouble their thoughts about it, or mention it. The Hebrew, ולא יעשׂה עוד, is literally rendered by the LXX., και ου ποιηθησεται ετι, Nor shall it be made any more. So also the Vulgate, nec fiet ultra. The ark, once lost, was never to be made again, or restored: and for a good reason, which immediately follows; because, instead of the ark, Jerusalem itself, that is, the Christian Church, was to become the seat of God’s residence. It is probable that this great variety of expressions is used, not only to show that the ceremonies of the law of Moses should be totally and finally abolished, never to be used any more, but that it would be with difficulty that those who had been so long wedded to them would be weaned from them; and that they would not quite relinquish them till their holy city and holy house should both be levelled with the ground.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.In those days - This and the phrase "the latter days," had become under the Messianic teaching of the prophets a regular formula for the time of Christ's coming, when all the nation's hopes would be fulfilled.

The ark was the center of the Mosaic economy, containing within it the two tables' of the Law as the conditions of the covenant and having over it, upon the mercy-seat, the Shechinah as the visible sign of God's presence. But "in those days" the symbol must pass away, because God will then dwell in His people by the gift of the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 3:16, and the terms of the covenant will be written on their hearts Jeremiah 31:33.

Neither shall they visit it - Rather, neither shall they miss it; i. e., they will not trouble about it, nor regret its loss.

Neither shall that be done anymore - Rather, "neither shall it (the ark) be made anymore;" it shall not be renewed or repaired, because the tabernacle of God will be one "made without hands" Hebrews 9:11, even the heart of His believing people.

16. they shall say no more—The Jews shall no longer glory in the possession of the ark; it shall not be missed, so great shall be the blessings of the new dispensation. The throne of the Lord, present Himself, shall eclipse and put out of mind the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat between the cherubim, God's former throne. The ark, containing the two tables of the law, disappeared at the Babylonian captivity, and was not restored to the second temple, implying that the symbolical "glory" was to be superseded by a "greater glory" (Hag 2:9).

neither … visit it—rather, "neither shall it be missed" (so in Jer 23:4).

done—rather, "neither shall it (the ark) be made (that is, be restored) any more" [Maurer].

When ye be multiplied; after the growth of the church under the Messiah.

In those days; pointing at the great work of conversion that should be among them, especially in the days of the Messias, and how greatly the church should be increased by the accession of the Gentiles, a beginning whereof we read Acts 2:41 4:4.

The ark; a synecdoehical expression for all the legal ceremonies, whereof the ark was a chief part: the sense is, that whole worship, with all the rites and ceremonies belonging to it, should wholly cease, Christ being come, who was the substance of what the ark and all other rites did but shadow out for a time he being now our propitiatory, instead of the covering of the ark or mercy-seat, Romans 3:25; he answers all the uses and purposes thereof. In the ark was laid up the manna, Aaron’s rod, and the tables of the law, Hebrews 9:4. He is now the bread of life, John 6 35, he is our rod of government, Psalm 23:4, in him is the whole law fulfilled, Romans 10:4; and now God shall reign gloriously in his church by his word and Spirit, and shall be so worshipped without ceremony, John 4:21,23. For if this so eminent and comprehensive a token of God’s presence must cease in the days of the gospel, much more the temple service, with all the rites belonging to it, John 1:17 Colossians 2:17 Hebrews 10:8,9.

The ark of the covenant; called also the ark of the testimony, Exodus 25:22 30:26 31:7; and the reason is, because the two tables of the law, which were the testimony or witness of the covenant, were closed up in it, Exodus 25:16,21 40:20.

Neither shall it come to mind, & c., i.e. it shall be no more in use, neither shall there be any miss of it, or any thing like it, there shall be no such thing; men shall not trouble their thoughts about it, or mention it; compare Isaiah 65:17; or repair to it as an oracle to receive the answers of God; nor for God’s worship; compare Jeremiah 16:14,15; or the place of its residence, as if no where else to be had; in a word, it shall not at all be had in honour or respect, or made much of. The word hve hhasah, done or made, signifies to magnify, as it seems to be used, Deu 32:6 1 Samuel 12:6. The whole church shall now be the throne of God, Jeremiah 3:17, to which purpose the ark formerly served; now God foreseeing, partly how hard a thing it would be to be believed, and partly the pleas that the corrupt wit and invention of man would find out for the retaining of these rites, and by consequence their lothness to forego them, he useth such a heap and variety of expressions to the same thing, that he may leave no room for doubting in a thing so plainly and fully prohibited in gospel times. And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land,.... That is, when the number of the disciples and followers of Christ, and true believers in him, shall be multiplied and increased in the land of Judea, and in the Gentile world also, under the ministry of the above said pastors, apostles, and ministers of the Gospel, who should be succeeded everywhere, as they were; see Acts 6:1,

in those days, saith the Lord of hosts, they shall say no more, the ark of the covenant of the Lord; because the antitype of it would be come, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word that is made flesh and dwelt among men; and in whom the Shechinah, or divine Majesty, dwells in a more glorious manner than it did over the ark, for in him dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and the ark may be put for the whole ceremonial law, which was abolished at the death of Christ, and to be used and spoken of no more; and whereas it was, for a good while after the abrogation of it, a matter of debate and contention, and was not wholly under the church's feet until about the times of Constantine, when there was a great multiplication and increase of Christians throughout the Roman empire, the prophecy may be thought to belong to those times, at least there was then a greater accomplishment of it; see Revelation 12:1,

neither shall it come to mind, neither shall they remember it; as it should not be spoken of, so it should not be thought of any more than if it had never been:

neither shall they visit it; to inquire of the Lord, before it, about what they wanted to be informed of, as they used to do, Judges 20:23,

neither shall that be done any more; or, "made any more" (g) the Jews (h) say, the ark was wanting in the second temple, and was never afterwards remade: all the expressions denote the utter abolition of legal rites and ceremonies, never to be revived more. The Targum paraphrases the last clause,

"neither shall they make war with it any more;''

and so Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it as if it was a prophecy of such a time of profound peace, that there would be no need of bringing out the ark as formerly; this use of it would be quite forgotten; but this was not the principal use of the ark, and very rarely was it ever used in this way.

(g) "neque reparabitur amplius, vel et non constuetur amplius", Schmidt. (h) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 21. 2.

And it shall come to pass, when ye shall be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The {q} ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they miss it; neither shall that be done any more.

(q) This is to be understood of the coming of Christ: for then they will not seek the Lord by ceremonies, and all figures will cease.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. The Ark, which had been the seat of the special manifestation of Jehovah, shall be forgotten, because the whole city shall be filled with His presence.

And it shall … in the land] Probably a later insertion in the passage, connecting with the “one” and “two” of Jeremiah 3:14, and implying that when they came to be numerous, they would no longer need the Ark as symbol, while till then it would be essential. In accordance with this view are the words “be multiplied and increased,” as being an expression characteristic of the exilic document (P), which forms one of the component parts of the Pentateuch. Cp. the same two verbs (identical in the Hebrew) in Jeremiah 23:3, and so in Ezekiel 36:2.

in those days] a phrase denoting the ideal future. Cp. Jeremiah 5:18, Jeremiah 33:16.

visit] rather (with mg.) miss, feel the want of.

neither shall that be done any more] rather (with mg.) neither shall it (the Ark) be made any more; no visible symbol shall be needed.Verse 16. - When ye be multiplied; a common feature in pictures of the latter days (Jeremiah 23:3; Ezekiel 36:11; Hosea 2:1). They shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord. A definition of the Messianic period on its negative side - the ark shall he no longer the center of religious worship. We must remember that the ark is represented in the Law as the throne of Jehovah, who was "enthroned upon the cherubim" on the lid of the ark. It is in virtue of this sacramental presence that the temple is called the "dwelling-places" of Jehovah (e.g. Psalm 46:4; Psalm 84:1, where Authorized Version has wrongly "tabernacles"). Now, in the Messianic period the consciousness of Jehovah's presence was to be so widely spread, at any rate in the center of God's kingdom, the holy city, that the ark would no longer be thought of; it would be, if not destroyed (we know, as a matter of fact, that the ark was destroyed in some unrecorded way), yet at least become utterly unimportant. Jerusalem would then naturally succeed to the title "Jehovah's throne" (applied to the temple in Jeremiah 14:12). Neither shall it come to mind. The same phrase is used of the old heaven and earth as compared with the new (Isaiah 65:17). In the concluding clauses, "visit" should rather be "miss," and "that be done" should be "it [viz. the ark] be made." On the whole subject of the prophetic descriptions of the worship of the Messianic period - descriptions which often wear at any rate a superficial appearance of inconsistency, see the luminous remarks of Professor Riehm, 'Messianic Prophecy,' pp. 161-163. At the same time, we must be extremely cautious how far we admit that Old Testament prophecies of the latter days have received a complete fulfillment in the Christian Church, considering how far the latter is from the realizable ideal, and also the importance attached in the New Testament as well as in the Old to the continuance of Israel as a nation. But even with all this, i.e., in spite of this deep degradation in idolatry, Judah returned not to God sincerely, but in hypocritical wise. "And yet with all this," Ros., following Rashi, refers to the judgment that had fallen on Israel (Jeremiah 3:8); but this is too remote. The words can bear reference only to that which immediately precedes: even in view of all these sinful horrors the returning was not "from the whole heart," i.e., did not proceed from a sincere heart, but in falsehood and hypocrisy. For (the returning being that which began with the abolition of idolatrous public worship in Josiah's reformation) the people had returned outwardly to the worship of Jahveh in the temple, but at heart they still calve to the idols. Although Josiah had put an end to the idol-worship, and though the people too, in the enthusiasm for the service of Jahveh, awakened by the solemn celebration of the passover, had broken in pieces the images and altars of the false gods throughout the land, yet there was imminent danger that the people, alienated in heart from the living God, should take the suppression of open idolatry for a true return to God, and, vainly admiring themselves, should look upon themselves as righteous and pious. Against this delusion the prophet takes his stand.
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