Jeremiah 3:22
Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come to you; for you are the LORD our God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) Return, ye backsliding children . . .—We lose, as before, the force of the Hebrew repetition of the same root, Turn, ye children that have turned, I will heal your turnings. As so often in Hebrew poetry, we have the answer to the invitation given in dramatic form, and hear the cry—we might almost call it the litany—of the suppliants, “Behold, we come unto thee.” They at last own Jehovah as their one true God.

Jeremiah 3:22. Here begins a dialogue between God and his people, wherein he offers gracious terms of pardon to them, and they make sincere professions of obedience to him. Return, ye backsliding — Or revolted, children — Return to me, and to my worship and service; return to your duty. God is introduced as saying this upon hearing the weeping and supplications of the Israelites, acknowledging their sin, and humbling themselves for it. And I will heal your backslidings — Your revolts, or apostacies: I will take away the guilt of them, and save you from a refractory and revolting disposition. God heals our backslidings by his pardoning mercy, his composing peace, and his renewing grace. Behold, we come unto thee — We readily and cheerfully obey thy command, and comply with thy invitation. It is an echo to God’s call; an immediate, speedy answer, without delay; not we will come hereafter, but we do come now; we need not take time to consider of it. For thou art the Lord our God — Words expressing the strongest inducements to return to God imaginable, because God had an undoubted right to them and their services, was willing to accept them, and able to save them, Isaiah 55:7; chap. Jeremiah 14:22. Not only this latter part of the verse, but what follows, to the end of the chapter, is spoken of in the name of the Israelites, accepting the divine invitation, acknowledging the vanity of their misplaced trust, and professing the deepest contrition and shame for their misconduct. It is a description, not of what was really done by the Israelites in general, but of what was necessary to be done in order to their regaining God’s favour; and of what he foresaw would actually be done by such of them as should believe on the Messiah, when he came, and receive the privileges and blessings of the new covenant.3:21-25 Sin is turning aside to crooked ways. And forgetting the Lord our God is at the bottom of all sin. By sin we bring ourselves into trouble. The promise to those that return is, God will heal their backslidings, by his pardoning mercy, his quieting peace, and his renewing grace. They come devoting themselves to God. They come disclaiming all expectations of relief and succour from any but the Lord. Therefore they come depending upon him only. He is the Lord, and he only can save. It points out the great salvation from sin Jesus Christ wrought out for us. They come justifying God in their troubles, and judging themselves for their sins. True penitents learn to call sin shame, even the sin they have been most pleased with. True penitents learn to call sin death and ruin, and to charge upon it all they suffer. While men harden themselves in sin, contempt and misery are their portion: for he that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesseth and forsaketh them, shall find mercy.Yahweh's answer to their prayer in Jeremiah 3:21 is immediately followed by their acceptance of the offer of divine mercy.

For - Rather, because ... This profession of faith gives the reason why they return to Yahweh. The whole description is most graphically conceived. The people weeping upon the hills: God's gracious voice bidding them return: the glad cry of the penitents exclaiming that they come: the profession of faith won from them by the divine love; these form altogether a most touching picture of a national repentance.

22. Jehovah's renewed invitation (Jer 3:12, 14) and their immediate response.

heal—forgive (2Ch 30:18, 20; Ho 14:4).

unto thee—rather, "in obedience to thee"; literally, "for thee" [Rosenmuller].

Return, viz. repent for sin and from sin. Here God calls upon them, and invites them to consider whither they are going, and to hearken unto the voice of his ministers, Hosea 14:1 Acts 3:19. See Jeremiah 3:12. God doth as it were bid them hearken to his messengers, and then he will heal their backsliding.

I will heal your backslidings, i.e. idolatries, whereby you turned from me, and rebelled against me; I will take you into that state, as if you had never turned from me; I will make all whole again among you, and reconcile you to myself, Isaiah 57:18 Jeremiah 32:40. See Zechariah 10:6 13:9. I will not only remove your judgments, but your sins also shall be forgiven.

Behold, we come unto thee. This is either God’s framing their answer for them, prescribing the manner and form of their repentance, by a figure called mimesis, Hosea 14:2,3; or it is their reply to God by way of promise, which they performed under Josiah, 2 Kings 22 2Ki 23, which with their confession reacheth to the end of the chapter.

For thou art the Lord our God; words expressing the strongest inducements to it imaginable, because God hath right to them, is willing to accept them, and able to save them, Isaiah 55:7 Jeremiah 14:22. Return, ye backsliding children,.... This is the call of the Jews to repentance in the latter day; See Gill on Jeremiah 3:14.

and I will heal your backslidings; that is, I will forgive your sins. Sins are the diseases of the soul, and the wounds made in it; and pardoning them is healing them. So the Targum,

"I will forgive you when ye return;''

see Psalm 103:3, this is done by the application of the blood of Christ, the only physician, and whose blood is the balm that heals every wound; and this springs from the love of God, and his free favour to his people, even the riches of his grace and abounding mercy through Christ; and is the great motive and inducement, and what gives the greatest encouragement to return unto the Lord, Hosea 14:1.

Behold, we come unto thee; the Targum represents this as what the Jews pretended always to say, and did say, in a hypocritical manner, with which they are upbraided,

"lo, at all times ye say, we return to thy worship, save us;''

and Jarchi is of opinion that these are words the prophet put into their mouths, and taught them to say, and to confess in this manner: but they are rather their own words, arising from a true sense of sin, under the influence of divine grace, and encouraged with the hope and assurance of pardon; declaring that as they were called upon to return, so they did return, and now were come to God by repentance, with confession and acknowledgment of sin, and by prayer and supplication for pardon and by the exercise of faith upon him for it; and also were come into his house to wait upon him, and worship him in his ordinances:

for thou art the Lord our God; not merely as the God of nature and providence, or in a natural way, but in a way of special grace, of which they now will have an application by the Spirit of God.

Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. {x} Behold, we come to thee; for thou art the LORD our God.

(x) This is spoken in the person of Israel to the shame of Judah, who stayed so long to turn to God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
22. God’s reply to the lamentation and expressions of repentance. The Hebrew is striking in its play on the word turn, Turn, ye turned children; I will heal your turnings. Cp. Jeremiah 3:6; Hosea 14:4.Verse 22. - Return, ye backsliding children, etc.; more literally, Turn, ye turned-away sons; I will heal your turnings (as Hosea 14:4). It seems strange at first sight that this verso does not stand before ver. 21. But the truth is that ver. 21 describes not so much the "conversion" of the Jews as their willingness to "convert" (an archaism of King James's Bible, which we may well regret), or "turn" to God. Christ must touch, or at least make his presence felt, in order that the sick man may be healed; a special call of God must be heard, in order that the sinner may truly repent. Behold, we come unto thee. Efficacious, and not "irresistible" grace, is the doctrine of the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 3:16 and Jeremiah 3:17 also the thought is clothed in a form characteristic of the Old Testament. When the returned Israelites shall increase and be fruitful in the land, then shall they no more remember the ark of the covenant of the Lord or feel the want of it, because Jerusalem will then be the throne of the Lord. The fruitfulness and increase of the saved remnant is a constant feature in the picture of Israel's Messianic future; cf. Jeremiah 23:3; Ezekiel 36:11; Hosea 2:1. This promise rests on the blessing given at the creation, Genesis 1:28. God as creator and preserver of the world increases mankind together with the creatures; even so, as covenant God, He increases His people Israel. Thus He increased the sons of Israel in Egypt to be a numerous nation, Exodus 1:12; thus, too, He will again make fruitful and multiply the small number of those who have been saved from the judgment that scattered Israel amongst the heathen. In the passages which treat of this blessing, פּרה generally precedes רבה; here, on the contrary, and in Ezekiel 36:11, the latter is put first. The words 'לא יאמרוּ וגו must not be translated: they will speak no more of the ark of the covenant; אמר c. accus. never has this meaning. They must be taken as the substance of what is said, the predicate being omitted for rhetorical effect, so that the words are to be taken as an exclamation. Hgstb. supplies: It is the aim of all our wishes, the object of our longing. Mov. simply: It is our most precious treasure, or the glory of Israel, 1 Samuel 4:21.; Psalm 78:61. And they will no more remember it. Ascend into the heart, i.e., come to mind, joined with זכר here and in Isaiah 65:17; cf. Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 32:35; Jeremiah 51:50; 1 Corinthians 2:9. ולא יפקדוּ, and they will not miss it; cf. Isaiah 34:16; 1 Samuel 20:6, etc. This meaning is called for by the context, and especially by the next clause: it will not be made again. Hitz.'s objection against this, that the words cannot mean this, is an arbitrary dictum. Non fiet amplius (Chr. B. Mich.), or, it will not happen any more, is an unsuitable translation, for this would be but an unmeaning addition; and the expansion, that the ark will be taken into the battle as it formerly was, is such a manifest rabbinical attempt to twist the words, that it needs no further refutation. Luther's translation, nor offer more there, is untenable, since עשׂה by itself never means offer.

The thought is this: then they will no longer have any feeling of desire or want towards the ark. And wherefore? The answer is contained in Jeremiah 3:17: At that time will they call Jerusalem the throne of Jahveh. The ark was the throne of Jahveh, inasmuch as Jahveh, in fulfilment of His promise in Exodus 25:22, and as covenant God, was ever present to His people in a cloud over the extended wings of the two cherubim that were upon the covering of the ark of the law; from the mercy-seat too, between the two cherubs, He spake with His people, and made known to them His gracious presence: Leviticus 16:2; cf. 1 Chronicles 13:6; Psalm 80:2; 1 Samuel 4:4. The ark was therefore called the footstool of God, 1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalm 99:5; Psalm 132:7; Lamentations 2:1. But in future Jerusalem is to be, and to be called, the throne of Jahveh; and it is in such a manner to take the place of the ark, that the people will neither miss it nor make any more mention of it. The promise by no means presumes that when Jeremiah spoke or wrote this prophecy the ark was no longer in existence; "was gone out of sight in some mysterious manner," as Movers, Chron. S. 139, and Hitz. suppose,

(Note: Against this Hgstb. well says, that this allegation springs from the incapacity of modern exegesis to accommodate itself to the prophetic anticipation of the future; and that we might as well infer from Jeremiah 3:18, that at the time these words were spoken, the house of Judah must already in some mysterious manner have come into the land of the north. 2 Chronicles 35:5 furnishes unimpeachable testimony to the existence of the ark in the 18th year of Josiah. And even Graf says he cannot find anything to justify Movers' conclusion, since from the special stress laid on the fact that at a future time they will have the ark no longer, it might more naturally be inferred that the ark was still in the people's possession, and was an object of care to them.)

but only that it will be lost or destroyed. This could happen only at and along with the destruction of Jerusalem; and history testifies that the temple after the exile had no ark. Hence it is justly concluded that the ark had perished in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, and that upon the rebuilding of the temple after the exile, the ark was not restored, because the nucleus of it, the tables of the law written by the finger of God, could not be constructed by the hand of man. Without the ark the second temple was also without the gracious presence of Jahveh, the Shechinah or dwelling-place of God; so that this temple was no longer the throne of God, but only a seeming temple, without substance or reality. And thus the Old Testament covenant had come to an end. "We have here then before us," Hgstb. truly observes, "the announcement of an entire overthrow of the earlier form of the kingdom; but it is such an overthrow of the form that it is at the same time the highest perfection of the substance - a process like that in seed-corn, which only dies in order to bring forth much fruit; like that in the body, which is sown a corruptible that it may rise an incorruptible." For the dwelling and enthronement of the Lord amidst His people was again to come about, but in a higher form. Jerusalem is to become the throne of Jahveh, i.e., Jerusalem is to be for the renewed Israel that which the ark had been for the former Israel, the holy dwelling-place of God. Under the old covenant Jerusalem had been the city of Jahveh, of the great King (Psalm 48:3); because Jerusalem had possessed the temple, in which the Lord sat enthroned in the holy of holies over the ark. If in the future Jerusalem is to become the throne of the Lord instead of the ark, Jerusalem must itself become a sanctuary of God; God the Lord must fill all Jerusalem with His glory (כּבוד), as Isaiah prophesied He would in Isaiah 60, of which prophecy we have the fulfilment portrayed in Revelation 21 and 22. Jeremiah does not more particularly explain how this is to happen, or how the raising of Jerusalem to be the throne of the Lord is to be accomplished; for he is not seeking in this discourse to proclaim the future reconstitution of the kingdom of God. His immediate aim is to clear away the false props of their confidence from a people that set its trust in the possession of the temple and the ark, and further to show it that the presence of the temple and ark will not protect it from judgment; that, on the contrary, the Lord will reject faithless Judah, destroying Jerusalem and the temple; that nevertheless He will keep His covenant promises, and that by receiving again as His people the repentant members of the ten tribes, regarded by Judah as wholly repudiated, with whom indeed He will renew His covenant.

As a consequence of Jerusalem's being raised to the glory of being the Lord's throne, all nations will gather themselves to her, the city of God; cf. Zechariah 2:1-13 :15. Indeed in the Old Testament every revelation of the glory of God amongst His people attracted the heathen; cf. Joshua 9:9. לשׁם יהוה, not, to the name of Jahveh towards Jerusalem (Hitz.), but, because of the name of Jahveh at Jerusalem (as in Joshua 9:9), i.e., because Jahveh reveals His glory there; for the name of Jahveh is Jahveh Himself in the making of His glorious being known in deeds of almighty power and grace. לירוּשׁלם, prop. belonging to Jerusalem, because the name makes itself known there; cf. Jeremiah 16:19; Micah 4:2; Zechariah 8:22. - The last clause, they will walk no more, etc., refers not to the heathen peoples, but to the Israelites as being the principal subject of the discourse (cf. Jeremiah 5:16), since שׁררוּת is used of Israel in all the cases (Jeremiah 7:24; Jeremiah 9:13; Jeremiah 11:8; Jeremiah 13:10; Jeremiah 16:12; Jeremiah 18:12; Jeremiah 23:17, and Psalm 81:13), thus corresponding to the original in Deuteronomy 29:18, whence it is taken. שׁררוּת prop. firmness, but in Hebr. always sensu malo: obstinacy, obduracy of heart, see in Deut. l.c.; here strengthened by the adjective הרע belonging to לבּם.

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