Jeremiah 3:23
Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Truly in vain . . .—The italics show the difficulty of the verse, and represent an attempt to get over it. According to the senses given to the word translated “multitude” we get, in vain (literally, as a lie) from the hills is the revelry (as in Amos 5:23), or the wealth, or the multitude, of the mountains. The first gives the best meaning, and expresses the confession of the repentant Israelites that their wild ritual on the high places had brought them loss and not gain.

Jeremiah 3:23. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills — From idols worshipped on hills and mountains. It is a continuation of that form of confession begun Jeremiah 3:22, drawn up with a reference to the present state of the idolatrous Israelites; wherein they express their abhorrence of those idols which they worshipped upon the hills and mountains, and declare their firm resolution of adhering to, and depending upon, the Lord their God. There being nothing in the original of this clause for salvation is hoped for, it has been differently interpreted by learned men. The LXX. render it, οντως εις ψευδος ησαν οι βουνοι, και η δυναμις των ορεων, Truly the hills and the power of the mountains were for a lie. And the Vulgate nearly to the same sense, Vere mendaces erant colles, et multitudo montium, Truly the hills were liars, and the multitude of mountains; that is, they were deceitful: they promised what they did not perform. To the same purpose the Syriac. Blaney renders the verse,

“Surely the hills are lies; the tumult of mountains: surely in Jehovah our God is the salvation of Israel.” “The people,” he observes, “acknowledge that the hills, the places sacred to idolatrous worship, and the tumultuous rites with which that worship was accompanied, (see 1 Kings 18:26; 1 Kings 18:28,) were mere impostures, deceiving and disappointing those that trusted in them; whereas Jehovah was indeed the author of salvation to his people.”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.Rather, Surely "in vain from the hills" is the revelry of the mountains. The penitents contrast in it the uselessness of idol-worship with the salvation which Yahweh gives to His people. 23. multitude of mountains—that is, the multitude of gods worshipped on them (compare Ps 121:1, 2, Margin). From the hills, i.e. either from their idols, which were worshipped upon hills, a metonymy of the subject, Jeremiah 2:20, idols of the hills; or from any other external power whatsoever, either of persons or things, as the strength of hills, or forts, high places, and strong places, and assistance from kings, Hosea 14:3.

The multitude of mountains, viz, the abundance of them that they have in their mountains, or the multitude of sacrifices which they offer in the mountains, or to multiply sacrifices.

Quest. But doth not the psalmist hope for salvation from the hills? Psalm 121:1.

Answ. Yes, the hills of the Land of Promise, which were a pledge of God’s favour to his people, especially those two of Zion and Moriah, where God did peculiarly manifest his presence, Psalm 87.

In the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel; or, our salvation which we do now acknowledge is only in our God, and not in idols, of which we have had ample experience, Psalm 44:7 130:7,8. See Isaiah 43:10,11 Ho 13:4,9. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains,.... From any natural defence, by hills and mountains encompassing; or from idols worshipped on hills and mountains. So the Targum,

"truly in vain we worship upon the hills, and for no profit are we gathered upon the mountains;''

and to this purpose Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it; or from the multitude of the people, the kingdoms of the world, and the nations of the earth, from whom the Jews have in vain expected salvation and deliverance:

truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel; or, "in the Word of the Lord our God", as the Targum; in Christ, the essential Word of God, is the salvation of all the chosen people, both Jews and Gentiles; it was put into his hands by his Father, and it is wrought out by him; and it resides in him, and it is to be had in him, and in him only, Acts 4:12, who is God the Lord, and therefore was able to effect it, and to give it; and hence these repenting ones, discarding all other saviours, apply to him for it.

Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. Truly in vain is the help that is looked for from the hills, the tumult on the mountains] The Hebrew construction is difficult. MT. reads, Truly in vain from the hills the tumult the mountains. Probably a word such as sound should be restored in the first clause, while the change of a Hebrew vowel point enables us to insert on in the second. So Dr. The tumult (mg. noisy throng) denotes the orgies that attended on idol worship. Cp. Hosea 4:13.Verse 23. - Truly in vain, etc. An obscure and (if corruption exists anywhere) corrupt passage, which, however, it is hopeless to attempt to emend, as the corruption consists partly in wrong letters, partly in omitted letters or words (or both); and, moreover, the text employed by the Septuagint appears to have presented the same difficulty. The latter point is especially noteworthy. It is far from proving that the traditional text is correct; what it does suggest is that the writings of the prophets were at first written down in a very insecure manner. The rendering of the Authorized Version is substantially that of Hitzig, who explains "the multitude of [the] mountains," as meaning "the multitude of gods worshipped on the mountains" -too forced an expression for so simple a context. It seems most natural to suppose (with Ewald, Graf, and Keil), a contrast between the wild, noisy cultus of idolatrous religions, and the quiet spiritual worship inculcated by the prophets. Compare by way of illustration, the loud and ostentatious demonstrations of Baal's ritual in 1 Kings 18, with the sober, serious attitude of Elijah in the same chapter. The word rendered in the Authorized Version "multitude" has a still more obvious and original meaning, viz. "tumult;" and probably the Targum is not far from the true sense in rendering, "In vain have we worshipped upon the hills and not for profit have we raised a tumult on the mountains." 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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