Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, you have spoken and done evil things as you could.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Will he reserve his anger for ever . . .?—The questions were such as might well be asked in the first burst of sorrowing though superficial repentance. The implied answer was in the negative, “No, He will not keep His anger to the end.” Yet, so far, facts were against that yearning hope. It will be noted that the word “anger” is not in the Hebrew. It is, however, rightly inserted, after the precedent of Nahum 1:2; Psalm 103:9. The words seem, indeed, almost a quotation from the latter, and Jeremiah 3:4-5 may probably be looked on as cited from the penitential litanies in which the people had joined, and which were too soon followed by a return to the old evils (Jeremiah 2:1-13).
Thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.—i.e., resolutely and obstinately. That pathetic appeal to the mercy and love of Jehovah was followed by no amendment, but by a return to evil. Here the first prophecy, as reproduced from memory, ends, and the next verse begins a separate discourse.Jeremiah 3:4.
Behold ... - Rather, "Behold, thou hast spoken" thus, but thou hast "done evil things" persistently. The King James Version translates as if Judah's words and deeds were both evil. Really her words were fair, but her deeds proved them to be false.
And here ends the prophecy, most interesting as showing what was the general nature of Jeremiah's exhortations to his countrymen, during the 14 years of Josiah's reign. He sets before them God and Israel united by a covenant of marriage, to the conditions of which Yahweh is ever true, while Israel practices with zest every form of idolatry. Therefore, the divine blessing is withheld. It is an honest and manly warning, and the great lesson it teaches us is, that with God nothing avails but a real and heartfelt repentance followed by a life of holiness and sincere devotion to His service.
Jeremiah 3:6-4:4 - "The Call to Repentance"
The former prophecy ended with the denunciation of God's perpetual anger because of Israel's obstinate persistence in sin. Now there is an invitation to repentance, and the assurance of forgiveness. The argument is as follows: Israel had been guilty of apostasy, and therefore God bad put her away. Unwarned by this example her more guilty sister Judah persists in the same sins Jeremiah 3:6-11. Israel therefore is invited to, return to the marriage-covenant by repentance Jeremiah 3:12-14, in which case she and Judah, accepted upon the like condition, shall become joint members of a spiritual theocracy. Jeremiah 3:15-18. The repentance which God requires must be real Jeremiah 3:19-4:4.
spoken and—rather (God's reply to them), "Thou hast spoken (thus), and yet (all the while) thou hast done evil," &c.
as thou couldest—with all thy might; with incorrigible persistency [Calvin].Will he reserve his anger for ever? here being a defect of the noun, the Jews supply it with thy sin, Isaiah 43:25, but the most and best, as we do,
his anger. Compare it with Jeremiah 3:12 Psalm 103:9 Nahum 1:2, in which texts there is a defect of the same word. This may seem to be the words of the prophet, and so the connexion is easy with the foregoing words: q.d. If thou wouldst do so, try me now, &c.: would he reserve his anger? would he not be reconciled? but thou hast taken quite another course. Or they may be the words of God, as it were, teaching his people how they should accost him: God is more forward and earnest for reconciliation than sinners themselves.
The end; the same with the former for ever.
Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest: God’s challenge of the people, charging them, either with their resolved wickedness, that they had made good all their evil words by their evil actions, they had even done as they said; or rather, with their hypocrisy: q.d. Notwithstanding all thy former promises, yet thou persistest still in thy lewdness and obstinacy, Isaiah 58:2 Hosea 7:14.
will he keep it to the end? that is, his anger: no; he will not: this is not according to the nature of God; he retains not his anger for ever, Micah 7:18, though, according to some versions, this is to be understood of the sins of these people being reserved and kept forever, as their impudence and obstinacy; so the Syriac and Arabic versions; and to which agrees the Targum,
"is it possible that thy sins should be kept for thee for ever, or the stroke (of punishment) be strengthened upon thee to the end?''
"says the prophet, if thou dost this (call him my father, &c.) will God reserve thine iniquity for thee for ever, or keep thy sin unto the end? he will not do so; but when thou returnest unto him, he will return unto thee, and do thee good; but thou hast not done so.''
The sense is much the same:
behold, thou hast spoken, and done evil things as thou couldest; which were enough to cause the Lord to reserve and keep his anger for ever. There is a double reading here; the Cetib, or writing, is "I have spoken"; the prophet had spoken to them to return; or the Lord by the prophet had spoken to them, and put the above words into their mouths, and told them what they should say when they returned to the Lord; "but thou hast done evil things" (y); notwithstanding such declarations of grace, and dost continue to do them:
and thou hast prevailed (z); as the last clause may be rendered; that I cannot turn away mine anger from thee, but must reserve it, and keep it for ever. The Keri, or reading, is "thou hast spoken"; thou hast said thou wilt do evil things, and thou hast done them as thou hast said, and hast prevailed; thou hast sinned with all thy might and main, and hast spoken and done as evil things as possibly could be done. Some choose to render the words thus, "if thou hadst spoken"; the words that were put into their mouths before mentioned; "though thou hast done evil things, yet thou wouldest have prevailed" (a); that is, with God, to have turned away his anger from thee.
(y) "sed fecisit mala", Schmidt. (z) "et praevaluisti", Vatablus, Schmidt; "et preavales", Piscator, Gataker; "et evaluisti", Cocceius. (a) "Si ita loquereris, quanquam mala plurirma fecisti, praevaleres", Grotius.Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)5. The continued expression of Israel’s ill-founded confidence and God’s reply.
thou hast spoken, etc.] rather (as mg.) thou hast spoken thus, but hast done, etc.
hast had thy way] Heb. been able, carried thy purposes into effect. For the thought of the whole verse cp. Hosea 6:1-4.Verse 5. - Will he reserve? rather, Will he retain, etc.? It is a continuation of the supposed address of Judah. To the end? rather, everlastingly? Behold, thou hast spoken, etc.; rather, Behold, thou hast spoken it, but hast done these evil things, and hast prevailed (i.e. succeeded). The substance of the two verses (4 and 5) is well given by Ewald: "Unhappily her power truly to return has been exhausted, as not long ago after fresh signs of the Divine displeasure she prayed in beautiful language to [Jehovah] for new favor and abatement of the old sufferings, [but] she immediately fell again into her sin, and carried it out with cool determination." Jeremiah 2:35 and the reproach of Jeremiah 2:36. Why runnest thou to change thy way? תּזלּי for תּאזלי, from אזל, go, with מאד, go impetuously or with strength, i.e., go in haste, run; cf. 1 Samuel 20:19. To change, shift (שׁנּות) one's way, is to take another way than that on which one has hitherto gone. The prophet's meaning is clear from the second half of the verse: "for Egypt, too, wilt thou come to shame, as for Assyria thou hast come to shame." Changing they way, is ceasing to seek help from Assyria in order to form close relations with Egypt. The verbs תּבשׁי and בּשׁתּ show that the intrigues for the favour of Assyria belong to the past, for the favour of Egypt to the present. Judah was put to shame in regard to Assyria under Ahaz, 2 Chronicles 28:21; and after the experience of Assyria it had had under Hezekiah and Manasseh, there could be little more thought of looking for help thence. But what could have made Judah under Josiah, in the earlier days of Jeremiah, to seek an alliance with Egypt, considering that Assyria was at that time already nearing its dissolution? Graf is therefore of opinion that the prophet is here keeping in view the political relations in the days of Jehoiakim, in which and for which time he wrote his book, rather than those of Josiah's times, when the alliance with Asshur was still in force; and that he has thus in passing cast a stray glance into a time influenced by later events. But the opinion that in Josiah's time the alliance with Asshur was still existing cannot be historically proved. Josiah's invitation to the passover of all those who remained in what had been the kingdom of the ten tribes, does not prove that he exercised a kind of sovereignty over the provinces that had formerly belonged to the kingdom of Israel, a thing he could have done only as vassal of Assyria; see against this view the remarks on 2 Kings 23:15. As little does his setting himself against the now mighty Pharaoh Necho at Mediggo show clearly that he remained faithful to the alliance with Asshur in spite of the disruption of the Assyrian empire; see against this the remarks on 2 Kings 23:29. Historically only thus much is certain, that Jehoiakim was raised to the throne by Pharaoh Necho, and that he was a vassal of Egypt. During the period of this subjection the formation of alliances with Egypt was for Judah out of the question. Such a case could happen only when Jehoiakim had become subject to the Chaldean king Nebuchadnezzar, and was cherishing the plan of throwing off the Chaldean yoke. But the reference of the words to this design is devoid of the faintest probability, Jeremiah 2:35 and Jeremiah 2:36; and the discourse throughout is far from giving the impression that Judah had already lost its political independence; they rather imply that the kingdom was under the sway neither of Assyrians nor Egyptians, but was still politically independent. We may very plausibly refer to Josiah's time the resolution to give up all trust in the assistance of Assyria and to court the favour of Egypt. We need not seek for the outward inducement to this in the recognition of the beginning decline of the Assyrian power; it might equally well lie in the growth of the Egyptian state. that the power of Egypt had made considerable progress in the reign of Josiah, is made clear by Pharaoh Necho's enterprise against Assyria in the last year of Josiah, from Necho's march towards the Euphrates. Josiah's setting himself in opposition to the advance of the Egyptians, which cost him his life at Megiddo, neither proves that Judah was then allied with Assyria nor excludes the possibility of intrigues for Egypt's favour having already taken place. It is perfectly possible that the taking of Manasseh a captive to Babylon by Assyrian generals may have shaken the confidence in Assyria of the idolatrous people of Judah, and that, their thoughts turning to Egypt, steps may have been taken for paving the way towards an alliance with this great power, even although the godly king Josiah took no part in these proceedings. The prophets' warning against confidence in Egypt and against courting its alliance, is given in terms so general that it is impossible to draw any certain conclusions either with regard to the principles of Josiah's government or with regard to the circumstances of the time which Jeremiah was keeping in view.
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