Jeremiah 3:6
The LORD said also to me in the days of Josiah the king, Have you seen that which backsliding Israel has done? she is gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there has played the harlot.
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(6) The Lord said also unto me . . .—The main point of the second prophecy (we might almost call it sermon), delivered, like the former, under Josiah, is the comparison of the guilt of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The latter had been looking on the former with contemptuous scorn. She is now taught—the same imagery being continued that had begun in the first discourse—that her guilt is by far the greater of the two.

Backsliding Israel.—The epithet strikes the keynote of all that follows, and is, as it were, the text of the sermon. The force of the Hebrew is stronger than that of the English, and implies actual “apostasy,” being, indeed, a substantive rather than an adjective. Apostasy is, as it were, personified in Israel; she is the renegade sister.

She is gone up.—Better, she goes, i.e., is going continually.

Jeremiah 3:6. Then the Lord said unto me — “Here begins an entire new section, or distinct prophecy, which is continued to the end of the sixth chapter. It consists of two distinct parts. The first part contains a complaint against Judah for having exceeded the guilt of her sister Israel, whom God had already cast off for her idolatrous apostacy, Jeremiah 3:6-12. The prophet is hereupon sent to announce to Israel the promise of pardon upon her repentance, and the hopes of a glorious restoration in after times, which are plainly marked out to be the times of the gospel, when the Gentiles themselves were to become a part of the church, Jeremiah 3:12-21. In the second part, which begins Jeremiah 4:3, and is prefaced with an address to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, exhorting them to prevent the divine judgments by a timely repentance; the Babylonian invasion is clearly and fully foretold, with all the miseries which it would be attended with; and the universal and incorrigible depravity of the people is represented at large, and pointed out as the justly provoking cause of the national ruin.

In the days of Josiah the king — This date of the prophecy, or sermon, must be particularly observed, in order to the right understanding of it. It was delivered in the days of Josiah, who began a blessed work of reformation, in which he was hearty; but the people were not sincere in their compliance with it. To reprove them for that, and warn them of the consequences of their hypocrisy, is the scope of that which God here declares to the prophet, and which he delivers to them. Hast thou seen what backsliding Israel hath done — The case of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah is here compared, the ten tribes that revolted from the throne of David and the temple at Jerusalem, and the two tribes that adhered to both. The distinct history of these two kingdoms is given us in the two books of the Kings; by referring to the notes on which the reader will be enabled the better to understand this paragraph, and many other parts of this prophecy. When God asks, Hast thou seen what Israel has done? he refers to the prophet’s acquaintance with that history, for as he lived between sixty and seventy years after Israel was carried into captivity, he could not otherwise see what they had done. She hath gone up upon every high mountain: &c. — See note on Jeremiah 2:20. They had openly, and almost with common consent, apostatized from the worship appointed by God, insomuch that all their kings proved wicked and idolatrous: and no marvel, since from the time of their defection from the kingdom of David, they worshipped God by the golden calves at Dan and Beth-el, and hence easily proceeded from worshipping by the medium of images, to worship images themselves, and other false and imaginary deities.3:6-11 If we mark the crimes of those who break off from a religious profession, and the consequences, we see abundant reason to shun evil ways. It is dreadful to be proved more criminal than those who have actually perished in their sins; yet it will be small comfort in everlasting punishment, for them to know that others were viler than they.Backsliding Israel - The original is very strong: Hast thou seen Apostasy? i. e., Israel: as though Israel were the very personificatiom of the denial of God.

She is gone up - Rather, she goes; it is her habitual practice.

6. Jer 3:6-6:30, is a new discourse, delivered in Josiah's reign. It consists of two parts, the former extending to Jer 4:3, in which he warns Judah from the example of Israel's doom, and yet promises Israel final restoration; the latter a threat of Babylonian invasion; as Nabopolassar founded the Babylonian empire, 625 B.C., the seventeenth of Josiah, this prophecy is perhaps not earlier than that date (Jer 4:5, &c.; Jer 5:14, &c.; Jer 6:1, &c.; Jer 22:1-30); and probably not later than the second thorough reformation in the eighteenth year of the same reign.

backsliding—literally, "apostasy"; not merely apostate, but apostasy itself, the essence of it (Jer 3:14, 22).

The Lord said also, or again; showing that here begins a new sermon, in which the prophet from God,

1. Declares Israel’s apostacy, and how it fared with them for it.

2. Aggravates Judah’s sin for not taking warning.

3. Issues forth an invitation of them both to repentance, with a promise of acceptation, and reuniting them under the Messiah.

4. Relates the compliance of the faithful among them with this invitation.

Unto me, viz. by revelation; for he speaks of things that Israel had done when they were carried away by the king of Assyria, 2 Kings 17:5-13, long before Jeremiah was born; therefore he saith, Hast thou not seen, i.e. considered, wherefore God gave her a bill of divorce?

In the days of Josiah the king; when he would have purged the land, and restored the pure worship of God.

Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done, viz. the ten tribes, who fell off from Judah, and set up a distinct kingdom of their own under Jeroboam? what they did, viz. in their idolatries? expressed in the next words, and Jeremiah 2:20; see there; when they openly apostatized from God, and that with one common consent, insomuch that all their kings proved wicked and idolatrous; and possibly it may look as far back as Solomon’s defection, 1 Kings 11:4, &c., which may now come in remembrance. The Lord said also unto me, in the days of Josiah the king,.... For in his time Jeremiah began to prophesy, even in the thirteenth year of his reign, Jeremiah 1:2,

hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? the ten tribes; that is, hast thou not heard? or dost thou not know the idolatry of the ten tribes, which was the cause of their captivity? as Kimchi explains it; for the facts, or the idolatrous actions of the ten tribes, were not done in Josiah's and Jeremiah's time; for they were carried captive in the sixth year of Hezekiah, ninety years or more before Jeremiah began to prophesy, and their idolatry was before their captivity, and therefore could not be properly seen by him; only it had been heard of by him, it was known by him, it was notorious enough, being well attested:

she is gone upon every high mountain, and under every green tree; that is, she did so, when in her own land, before she was carried captive, as Jarchi observes; for this respects not what she did in Josiah's and Jeremiah's time, or when in captivity, but before, which was the reason of it:

and there hath played the harlot: or committed idolatry, which was usually done in such places; so the Targum,

"and worshipped idols of wood.''

The LORD said also to me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding {i} Israel hath done? she hath gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.

(i) Meaning the ten tribes.

6. backsliding Israel] lit. Israel “(which is) apostasy (itself).” The play on the two senses of the Hebrew verb to turn back from Yahweh, and to turn back (or return) from false gods to Him, which runs through all this passage (as far as Jeremiah 4:1) is lost by the rendering “backsliding.” See Dr. p. 340.

hath done] rather did (and so for the following verbs, went up … there played). Samaria had fallen, c. b.c. 722.

6–18. Dr. (with Co. and others) points out that here the word “Israel” is used in its restricted sense for the ten tribes, whereas in Jeremiah 2:1 to Jeremiah 3:5 it meant the people as a whole, and he infers that the passage, though (apart from certain insertions) genuine and of the age of Josiah, has been inserted from some other context, so that Jeremiah 3:19 should follow immediately on Jeremiah 3:5. Jeremiah’s general reasoning here is: Israel, though guilty, is less so than Judah, who, in defiance of the warning afforded by her sister’s exile, has since plunged deeper into sin. If then Judah may still avert overthrow by repentance and amendment, how much more Israel?

Chs. Jeremiah 3:6 to Jeremiah 4:4. Conditional offers of restoration

We may subdivide thus.

-1Jeremiah 3:6-18. The ten tribes as less guilty than Judah are invited to repent and return. (2) Jeremiah 3:19 to Jeremiah 4:4. The invitation includes the whole nation, on a like condition.Verse 6. - The Lord said also unto me, etc. It has been suggested (see on ver. 1) that this introductory clause belongs rather to ver. 1. Some sort of introduction, however, seems called for; Ewald supposes a shorter form, such as "And the Lord said further unto me." The view is not improbable, for although there is evidently a break between ver. 5 and ver. 6, there are points of contact enough between vers. 1-5 and the following discourse to prove that they represent the same prophetic period (comp. ver. 10 with ver. 3, vers. 8, 9 with ver. 1, ver. 12 with ver. 5, ver. 19 with ver. 4). Backsliding Israel; literally, apostasy Israel. Usually a change or modification of a name is a sign of honor; here, however, it marks the disgrace of the bearer. Israel is apostasy personified (comp. vers. 14, 22). She is gone up; rather, her wont hath been to go up. Also from this, i.e., Egypt, shalt thou go away (come back), thy hands upon thy head, i.e., beating them on thy head in grief and dismay (cf. for this gesture 2 Samuel 13:19). זה refers to Egypt, thought of as a people as in Jeremiah 46:8; Isaiah 19:16, Isaiah 19:25; and thus is removed Hitz.'s objection, that in that case we must have מבטחים .זאת, objects of confidence. The expression refers equally to Egypt and to Assyria. As God has broken the power of Assyria, so will He also overthrow Egypt's might, thus making all trust in it a shame. להם, in reference to them.
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