Jeremiah 31:20
Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy on him, said the LORD.
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(20) Is Ephraim my dear son?Literally, a child of delighti.e., fondled and caressed.

Is he a pleasant child?—We have to ask whether an affirmative or negative answer is implied to these questions. On the former view, the words express the yearning of a father’s heart towards the son whom he still loves in spite of all his faults. Jehovah wonders, as it were, at his affection for one who has been so rebellious. On the latter, they give prominence to the faults as having deprived him of all claim to love, even though the father’s heart yearned towards the prodigal in pity. The former gives, beyond all doubt, the best meaning. In every word, whether of reproof or invitation, there was implied a loving remembrance.

For since I spake against him.—Better, As often as I speak to him. The preposition can hardly have the meaning of “against,” for which Jeremiah uses different words, and implies rather (as in the “communed with” of 1Samuel 25:39; “When she shall be spoken for,” Song Song of Solomon 8:8)—speaking with a view to win. By some commentators (Ewald) the word for “speak” is rendered “smite,” but the ordinary rendering gives an adequate meaning. The original gives both for “earnestly remember” and “surely have mercy” the Hebrew idiom of reduplication—Remembering, I remember; pitying, I pity. The thought expressed is that Jehovah could not bring himself to utter the sentence of rejection. His love turned to the penitent who turned to Him. We have something like a foreshadowing of the love of the father of the prodigal in Luke 15:20.

Jeremiah 31:20. Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he, &c. — These questions are designed to be answered in the affirmative, as appears from the inference, therefore my bowels are moved for him. It seems that, to suit the idiom of our language, and fully to express the sense of the original, the particle not ought to have been supplied, and the clause to have been read, Is not Ephraim my dear son? Is he not a pleasant child? That is, is he not one that I have set my affections on, as a parent does upon a child in whom he delights? Thus Dr. Waterland, Lowth, and many others interpret the words. Houbigant, however, defends the common reading, and thinks that God means to deny that Ephraim was his son, in order to show him that his bowels were moved toward him solely through free mercy, and not on account of any merits or deservings of his people. For since I spake against him — Or, of him, as the same phrase in the original is translated Jeremiah 48:27. I do earnestly remember him still — Ever since I have so severely reproved and chastised him, my thoughts toward him have been thoughts of peace. I have a fatherly kindness and affection for him. Therefore my bowels are troubled for him — Or, yearn over him, as Joseph’s bowels yearned toward his brethren, even when he spake roughly to them. Observe, reader, when God afflicts his people, yet he does not forget them; when he casts them out of their land, yet he does not cast them out of his sight, nor out of his mind. Even then, when God is speaking against us, yet he is acting for us, and designing our good in all; and this is our comfort in our affliction, that the Lord thinketh upon us, though we have forgotten him. When Israel’s afflictions extorted a penitent confession and submission, it is said, (Jdg 10:16,) his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel: for he always afflicts with the greatest tenderness. It was his compassion that mitigated Ephraim’s punishment, (Hosea 11:8-9,) My heart is turned within me, &c., and now the same compassion accepted Ephraim’s repentance, and induced God to say, I will surely have mercy upon him. 31:18-20 Ephraim (the ten tribes) is weeping for sin. He is angry at himself for his sin, and folly, and frowardness. He finds he cannot, by his own power, keep himself close with God, much less bring himself back when he is revolted. Therefore he prays, Turn thou me, and I shall be turned. His will was bowed to the will of God. When the teaching of God's Spirit went with the corrections of his providence, then the work was done. This is our comfort in affliction, that the Lord thinks upon us. God has mercy in store, rich mercy, sure mercy, suitable mercy, for all who seek him in sincerity.Moved to compassion by Ephraim's lamentation, Yahweh shows Himself as tender and ready to forgive as parents are their spoiled (rather, darling) child.

For ... him - Or, "that so often as I speak concerning him," i. e., his punishment.

My bowels are troubled - The metaphor expresses the most tender internal emotion.

20. Is Ephraim my dear son? &c.—The question implies that a negative answer was to be expected. Who would have thought that one so undutiful to His heavenly Father as Ephraim had been should still be regarded by God as a "pleasant child?" Certainly he was not so in respect to his sin. But by virtue of God's "everlasting love" (Jer 31:3) on Ephraim's being "turned" to God, he was immediately welcomed as God's "dear son." This verse sets forth God's readiness to welcome the penitent (Jer 31:18, 19), anticipating his return with prevenient grace and love. Compare Lu 15:20: "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion," &c.

spake against—threatened him for his idolatry.

remember—with favor and concern, as in Ge 8:1; 30:22.

bowels … troubled for him—(De 32:36; Isa 63:15; Ho 11:8)—namely, with the yearnings of compassionate love. The "bowels" include the region of the heart, the seat of the affections.

Interpreters run into a very great variety in their explications of this text; that which seemeth to be the cause of it is, that, amongst the Hebrews, affirmative interrogations are notes of the vehement denial of the thing as to which the question is propounded, which leads some to interpret these words into a denial that Ephraim was his

dear son, or a

pleasant child, and denying the truth of his professed repentance. But certainly this is quite contrary to the whole scope of the prophet. The reverend author of the English Annotations hath observed, that the affirmative interrogation sometimes in Scripture doth imply a negative, for the negative particle is suppressed, and h is put for alh so that, Is Ephraim my dear son? here, is the same with, Is not Ephraim my dear son? He gives for instances 1 Samuel 2:27,28, where did I? plainly is the same with did I not? So Job 20:4, where we have supplied not, Knowest thou not, &c.? So Jeremiah 3:6, where, Hast thou seen? is the same with, Hast thou not seen? So Ezekiel 20:30 Amos 6:2. So that though the particle prefixed h be an affirmative particle, yet it is often put for Nld and signifieth negatively, the negative being suppressed and to be understood. I have also sometimes thought that even here it may be fairly enough interpreted, Is Ephraim now become my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? Is his heart turned? So is mine. For since I spake against him, or with him, or of him, I do earnestly remember him, ydbd ydj Ar. Montanus translateth it, from the sufficiency of my speaking with him; the reason of the difference is, yd signifies to suffice, and it signifies time. I see no reason to vary from our translation, since, or from the time, as the same particle signifieth, 1 Samuel 18:30 1 Kings 14:28 Isaiah 28:19, I spake against him by my threatenings, I do remember him with the affection and compassion of a father.

My bowels are troubled for him, is as much as, I have pitied him; as the bowels of parents are turned and troubled for their children in calamities; therefore, saith God, I will certainly show him favour. Is Ephraim my dear son?.... Questions put in this form, in the Hebrew language, usually more vehemently deny; and then the sense must be, Ephraim is not my dear son: and agreeably to this all the following clauses must be interpreted; which seems quite contrary to the scope and design of the context: wherefore it seems better to render the words thus, "Is not Ephraim my dear son?" (w) yes, he is; and so is everyone that stands in the relation of children to the Lord, they are all of them his dear children, Ephesians 5:1; his beloved ones, loved by him with an everlasting love; they are "precious" to him, as the word used signifies; they are dear to him as the apple of his eye; they are highly esteemed of by him; they are his jewels and peculiar treasure: how precious they are to him appears by his parting with his own most precious Son for their sakes; by sympathizing with them under all their afflictions; by providing so largely and liberally for them; by feeding them with the most delicious food; by clothing them with the robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation; by protecting them with a guard of angels, and preparing an incorruptible inheritance for them;

is he a pleasant child? or, "is he not a child of delights" (x)? verily he is: and so are all the children of God by adopting grace; they are pleasant to him for delights; they are little images of himself, in whom he is well pleased; they are lovely and comely in his sight, through the perfect comeliness of Christ, that is put upon them; their speech is comely and pleasant to him; their prayer is his delight; and especially he loves to hear them cry "Abba", Father, though they do but lisp it out; just as parents take pleasure in their children, which are images of themselves, and comely in their view; particularly when they begin to talk, and can just lisp out their names. Moreover, as the little actions of children, though there may be a great deal of childishness in them, are pleasing to their parents, so are the acts of grace and duty well pleasing to God; those of faith, hope, fear, and love, and the several duties of religion, though but imperfectly performed: and their nearness to him, and communion with him, which he indulges them with, show his delight in them; he kisses them with the kisses of his mouth; he dandles them on his knee, and comforts them, as one whom his mother comforts; he carries them in his bosom; he takes them by the hand, and teaches them to go, and lays meat before them;

for since I spake against him; in his word, and by his providences; by way of complaint, as a peevish, perverse, backsliding, and rebellious child; by way of threatening with the rod, in case of impenitence and obstinacy; by way of rebuke, though in love, for many misdemeanors and offences; and in a providential, though not in a judicial way: God has nothing against his children in a judicial way, all their sins being stoned for by Christ; but in a providential way he has many things against them for their correction and chastisement; at least which seem to be against them, though they all work together for their good. However, as he here says,

I do earnestly remember him still; or, "in remembering I will" or "do remember him still" (y); constantly as well as earnestly; God never forgets his children, though they and others may think he does; see Isaiah 49:14; he forgets their sins, but not their persons; he is ever mindful of his covenant with them, and remembers his promises to them; he remembers both his love to them, and their love to him; yea, he remembers their thoughts of him, their words concerning him, and their works done in his name, and to his glory; his dear children are had in everlasting remembrance, and are never forgotten by him;

therefore my bowels are troubled for him; sound for him, or yearn toward him; so that he did not do what he threatened, or was seemingly about to do. The phrase is expressive of great relentings, strong and melting pity in his heart, towards his his dear and delightful children; see Hosea 11:8;

I will surely have mercy on him, saith the Lord; or show mercy to him; as the Lord does to his children, by receiving them graciously upon, their return; by manifesting and applying pardoning grace; by bestowing fresh mercies and favours on them; and by bringing them safe to eternal glory and happiness.

(w) "nonne filius pretiosus mihi?" Pagninus, Montanus. (x) "nonne natus delicarum?" Montanus; "unum natus delicarum?" Schmidt. (y) "recordando recordabor ejus iterum", Schmidt; so Pagninus, Montanus, Calvin; "recordor", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

Is Ephraim {a} my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spoke against him, I do earnestly {b} remember him still: therefore my heart is troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD.

(a) As though he would say no for by his iniquity he did what lay in him to cast me off.

20. God is represented as the speaker. He asks Himself whether Ephraim is still beloved by Him. The answer is contained in the words that follow. As often as He makes mention of him, His affection towards him is stirred. The picture is of course adapted to human modes of thought and feeling, and represents God as acting in the same way in which a man would, when thinking upon the ingratitude and rebellion of a son, whom he nevertheless cannot but continue to love.

pleasant child] lit. a child of delights, a beloved child.

as often as I speak against him] or, as often as I speak of him.

my bowels are troubled] lit. as mg. sound. The meaning is, my heart yearns. See on Jeremiah 4:19.Verse 20. - The Divine speaker asks, as it were in surprise, whether Ephraim, who has so flagrantly sinned against him, can really be his dear (or, precious) son, his pleasant child (literally, child of caressing, i.e. one caressed). The latter expression occurs in a remarkable passage of Isaiah (Isaiah 5:7). Since I spake against him; rather, as often as I spake against him; i.e. as often as I pronounced sentence against Ephraim - such a sentence as is recorded in Isaiah 9:8-21 (where the future tenses should he perfects) and Isaiah 28:1-4. We must remember that, with God, to speak is to perform. Often as Jehovah punished Israel, he still remembered him in love - a love which was the pledge of his future restoration to favour upon his true repentance. I do earnestly remember; rather, I verily remembered. "To remember" is the Old Testament term for providential care (comp. Genesis 8:1; Genesis 19:29). My bowels are troubled; literally, sound, moan (so Isaiah 16:11; Isaiah 63:15). Something analogous to the thrilling sensation of deep human grief is predicated of Jehovah. Such is the "humility" of the God of revelation (Psalm 18:35; comp. Hosea 11:8). The priests and the people will refresh themselves with the fat, i.e., the fat pieces of the thank-offerings, because numerous offerings will be presented to the Lord in consequence of the blessing received from Him.
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