Jeremiah 4:1
If you will return, O Israel, said the LORD, return to me: and if you will put away your abominations out of my sight, then shall you not remove.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
IV.

(1) If thou wilt return.—The “if” implies a return from the hopes with which Jeremiah 3 ended to the language of misgiving, and so, inferentially, of earnest exhortation.

Abominations.—Literally, things of shame, as in Jeremiah 3:24; the idols which Israel had worshipped.

Then shalt thou not remove.—Better, as continuing the conditions of forgiveness, if thou wilt not wander.

Jeremiah 4:1. If thou wilt return, O Israel, return unto me — Israel having promised repentance in the latter part of the preceding chapter, they are here directed what sort of a repentance it must be; that it must not be hypocritical and feigned, but real and hearty; not deferred to another time, but immediate, without any delay; the words being not improperly interpreted, as they are by many, If thou wilt return, return now. Repentance, if it be delayed from time to time, is seldom ever put in execution; and therefore there cannot be a more useful admonition than to put our good resolutions immediately in practice. Blaney, who considers the clause as being principally intended to assure them “that upon their conversion they should be accepted and received again into the bosom of God’s church, from which they had before apostatized,” translates it very literally, thus, “If thou wilt turn again, O Israel, saith Jehovah, unto me shalt thou return.” And if thou wilt put away thine abominations — Thine evil practices, and especially thine idolatries, as the word שׁקציםcommonly signifies: out of my sight — Hebrew, מפני, from before me: though God’s eye be everywhere, and therefore, as is implied, idols are nowhere to be admitted, either in public or private, yet the expression particularly relates to the place of his more immediate presence, as their land and the place of his solemn worship. Then shalt thou not remove — Thou shalt be restored to thine ancient inheritance, and shalt be established in the peaceable possession of it. As if he had said, If thou wilt remove thy idols, thou shalt not be removed. The Hebrew, ולא הנוב, may be properly rendered, Then thou shalt not wander, that is, be an unsettled, fugitive, and vagabond people. “In the former part,” says Houbigant, “the conversion of their morals is spoken of; in the latter, the stability of their republic.”4:1,2 The first two verses should be read with the last chapter. Sin must be put away out of the heart, else it is not put away out of God's sight, for the heart is open before him.Return - The repentance of Israel described in Jeremiah 3:21-25 was a hope, and not a reality. The return, literally, would be their restoration to their land; spiritually, their abandoning their sins.

Jeremiah 4:1-2 should be translated as follows:

If thou wouldst return, O Israel, saith Yahweh.

Unto Me thou shalt return:

And if thou wouldst remove thy abominations from before Me,

And not wander to and fro,

But wouldst swear truly, uprightly; and justly

By the living Yahweh;

Then shall the pagan bless themselves ... -

In him - In Yahweh. Two great truths are taught in this verse;

(1) that the Gentiles were to be members of the Church of the Messiah;

(2) that Israel's special office was to be God's mediator in this great work.

Thus, Jeremiah is in exact accord with the evangelical teaching of Isaiah.

CHAPTER 4

Jer 4:1-31. Continuation of Address to the Ten Tribes of Israel. (Jer 4:1, 2). The Prophet Turns Again to Judah, to Whom He Had Originally Been Sent (Jer 4:3-31).

1. return … return—play on words. "If thou wouldest return to thy land (thou must first), return (by conversion and repentance) to Me."

not remove—no longer be an unsettled wanderer in a strange land. So Cain (Ge 4:12, 14).An invitation to true repentance, by promises, Jeremiah 4:1-4; and judgments coming on them by the Babylonians, contrary to the predictions of their false prophets, for their sins, Jeremiah 4:5-18. A grievous lamentation for the miseries of Judah, Jeremiah 4:19-31.

Return unto me: this seems to be a continuation of the former sermon; so that Israel having promised repentance, they are here directed how it must be qualified, viz. it must not be hypocritical and reigned, but real and hearty, Jeremiah 24:7, as Josiah’s was, 2 Kings 23:25; and it must be unto the Lord; not to this idol and that idol, hither and thither, shifting their way; but unto me; see Jeremiah 2:36; or to my worship, and as thou hast promised, Jeremiah 3:22. And this sense agrees best with the coherence. Or it maybe all emphatical, short, peremptory expression; If thou wilt return, return; make no longer demur or delay about it; like that Isaiah 21:12. The Hebrew read the words in the future tense, if thou wilt return, thou shalt return; and so they may be taken partly as a promise, and that with reference either to their returning into their own land; and so they concern Israel; thus Deu 30:2-5: see Jeremiah 3:14. But if the word be taken in the notion of resting, not returning, as some do, and as it is taken Isaiah 30:15, then it rather concerns Judah: q. d. Thou shalt abide quietly where thou art, and shalt not wander into captivity; and this may agree with the last expression in the verse,

not remove. Or else with reference to the assistance that God would give them to return unto him; partly, and that rather, as a direction (for in the Hebrew, though the word return be in the future tense, yet it is often used imperatively).

Abominations, viz. idols, a metonymy of the adjunct, which are so abominable in God’s sight, Deu 27:15 Ezekiel 20:7,8; called dungy gods, Deu 29:17. See 2 Chronicles 15:8.

Out of my sight; though God’s eye be every where; and hence implieth that idols are no where to be admitted, either in private or public; yet it doth particularly relate to the place of his more immediate presence, as their land and temple, 1 Kings 9:3, and spiritually to our hearts, hypocrites thinking it enough if they conceal their wickedness from man’s eye.

Then shalt thou not remove: if this be read imperatively, then it is,

remove not, as it may be read; and so it agrees with Israel, Depart not away from me to thy idols upon the mountains and hills: if read in the future tense, then it agrees with Judah, Thou shalt not go out of thine own land into exile. See the first clause of the verse.

If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord,.... To which they had been encouraged, and as they had promised they would, and said they did, Jeremiah 3:14,

return unto me; with thy whole heart, and not feignedly and hypocritically, as Judah did, Jeremiah 3:10. Some render the words (and the accents require they should be rendered so) "if thou wilt return to me, O Israel, saith the Lord, thou shalt return" (l); that is, to thine own land, being now in captivity; or, "thou shalt rest" (m); or "have rest"; so Kimchi interprets the last word; see Jeremiah 30:10, and these words may very well be considered as the words of Christ, and as spoken by him, when he entered upon his ministry, who began it with calling the people of the Jews to repentance, and promising to give them rest; and all such who return to God by repentance, and come to Christ by faith, find spiritual rest for their souls now, and shall have an eternal rest hereafter, Matthew 4:17,

and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight; not only their sins, but their self-righteousness, and dependence upon it; the rites and ceremonies of the old law abolished by Christ, together with the traditions of the elders, by which they made void the commandments of God; all which were abominations in the sight of the Lord, Isaiah 1:13,

then shalt thou not remove; from thine own land again when restored, or further off, into more distant countries, for they were now in captivity; or rather the words may be rendered, not as a promise, but as a continuation of what is before said,

and not move to and fro (n); or be unstable and wavering, tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, and precept of men; but be established in the faith of the Gospel, and steadfast and immovable in every good work. The Targum is:

"if thou wilt return, O Israel, to my worship, saith the Lord, thy return shall be received before thy decree is sealed; and if thou wilt take away thine abominations from before me, thou shalt not be moved;''

or wander about.

(l) "si reverteris ad me, O Israel, dicit Jehovah, reverteris", Gataker, (m) "quiescas", Vatablus; "quiesce apud me", Calvin. (n) "et non vagaberis", Gatatker; "et non instabilis fueris", Cocceius,

If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, {a} return to me: and if thou wilt put away thy abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not be removed.

(a) That is, wholly and without hypocrisy, not dissembling to turn and serve God as they do who serve him by halves, Ho 7:16.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. If thou wilt return, etc.] The best rendering is perhaps as follows: If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, yea, return unto me, continuing (with mg.), and if thou wilt put … and wilt not wander, and wilt swear … then shall the nations, etc.

abominations] detestable things, idolatrous worship, mingled, as it often was, with impure rites.

be removed] wander (from God). By a change of one Hebrew letter we get the word rendered “broken loose” in Jeremiah 2:31. This is to be preferred, as it is doubtful whether the verb in MT. can have a moral connotation.

Jeremiah 4:1-4. If Israel will sincerely repent and mend her ways, her prosperity will be the ideal for all nations. Let Judah dedicate herself in heart to Jehovah, otherwise heavy judgement shall be her portion.

In Jeremiah 4:1-4 a severer mode of address is used towards Judah (3, 4) than towards Israel (1, 2).Verses 1, 2. - The form and structure of the translation require a change. Render, If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith Jehovah, wilt return unto me; and if thou wilt put away, etc., and not wander; and wilt swear, As Jehovah liveth, with good faith, with justice, and with righteousness; then shall the nations bless themselves by him, and in him shall they glory. The clause, "and not wander," seems too short; the Septuagint had a choicer reading, "and put away, etc., from his [thy] mouth, and not wander from before me." It is the close of the prophecy which we have here. The prophet subjoins a promise which he has heard from Jehovah. True, it does not appeal to Israel's self-love (as Isaiah 48:18, 19; Psalm 81:13-16), but to a nobler feeling of responsibility for the world's welfare. Israel has been entrusted with a mission, and on the due performance of this mission hangs the weal or woe of humanity. Hence Jehovah's longing for Israel's repentance. If Israel will but "return," and obey God's commandments, all nations will be attracted to the true religion. The form of expression used for the latter statement is borrowed probably from Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4 (it is less closely parallel with Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18). To "bless by" any one is to use his name in the benediction formula. Seeing Israel so blessed through his allegiance to Jehovah, all nations shall wish themselves a similar blessing (the reverse of the process in Jeremiah 29:22; comp. Isaiah 65:16). To "swear, As Jehovah liveth," means to call Jehovah to witness to the truth of a statement. This is to be done "with good faith," etc., i.e. the object of the oath must be consistent with honesty and probity. Abominations; i.e. idols, as often (see 2 Kings 23:24). But Israel did not meet the expectation. Like a faithless wife from her husband, Israel fell away from its God. The particle of comparison כּאשׁר is omitted before the verb, as in Isaiah 55:9, cf. Isaiah 55:10 and Isaiah 55:11. רע does not precisely mean husband, nor yet paramour, but friend and companion, and so here is equal to wedded husband. בּגד c. מן, withdraw faithlessly from one, faithlessly forsake - c. בּ, be faithless, deal faithlessly with one.

Yet Israel will come to a knowledge of its iniquity, and bitterly repent it, Jeremiah 3:21. From the heights where idolatry was practised, the prophet already hears in spirit the lamentations and supplications of the Israelites entreating for forgiveness. על שׁפיים points back to Jeremiah 3:2, when the naked heights were mentioned as the scenes of idolatry. From these places is heard the supplicating cry for pardon. כּי העווּ, because (for that) they had made their way crooked, i.e., had entered on a crooked path, had forgotten their God.

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