Jeremiah 5:5
I will get me to the great men, and will speak to them; for they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds.
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(5) I will get me.—The prophet turns from the masses to the few, from the poor to the great, repeating, as with a grave, indignant irony, the words that describe the true wisdom which he has not found in the former, but hopes to find in the latter.

But these.—Better, as less ambiguous, Surely they too. The clause begins with the same word as that in Jeremiah 5:4. What is meant is that the great as well as the poor, the learned as well as the ignorant, are altogether evil, the former even more defiant in breaking through all conventional constraints than the latter.

5:1-9 None could be found who behaved as upright and godly men. But the Lord saw the true character of the people through all their disguises. The poor were ignorant, and therefore they were wicked. What can be expected but works of darkness, from people that know nothing of God and religion? There are God's poor, who, notwithstanding poverty, know the way of the Lord, walk in it, and do their duty; but these were willingly ignorant, and their ignorance would not be their excuse. The rich were insolent and haughty, and the abuse of God's favours made their sin worse.They have known ... - Men of education, who read the Scriptures, and learn from them the nature of God's judgments.

But these - literally, surely they (compare Jeremiah 5:4).

The yoke - The Mosaic law.

And burst ... - They have torn off, torn themselves loose from.

The bonds - The fastenings by which the yoke was fixed upon the necks of the oxen.

5. they have known—rather, "they must know." The prophet supposes it as probable, considering their position.

but these—I found the very reverse to be the case.

burst … bonds—set God's law at defiance (Ps 2:3).

I will get me unto the great men, i.e. to the nobles, both prince and priest, that have more time to consider these things, have been better taught and educated, Proverbs 4:4. Not that Jeremiah had any better thoughts of these, but as carrying a great probability with it.

For they have known: had it been only among those, in the former verse, it might have been more excusable; but it is in the very nobles themselves; the state is wholly corrupt, from head to foot, who cannot plead ignorance, therefore the more inexcusable.

These have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds; these are more refractory than the other, more heady and obstinate; no law of God is able to hold them, Psalm 2:2,3: see Luke 19:14,27. There is not one better than another among them, whether poor or rich. I will get me unto the great men, and speak unto them,.... The princes, nobles, and judges, the elders of the people, the scribes and doctors of the law:

for they have known the way of the Lord, and the judgment of their God; it might be reasonably expected that they had, having had a good education, and being at leisure from worldly business to attend to the law, and the knowledge of it, and whatsoever God had revealed in his word, both in a way of doctrine and duty:

but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds; the yoke of the law, and the bonds of his precepts, with which they were bound; these they broke off from them, and would not be obliged and restrained by them, but transgressed and rejected them.

I will go to the {e} great men, and will speak to them; for they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds.

(e) He speaks this to the reproach of them who would govern and teach others, and yet are farther out of the way than the simple people.

5. they know] As experts they have leisure to study the Law, and to learn therefrom the will of God.

broken the yoke, and burst the bands] of the Law and of obedience. The bands are the fastenings of the yoke upon the neck of the beasts that bear it.

For the phrase cp. Jeremiah 2:20. As oxen which have broken loose, and are straying, so have the rebellious leaders of the people cast off obedience and service.

This verse suggested images to Dante:

“A lion’s aspect, which appeared to me,

He seemed as if against me he were coming

With head uplifted, and with ravenous hunger,

So that it seemed the air was afraid of him;

And a she-wolf, that with all hungerings

Seemed to be laden in her meagreness,

And many folk has caused to live forlorn!”

Inferno, Canto I. ll. 45–51. Longfellow’s Trans.Verse 5. - The bonds are the thongs by which the yoke was secured to the neck (comp. Isaiah 58:6). In Jeremiah 2:20 the word is rendered "bands." In vain will Jerusalem attempt to turn away calamity by the wiles of a courtesan. In Jeremiah 4:31 the daughter of Zion is addressed, i.e., the community dwelling around the citadel of Zion, or the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom, regarded as a female personality (as to בּת־ציּון, see on Isaiah 1:8). "Spoiled one" is in apposition not to the אתּי, but to the person in the verb; it is regarded as adverbial, and so is without inflexion: if thou art spoiled, like ערום, Job 24:7, Job 24:10; cf. Ew. 316, b. The following clauses introduced by כּי are not so connected with the question, what wilt thou do? as that כּי should mean that: what wilt thou do, devise to the end that thou mayest clothe thee? (Graf); the כּי means if or though, and introduces new clauses, the apodosis of which is: "in vain," etc. If thou even clothest thyself in purple. שׁני, the crimson dye, and stuffs or fabrics dyed with it, see in Exodus 25:4. פּוּך is a pigment for the eye, prepared from silver-glance, sulphur-antimony - the Cohol, yet much esteemed by Arab women, a black powder with a metallic glitter. It is applied to the eyelids, either dry or reduced to a paste by means of oil, by means of a blunt-pointed style or eye-pencil, and increases the lustre of dark eyes so that they seem larger and more brilliant. See the more minute account in Hillel, on the eye-paint of the East, in ref. to 2 Kings 9:30. קרע, tear asunder, not, prick, puncture, as Ew., following J. D. Mich., makes it. This does not answer the mode of using the eye-paint, which was this: the style rubbed over with the black powder is drawn horizontally through between the closed eyelids, and these are thus smeared with the ointment. This proceeding Jeremiah sarcastically terms rending open the eyes. As a wife seeks by means of paint and finery to heighten the charms of her beauty in order to please men and gain the favour of lovers, so the woman Jerusalem will attempt by like stratagems to secure the favour of the enemy; but in vain like Jezebel in 2 Kings 9:30. The lovers will despise her. The enemies are called lovers, paramours, just as Israel's quest for help amongst the heathen nations is represented as intrigue with them; see on Jeremiah 2:33, Jeremiah 2:36.
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