Jeremiah 5:5
I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto 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." Jeremiah 5:5This total want of good faith and uprightness is found not only in the lower orders of the populace, amongst the mean and ignorant rabble, but in the higher ranks of the educated. This is rhetorically put in this shape, that Jeremiah, believing that only the common people are so deeply sunk in immorality, turns to the great to speak to them, and amongst them discovers a thorough-going renunciation of the law of God. דּלּים, weak, are the mean and poor of the people, who live from hand to mouth in rudeness and ignorance, their anxieties bent on food and clothing (cf. Jeremiah 39:10; Jeremiah 40:7). These do foolishly (נואלוּ as in Numbers 12:11), from want of religious training. They know not the way of Jahveh, i.e., the way, the manner of life, prescribed to men by God in His word; cf. 2 Kings 21:22; Psalm 25:9, etc. The judgment of their God, i.e., that which God demanded as right and lawful, 2 Kings 17:26, etc. The great, i.e., the wealthy, distinguished, and educated. Yet even these have broken the yoke of the law, i.e., have emancipated themselves from obedience to the law (Hitz.); cf. Jeremiah 2:20. Therefore they must be visited with punishment.
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