Jeremiah 50:6
My people has been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place.
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(6) My people hath been lost sheep . . .—We note as interesting the dominance of this imagery here as in Isaiah 53:6; Ezekiel 34:5. The “shepherds” are, as ever, the kings and civil rulers of the people. In the “mountains” and “hills” we see partly the natural surroundings of the imagery, partly a special reference to the idolatrous worship of the high places (Jeremiah 3:2; Jeremiah 3:6). The Hebrew text as it stands gives, they have led them on seducing mountains, i.e., the “high places” which had so strange a fascination for them. The Authorised version follows the marginal reading of the Hebrew. The “forgotten resting place,” or, perhaps, the fold, is, as in Jeremiah 50:7, the “habitation of justice,” the true pasturage, the righteousness which is found in fellowship with Jehovah Himself.

Jeremiah 50:6-7. My people hath been lost sheep — All men are compared to sheep that go astray, Isaiah 53:6. Here this character is applied to the Jews, whom God calls his people, because of the ancient covenant made with their fathers. They are said to have been lost, either on account of their captivity, being cast out of the land which God gave them, as sheep are lost out of their pasture, or in respect of their idolatries and other sins. Their shepherds have caused them to go astray — Their civil and ecclesiastical governors have been the principal causes of their sins and miseries: the former, by their wicked commands and example, the latter also by example as well as doctrine. They have turned them away on the mountains — They have turned them aside from the right worship of God, performed at the temple, to sacrifice to idols upon the mountains and high places. He alludes to sheep straying hither and thither, through the windings and turnings of the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill — From one species of idolatry to another. They have forgotten their resting place — Or, their fold, namely, they have forgotten me, in whose love and service, in whose favour, protection; and care they could only find rest, safety, and comfort. All that found them have devoured them — They have been a prey to their enemies on all sides. And their adversaries said, We offend not — “In making them captives. Jeremiah introduces the Chaldeans speaking thus by the truest prosopopœia; for it could not be but the Chaldeans must have known those things which the prophets had foretold concerning the future captivity of the Jews; Nebuchadnezzar is a witness, who gave his captains orders to preserve Jeremiah:” see Houbigant. Because they have sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice — A refuge and protection for those that are just and good, and consequently one that would not have cast off the Jews if they had not first forsaken him. This interpretation supposes God to be here called, The habitation of justice, which he undoubtedly is, but whether the Chaldeans would term him so may be a question. Others, therefore, think the preposition in is understood, making this the aggravation of the Jews’ sins, that they were committed in a land which ought to have been a habitation of justice. Thus it is said, (Isaiah 26:10,) that the wicked man will deal unjustly in a land of uprightness.50:1-7 The king of Babylon was kind to Jeremiah, yet the prophet must foretell the ruin of that kingdom. If our friends are God's enemies, we dare not speak peace to them. The destruction of Babylon is spoken of as done thoroughly. Here is a word for the comfort of the Jews. They shall return to their God first, then to their own land; the promise of their conversion and reformation makes way for the other promises. Their tears flow not from the sorrow of the world, as when they went into captivity, but from godly sorrow. They shall seek after the Lord as their God, and have no more to do with idols. They shall think of returning to their own country. This represents the return of poor souls to God. In true converts there are sincere desires to attain the end, and constant cares to keep in the way. Their present case is lamented as very sad. The sins of professing Christians never will excuse those who rejoice in destroying them.Their shepherds ... mountains - Some translate it: Their shepherds, i. e., civil rulers (Jeremiah 2:8 note) "have led them astray upon the seducing moutains." - the mountains being the usual places where idolatry was practiced.

Their restingplace - Their fold Psalm 23:2.

6. (Isa 53:6).

on the mountains—whereon they sacrificed to idols (Jer 2:20; 3:6, 23).

resting-place—for the "sheep," continuing the image; Jehovah is the resting-place of His sheep (Mt 11:28). They rest in His "bosom" (Isa 40:11). Also His temple at Zion, their "rest," because it is His (Ps 132:8, 14).

My people hath been lost sheep: all men are compared to sheep that go astray, Isaiah 53:6; here it is applied to the Jews, who are called the Lord’s people, by reason of the ancient covenant God made with their fathers; they are said to be lost, either with respect to their captivity, being cast out of the land which God gave them for pastures, or in respect of their idolatry.

Their shepherds have caused them to go astray; their civil and ecclesiastical governors have been a cause of it. The former by their wicked commands forcing them to idolatry and superstition, or at least by their wicked example setting them an example, and by their ill government conniving at them in their idolatrous practices, for which they are gone into captivity. Their priests, and ecclesiastical governors, teaching them such practices, and encouraging them by their own examples, and promising them impunity and security in them.

They have turned them away on the mountains; either they have been a cause of their offering sacrifices to idols upon the mountains, or of their being carried into captivity over the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; either wandering up and down in a strange land, or in their way thither, or running from one species of idolatry to another. They have forgotten their resting place; they have forgotten the land of Canaan, which I gave them for a resting-place after their toilsome travel in the wilderness; or (as some would have it) they have forgotten me who am their rest. My people hath been lost sheep,.... like lost sheep, without a shepherd, going astray the fold, wandering from place to place, having none to take care of them, guide and direct them, or to go in and out before them, and lead them into suitable pastures; so it was with the Jews in the Babylonish captivity, and so it is with them now, and yet the Lord's people still in some sense; he has a design of grace concerning them, a store of mercy for them, and thoughts of peace towards them, which will take place in due time; and such is the case of all God's elect in a state of nature, they are sheep, but lost sheep, and yet his people;

their shepherds have caused them to go astray; from God and his worship, from the true religion; so their civil and ecclesiastical governors, their kings, princes, priests, and prophets, were the causes of leading them into errors, by their laws, doctrines, and examples; so Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it of their kings; but the Targum seems to understand it of other kings, that carried them captive,

"kings carried them away, rulers spoiled them;''

so their priests and Rabbins now cause them to err from the true Messiah, his Gospel and ordinances, as their false Christs and false prophets have done in all ages since the times of Christ;

they have turned them away on the mountains; or, "to" them (e); where idols were worshipped, as Jarchi; this was their case before and at the Babylonish captivity, though never since: or, "from the mountains" (f); from the mountains of Israel, and the good pastures there; from the Gospel of Christ, and the ordinances of it;

they have gone from mountain to hill; from one religion to another, from duty to duty, seeking rest and happiness there, in the law of Moses, and traditions of the elders; or from kingdom to kingdom, wandering about from place to place, as they do to this day;

they have forgotten their resting place; either the land of Canaan, which was their rest, Deuteronomy 12:9; or rather God himself, the resting place of his people, Psalm 116:7; or the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose person, blood, righteousness, sacrifice, and fulness, is the true rest of his people; and which is forgotten when men rest in themselves and their duties, and seek elsewhere than in Christ for peace and comfort.

(e) "ad montes", Vatablus. So R. Jonah in Ben Melech. (f) "A montibus", Piscator.

My people have been lost sheep: their {f} shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from {g} mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.

(f) Their governors and ministers by their examples have provoked them to idolatry.

(g) They have committed idolatry in every place.

6. they have turned them away on the mountains] The consonants of the MT. should be rendered on the seducing or apostate mountains, but the variant (as in E.VV.) is probably right. It may refer to idolatrous worship, the mountains furnishing its favourite seats. But it is perhaps better to make the expression a metaphorical one, and consider mountains to be contrasted with fertile pastures representing safe and pious lives in Jehovah’s favour. Their guides have led them to bleak, barren, dangerous regions, where they have lost themselves.Verse 6. - Lost sheep. Not merely with reference to the scattering of the Captivity (as in Isaiah 27:13, where the Authorized Version has "ready to perish"), but to the transgressions of the Law of God, of which the Jews had been constantly guilty (comp. Psalm 119:176; Isaiah 53:6). Their shepherds... mountains. This is the marginal correction in the Hebrew Bible; the text has, "Their shepherds have caused them to go astray upon the seducing mountains" - a strange expression, which is, however, defended by Naegelsbach on the ground of Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:2, 23; Jeremiah 17:2. Their resting place; literally, their couching place; i.e. their pasture, Jehovah, at once their Pasture (ver. 7) and their true Shepherd (Psalm 23:1). Through the working of God's power, the Elamites shall be dispersed to all the four winds, i.e., to all parts of the earth. This exercise of power is represented under the figure of the four winds. The wind is the most appropriate among all earthly things for symbolizing the Spirit of God, or the energy of the divine operation; cf. Zechariah 6:5; Daniel 7:2. The Kethib עולם in Jeremiah 49:36 has evidently been written by mistake for עילם. The meaning of the figure is this: Elam is to be attacked on all sides by enemies, and be scattered in every direction. This is evident from Jeremiah 49:37, where the figurative is changed for the literal, and the thought further extended. החתּתּי, Hiphil from חתת, be broken to pieces, in Hiphil to dispirit through fear and terror; cf. Jeremiah 1:17. On the form of the text, which is shortened from החתּותי through the shifting of the tone to the last syllable, cf. Ewald, 234, e. רעה, "evil, misfortune," is marked by the apposition, "the heat of mine anger," as the emanation of God's judgment of wrath. On 37b, cf. Jeremiah 9:15. The Lord will sit in judgment on king and princes, and punish them with death. The throne is set for the Judge to sit in judgment; see Jeremiah 43:10. Yet (Jeremiah 49:39), in the Messianic future, blessing shall come on Elam; cf. Jeremiah 49:6; Jeremiah 48:7.

If we compare this prophecy with the remaining prophecies of Jeremiah regarding the heathen nations, we shall find that it contains no reference whatever to any execution by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon of the judgment with which the Elamites are threatened; but it announces the fall of Elam and the dispersion of its inhabitants by enemies in a way so general, that, as Hvernick (on Daniel, p. 549) has remarked, it is an arbitrary addition for any one to make, if he thinks definitely of the Chaldeans as the enemies of Elam, because, correctly viewed, the contents rather declare against a conquest by Nebuchadnezzar. "Jeremiah," says Hvernick, "announces the utter extinction of the state as such, a general dispersion and annihilation of the people, a tribunal of punishment which the Lord Himself will hold over them, - features which are far too strongly marked, and far too grand, to let us think that Elam is merely to be rendered tributary and incorporated into a new state. If we connect with this the deliverance of Elam mentioned at the close of Jeremiah 49:39, viz., his conversion, then we will not hesitate to take the meaning of the oracle, in a more general way, as referring to the gradual fall of this heathen nation, for which, however, a future deliverance is in store, as is fully shown by the issue." This view is at least much more correct than the current tone, still maintained by Ewald, Hitzig, Graf, etc., according to which the prophecy refers to a conquest of Elam by Nebuchadnezzar. M. von Niebuhr (Gesch. Assyr. und Bab. S. 210) attempts to show its probability from a notice in Strabo (xi. 524), and (on S. 212) from the intimation given in the book of Judith, Jeremiah 1, of a war between Nebuchadnezzar and Media, which was successfully concluded in the twelfth year of his reign. But the statement in Strabo, that the Kossaites, a nation of robbers, once sent 13,000 archers to help the Elamites against the Susites and Babylonians, is far too indefinite for us to be able to apply it to a war which Nebuchadnezzar in company with Media carried on against Elam; for the Susites are at least not Medes. And the notice in the book of Judith is self-evidently unhistorical; for it says that Nebuchadnezzar was king of the Assyrians and resided in the great city of Nineveh, and that he defeated Arphaxad the king of Media in the seventeenth year of his reign (Judith 1:1, 13). But Nebuchadnezzar neither resided in Nineveh, which had been destroyed shortly before; nor could he have made war on Arphaxad king of Media in the seventeenth year of his reign, because he had in that year begun to besiege Jerusalem with all his forces. But the additional considerations which Niebuhr brings forward in support of his hypothesis can as little stand the test. Neither Jeremiah 25:25, where the kings of Media and Elam are mentioned among those who are to drink the cup of wrath, nor Ezekiel 32:24., where Elam and the whole multitude of its people are brought forward as among those who were slain, and who sank into the nether parts of the earth, furnish proofs of the conquest and destruction of Elam by Nebuchadnezzar, or of a war between that king and Media. For the funeral-song in Ezekiel bears a thoroughly ideal character, and announces the fall of all the heathen powers, without any regard to Nebuchadnezzar. This holds, too, in a sense, of Jeremiah 25, where Nebuchadnezzar is certainly mentioned as the ruler into whose power all the nations are to be delivered for the space of seventy years, inasmuch as this announcement also launches out into the idea of a judgment of all nations; so that we are not entitled to assume that all the kingdoms of the earth, to whom the cup of wrath is presented, were to be conquered and brought under subjection by Nebuchadnezzar. Still less reason is there for inferring from Jeremiah 27:3, that Nebuchadnezzar was involved in a war with Media at a time when, as is there stated, at the beginning of Zedekiah's reign, the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Phoenicia sent ambassadors to Jerusalem to recommend a coalition against the power of Babylon. Even if Nebuchadnezzar were then occupied in the eastern portion of his kingdom, yet there is nothing at all to prove that he was involved in war with Media or Elam. History says nothing of a war waged by Nebuchadnezzar on Elam, nor does this prophecy furnish any support for such an assumption. Although it does not set before us a "gradual ruin" of Elam (Hvernick), but rather a catastrophe brought on by God, yet the description is given in terms so general, that nothing more specific can be inferred from it regarding the time and the circumstances of this catastrophe. In this prophecy, Elam is not considered in its historical relation to the people of Israel, but as the representative of the heathen world lying beyond, which has not hitherto come into any relation towards the people of Israel, but which nevertheless, along with it, falls under the judgment coming on all nations, in order that, through the judgment, it may be led to the knowledge of the true God, and share in His salvation.

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