Jeremiah 6:16
Thus said the LORD, Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
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(16) Stand ye in the ways.—In the prophet’s mind the people were as a traveller who has taken a self-chosen path, and finds that it leads him to a place of peril. Is it not well that they should stop and ask where the old paths (literally, the eternal paths; the words going, as in Jeremiah 18:15, beyond the mere antiquity of the nation’s life) were, on which their fathers had travelled safely. Of these old paths they were to choose that which was most distinctly “the good way,” the way of righteousness, and therefore of peace and health also. The call, however, was in vain. The people chose to travel still in the broad way that led them to destruction.

Jeremiah 6:16-17. Stand ye in the ways, &c. — He now turns his speech to the people, and gives them counsel; by a metaphor taken from travellers, who, being in doubt of their way, stand still, and consider, whether the direction, which they have received from some false guide, be right or not. Ask for the old paths — Inquire in what way the patriarchs, the judges, the kings, and prophets of former times walked, and imitate their practices. And ye shall find rest for your souls — You will find peace with God, will be safe under his protection, and in consequence thereof will have comfort and satisfaction in your own minds. See Matthew 11:28-29. But they said, We will not walk therein — If they did not say so in express words, yet such was the language of their actions: though the prophets had directed them into the right way, and though they knew others had experienced it to be so, yet they would not be persuaded to walk in it, but deliberately refused the blessings offered them. Also I set watchmen over you — I gave you prophets, as so many watchmen, to warn you of the evils that threatened you. And they faithfully discharged their duty, admonishing you of your sins, and giving you faithful warning of the judgments they would bring upon you; saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet — That is, to the warning given you of approaching danger. It was customary, in those days and countries, to have continually watchmen placed on high towers, or on hills, who observed the country all round, to prevent any sudden hostile invasion, by giving early notice of any appearance thereof by sound of trumpet. “So the prophets, who were the observators of the manners of the people, and who had early notice from God what evils were coming, unless prevented by repentance and amendment of life, are called watchmen.” 6:9-17 When the Lord arises to take vengeance, no sinners of any age or rank, or of either sex escape. They were set upon the world, and wholly carried away by the love of it. If we judge of this sin by God's word, we find multitudes in every station and rank given up to it. Those are to be reckoned our worst and most dangerous enemies, who flatter us in a sinful way. Oh that men would be wise for their souls! Ask for the old paths; the way of godliness and righteousness has always been the way God has owned and blessed. Ask for the old paths set forth by the written word of God. When you have found the good way, go on in it, you will find abundant recompence at your journey's end. But if men will not obey the voice of God and flee to his appointed Refuge, it will plainly appear at the day of judgment, that they are ruined because they reject God's word.The sense is: God's prophet has declared that a great national calamity is at hand. "Make inquiries; stand in the ways; ask the passers by. Your country was once prosperous and blessed. Try to learn what were the paths trodden in those days which led your ancestors to happiness. Choose them, and walk earnestly therein, and find thereby rest for your souls." The Christian fathers often contrast Christ the one goodway with the old tracks, many in number and narrow to walk in, which are the Law and the prophets. 16. Image from travellers who have lost their road, stopping and inquiring which is the right way on which they once had been, but from which they have wandered.

old paths—Idolatry and apostasy are the modern way; the worship of God the old way. Evil is not coeval with good, but a modern degeneracy from good. The forsaking of God is not, in a true sense, a "way cast up" at all (Jer 18:15; Ps 139:24; Mal 4:4).

rest—(Isa 28:12; Mt 11:29).

Having told the false prophets their doom, he now turns his speech to the people, and gives them counsel; for he rather propounds than commands, by a metaphor taken from travellers, that being in doubt of their way, do stand still, pause, and consider, whether the direction they have received from some ignorant person or false guide be right or not.

The old paths, Heb. paths of antiquity, such as their godly forefathers of old were wont to walk in, the ancient paths, Jeremiah 18:15. Or, the oracles of God, what directions his word gives, Isaiah 8:20. Or, the providence of God. Observe what hath been God’s ways and method in times past, with reference to sin and punishment, Deu 4:3,4 Jud 5:6,8 Jer 22:15,16, and what have been want to be the best courses, called here the

good way, or the best way to continue mercies and prevent judgments, Deu 32:7, he.: see 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

Walk therein; when you have found what was best and most prosperous, keep it, stick to it.

Ye shall find rest; you will find God to stand by you, and be a sanctuary to you, Deu 33:12,29. See Matthew 11:29. You will find things mend with you; it will be well with you, as it hath been with others; you will be satisfied and quiet; you will not doubt any longer which way to follow: see 1 Kings 18:21.

We will not walk therein; it notes their great wilfulness and obstinacy, that though the prophets had directed them in the right way, and though they knew others had experimented it to be so, yet they would not be persuaded to walk in it, but deliberately refused those favours offered, Isaiah 8:11-13 Jeremiah 18:11,12. Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see,.... These are the words of the Lord to the people, whom he would have judge for themselves, and not be blindly led by the false prophets and priests; directing them to do what men should, when they are in a place where two or more ways meet, and know not which way to take; they should make a short stop, and look to the way mark or way post, which points whither each path leads, and so accordingly proceed. Now, in religious things, the Scriptures are the way mark to direct us which way we should take: if the inquiry is about the way of salvation, look up to these, which are able to make a man wise unto salvation; these show unto men that the way of salvation is not works of righteousness done by them, but Christ only: if the question is about any doctrine whatever, search the Scriptures, examine them, they are profitable for doctrine; they tell us what is truth, and what is error: if the doubt is about the matter or form of worship, and the ordinances of it, look into the Scriptures, they are the best directory to us what we should observe and do:

and ask for the old paths; of righteousness and holiness, which Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others, walked in, and follow them; and the way of salvation by Christ, which, though called a new way, Hebrews 10:20, yet is not newly found out, for it was contrived in eternity; nor newly revealed, for it was made known to Adam and Eve immediately after the fall; nor newly made use of, for all the Old Testament saints were saved by the same grace of Christ, and justified by his righteousness, and their sins pardoned through his blood, and expiated by his sacrifice, as New Testament saints; only of late, or in these last days, it has been more clearly made known; otherwise there is but one way of salvation; there never was any other, nor never will be; inquire therefore for this old path, which all true believers have trodden in:

where is the good way, and walk therein; or, "the better or best way" (x), and more excellent way, which is Christ, John 14:6, he is the way of access to God, and acceptance with him, and the way of conveyance of all the blessings of grace; he is the way to the Father, and to eternal happiness; he is the living way which always continues, and is ever the same; and is a plain, pleasant, and safe way, and therefore a good one; there is no one better, nor any so good; and therefore this must be the right way to walk in, and to which there is great encouragement, as follows:

and ye shall find rest for your souls; there is rest and peace enjoyed in the ways of God, and in the ordinances of the Gospel; wisdom's ways are ways of peace, which are the lesser paths; and in the doctrines of the Gospel, when the heart is established with them, the mind is tranquil and serene, and at rest, which before was fluctuating and wavering, and tossed to and fro with every wind; but the principal rest is in Christ himself, in whom the true believer, that walks by faith in him, has rest from the guilt and dominion of sin, from the curse and bondage of the law, and from the wrath of God in his conscience; and enjoys a spiritual peace, arising from the blood, sacrifice, and righteousness of Christ, Matthew 11:28,

but they said, we will not walk therein; in the old paths, and in the good way but in their own evil ways, which they chose and delighted in; and therefore, as their destruction was inevitable, it was just and righteous.

(x) "quae sit via melior", Vatablus; "via optima", Schmidt.

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the {o} old paths, where is the good way, and walk in it, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk in it.

(o) In which the patriarchs and prophets walked, directed by the word of God: signifying that there is no true way, but that which God prescribes.

16. saith] rather, said, in His frequent remonstrances.

Of the branching paths the old established one will prove that which alone ye may follow with divine sanction.

the good way] lit. the way of that which is good. Cp. Jeremiah 18:15; Deuteronomy 32:7.

rest for your souls] The words have not the significance which the similar expression bears in Matthew 11:29. It is “not the inward peace which the soul has in fellowship with God, but the peace and safety which they will secure by adherence to God’s commands.” Pe.

16–21. The third division. See introd. note to the ch.Verses 16-21. - Without hearty repentance, there is no hope of escape. But hitherto Judah has rejected all admonitions. What availeth mere ceremonial punctuality? Verse 16. - Stand ye in the ways; literally, station yourselves on (or, by) roads, i.e. at the meeting-point of different roads. There (as the following words state) the Jews are to make inquiry as to the old paths. Antiquity gives a presumption of rightness; the ancients were nearer to the days when God spoke with man; they had the guidance of God's two mighty "shepherds" (Isaiah 63:11); they knew, far better than we, who "are but of yesterday, and know nothing" (Job 8:9), the way of happiness. For though there are many pretended "ways," there is but "one way" (Jeremiah 32:39) which has Jehovah's blessing (Psalm 25:8, 9). Well might Jeremiah warn the people once more (cf. Jeremiah 6:8), in order to turn sore judgment away from it; but it cannot and will not hear, for it is utterly hardened. Yet can he not be silent; for he is so filled with the fury of God, that he must pour it forth on the depraved race. This is our view of the progress of the thought in these verses; whereas Hitz. and Graf make what is said in Jeremiah 6:11 refer to the utterance of the dreadful revelation received in Jeremiah 6:9. But this is not in keeping with "testify that they may hear," or with the unmistakeable contrast between the pouring out of the divine fury, Jeremiah 6:11, and the testifying that they may hear, Jeremiah 6:10. Just because their ear is uncircumcised to that they cannot hear, is it in vain to speak to them for the purpose of warning them; and the prophet has no alternative left but to pour out on the deaf and seared people that fury of the Lord with which he is inwardly filled. The question: to whom should I speak? etc. (על for אל, as Psalm 111:2 and often), is not to be taken as a question to God, but only as a rhetorical turn of the thought, that all further speaking or warning is in vain. "Testify," lay down testimony by exhibiting the sin and the punishment it brings with it. "That they may hear," ut audiant, the Chald. has well paraphrased: ut accipiant doctrinam. Uncircumcised is their ear, as it were covered with a foreskin, so that the voice of God's word cannot find its way in; cf. Jeremiah 5:24; Jeremiah 4:4. The second clause, introduced by הנּה, adduces the reason of their not being able to hear. The word of God is become a reproach to them; they are determined not to hearken to it, because it lashes their sins. Jeremiah 6:11 comes in adversatively: But the fury of the Lord drives him to speak. חמת יהוה is not a holy ardour for Jahveh (Graf and many ancient comm.), but the wrath of God against the people, which the prophet cannot contain, i.e., keep to himself, but must pour out. Because they will not take correction, he must inflict the judgment upon them, not merely utter it. The imper. שׁפך is to be taken like השׁב, Jeremiah 6:9, not as an expression of the irresistible necessity which, in spite of all his efforts against it, compels the prophet to pour forth, in a certain sense, the wrath of the Lord on all classes of the people by the very publishing of God's word (Graf); but it is the command of God, to be executed by him, as is shown by "for I stretch out mine hand," Jeremiah 6:12. The prophet is to pour out the wrath of God by the proclamation of God's word, which finds its fulfilment in judgments of wrath; see on Jeremiah 1:10. Upon all classes of the people: the children that play in the street (cf. Jeremiah 9:20), the young men gathered together in a cheerful company, the men and women, old men and them that are full of days, i.e., those who have reached the furthest limit of old age. כּי tells why the prophet is so to speak: for upon the whole population will God's wrath be poured out. ילּכד, not, be taken captive, but, be taken, overtaken by the wrath, as in Jeremiah 8:9; cf. 1 Samuel 14:41.
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