Jeremiah 8:5
Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.
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(5) Slidden back . . . backsliding.—The English fails to give the full emphasis of the re-iteration of the same word as in the previous verse. Why doth this people of Jerusalem turn away with a perpetual turning? Here, so far, there was no retracing the evil path which they had chosen.

I hearkened and heard.—Jehovah himself is introduced here, as probably in the question of the previous verse, as speaking, listening for cries of penitence, and hearing only the words of the evildoers.

Rusheth.—The word is primarily used of the rushing of a torrent (Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 10:22; Isaiah 28:17), and is applied to the frantic impetuosity with which Israel was rushing into evil, and therefore into the misery that followed it.

8:4-13 What brought this ruin? 1. The people would not attend to reason; they would not act in the affairs of their souls with common prudence. Sin is backsliding; it is going back from the way that leads to life, to that which leads to destruction. 2. They would not attend to the warning of conscience. They did not take the first step towards repentance: true repentance begins in serious inquiry as to what we have done, from conviction that we have done amiss. 3. They would not attend to the ways of providence, nor understand the voice of God in them, ver. 7. They know not how to improve the seasons of grace, which God affords. Many boast of their religious knowledge, yet, unless taught by the Spirit of God, the instinct of brutes is a more sure guide than their supposed wisdom. 4. They would not attend to the written word. Many enjoy abundance of the means of grace, have Bibles and ministers, but they have them in vain. They will soon be ashamed of their devices. The pretenders to wisdom were the priests and the false prophets. They flattered people in sin, and so flattered them into destruction, silencing their fears and complaints with, All is well. Selfish teachers may promise peace when there is no peace; and thus men encourage each other in committing evil; but in the day of visitation they will have no refuge to flee unto.When men act as in Jeremiah 8:4, why is God's own people alone an exception?

Slidden back ... backsliding - The same words as "turn" and "return" in Jeremiah 8:4. They should be rendered, "Why doth this people of Jerusalem turn away with a perpetual turning?"

Deceit - i. e., idolatry; because men worship in it that which is false, and it is false to the worshippers.

Refuse - From a feeling of dislike.

5. slidden … backsliding—rather, as the Hebrew is the same as in Jer 8:4, to which this verse refers, "turned away with a perpetual turning away."

perpetual—in contrast to the "arise" ("rise again," Jer 8:4).

refuse to return—in contrast to, "shall he … not return" (Jer 8:4; Jer 5:3).

By a perpetual backsliding: either a universal backsliding; or rather, obstinately resolved to hold on, though they see they are out of the way; not out of levity or inconsiderateness. The Hebrew word signifies strength, the same used Psalm 13:1, and translated for ever, implying a strong, stiff, stout refusal. See Isaiah 57:17 Jeremiah 5:3. Deceit: either their injustice and cozenages in circumventing one another, which was so frequent among them, Jeremiah 9:4-6 Micah 7:3,4; or their hypocrisy, whereby they thought to deceive God, but they did indeed deceive themselves; the great impediment of their repentance, Isaiah 44:20; or rather, their sticking close to their false prophets, who did deceive them, thence encouraging themselves in their wickedness, and pleasing themselves that their miseries should not come upon them. See Poole "Isaiah 30:10"; See Poole "Jer v. 31"; See Poole "Jeremiah 14:13", &c.

Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding?.... These people fill into sin, and rise not again by repentance; they turn out of the good ways of God and religion, and return not again; they backslide and revolt from the Lord, and they continue in their revolt and rebellion; their backsliding is an everlasting one; there is no hope of their repentance and recovery: it is a vehement and passionate expostulation about the people of the Jews, founded upon the former general observation, showing them to be the worst of all people: it is a common saying, "it is a long lane that has no turning"; but these people, having departed from the Lord, return no more. A very learned man renders the words, "why does Jerusalem turn away this people with an obstinate aversion?" (b) that is, the rulers and governors of Jerusalem, as in Matthew 23:37 or rather thus, "why does a stubborn aversion turn away this people, O Jerusalem?" and so they are an address to the magistrates and inhabitants of Jerusalem.

They hold fast deceit; practise it, and continue in the practice of it, both with God and man:

they refuse to return: to the Lord, to his worship, and to the right ways of holiness and truth, from whence they had erred; see Jeremiah 5:3.

(b) "quare avertit hunc populum Hierosolyma aversione pertinaci? vel quare avertit populum hunc", O Jerusalem, "aversio pertinax?" De Dieu.

Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.
5. slidden back … backsliding … return] All three expressions are from the same root; “turn back … backturning … to return.”

Verse 5. - Slidden back... backsliding. The verb is the same verb (in another conjugation) as in Ver. 4, and the noun is a derivative from it. The Authorized Version, therefore, has slightly weakened the force of the argument. They hold fast deceit. They cling to a false view of their relation to their God (comp. Jeremiah 4:2; Jeremiah 5:2). Jeremiah 8:5The People's Obstinacy in Wickedness, and the Dreadfulness of the Judgment. - Since the people cleaves stedfastly to its sin (Jeremiah 8:4-13), the Lord must punish sorely (Jeremiah 8:14 -23). - Jeremiah 8:4-13. "And say to them, Thus hath the Lord said: Doth one fall, and not rise again? or doth one turn away, and not turn back again? Jeremiah 8:5. Why doth this people of Jerusalem turn itself away with a perpetual turning? They hold fast by deceit, they refuse to return. Jeremiah 8:6. I listened and heard: they speak not aright; no one repenteth him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? They all turn to their course again, like a horse rushing into the battle. Jeremiah 8:7. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and turtle-dove, and swallow, and crane, keep the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of Jahveh. Jeremiah 8:8. How can ye say, Wise are we, and the law of Jahve we have? Certainly the lying pen of the scribes hath made it a lie. Jeremiah 8:9. Ashamed the wise men become, confounded and taken; lo, the word of Jahveh they spurn at; and whose wisdom have they? Jeremiah 8:10. Therefore will I give their wives unto others, their fields to new heirs: for from the small to the great, they are all greedy for gain; from the prophet even unto the priest, they all use deceit. Jeremiah 8:11. And they heal the hurt of the daughter of my people as it were a light matter, saying, Peace, peace; and yet there is no peace. Jeremiah 8:12. They have been put to shame because they have done abomination; yet they take not shame to themselves, ashamedness they know not. Therefore they shall fall amongst them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall stumble, that Jahve said. Jeremiah 8:13. Away, away will I sweep them, saith Jahveh: no grapes on the vine, and no figs on the fig-tree, and the leaf is withered; so I appoint unto them those that shall pass over them."

This strophe connects itself with what precedes. A judgment, dreadful as has been described in Jeremiah 7:32-8:3, will come on Judah, because the people cleaves stiffneckedly to its sins. The ואמרתּ of Jeremiah 8:4 corresponds to that in Jeremiah 7:28. The questioning clauses in Jeremiah 8:4 contain universal truths, which are applied to the people of Judah in Jeremiah 8:5. The subjects to יפּלוּ and ישׁוּב are indefinite, hence singular and plural with like significance: cf. Gesen. 137, 3; Ew. 294, b. The verb ישׁוּב, turn oneself, turn about, is here used in a double sense: first, as turn away from one; and then turn towards him, return again. In the application in Jeremiah 8:5, the Pilel is used for to turn away from, and strengthened by: with perpetual turning away or backsliding. נצּחת is not partic. Niph. fem. from נצח, but an adjectival formation, continual, enduring, from נצח, continuance, durableness. "Jerusalem" belongs to "this people:" this people of Jerusalem; the loose grammatical connection by means of the stat. constr. not being maintained, if the first idea gives a sense intelligible by itself, so that the second noun may then be looked on rather in the light of an apposition conveying additional information; cf. Ew. 290, c. תּרמית, equivalent to מרמה, deceit against God. they refuse to return. Sense: they will not receive the truth, repent and return to God. The same idea is developed in Jeremiah 8:6. The first person: I have listened and heard, Hitz. insists, refers to the prophet, "who is justified as to all he said in Jeremiah 8:5 by what he has seen." But we cannot account that even an "apt" view of the case, which makes the prophet cite his own observations to show that God had not spoken without cause. It is Jahveh that speaks in Jeremiah 8:5; and seeing that Jeremiah 8:6 gives not the slightest hint of any change in the speaker, we are bound to take Jeremiah 8:6 also as spoken by God. Thus, to prove that they cleave unto deceit, Jahveh says that He has given heed to their deeds and habits, and heard how they speak the לוא־כן, the not right, i.e., lies and deceit. The next clause: not one repents him of his wickedness, corresponds to: they refuse to return; cf. Jeremiah 8:5 (נחם is partic.). Instead of this, the whole of it, i.e., all of them, turn again to their course. שׁוּב with ב, construed as in Hosea 12:7 : turn oneself to a thing, so as to enter into it. For מרוּצה, the sig. course is certified to by 2 Samuel 18:27. The Chet. מרצותם .tehC e is doubtless merely an error of transcription for מרוּצתם, as is demanded by the Keri. Turn again into their course. The thought is: instead of considering, of becoming repentant, they continue their evil courses. This, too, is substantially what Hitz. gives. Ros., Graf, and others, again, take this in the sense of turning themselves away in their course; but it is not fair to deduce this sense for שׁוּב without מן from Jeremiah 8:4; nor is the addition of "from me" justifiable. Besides, this explanation does not suit the following comparison with the horse. It is against analogy to derive מרצותם from רצה with the sig. desire, cupidity. Ew., following the Chald., adopts this sense both here and in Jeremiah 22:17 and Jeremiah 23:10, though it is not called for in any of these passages, and is unsuitable in Jeremiah 22:17. As a horse rusheth into the battle. שׁטף, pour forth, overflow, hence rush on impetuously; by Jerome rightly translated, cum impetu vadens. Several commentators compare the Latin se effundere (Caes. Bell. Gall. v. 19) and effundi (Liv. xxviii. 7); but the cases are not quite in point, since in both the words are used of the cavalry, and not of the steed by itself. This simile makes way for more in Jeremiah 8:7. Even the fowls under the heaven keep the time of their coming and departure, but Israel takes no concern for the judgment of its God; cf. Isaiah 1:3. חסידה, (avis) pia, is the stork, not the heron; see on Leviticus 11:19. "In the heaven" refers to the flight of the stork. All the birds mentioned here are birds of passage. תּור and סוּס are turtle-dove and pigeon. For סוּס the Masoretes read סיס, apparently to distinguish the word from that for horse; and so the oriental Codd. propose to read in Isaiah 38:14, although they wrote עגוּר .סוּס is the crane (acc. to Saad. and Rashi), both here and in Isaiah 38:14, where Gesen., Knob., and others, mistaking the asyndeton, take it as an adjective in the sig. sighing.

(Note: Starting from this unproved interpretation of Isaiah 38:14, and supporting their case from the lxx translation of the present passage, τρυγὼν καὶ χελιδὼν ἀγροῦ στρουθία, Hitz. and Graf argue that עגוּר is not the name of any particular bird, but only a qualifying word to סוּס, in order to distinguish the swallow from the horse, the sense more commonly attached to the same word. But that confused text of the lxx by no means justifies us in supposing that the ו cop. was introduced subsequently into the Heb. text. It is possible that ἁγροῦ is only a corrupt representation of עגוּר, and the στρουθία came into the lxx text in consequence of this corruption. but certainly the fact that the lxx, as also Aquil. and Symm., both here and in Isaiah 38:14, did not know what to make of the Hebrew word, and so transcribed it in Greek letters, leads us to conclude that these translators permitted themselves to be guided by Isaiah 38, and omitted here also the copula, which was there omitted before עגוּר.

מועדים are the fixed times for the arrival and departure of the birds of passage.

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