Jeremiah 9:25
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;
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(25) I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised.—The passage is difficult, but the English verse is misleading. Better, I will punish all those that are circumcised in uncircumcision—all, i.e., who have the outward sign, but not the inward purity of which it was the symbol. In the day of God’s judgments (this being the connecting link with the preceding verse) there would be no difference between the Jew and other races who like him practised circumcision on the one hand, and the outlying heathen world on the other. Here, again, Jeremiah anticipated St. Paul, “To the Jew first, and also to the Gentile; for there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:9). The true circumcision is that which is “in the spirit, not in the letter” (Romans 2:29).

Jeremiah 9:25-26. Behold the days come, &c. — Blaney translates these two verses, “Behold, the days are coming, saith Jehovah, that I will punish all the circumcision with the uncircumcision; Egypt, &c., and all those that have their coast insulated, those that dwell in the wilderness: for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.” The Greek word ακροβυσια, which properly means uncircumcision, is several times used by St. Paul for the persons who are uncircumcised, as περιτομη, circumcision, is put for persons circumcised. See Romans 2:26-27; Romans 3:30. Because the Jews valued themselves so much upon their circumcision, God here tells them that, when he should send his judgments abroad into the world, they should find no more favour than those that were not circumcised; and, accordingly, in mentioning the heathen nations whom he would punish, he places Judah among them, because they were, in effect, uncircumcised as well as the heathen, contenting themselves with the outward sign of circumcision in the flesh, without seeking that internal circumcision, which is of the heart and spirit, and the purification and holiness signified thereby. By those that have their coast insulated, as Blaney renders one of the clauses of Jeremiah 9:26, he supposes the Arabians are designed, which he thinks may be fairly concluded from the connection in which the same words. קצוצי פאה, stand with the context, in Jeremiah 49:32. Concerning the precise meaning, however, of these words, he justly observes, “interpreters differ very greatly. Some represent them as signifying persons cut off from other people, by being thrust into a remote corner; in which light the translators of our Bible appear to have considered them, when they rendered them in the text, All that are in the utmost corners, and in the margin, cut off into corners. But all the ancient versions understand them as expressing the peculiar manner in which the Arabians cut the hair of their heads or beards,” expressed also in our marginal reading; which reading, Dr. Durel says, ought doubtless to be received into the text; the Arabs, who are meant, he thinks, by this periphrasis, being accustomed to cut their hair short, particularly about the crown of the head; and in respect to their beards, leaving only a tuft of hair growing about their chins; a practice which was forbidden to the Jews, Leviticus 19:27. But it seems much more probable that the words have a respect to the peninsular form of the country, surrounded on all sides by the sea, excepting only the isthmus to the north; and thus almost insulated, or cut off, from any other land.

9:23-26 In this world of sin and sorrow, ending soon in death and judgement, how foolish for men to glory in their knowledge, health, strength, riches, or in any thing which leaves them under the dominion of sin and the wrath of God! and of which an account must hereafter be rendered; it will but increase their misery. Those are the true Israel who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Let us prize the distinction which comes from God, and will last for ever. Let us seek it diligently.All them which are circumcised ... - Rather, "all circumcised in uncircumcision," i. e., all who though outwardly circumcised have no corresponding inward purity. 25. with the uncircumcised—rather, "all that are circumcised in uncircumcision" [Henderson]. The Hebrew is an abstract term, not a concrete, as English Version translates, and as the pious "circumcised" is. The nations specified, Egypt, Judah, &c., were outwardly "circumcised," but in heart were "uncircumcised." The heathen nations were defiled, in spite of their literal circumcision, by idolatry. The Jews, with all their glorying in their spiritual privileges, were no better (Jer 4:4; De 10:16; 30:6; Ro 2:28, 29; Col 2:11). However, Eze 31:18; 32:19, may imply that the Egyptians were uncircumcised; and it is uncertain as to the other nations specified whether they were at that early time circumcised. Herodotus says the Egyptians were so; but others think this applies only to the priests and others having a sacred character, not to the mass of the nation; so English Version may be right (Ro 2:28, 29). I will punish, viz. by the Babylonians, all them which are circumcised: q.d. Do not think to insist upon your external privilege of circumcision, that you are Abraham’s natural seed, and thereby distinguished from other nations, as you sometimes were wont to do of the temple, that you had God in the midst of you. Do not think that shall privilege you: for you shall see it shall not be long ere I bring the Chaldeans upon those other nations, which either are circumcised in the flesh as well as you, and upon you also, who are uncircumcised in heart as well as they: or whether circumcision was lost, as being cast off by them, and so they were indeed uncircumcised; God tells them they shall fare alike: hence in the next verse he ranks Judah next to Egypt among the other uncircumcised nations; for he looks to the circumcision of the heart, not of the body; to inward worship, not outward only; therefore some read it the circumcised in uncirumcision.

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,.... Or, "are coming" (h); it seems to respect the time after the Babylonish captivity, when the punishment after threatened took place, and not before:

that I will punish all them that are circumcised with the uncircumcised; Jews and Gentiles together. The circumcised. Jews trusting in their circumcision, and being, as is said in the next verse, uncircumcised in heart, were no better than the uncircumcised Gentiles; wherefore both being transgressors of the law, and despisers of the Gospel of Christ, are threatened with destruction; see Romans 2:12.

(h) "dies sunt venientes", Schmidt, Montanus; "venturi sunt", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them who are {t} circumcised with the uncircumcised;

(t) Meaning, both Jews and Gentiles, as in this next verse he shows the cause, Jer 4:4.

25, 26. circumcised in their uncircumcision] probably meaning circumcised in body but not in heart. “Judah cannot rely on a rite which she shares with the heathen, indeed the corresponding inward circumcision is as lacking in her as in them,” Pe. See on Jeremiah 4:4. The statements in Jeremiah 9:26 are confirmed as to Egypt by Joshua 5:9 (where “reproach of Egypt” means that the Egyptians would despise them as long as they remained uncircumcised), and by Herod. II. 104. The other nations, as tracing their descent from Abraham, would naturally observe the rite; so too the Arabians, as claiming Ishmael (see Genesis 17:23 ff.) for ancestor. Josephus (Ant. I. xii. 2) also testifies as to these last. The Philistines, on the other hand, are frequently designated contemptuously as uncircumcised (e.g. 1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Samuel 17:26).

that have the corners of their hair polled] i.e. cut off from the temples. See also Jeremiah 25:23, Jeremiah 49:32. According to Herod. (III. 8) it had a religious significance with certain Arab tribes. Hence its prohibition in Leviticus 19:27.

the wilderness] the desert of Arabia, eastward of Palestine.

all the nations are uncircumcised] The true circumcision of the heart is as much lacking with them as with Judah.

Verses 25, 26. - A further enforcement of the doctrine that no outward privileges, if dissociated from inward moral vitality, will avail. Verse 25. - All them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised; rather, all the circumcised in uncircumcision, or, as Ewald turns it, "all the uncircumcised-circumcised." But what does this enigmatical expression signify? Hitzig, Graf, and apparently Dr. Payne Smith, think that it has a twofold meaning: that, as applied to the Jews, it means circumcised in the flesh, but not in heart, and, as applied to the heathen, simply uncircumcised (the one-half of the phrase neutralizing the other, like "a knife without the blade," "angels with horns and hoofs," etc.). The latter meaning, however, is surely very improbable, and it would only become necessary if it were proved that circumcision was practiced by none of the nations mentioned but the Jews. This is not the case. There is no doubt that the Egyptians were circumcised in very early times (see the drawing of a bas-relief in the Temple of Chunsu at Karnak, given by Dr. Ebers in his 'Egypten und die Bucher Meets'). The assertion that only the priests underwent the operation has no older evidence than that of Origen (edit. Lommatzsch, 4:138), "in whose time it is quite possible that the Egyptians, like the later Jews, sought to evade a peculiarity which exposed them to ridicule and contempt." As to the Ammonites and Moabites, we have, unfortunately, no information. With regard to the Edomites, it is true that, according to Josephus ('Antiq.,' 13:9, 1), they were compelled to accept circumcision by John Hyrcanus. But it is still quite possible that, at an earlier period, the rite was practiced, just as it was among the ancient Arabs, the evidence for which is beyond question (see the writer's article, "Circumcision," in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th edit.). (On the statement that "all these [the] nations are uncircumcised," see below.) Jeremiah 9:25(Jeremiah 9:24-25)

Thus Jeremiah 9:24 and Jeremiah 9:25 are connected with what precedes. The lack of righteousness is indicated by the idea מוּל בּערלה: circumcised with foreskin, i.e., not, circumcised in the foreskin (lxx, Vulg.), but circumcised and yet possessed of the foreskin. It is incorrect to translate: circumcised together with the uncircumcised (Kimchi, de W.). This is not only contrary to the usage of the language, but inconsistent with the context, since in Jeremiah 9:25 uncircumcisedness is predicated of the heathen and of Judah. The expression is an oxymoron, thus: uncircumcised-circumcised (Ew.), intended to gather Jews and heathen into one category. This is shown by the order of the enumeration in Jeremiah 9:24 : Egypt, Judah, Edom, etc.; whence we may see that in this reference the prophet puts Judah on the same footing with the heathen, with the Egyptians, Edomites, etc., and so mentions Judah between Egypt and Edom. From the enumeration Ew. and Ng., following the example of Jerome,

(Note: Jerome writes: multarum ex quadam parte gentium, et maxime quae Judaeae Palaestinaeque confines sunt, usque hodie populi circumciduntur, et praecipue Aegyptii et Idumaei, Ammonitae et Moabitae et omnis regio Saracenorum, quae habitat in solitudine.)

conclude that all the peoples named along with Judah practised circumcision. But neither on exegetical nor on historical grounds can this be confidently asserted. Considered from the exegetical point of view, it is contradictory of the direct statement in Jeremiah 9:25, that all the nations are uncircumcised. We must certainly not take the words כּל־הגּוים as: all these peoples, giving the article then the force of a retrospective demonstrative; still less can they mean "all the other nations" besides those named. "All the nations" are all nations besides Israel. When these are called "uncircumcised," and Israel "uncircumcised in heart," it is as clear as can be that all nations, and so Egyptians, Edomites, etc., are called uncircumcised, i.e., in the flesh; while Israel - the whole house of Israel, i.e., Judah and the other tribes - are set over against the nations in contrast to them as being uncircumcised in heart, i.e., spiritually. From the historical view-point, too, it is impossible to prove that circumcision was in use amongst all the nations mentioned along with Judah. Only of the Egyptians does Herod. ii. 36f., 104, record that they practised circumcision; and if we accept the testimony of all other ancient authors, Herod.'s statement concerns only the priests and those initiated into the mysteries of Egypt, not the Egyptian people as a whole; cf. my Bibl. Archol. i. S. 307f. The only ground for attributing the custom of circumcision to the Moabites and Arabs, is the fact that Esau and Ishmael, the ancestors of these peoples, were circumcised. But the inference drawn therefrom is not supported by historical testimony. Indeed, so far as the Edomites are concerned, Josephus testifies directly the contrary, since in Antt. xiii. 9. 1, he tells us that when John Hyrcanus had conquered this people, he offered them the choice of forsaking their country or adopting circumcision, and that they chose the latter alternative. As to the ancient Arabs, we find in the Ztschr. fr die Kunde des Morgl. iii. S. 230, a notice of the tribe 'Advân, where we are told that the warriors of this tribe consist of uncircumcised young men along with those already circumcised. But this gives us no certain testimony to the universal prevalence of circumcision; for the notice comes from a work in which pre-and post-Mohammedan traditions are confounded. Finally, there is no historical trace of the custom of circumcision amongst the Ammonites and Moabites. קצוּצי פאה here, and Jeremiah 25:23; Jeremiah 49:32 : those polled, cropped at the edges of the beard and sides of the head, are such as have the hair cut from off the temples and the forehead, observing a custom which, according to Herod. iii.8,

(Note: Τῶν τριχῶν τὴν κουρὴν κείρεσθαί φασι, καθάπερ αὐτὸν τὸν Διόνυσον κεκάρθαι, κείρονται δὲ ὑποτρόχαλα περιξηροῦντες τοὺς κροτάφους.)

was usual amongst some of the tribes of the Arabian Desert. The imitation of this practice was forbidden to the Israelites by the law, Leviticus 19:27; from which passage we may see that פאה refers to the head and the beard. Acc. to Jeremiah 49:32, cf. with v. 28, the tribes meant belonged to the Kedarenes, descended according to Genesis 25:13 from Ishmael. In the wilderness, i.e., the Arabian Desert to the east of Palestine. By means of the predicate "uncircumcised in heart," the whole house of Israel, i.e., the whole covenant people, is put in contrast with the heathen. Circumcision involved the obligation to walk blameless before God (Genesis 17:1), and, as sign of the covenant, to keep God's commandments. If this condition was not fulfilled, if the heart remained uncircumcised, Israel lost all pre-eminence over the heathen, and was devoid of all room for glorying in the sight of God, just as the heathen were, who know not God the Lord, who have turned the truth of God into unrighteousness, and in their unrighteousness have become liable to the judgment of God.

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