Jeremiah 9:26
Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.
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(26) Egypt, and Judah . . .—The nations enumerated were all alike, the Egyptians certainly (Herod. ii. 36, 37), and the others, as belonging to the same race as Judah, probably, in the fact of circumcision, and are apparently brought together not without some touch of scornful humour. How could Israel pride itself in that which it had in common with some of the nations that it most abhorred. The later Idumaeans seem to have abandoned the practice till it was forced upon them by John Hyrcanus (Joseph., Ant. xi. 9, 15:7). Jerome (in loc.) affirms that the nations named practised circumcision in his time, and its adoption by Islam indicates its prevalence among the Arabs in that of Mahomet.

All that are in the utmost corners.—Better, all that have the corners (of their temples) shorn. The epithet, like our “cross-eared” or “round-head,” was obviously one of scorn, and was applied (as again in Jeremiah 25:23; Jeremiah 49:32) to a wild Arabian tribe who, as described by Herodotus (3:8), shaved their temples and let their hair grow long behind. The “wilderness” is the Arabian desert to the east of Palestine, inhabited by the Ishmaelites and other kindred races. As if to complete the contempt which he pours on circumcision, the prophet speaks of the barbarous people, whose customs were specially forbidden to Israel (Leviticus 19:27), as in this respect standing on the same level with Israel. If circumcision by itself were enough to secure immunity from judgment, they too, as practising a rite analogous though not identical, might claim it.

All these nations are uncircumcised.—The English Version makes the prophet say exactly the opposite of what he really said. All the heathen (not “these nations”) are in God’s sight as uncircumcised, whether they practise the outward rite or not—and the state of Israel was not a whit better than theirs, for she too was uncircumcised in heart. Once again Jeremiah is the forerunner of St. Paul’s Romans 2:25-29. It may be noted that the same nations are enumerated afterwards as coming under Nebuchadnezzar’s conquests (Jeremiah 25:23).

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 that are in the utmost corners - Really, all who have the corners of their hair shorn. The people meant are those Arabs who cut the hair close upon the forehead and temples, but let it grow long behind. See Leviticus 19:27.

For all these nations are uncircumcised - Or, "for all the pagan are uncircumcised." circumcision probably prevailed partially in the pagan mysteries as a sign of special sanctity, but to the Jews alone it represented their covenant-relation to God.

26. Egypt—put first to degrade Judah, who, though in privileges above the Gentiles, by unfaithfulness sank below them. Egypt, too, was the power in which the Jews were so prone to trust, and by whose instigation they, as well as the other peoples specified, revolted from Babylon.

in the utmost corners—rather, "having the hair shaven (or clipped) in angles," that is, having the beard on the cheek narrowed or cut: a Canaanitish custom, forbidden to the Israelites (Le 19:27; 21:5). The Arabs are hereby referred to (compare Jer 25:23; 49:32), as the words in apposition show, "that dwell in the wilderness."

uncircumcised … uncircumcised in the heart—The addition of "in the heart" in Israel's case marks its greater guilt in proportion to its greater privileges, as compared with the rest.

In the utmost corners: some refer this to the place of their habitation, as in corners, and remote parts of the wilderness, as it were separated from other nations, and therefore might think themselves furthest remote from danger; but some rather choose to refer it to their manners, as in cutting the corners of their hair, which was forbidden the Jews, Leviticus 19:27. The like description in Jeremiah 25:23.

Uncircumcised in the heart: see the foregoing verse. God regards not the outward sign, but principally respects the circumcision of the heart. Here ends that sermon that began at Jer. vii.

Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab,.... Places and people among which the Jews were dispersed, and whose punishment is predicted in Jeremiah chapters forty six through forty nine, and whose countries are now under the dominion of the Turks: (h).

and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness; who dwelt in the desert of Arabia; these, according to Kimchi, were the Kedarenes, and the kingdoms of Hazor, a people that dwelt in the utmost corners, whom Nebuchadnezzar smote, as Jeremiah foretold, Jeremiah 49:28. Jarchi's note is,

"them that are cut off in a corner of the wilderness;''

that live by themselves, and have no communication with other people; were at the greatest distance, and secure; dwelt alone, and had neither gates nor bars, as is said of the same people, Jeremiah 49:31. The Septuagint version is, "upon everyone that shaves what is about his face, that dwells in the wilderness"; and so the Syriac and Arabic versions; to which agrees the Targum,

"upon all that round the corners of the head, that dwell in habitations in the wilderness,''

The Arabians used to shave the extreme hairs of the head round about, as the forehead, temples, and behind the ears, which are the corners of the head; so Herodotus (i) reports of them, who seem to be meant here; though some think the Jews are intended, to whom this was forbidden, Leviticus 19:27,

for all these nations are uncircumcised; in the flesh; though they were not punished on this account, because it was not commanded them, as Kimchi observes; but is mentioned to show that the Jews were no better than they, though circumcised, and that they should be punished together:

and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart; had not the circumcision made without hands; or were not circumcised in heart, to love the Lord, fear and serve him; the foreskin of their flesh taken off availed not so long as that on their heart remained, and they were stupid, impenitent, and disobedient.

(h) Written about 1750. Editor. (i) In Thalia, vel l. 3. c. 8.

Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.
Verse 26. - All that are in the utmost corners; rather, all that are corner-clipped; i.e. that have the hair cut off about the ears and temples. Herodotus tells us, speaking of the Arabs, "Their practice is to cut the hair in a ring, away from the temples" (3:8); and among the representatives of various nations, colored figures of whom are given in the tomb of Rameses III., we find some with a square place shaved just above the temples. The hair below this shaven place was allowed to grow long, and then plaited into a leek. It is to such customs that Jeremiah alludes here and in Jeremiah 25:23; Jeremiah 49:32. A prohibition is directed against them in the Levitical Law (Leviticus 19:27; Leviticus 21:5). For all these nations are uncircumcised; rather, all the nations, etc. Another obscure expression. Does it mean (taken together with the following clause), "The Gentile peoples are uncircumcised in the flesh, and the people of Israel is equally so in heart?" But this does not agree with facts (see above, on Ver. 25). It is safer, therefore, to assume that "uncircumcised" is equivalent to "circumcised in uncircumcision" (Ver. 25). The next clause will then simply give the most conspicuous instance of this unspiritual obedience to a mere form.

Jeremiah 9:26(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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