Jeremiah 12
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?

Jer 12:1-17. Continuation of the Subject at the Close of the Eleventh Chapter.

He ventures to expostulate with Jehovah as to the prosperity of the wicked, who had plotted against his life (Jer 12:1-4); in reply he is told that he will have worse to endure, and that from his own relatives (Jer 12:5, 6). The heaviest judgments, however, would be inflicted on the faithless people (Jer 12:7-13); and then on the nations co-operating with the Chaldeans against Judah, with, however, a promise of mercy on repentance (Jer 12:14-17).

1. (Ps 51:4).

let me talk, &c.—only let me reason the case with Thee: inquire of Thee the causes why such wicked men as these plotters against my life prosper (compare Job 12:6; 21:7; Ps 37:1, 35; 73:3; Mal 3:15). It is right, when hard thoughts of God's providence suggest themselves, to fortify our minds by justifying God beforehand (as did Jeremiah), even before we hear the reasons of His dealings.

Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.
2. grow—literally, "go on," "progress." Thou givest them sure dwellings and increasing prosperity.

near in … mouth … far from … reins—(Isa 29:13; Mt 15:8). Hypocrites.

But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.
3. knowest me—(Ps 139:1).

tried … heart—(Jer 11:20).

toward thee—rather, "with Thee," that is, entirely devoted to Thee; contrasted with the hypocrites (Jer 12:2), "near in … mouth, and far from … reins." This being so, how is it that I fare so ill, they so well?

pull … out—containing the metaphor, from a "rooted tree" (Jer 12:2).

prepare—literally, "separate," or "set apart as devoted."

day of slaughter—(Jas 5:5).

How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.
4. land mourn—personification (Jer 14:2; 23:10).

for the wickedness—(Ps 107:34).

beasts—(Ho 4:3).

He shall not see our last end—Jehovah knows not what is about to happen to us (Jer 5:12) [Rosenmuller]. So the Septuagint. (Ps 10:11; Eze 8:12; 9:9). Rather, "The prophet (Jeremiah, to whom the whole context refers) shall not see our last end." We need not trouble ourselves about his boding predictions. We shall not be destroyed as he says (Jer 5:12, 13).

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?
5. Jehovah's reply to Jeremiah's complaint.

horses—that is, horsemen: the argument a fortiori. A proverbial phrase. The injuries done thee by the men of Anathoth ("the footmen") are small compared with those which the men of Jerusalem ("the horsemen") are about to inflict on thee. If the former weary thee out, how wilt thou contend with the king, the court, and the priests at Jerusalem?

wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee—English Version thus fills up the sentence with the italicized words, to answer to the parallel clause in the first sentence of the verse. The parallelism is, however, sufficiently retained with a less ellipsis: "If (it is only) in a land of peace thou art confident" [Maurer].

swelling of Jordan—In harvest-time and earlier (April and May) it overflows its banks (Jos 3:15), and fills the valley called the Ghor. Or, "the pride of Jordan," namely, its wooded banks abounding in lions and other wild beasts (Jer 49:19; 50:44; Zec 11:3; compare 2Ki 6:2). Maundrell says that between the Sea of Tiberias and Lake Merom the banks are so wooded that the traveller cannot see the river at all without first passing through the woods. If in the champaign country (alone) thou art secure, how wilt thou do when thou fallest into the wooded haunts of wild beasts?

For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.
6. even thy brethren—as in Christ's case (Ps 69:8; Joh 1:11; 7:5; compare Jer 9:4; 11:19, 21; Mt 10:36). Godly faithfulness is sure to provoke the ungodly, even of one's own family.

called a multitude after thee—(Isa 31:4). Jerome translates, "cry after thee with a loud (literally, 'full') voice."

believe … not … though … speak fair—(Pr 26:25).

I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies.
7. I have forsaken—Jehovah will forsake His temple and the people peculiarly His. The mention of God's close tie to them, as heretofore His, aggravates their ingratitude, and shows that their past spiritual privileges will not prevent God from punishing them.

beloved of my soul—image from a wife (Jer 11:15; Isa 54:5).

Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me: therefore have I hated it.
8. is unto me—is become unto Me: behaves towards Me as a lion which roars against a man, so that he withdraws from the place where he hears it: so I withdrew from My people, once beloved, but now an object of abhorrence because of their rebellious cries against Me.
Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.
9. speckled bird—Many translate, "a ravenous beast, the hyena"; the corresponding Arabic word means hyena; so the Septuagint. But the Hebrew always elsewhere means "a bird of prey." The Hebrew for "speckled" is from a root "to color"; answering to the Jewish blending together with paganism the altogether diverse Mosaic ritual. The neighboring nations, birds of prey like herself (for she had sinfully assimilated herself to them), were ready to pounce upon her.

assemble … beasts of … field—The Chaldeans are told to gather the surrounding heathen peoples as allies against Judah (Isa 56:9; Eze 34:5).

Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
10. pastors—the Babylonian leaders (compare Jer 12:12; Jer 6:3).

my vineyard—(Isa 5:1, 5).

trodden my portion—(Isa 63:18).

They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.
11. mourneth unto me—that is, before Me. Eichorn translates, "by reason of Me," because I have given it to desolation (Jer 12:7).

because no man layeth it to heart—because none by repentance and prayer seek to deprecate God's wrath. Or, "yet none lays it to heart"; as in Jer 5:3 [Calvin].

The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness: for the sword of the LORD shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land: no flesh shall have peace.
12. high places—Before, He had threatened the plains; now, the hills.

wilderness—not an uninhabited desert, but high lands of pasturage, lying between Judea and Chaldea (Jer 4:11).

They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns: they have put themselves to pain, but shall not profit: and they shall be ashamed of your revenues because of the fierce anger of the LORD.
13. Description in detail of the devastation of the land (Mic 6:15).

they shall be ashamed of your—The change of persons, in passing from indirect to direct address, is frequent in the prophets. Equivalent to, "Ye shall be put to the shame of disappointment at the smallness of your produce."

Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them.
14-17. Prophecy as to the surrounding nations, the Syrians, Ammonites, &c., who helped forward Judah's calamity: they shall share her fall; and, on their conversion, they shall share with her in the future restoration. This is a brief anticipation of the predictions in the forty-seventh, forty-eighth, and forty-ninth chapters.

touch—(Zec 2:8).

pluck them out … pluck out … Judah—(Compare end of Jer 12:16). During the thirteen years that the Babylonians besieged Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar, after subduing C´┐Żlo-Syria, brought Ammon, Moab, &c., and finally Egypt, into subjection [Josephus, Antiquities, 10:9.7]. On the restoration of these nations, they were to exchange places with the Jews. The latter were now in the midst of them, but on their restoration they were to be "in the midst of the Jews," that is, as proselytes to the true God (compare Mic 5:7; Zec 14:16). "Pluck them," namely, the Gentile nations: in a bad sense. "Pluck Judah": in a good sense; used to express the force which was needed to snatch Judah from the tyranny of those nations by whom they had been made captives, or to whom they had fled; otherwise they never would have let Judah go. Previously he had been forbidden to pray for the mass of the Jewish people. But here he speaks consolation to the elect remnant among them. Whatever the Jews might be, God keeps His covenant.

And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.
15. A promise, applying to Judah, as well as to the nations specified (Am 9:14). As to Moab, compare Jer 48:47; as to Ammon, Jer 49:6.
And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.
16. swear by my name—(Jer 4:2; Isa 19:18; 65:16); that is, confess solemnly the true God.

built—be made spiritually and temporally prosperous: fixed in sure habitations (compare Jer 24:6; 42:10; 45:4; Ps 87:4, 5; Eph 2:20, 21; 1Pe 2:5).

But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the LORD.
17. (Isa 60:12).
A Commentary, Critical, Practical, and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown [1882]

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