William Kelly Major Works Commentary
They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.Jeremiah Chapter 3
Jeremiah 3. God, however, is nowhere more Himself than in His pitiful mercy to His fallen people. A man could not take back the wife who had deserted him for another. "Israel had committed fornication with many lovers: yet return again to me, saith the Lord." He points out their frequent and shameless unfaithfulness, calling Him withal the father and guide of their youth. But whatever they said, they persevered in evil-doing. (Ver. 1-5.) Israel's uncleanness was notorious, and God had called her back in vain; but Judah was yet more treacherous, despised the warning with better knowledge, and sinned yet more audaciously. (Ver. 6-11.)
In the face of all the prophet is bid say, "Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for 1 am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for 1 am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: and I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. At that time they shall Jerusalem the throne of God; and all the nations shall be gathered into it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers." (Ver. 12-18.) It is in vain to refer such language as this to the past. Such interpretations not only mislead as to the drift of the passage itself, but do the far greater damage of enfeebling all Scripture in the eyes of those who accept them. For if God can exaggerate or fail as to the one point, how can His word be trusted absolutely anywhere else? Apply such a prediction to the future, when, beginning with ever so small a gathering from this or that place, God will bring back His people to Zion, and the new order will far outshine the past, and Jerusalem be His throne, a centre for all nations, and the long-divided houses of Judah and Israel be re-united once more and for ever, not in another world, or after a mystical sort, but in the land given for an inheritance to their fathers. But it will be no mere external resuscitation of Israel. They will truly repent and cleave to the lord with purpose of heart. (Ver. 12-19.)
The rest of this chapter (Ver. 20-25.) resumes the appeal to the conscience of the people; and the prophet replies in their name with a confession of their sins.
Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.
Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.
Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?
Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.
The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.
And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.
And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.
And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.
And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.
Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.
Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD.
Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.
At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.
But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me.
Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD.
A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God.
Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God.
Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.
For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.
We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.