Lamentations 2:14
Your prophets have seen vain and foolish things for you: and they have not discovered your iniquity, to turn away your captivity; but have seen for you false burdens and causes of banishment.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things.—The words are eminently characteristic of Jeremiah, whose whole life had been spent in conflict with the false prophets (Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 5:13; Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 8:10; Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 28:9, and elsewhere), who spoke smooth things, and prophesied deceit. They did not call men to repent of their iniquity.

False burdens.—The noun is used, as in Jeremiah 23:33, with a touch of irony, as being that in which the false prophets delighted. What they uttered, however, as a vision of God, did not tend to restoration, but was itself a “cause of banishment,” and tended to perpetuate and aggravate the miseries of exile.

Lamentations 2:14. Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things — The prophets, to whom thou didst choose to hearken, and whom thou didst believe, rather than those whom God sent to reveal his will, came and told thee idle tales, the fancies of their own minds, deluding thee with hopes of not being carried into captivity, or of a speedy return therefrom. They have not discovered thine iniquity, &c. — They have not given thy people a just sense of their iniquities, in order that, by being humbled and brought to true repentance, they might avert God’s judgments, but they have rather flattered them in their sins, and thereby have hastened on their ruin: see the margin. But have seen for thee false burdens — They have amused thee with false and fallacious prophecies, and that even after, as well as before, they were carried into captivity; (see Jeremiah 29:8, &c.;) and causes of banishment — Hebrew, מדוחים, of casting out, of expulsion, as the word properly signifies: that is, their pretended revelations, promising peace, and giving hopes of impunity to thy people continuing in sin, were so far from profiting thee, that they were in a great measure the causes of thy captivity. Why prophecies are termed משׂאות, burdens, see notes on Isaiah 13:1, and Jeremiah 23:33.2:10-22 Causes for lamentation are described. Multitudes perished by famine. Even little children were slain by their mother's hands, and eaten, according to the threatening, De 28:53. Multitudes fell by the sword. Their false prophets deceived them. And their neighbours laughed at them. It is a great sin to jest at others' miseries, and adds much affliction to the afflicted. Their enemies triumphed over them. The enemies of the church are apt to take its shocks for its ruins; but they will find themselves deceived. Calls to lamentation are given; and comforts for the cure of these lamentations are sought. Prayer is a salve for every sore, even the sorest; a remedy for every malady, even the most grievous. Our business in prayer is to refer our case to the Lord, and leave it with him. His will be done. Let us fear God, and walk humbly before him, and take heed lest we fall.Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee - The Septuagint and Vulgate give the true meaning, "stupidity" (see Jeremiah 23:13 note).

To turn away thy captivity - The right sense is, "They have not disclosed to thee thy sins, that so thou mightest repent, and I might have turned away thy captivity."

Burdens - Applied contemptuously to predictions which proved "false" or "empty," i. e. failed of accomplishment. On the deduction to be drawn from this, see Jeremiah 28:9.

Causes of banishment - The result of the teaching of the false prophets would be that God would "drive out" the Jews from their land.

Some render the words "false ... banishment" by "oracles of falsehood and seduction."

14. Thy prophets—not God's (Jer 23:26).

vain … for thee—to gratify thy appetite, not for truth, but for false things.

not discovered thine iniquity—in opposition to God's command to the true prophets (Isa 58:1). Literally, "They have not taken off (the veil) which was on thine iniquity, so as to set it before thee."

burdens—Their prophecies were soothing and flattering; but the result of them was heavy calamities to the people, worse than even what the prophecies of Jeremiah, which they in derision called "burdens," threatened. Hence he terms their pretended prophecies "false burdens," which proved to the Jews "causes of their banishment" [Calvin].

Samech.

Not the Lord’s prophets in thee, but those prophets to whom you chose rather to hearken, and whom you believed rather than me and others sent by God to reveal his will unto you, came and told you idle and vain stories, that those who were carried into captivity should after two years return, &c. And by telling you such smooth and pleasant things, tickled your humours instead of discovering your sins, which were bringing these judgments upon you; whereas they ought to have dealt freely and faithfully with you, and have made you sensible of your sins, and this might have prevented your miserable captivity. But they rather spent their breath in telling you false stories to encourage you in your sinful courses, and so proved to you the causes of your banishment; or else they told you false stories, which they pretended to be the causes of the captivity of your brethren, in the mean time concealing the true causes, and suffering you to run on in the same errors, till you came to be more miserable than those that went into captivity before you. Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee,.... Not the prophets of the Lord; but false prophets, as the Targum; which were of the people's choosing, and were acceptable to them; prophets after their own hearts, because they prophesied smooth things, such as they liked; though in the issue they proved "vain" and "foolish", idle stories, impertinent talk, the fictions of their own brains; and yet they pretended to have visions of them from the Lord; as that within two years Jeconiah, and all the vessels of the temple carried away by the king of Babylon, should be returned; and that he would not come against Jerusalem, nor should it be delivered into his hands; see Jeremiah 28:2;

and they have not discovered thine iniquity: they did not tell them of their sins; they took no pains to convince them of them, but connived at them; instead of reproving them for them, they soothed them in them; they did not "remove" the covering that was "over their iniquity" (u), as it might be rendered; which they might easily have done, and laid their sirs to open view: whereby they might have been ashamed of them, and brought to repentance for them. The Targum is,

"neither have they manifested the punishment that should come upon thee for thy sins;''

but, on the contrary, told them it should not come upon them; had they dealt faithfully with them, by showing them their transgressions, and the consequences of them, they might have been a means of preventing their ruin: and, as it here follows,

to turn away thy captivity; either to turn them from their backslidings and wanderings about, as Jarchi; or to turn them by repentance, as the Targum; or to prevent their going into captivity:

but have seen for thee false burdens, and causes of banishment; that is, false prophecies against Babylon, and in favour of the Jews; prophecies, even those that are true, being often called "burdens", as the "burden of Egypt", and "the burden of Damascus", &c. and the rather this name is here given to those false prophecies because the prophecies of Jeremiah were reproached by them with it, Jeremiah 23:33, &c. and because these proved in the issue burdensome, sad, and sorrowful ones though they once tickled and pleased; and were the cause of the people's going into exile and captivity they listening to them: or they were "depulsions" or "expulsions" (w); drivings, that drove them from the right way; from God and his worship; from his word and prophets; and, at last, the means of driving them out of their own land; of impelling them to sin, and so of expelling them from their own country. The Targum renders it,

"words of error.''

(u) "et non revelarunt legmen pravitati tuae impositum", Christ. Ben. Miehaelis. (w) , Sept. "et expulsiones", Montanus, Vatablus, Calvin; "et ad depulsionem spectantium", Junius & Tremellius; "depulsiones, expulsiones", Stockius, p. 649.

Thy prophets have {k} seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not revealed thy iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.

(k) Because the false prophets called themselves seers, as the others were called, therefore he shows that they saw amiss because they did not reprove the people's faults, but flattered them in their sins, which was the cause of their destruction.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. The thought that the false prophets are worthy of condemnation for buoying the people up with vain hopes is distinctly in Jeremiah’s manner (cp. Ezekiel 12:24; Ezekiel 13:6 f., Ezekiel 22:28). It is true that we here wholly lack the vehement rebukes which he administered to the people and the priests for their disloyalty to Jehovah. But it is not necessarily fatal to the prophet’s authorship that the writer bestows unqualified pity on his fellow-countrymen. We can hardly look for invective in a sorrowful lament.

foolishness] i.e. what is meaningless, worthless.

discovered] uncovered, revealed (to thee), a sense now obsolete. Cp.

“Go, draw aside the curtains, and discover

The several caskets to this noble prince.”

Merch. of Ven. Act II. Sc. 7.

to bring again thy captivity] See on Jeremiah 29:14.

burdens (better as mg. oracles) of vanity] i.e. false oracles. See on Jeremiah 23:33 ff.

causes of banishment] or (less well) mg. things to draw thee aside, i.e. from Jehovah to idols. The Heb. word for “banishment” is not elsewhere found. It here points to the consequences which followed the teaching of the false prophets. Cp. Jeremiah 27:10; Jeremiah 27:15.Verse 14. - Thy prophets. Jeremiah constantly inveighs against the fallacious, immoral preaching of the great mass of his prophetic contemporaries (comp. Jeremiah 6:13, 14; Jeremiah 14:13-15; Jeremiah 23:14-40). Have seen vain and foolish things; i.e. have announced "visions" (prophecies) of an unreal and irrational tenor. Comp. Jeremiah 23:13, where the same word here paraphrased as "irrational" (literally, insipid) occurs. Discovered; i.e. disclosed. To turn away thy captivity. The Captivity, then, might have been "turned away," if the other prophets had, like Jeremiah, disclosed the true spiritual state of the people, and moved them to repentance. False burdens. Suggestive references to these false prophecies occur in Jeremiah 14:13, 14; Jeremiah 23:31, 32 (see the Exposition on these passages). Causes of banishment. So Jeremiah (Jeremiah 27:10; comp. 15), "They prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land." The lament over the destruction of the kingdom concludes, in Lamentations 2:8, Lamentations 2:9, by mentioning that the walls of Jerusalem are destroyed; with this the Chaldeans ended the work of demolition. The expression חשׁב יהוה represents this as the execution of a divine decree, - a turn which forms an appropriate introduction to the close of the work of destruction. "Raschi makes the following remark concerning this: a longo inde tempore, in animum induxerat, hanc urbem vastare secundum illud quod Jeremiah 32:31 dixit. This intention He has now carried out. The words, "He stretched out the measuring-line," are more exactly determined by what follows, "He withdrew not His hand from destroying;" this shows the extent to which the destruction was carried out. The measuring-line was drawn out for the purpose of determining the situation and direction of buildings (Job 38:5; Zechariah 1:15); but Jahveh applies it also for the purpose of pulling down buildings (2 Kings 21:13; Isaiah 34:11; Amos 7:7), in order to indicate that He carried out the destruction with the same precision as that of the builder in finishing his work. The rampart and the wall sorrow over this. חל (from חוּל) is the rampart, i.e., the low wall with the ditch, surrounding the fortress outside the city wall; cf. 2 Samuel 20:15; Isaiah 26:1. The gates of the daughter of Zion (i.e., of Jerusalem) are sunk into the earth, i.e., have been completely buried under rubbish by the demolition, as if they had sunk into the ground. The subject to אבּד ושׁבּר is Jahveh. The bars of the daughter of Zion are those with which the city gates were closed, for the protection of the inhabitants. With the destruction of Jerusalem the kingdom of God is destroyed. King and princes are among the heathen, - carried away into exile. It must, indeed, be allowed that אין תּורה is connected by the accents with what precedes; and Gerlach defends the construction, "they are among the heathen without law,", - not only agreeing with Kalkschmidt in taking אין תּורה as a designation of the גּוים as ethnici, - -ad gentes, quibus divina nulla erat revelatio, - but also with Luther, who translates: "her king and her princes are among the heathen, because they cannot administer the law," or generally, have it not. But, on the other hand, the accents merely indicate the stichometrical arrangement, not the relation of the words according to their sense; and the remark, "that Lamentations 2:9 sets forth the fate of the persons who stood to the city in the relation of helpers and counsellors or comforters (her king, her prophets), of whose help (counsel, or comfort) the city was deprived, as well as of the external means of defending her" (first member), proves nothing at all, for the simple reason that the priests also belonged to the number of the helpers, counsellors, and comforters of the city; hence, if this were the meaning, and the two halves of the verse were meant to stand in this relation, then the priests would certainly have been mentioned also. The second half of the verse is not connected with the first in the manner supposed by Gerlach; but, from the whole preceding description of the way in which the divine wrath has been manifested against Jerusalem, it draws this conclusion: "Judah has lost its king and its princes, who have been carried away among the heathen: it has also lost the law and prophecy." "Law" and "vision" are mentioned as both media of divine revelation. the law is the summary of the rule of life given by God to His people: this exists no more for Judah, because, with the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple, the divinely appointed constitution of Israel was abolished and destroyed. Prophecy was the constant witness to the presence of God among His people; by this means the Lord sought to conduct Israel to the object of their election and calling, and to fit them for becoming a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. The perf. מצאוּ is not a preterite, but the expression of an accomplished fact. The prophets of the daughter of Zion no longer obtain any vision or revelation from Jahveh: the revelation of God by prophets has ceased for Zion. The words imply that there are still prophets, and merely affirm that they do not receive any revelation from God. This is not opposed to the fact that Jeremiah, some months after the destruction of Jerusalem, again received a revelation; cf. Jeremiah 42:4 with Lamentations 2:7. The meaning of the complaint is simply that Jahveh no longer owns His people, no longer gives them a token of His gracious presence, just as it is said in Psalm 74:9, "There is no more any prophet." But it is not thereby declared that prophecy has altogether and for ever been silenced, but merely that, when Jerusalem was destroyed, Israel received no prophetic communication, - that God the Lord did not then send them a message to comfort and sustain them. The revelation which Jeremiah (Jeremiah 42:7) received regarding the determination of the people who sought to flee to Egypt, has no connection with this at all, for it does not contain a word as to the future destiny of Jerusalem. Hence it cannot be inferred, with Thenius, from the words now before us, that the present poem was composed before that revelation given in Jeremiah 42:7.; nor yet, with Ngelsbach, that the writer had here before his mind the condition of the great mass of the people who had been carried away into exile. Neither, indeed, were the people in exile without prophetic communications; for, even so early as six years before the overthrow of Jerusalem, God had raised up to the exiles a prophet in the person of Ezekiel.
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