Jeremiah 12
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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?


1          Thou maintainest justice, O Jehovah, when I plead with thee.

Only on matters of judgment will I speak with thee.

Why is the way of the wicked prosperous?

Why do all live in peace, who practise knavery?

2     Thou hast planted them and they have taken root;

They grow up, they also bear fruit:

Thou art near in their mouth, but far from their reins.

3     But thou, O Jehovah, knowest me,

Regard me and prove my heart towards thee:1

Pluck them out as sheep to the slaughter,

And set them apart for the day of execution.

4     How long shall the land mourn,

And the green of the whole plain wither?

From the wickedness of those who dwell in it,

Beast and bird are consumed;2

For they say, he shall not see our end,

5     If thou hast run with footmen and they wearied thee,

How mayest thou contend3 with the horses?

And in a land of peace thou wast secure,

But how wilt thou do in the pride of Jordan?

6     For even thy brethren and the house of thy father,

Even they have practised knavery towards thee;

Even they with a loud cry4 have pursued thee.

Trust them not when they speak good to thee.


This strophe attaches itself closely to the preceding, proving conspiracy even in the narrowest circle, in the family of the prophet, where it was the least to be expected. After the prophet had given the Lord to understand his dissatisfaction that the ungodly, of whom Jer 11 treats, still pursue their course in safety (Jer 12:1, 2) and after he has expressed the hope of his justification and their destruction (Jer 12:3) the more confidently, that these people infect the air, as it were, with the poisonous breath of their unbelief, and render the land uninhabitable (Jer 12:4), the Lord answers him: If even the enmity of those at a distance is so intolerable, what wilt thou do when the members of thine own family treacherously waylay thee (Jer 12:5 and 6)?

Jer 12:1-3. Thou maintainest justice … day of execution. The prophet (compare Jonah before Nineveh) has waited in vain for the performance of the threatenings pronounced in 11:11–21, etc. He now ventures to speak to the Lord concerning it. He knows that the Lord will maintain the right (comp. Ps. 51:6; Job 9:2, 3 sqq.; 39:32; Rom. 3:4; 9:20) he will only therefore inquire into His judgments (1:16; 4:12) in order to receive illumination. On אַךְ comp. 5:5. Bring forth fruit, reference to 11:17, 18. Comp. Ps. 37:35.—Near, etc. Refutation of the objection that these people serve Jehovah. It is only lip-service, while their hearts are alienated (Isai. 29:13; Matth 15:8). The prophet on the other hand can appeal for the rectitude of his disposition to the knowledge of the Searcher of hearts, whom, moreover, for the sake of perfect satisfaction, he invites to a renewed observation and trial of his heart.—Pluck them out. On the subject matter comp. Job 21:27 sqq.; Ps. 7, 9, 10, 11, 73; Mal. 3:13 sqq., etc.—נתק comp. 6:29.—set them apart. Comp. 6:4; 22:7; 51:27; Isai. 13:3. In the words pluck them, etc., Jeremiah has expressed what in his opinion is to be done to the ungodly (comp. Ps. 49:15 sqq.) In what follows he supports this opinion from another point of view.

Jer 12:4. How long shall the land mourn … not see our end. In this verse a contradiction has been found to the preceding, and HITZIG would therefore strike out the verse here and insert it at 14:1–9. But GRAF correctly remarks that the wicked (Jer 12:1) also appear as guilty in the curse of barrenness, as this calamity is ever regarded as a divine punishment (3:3; 5:24, 25; 14:2 sqq.; 23:10; Hos. 4:3). I add to this, that it is not single wicked individuals who are designated as the authors of the adversity of all their fellow-citizens, but that the “inhabitants of the land,” the men generally (as in fact in 11:9 the whole population is accused) are considered guilty of the destruction of innocent irrational creatures. 2. That by the sentence for they say, etc., their unbelieving scorn of the divine word proclaimed by the prophet is especially represented as the cause of this curse which has come upon the whole land. When in Jer 12:1 it is said “the way of the ungodly is prosperous; all they live in peace who practise knavery,” this is to be understood relatively. In the midst of the national calamity it is comparatively still well with them.—We shall not see. The subject must be the prophet. אַחֲרִית is the last, extreme end, the final fate (comp Isai. 46:10). When they say that the prophet will not see their extremity, their final fate, they mean that they will survive him, that he will perish before them. Comp. on the subject 5:13. [HENDERSON:—“I take this to be impersonal: No one shall see our end; that is, it shall not be realized, we shall not be destroyed. The worldly Jews flattered themselves that they might securely pursue their ungodly course, disbelieving all the predictions of calamity uttered by the prophet.”—S. R. A.]

Jer 12:5 and 6. If thou hast run with the footmen … when they speak good to thee. To the question of the prophet (Jer 12:1, 2) the Lord makes no other answer than this: the power of the ungodly, of which thou complainest, is not the worst. Still worse is threatening thee, the enmity of the members of thine own family. Here is evidently the point of the climax begun in 11:9, the conspiracy of his associates in the nation, the town and the family. The last is the most deplorable.—In a land, etc. Instead of wast secure, בּוֹטֵחַ, HITZIG would read בּוֹרֵחַfleeing. The expression would certainly be more correct. But the structure of the second member is not like that of the first. Here it is not admitted that the prophet has hitherto had an evil experience. The Lord says, thy condition hitherto has been comparatively secure, as of a man who lives in a peaceful country. The attacks previously made left thee in a condition of security compared with what is before thee. It is evident that here there is a climax, the second member of the sentence being stronger than the first.—Pride of Jordan, (בגאוֹן הי׳) HITZIG, MEIER, GRAF understand by this the bank of the Jordan overgrown with trees and tall reeds (comp. RAUMER, Paläst. IV. Aufi. S. 68), which according to Jer. 49:19; 50:44; Zech. 11:3 serves for the residence of lions (comp. KÖHLER, Sach. II. S. 109). Since nothing is known of inundations of the Jordan as particularly extensive and dangerous, this explanation may be correct, though the expression in itself (comp. Job 38:11) might certainly be used of inundations. In Jer 12:6 we perceive the traces of a conspiracy; on the one hand behaviour intended to awaken confidence, on the other בֶּגָד, treachery which manifests itself in this, that behind the back of him who is threatened (אַ‍ֽהֲרֶיךָ designates absence, removal to such a distance, as to be out of hearing of a call) they loudly cry and agitate against him.—On the subject matter comp. Matth. 10:36; 13:57.


[1]Jer 12:3.—אִתָּךְ depends on לִבִּי. The meaning is as in 2 Sam. 16:17; Zech. 7:9.

[2]Jer 12:4.—ספתה. On the construction comp. NAEGELSB. Gr. § 105, 4 b.

[3]Jer 12:5.—תְּתַ‍ֽחֲרֶה Tiphel. Comp. 22:15; GESEN. § 55, 5; EWALD, § 132 a; OLSH. § 255 a.

[4]Jer 12:6.—מָלֵא as adverb (Nah. 1:10) = plene, plena voce. Comp. 4:5, 12.

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 my house, repudiated my heritage;

I have given the desire of my soul into the hands of her enemies.

8     My heritage is become to me as a lion in the forest;

It has roared against5 me, therefore have I hated it.

9     Is my heritage to me a parti-colored bird?6 Birds round about it?

Go, assemble ye all the beasts of the field,

Fetch7 them to devour.

10     Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard.

They have trodden under foot my ground property,

Have made the ground property of my desire a barren waste.

11     They8 have made it a desert, it mourneth towards me as a desert.

Desolated was the whole land, for there was no one who took it to heart.

12     On all the heights in the desert are come spoilers:

For Jehovah has a sword, which devours from land’s-end to land’s-end.

There is no flesh that can find means to escape.

13     They have sown wheat and reaped thorns;

They have tormented themselves and will profit nothing:

So then—ye shall be ashamed of your revenue9

Before the fierceness of Jehovah’s wrath.


As the undertakings of the conspirators against the prophet were virtually against the Lord also, so the prophet’s action is a symbol of the judgment which the Lord will inflict in larger and severer measure. Therefore what is said in Jer 12:7 and 8 of abandoning house and heritage applies at the same time to the prophet who leaves his paternal house in Anathoth, and to the Lord who forsakes Israel. The positive punishment, however, which will consist in the combination of many enemies against Israel (Jer 12:9–11) corresponds exactly to that triple combination against the Lord and His prophet, spoken of in 11:9–12:6.

Jer 12:7 and 8. I have forsaken my house … have I hated it. After what, according to Jer 12:6, his house has inflicted upon him, nothing is more natural than he should leave it. It is, therefore, a matter of course, to regard the prophet himself as the subject of the verb have forsaken. But in the course of the speech it certainly becomes evident that Jehovah is the forsaker and Israel the forsaken and abandoned house (Jer 12:9 sqq.). ZWINGLI and BUGENHAGEN regard Jer 12:7 and 8 as the words of the prophet. The former considers that Jehovah begins to speak at “Go.” I am of opinion, as already remarked, that the words are to be understood as having a double reference. The prophet declares that he has forsaken his father’s house in Anathoth, that he has abandoned his heritage, his beloved, to the hands of those, who from enmity towards its possessors would abuse it. Yea, he has been compelled to hate and shun his heritage, since it has become hostile to him, and no longer affords him any security. He, whose life the inmates of the house were seeking, was most threatened in the very house, which he was inhabiting with them. He therefore says that his heritage has become to him as a lion, which one meets in the forest; and that he does not fear the lion without reason, is seen from the fact that it has roared against him, in which is an evident allusion to “with a loud cry have pursued thee,” Jer 12:6. At the same time, as all the commentators recognize, these words are perfectly applicable to Jehovah. The point of connection is this, that the inimical relation of the prophet and his house is only a symptom of the enmity which Israel, as an entire nation, cherish towards the Lord their God. Hence it results, that the perfects in this entire passage are not altogether prophetic perfects. For they are based on the fact that the prophet is obliged to speak of that which has occurred between himself and his house as of past facts. He cannot, ex. gr., speak otherwise in Jer 12:7 and 8, than I have forsaken, repudiated, given, hated. But since this, at the same time, refers to Jehovah, these in so far still future facts are expressed by præterites, which yields the meaning that the action of the prophet as emblematical includes the action of Jehovah. Hence it is, that in accordance with the main fact in Jer 12:7 and 8, the whole discourse is presented as in past time. In so far as the words of Jer 12:7 refer to Jehovah, we may apply my house to the temple (comp. 7:2–10, etc.), and my heritage to the people of Israel (comp. Deut. 32:9), while the desire of my soul (יְדִדוּת, ἅπ. λεγ., comp. 11:15; Ps. 84:2) refers to the whole.

Jer 12:9. Is my heritage … to devour.—That עַיִט is a bird of prey, or collectively, birds of prey, is placed beyond doubt by Gen. 15:11; Isa. 18:6; Ezek. 39:4; Job 28:7. This meaning is therefore assured for this passage and Isa. 46:11.—צָבוּעַ, according to צְבָעִים ,צֶבַע, Judges 5:30 (comp. Aram. צְבַעtingere) can signify only the colored, variegated, as, from Jerome and the Syriac downwards, most of the commentators translate it: this parti-colored bird, which appears in their midst, is attacked by the other birds. Comp. the vouchers in HITZIGלִיto me, is not equivalent to in relation to me, but merely expresses interest (Dat. ethicus). Whether the ה in the second הַעַיִט is an article or interrogative is doubtful. Grammatically the latter is preferable, but the former accords best with the sense. OLSHAUSEN, § 100, 1, maintains that it is grammatically admissible Taken as a question, it expresses astonishment (comp. 7:9).—Go is affirmative and confirmatory: yea, not only the birds, all birds (i.e., all nations) shall fall upon the heritage of the Lord.

Jer 12:10. Many pastors … a barren waste. The same matter in a new form. Comp. 6:3; Mic. 5:4, 5.—The ground property of my desire, comp. 3:19.

Jer 12:11 and 12. They have made it a desert … find means to escape. Not only the inhabited country, but the plains which serve for pasturage with their hills (comp. 3:2, 21; 14:6), are laid waste, so that the devouring sword has swept through the whole land from one end to the other (comp. 6:25; 25:29, 46:10, 14).

Jer 12:13. They have sown wheat. … Jehovah’s wrath. Total result:—No harvest, labor is vain,—weakness, shame. The thought is not, what a man soweth that shall he reap, but what a man soweth he shall not reap, the harvest shall fail, all the labor expended shall be lost. Of course it is a material harvest alone which is spoken of, comp. Deut. 28:30 sqq.; Isa. 65:21, 22; 62:8.—On tormented themselves, comp. 10:19: Ezek. 34:4, 21.—On profit comp. Isa. 48:17.


[5]Jer 12:8.—The expression נָתַן בְּקוֹל is found also in Ps. 46:7. Comp. rems. on 10:13.

[6]Jer 12:9.—[HENDERSON: a speckled bird of prey. NOYES following the LXX.: a rapacious beast, a hyena; BLAYNEY. the ravenous bird Tseboa.—S. R. A.]

[7]Jer 12:9.—On הֵתָיוּ as an imperative form comp. OLSH. § 256 b, S. 568.

[8]Jer 12:11.—The subject of שָׂמָהּ is formally undetermined (= they, comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 101, 2) but from the connection it is the previously mentioned enemies. Observe the play upon words שָׂם ,נָשַׁמָּה ,שְׁמֵמָה ,שְׁמָמָה ,שָׂמָהּ. The last is used with reference to שָׂמָהּ, while שָׂמָהּ לִשְׁמָמָה corresponds to לֹא שָׂם עַל־לֵב.

[9]Jer 12:13.—It is not necessary to read מִתְּבוּאֹתֵיהֶם, after the LXX. The change of person need not offend (comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 101, Anm.) nor the emphatic Vau before the imperative (comp. rems. on 2:19).

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          Thus saith Jehovah against all my neighbors,10 the wicked,

Who attacked the inheritance which I gave to Israel, my people, to possess:

Behold I pluck them forth out of their land,

And the house of Judah I will pluck forth out of their midst.

15     And it shall come to pass, after I have plucked them out,

I will again have compassion upon them,

And bring them back11 every man to his heritage and every man to his land.

16     And it shall come to pass, if they learn the way of my people,

To swear by my name ‘Jehovah liveth,’

As they have taught my people to swear by Baal:

Then shall they be built in the midst of my people.

17     But if they hear not, I will utterly pluck up

And destroy such a nation, saith Jehovah.


Even in these concluding words the fundamental idea is evidently that of association. The conspiracy of the nations against the covenant people who have conspired against their Lord (11:9; 12:6) has for its first consequence, that the two are associated in punishment (Jer 12:14). But afterward when they have made common cause in penitence, and turning to the Lord, they are to be equally regarded in their redemption and re-establishment (Jer 12:16). In this only is there dissimilarity, that in the heathen nations a possibility of disobedience and consequent total destruction is assumed, which is not the case with respect to Israel (Jer 12:17).

Jer 12:14. Thus saith Jehovah … pluck forth out of their midst. The enemies who, according to Jer 12:9, combine against Israel, are here seen to be chiefly their neighbors; comp. 2 Kings 24:2, to which passage, however, I refer not as the occasion, but as the, at least, partial fulfilment of our prophecy. The Syrians, Moabites and Ammonites, are here mentioned, and in Ps. 137:7 the Edomites also, as auxiliaries of the Chaldees in the work of Judah’s destruction.—Judah and the neighboring nations will meet the same fate, because they have both sinned against Jehovah: Judah directly, the others indirectly; for what they did against Judah, was against Judah’s God.—Out of their midst refers to the geographical position of Judah, and at the same time to Jer 12:9.—The carrying away of Judah involves their liberation from the attacks of their neighbors. Comp. besides 25:15 sqq.

Jer 12:15-17. And it shall come to pass … destroy such a nation, saith Jehovah. Every nation shall be brought back (comp. 46:26; 48:47; 49:6, 39), therefore also Israel. Consequently they are alike in this.—The highest and most glorious stage of the association is this, that the nations will be one among themselves and with Judah in the true worship of Jehovah, which is expressed as swearing by His name alone (comp. 4:2; 5:7; Deut. 6:13; 10:20). In this is, at the same time, given the unity of God with men; He in them, they in Him (John 17:21, 23). It is noteworthy that the nations are to be built (בְּתוֹךְ עַמִּי) in the midst of my people. Before Israel was in their midst (Jer 12:7, 9); now they are in the midst of Israel. Israel is now not merely the ideal, but the real stock which bears all. (Comp. Rom. 11:17 sqq.—Isa. 45:22 sqq.; 56:1 sqq.; 65. and 66.).—In this only a dissimilarity between Israel and the nations comes fairly to light, that the possibility of resistance to the loving purpose of God is presupposed of the latter, but not of the former (comp. 30:10, 11).—On learn the ways, comp. 10:2; 2:33.


[10]Jer 12:14.—שׁכני, transition to the first person, as in 14:15. The connection with the preceding strophe is unmistakable. Comp. נַֽחֲלָה and נָתַשׁ with נַֽהֲלָה and נָטַשׁ, Jer 12:7, sqq.

[11]Jer 12:15—On אָשׁוּב ו׳. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 95, g., Anm.

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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