Matthew Poole's Commentary
Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.Woe against wicked pastors; the scattered flock shall be gathered; Christ shall rule and save them, Jeremiah 23:1-8: against false prophets, Jeremiah 23:9-32, and mockers of the true, Jeremiah 23:33-40.
There is the like woe against the
pastors denounced Ezekiel 34:2. Interpreters judge that by the pastors are to be understood the civil magistrates, for Jeremiah 23:9 he denounceth the judgments of God against their ecclesiastical officers. The civil magistrates at this time in Judah were great tyrants; and whereas God had committed his people (whom he calls the sheep of his pasture) to them in trust, that they should protect and govern them, and that they might live under them godly and peaceable lives, in all prosperity, they had acted quite contrary to their trust, and worried the people like wolves, instead of feeding them like shepherds. God took notice of their oppressions, and by the prophet denounceth this woe against them, to verify that of Solomon, Ecclesiastes 5:8.
Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.That feed my people: God calleth them his people, his flock, the sheep of his pasture, with respect to the ancient covenant which God had made with their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They are said to have fed this people, because it was their duty, and the business of their office, so to have done, though they had failed in it, and had done the quite contrary, scattering them by their acts of violence and oppression, and driving them from their places to seek some more safe and quiet places of abode; or by their prodigious wickednesses, having been the cause of their being carried into captivity: not visiting them, that is, taking any due care of their good and welfare, seeing what they wanted, and supplying them, as good rulers ought to have done; for which neglect God threateneth to visit upon them the evil of their doings. The Hebrew word signifieth to visit with a visitation of care and love, and also with a visitation of justice and severity, and is often so used in holy writ.
And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.God puts a difference betwixt those that were misled by the examples of others, and the rulers who set them such an ill example; he threatened Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin, or Jeconiah, that they should return no more; but for the people, he here promiseth them a return, at least a remnant of them, when he should have punished the goats, as he speaketh, Zechariah 10:3. By their folds, he meaneth Jerusalem, and other cities, the towns of Judah which they had formerly inhabited. And they shall be fruitful and increase; where they should once more be in prosperity. He speaks here concerning the return of this people out of the captivity of Babylon, though there be some that think this text is primarily to be understood of the gathering together in one the people of God scattered abroad in and by Christ, according to the prophecy of Caiaphas, John 11:52.
And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: some think this prophecy was fulfilled in Nehemiah and Zerobabel, who were pious and good governors, and consulted in their government the good of the people committed to their trust, Nehemiah 2:10 5:14. Others rather understand it of Christian princes and governors under the gospel.
And they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed; under whom they shall live peaceably and securely.
Neither shall they be lacking; and none of them shall perish. The two last passages of this verse incline interpreters to think that this promise doth not so much refer to their coming out of Babylon, as to their spiritual deliverance by Christ, for after their return out of Babylon they were not secure long, but feared Sanballat and Tobiah, the Grecians, and Romans, and other enemies; besides that the last words exactly agree with John 10:28, when Christ saith his sheep should not perish, and it appears Jeremiah 23:6 that the prophet is speaking of a time when not Judah only, but Israel also, should be saved, and the next verse doth manifestly refer unto Christ.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.Though some interpreters think that Zorobabel may be here intended, who was descended from David, and ruled the people when they came out of Babylon, yet even the Jewish doctors themselves, as well as the Christian interpreters, understand this as a prophecy and promise of the Messiah; the prophecies and promises of whom are usually ushered in with this particle
behold to stir up people’s attention; and who also was the Song of Solomon of David, and who is called the Branch, Isaiah 4:2 53:2 Zechariah 3:8 Isaiah 11:1, where the reason is also given, he being there called a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, a Branch out of his root; besides that, the application to him of the name King, ordinarily applied to Christ, never given to Zerobabel, and the term righteous, make it evident. Jeremiah 33:15, he is called a Branch of righteousness, which is the same with the righteous Branch here mentioned. He is called the
righteous Branch, not only because himself was righteous, therefore called the righteous One, Acts 3:14 13:35, but because he maketh his people righteous, Isaiah 53:11 60:21. Jesus Christ, answering the type of Melchisedec the king of Salem, and who is the King of kings, 1 Timothy 6:15, shall reign spiritually, and shall not be like Jeconiah, of whom God said he should not prosper; but he shall prosper, and shall execute justice and judgment, protecting the innocent, and defending his people throughout the world, judging the prince of the world, and by his Spirit governing his people. So as the prophet relieveth the people of God, under their oppressions by these latter kings of Judah, with the promise of the kingdom of Christ, a usual argument made use of by the prophets to comfort the people of God in those days against any evils come or coming upon them.
In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.During the reign and kingdom of the Messias (whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom) the people of God, typified by Judah and Israel, the true Israel of God, those that are Jews indeed, shall be saved with a spiritual salvation; for he was therefore called Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins, Matthew 1:21, and God will be a special protection to them. The name wherewith this Branch shall be called shall be,
The Lord our Righteousness. Some have applied this to the people, as if the people should be so called, or should say, The Lord hath dealt graciously with us; or, In the Lord we have righteousness. But this will appear but the new invention of some who either cannot or will not understand how Christ should be his people’s righteousness, those who consider not that it is the Branch which was before spoken of, and that the word people is not to be found going before; there is indeed a mention of Judah and Israel, but surely they were not to be other men’s righteousness, and if that had been the prophet’s meaning, he would not have said, The Lord our, but the Lord their righteousness. Nor is the only place where Christ is called our righteouness, 1 Corinthians 1:30. This place is an eminent proof of the Godhead of Christ, he is here called Jehovah; and what is proper to God alone, viz. to justify, is here applied to Christ. The prophet saith Christ shall be so called, that is, by his people, who should believe in him and trust in him alone for that righteousness wherein they should at the last day stand before God: thus he was to bring in everlasting righteousness, Daniel 9:24. He, who knew no sin, was made sin (that is, a sacrifice for sin) for us, that we might be-made the righteousness of God in him.
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;No text from Poole on this verse.
But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.See Poole "Jeremiah 16:14", where much the same words are to be found. The prophet aggravateth the greatness of that salvation, which should be brought by Christ to all the true Israel of God, by comparing it with the deliverance of the ancient Israel of God out of the land of Egypt; which he saith it should so far transcend and excel, that the deliverance out of Egypt should not be named when this salvation should appear, which should be after their return from Babylon, and when God should gather them from all countries, which was fulfilled when by the preaching of the gospel, not the Gentiles only were converted, but many of the Jews also which were scattered abroad, Jam 1:1 1 Peter 1:1. Possibly part of this promise or prophecy remains yet to be accomplished, for the Jews are not yet come to
dwell in their own land; unless that term be to be expounded of Christians, who during the times of persecution in the primitive church were scattered abroad, but upon the ceasing of those persecutions, when Christian emperors came to have the government, returned to their own countries, where they enjoyed a more still and quiet habitation.
Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.The prophet having denounced the wrath of God against the wicked rulers of Judah under the notion of pastors, cometh here to discharge the like trust with reference to those orders of persons amongst the Jews, whose office it was, or at least who took upon them, to reveal the mind and will of God to people, and who were upon that account called
prophets: for these he declares a great passion and trouble; either for their sake, in prospect of that vengeance of God which he saw was like to be poured out upon them; or for the people’s sake, who had been deceived by their unfaithful revelations of the Divine will, and led into wickedness by their vile examples. For this he saith his
heart was broken, his bones shaked. And he was even astonished and stupified, and like a drunken man he knew not what he did; he was so stricken at the apprehensions of the wrath of the Lord ready to be revealed against them; and to consider what words the holy God had put into his mouth to speak against them.
For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.Under that term
adulterers all species of uncleanness are comprehended.
Because of swearing the land mourneth; by false swearing, or by idle and profane swearing, the land is brought to ruin. The word signifies also a curse or cursing. Many good interpreters judge that the more genuine sense and true translation of this text were, for because of the curse (that is, the curse of God) the land is brought to that misery which is coming upon it.
The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up; the pastures of the wilderness, or of the plain, for so the word is rendered, Isaiah 63:13 Lamentations 4:19. The wrath of God was extended to all places, whether more or less inhabited.
Their course is evil, and their force is not right; the prophets did not only err in single acts, but the whole course of their actions was naught, and particularly their power, rule, and government was not right. If any say, What were the prophets concerned in the people’s wickedness?
Answ. They were profane as well as the people, as we shall find, Jeremiah 23:11; but besides this, the people were thus vile through their connivance; they did not warn the people of their sins, but soothed them up in their wicked courses, and so were the cause of the people’s wickedness, who had not been so vile but for them.
For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.Those whose work was to reveal the mind of God to the people, and who pretended to that office; and those that were employed in offering sacrifices, and other works which belonged to the priestly office, according to the law; the whole ecclesiastical order, all their ministry, were
profane; not merely hypocritical, but lewd, immoral, and debauched. Yea, they were grown to that impudence, that they made the temple, which was the Lord’s house, a den of thieves, a place where they committed
wickedness. Thus it was in the time of Eli, 1 Samuel 2:22, and more generally afterward, 2 Chronicles 36:14. See Jeremiah 7:10,11, and Jeremiah 23:14 of this chapter. There is no more certain sign of a ruining nation, than when God suffereth in it a lewd and corrupt ministry.
Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD.As their ordinary course is wicked and sinful, so they shall find that it will in the event be to them pernicious, perilous, and full of danger, as a slippery path is to them that walk in a dark night,
they shall be driven on till they fall therein. Courses of sin may look smooth, but they always prove slippery.
For I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation; for I am resolved to punish their wicked courses, and to visit them with my judgments.
And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.There was a time when I saw folly in the prophets that belonged to the ten tribes, whose chief city was Samaria. The word translated
folly signifies unsavoury, or an absurd thing. Our Saviour compareth wicked ministers to unsavoury salt, Matthew 5:13, salt that is turned foolish (as the Greek word signifies). The ministers of God’s word are, or ought to be,
the salt of the earth, to season people with sound doctrine, and by the good example of a holy life; if they be corrupt in doctrine or manners, they become unsavoury, and the very worst of men. Such God says the prophets of the ten tribes were, before they were carried away captive.
They prophesied, pretending they had their instructions and revelations from Baal, and so
caused the ten tribes
to err, which after the division of the kingdom in Jeroboam’s time were called Israel, in contradistinction to the two tribes and half cleaving to the house of David, which were called Judah, after the name of their principal tribe.
I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.An horrible thing; the word signifies
filthiness, stench, or an abominable thing, things every whit as bad, in some kind worse, than what I saw in the prophets of the ten tribes.
They commit adultery; they commit not spiritual adultery only, but carnal adultery, they are whoremongers.
And walk in lies; and they make it their business to instil falsehoods into people, and entitle me to them; and this is their trade, not a single act, but their ordinary practice.
They strengthen also the hands of evil-doers, that none doth return from his wickedness: this is the great aggravation of the sin of those that occupy the place of spiritual guides, that they encourage profane men, either by their false doctrine, extenuating sin, and putting a fair gloss upon them; or at least by their mealy mouths fearing or forbearing to tell sinners of their wicked courses; or by their wicked examples, the most of people thinking they may do what their teachers do, by which means sinners, instead of being brought to a sense of their sins, and a repentance for them, are hardened in their wicked courses. By this means all of them, either of their prophets and priests, or all of the people, (the first seemeth chiefly here intended,) are become to me as contemptible and abominable as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah: though they were the sons of Aaron, and of the priestly order, yet living lewd lives, and acting quite contrary to the end of their holy calling, God declares himself to value them no more than as the vilest of men, such were the Sodomites. Or by those words God threatens that he would destroy them with as notorious a destruction as he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Thus the comparison is used Isaiah 1:9, and consonant to this are the words in the next verse.
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.Under the term prophets he comprehendeth all the ecclesiastical guides of Jerusalem at this time, whether priests or prophets. He threatens to
feed them with wormwood; some think the word is better translated poison: by wormwood, or poison, and the water of gall, he threatens great and fatal judgments that he would bring upon them. And he giveth the reason why God would deal so severely with that order of men, who seemed by their office and employment to have the nearest relation to himself, because they were the fountain of wickedness, those from whom wickedness flowed out over the whole land. This was either by their conniving at wicked men’s sins, for fear of displeasing them; or by teaching them licentious doctrine, that gave a liberty to the flesh; or by their vile lives setting the people patterns of sin. And indeed thus it is generally, when ministers, and such as are to teach others, are wicked, either in their doctrine or practice, they are a fountain of wickedness; wickedness floweth from them to the whole city, town, parish where they are employed: and on the contrary it is observed, that where God gives a place a good ministry, goodness in one degree or other floweth from them to the whole city, town, or parish; though all are not converted, yet the generality are civilized and restrained from those gross and brutish immoralities which other places abound with. Ill ministers must look for the severest indignation of God. Others sin, and shall die in their sins; but they teach others to break God’s commandments, and have the sins of many to answer for, who perish either by their flatteries, or loose doctrine, or looser lives and examples.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.People are under no religious obligation to hear any thing but the revealed will of God, and are not to obey those that call to them for what that doth not call to them; nor to listen to them, the scope of whose teaching is but to make them vain, sinfully vain, or to deceive their souls; no man is under an obligation to deceive himself. They pretend to visions, that God hath revealed his mind to them in the same way as he useth to reveal himself to true prophets; but there is no such thing, it is but a fiction of their own. Our Lord, Matthew 7:15, gives us the same way to know false prophets: Jeremiah 23:20, By their fruits you shall know them. Let their external mission be what and which way it will, if what they teach agree not with the revealed will of God, they are false prophets. Many of these priests were regularly enough descended, and the prophets regularly enough educated and constituted, yet by this showed themselves false prophets, that what they published was not from God, nor agreed with his revealed will; therefore the people were under no religious obligation to hearken to them.
They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.Lewd and corrupt ministers are a hatred and abomination in the house of the Lord to all serious good people, and are therefore obliged to make themselves a party of those that are like themselves, whose favour they cannot have without indulging them in their lusts. Hence they prophesy
peace to the vilest and worst of men, who have no patience of being daily alarmed with hearing of the wrath of God due and like to come upon them for their sins. Hence they promise no evil to those that walk according to the counsels of their own heart, that is, sinfully, for, Genesis 6:5, Every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil, and that continually. Hence a sinful course is very often expressed in Scripture under this notion of walking after the imaginations of our own heart, as Deu 29:19; but it is most in prophecy; see Jeremiah 3:17 7:21 9:14 13:10 16:12 18:12. Hence a religious walking is called a self denying. None have a worse guide of their actions in their lapsed state, before regeneration, than their own hearts.
For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?Who besides us hath known
the counsel of the Lord? arrogating to themselves a fellowship and acquaintance with the mind and will of God. Or, (which I should rather judge the sense,) Which of those prophets, that prophesy such terrible things against this city, is a privy-counsellor to God? The words seem rather to be the words of the false prophets, either arrogating to themselves a peculiar acquaintance with God and fellowship with him, from whence they knew his mind, or mocking at Jeremiah, and other true prophets, as arrogating to themselves such a knowledge of the mind and counsels of God as indeed they had not, than (as some think) the words of Jeremiah denying them to have stood in God’s counsels, or to have known his mind and will. This in all ages hath been the practice of corrupt prophets and ministers, to charge those servants of God who have faithfully published the will of God against sinners as making too bold with God’s secret counsels, though they publish nothing but God’s revealed will.
Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.A severe judgment of God, that should resemble a whirlwind, for the sudden and utter destruction that it shall bring. See Jeremiah 30:23,24. The same word is elsewhere translated a storm, Psalm 83:15 Amos 1:14 Jonah 1:4. It is called a whirlwind of the Lord, either to denote the greatness of it, as Psalm 36:6, or to let us know that the judgment came forth from God, and was of his sending. And whatever these flattering teachers said, it should fall upon wicked men, so as they should have no peace, but evil should most certainly come upon them.
The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.It is therefore called a continuing whirlwind, Jeremiah 30:23. The prophet speaks of the judgment as of a messenger, which coming from God, should not return till it had done its errand, and executed what it came for, even whatever God had resolved it should effect. Men are ready to flatter themselves that they shall either outride or outlive the storms of Divine vengeance. No, (saith the prophet,) the anger of the Lord shall bring to pass whatsoever the just will of God is. And though you will not now believe it, but flatter yourselves with idle, vain hopes, yet hereafter, when it shall be too late, (which is the usual folly of sinners,) then you shall consider it perfectly.
I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.No text from Poole on this verse.
But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.These false prophets did not prophesy without the approbation of the rulers of the ecclesiastical state amongst the Jews in their corrupt state, but so they might, and yet not be sent of God. The judgment of a Divine mission for the revelation of God’s mind unto people must not be merely from their external mission, (which yet they ought to have in a church that is in order,) but from the faithful discharge of their ministry. Those whom God sends, and who are truly acquainted with his counsels, will cause his people to hear, not their own conceits and inventions, but the word of the Lord. God sendeth none upon any other errand but to reveal his will and tell his mind unto people.
Then, saith the prophet,
they should have turned them from their evil way; that is, they would have made this their scope, business, and end, to turn sinners from their sinful ways; and though possibly their labours would not have had so good an effect upon all, yet they would have had an effect upon some to turn them from their evil doings.
Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?Atheism is generally the foundation of ill life. Men say God sees them not, the Almighty doth not regard. them. By a God at hand many understand heaven: Do you think that my eyes are limited like yours, that I cannot see their practices, though far off from me; that is, from the place of my glorious residence? Others interpret the particle with respect to time: Am I a God of yesterday, like the idols? Am not I the Ancient of days, the eternal God, whose majesty and omniscience you ought to have taken notice of?
Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.What do these atheistical priests, and prophets, and people think? Do they think that I, who am a God of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, see and take notice of what doctrine they preach, and what lives they live? If they did, surely they would not dare to do as they do. Do they think that I do not see or take notice of them? Can any hide themselves out of my sight? I fill heaven and earth, not only with my influence, but with my essence, with the immensity of my being; which, as it cannot be circumscribed by any, so it is shut out of no place.
I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.Visions and dreams were two usual ways by which under the law God made himself known of old to his prophets, making them sometimes, being awake, to hear a voice; sometimes attended with, and proceeding upon, some visible appearance, sometimes not: at other times causing them being asleep, to dream; and in their sleep revealing to them, as in a dream, what his will was they should declare and publish to his people. These false prophets speaking what came into their own heads, and suited their own lust, or the lusts of a debauched people to whom they spake, would pretend that God had revealed to them what they so published in a dream; not in the mean time considering God took notice of these their little arts by which they cheated the people. But saith God, I am a God that know afar off as well as at hand, and I have heard what they say, prophesying lies as from me, and pretending that I had in dreams revealed them to them.
How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;Will these prophets never have done? Have they not deceived people long enough with their lies, and the deceit of their own hearts; and that not unwarily, and by involuntary mistake, but of set purpose, it being in their heart, their purpose and design, to do it. Some join it to the following verse, and make the sense this: Do these prophets, that publish lies, and the deceits of their hearts, for my revealed will, think to cheat my people always, and to cause my people to forget my name? as it followeth in the next verse.
Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.To forget my name; that is, to forget me, and those things by which I have made myself known unto them, my word and my works.
By their dreams which they tell abroad every one to his neighbour, as if they were revelations which I had in their sleep made unto them; but they are indeed lies, and nothing but the deceits of their own hearts.
As their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal; so that in effect they are Baal’s priests: for as Baal’s prophets, by publishing their pretended revelations from Baal, seduced the people from the service and obedience of the true God; so these, by telling their pretended dreams, seduced men from their obedience to God in what he revealed to them by the true prophets: they agreed in the end, the seducing of the people from God, though they differed in the mean, the one pretending relations from Baal, the other from the true God by their dreams.
The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.A dream; not a Divine dream; a revelation which I have made to him in his sleep (as appeareth by the following opposition, betwixt a dream and the word of the Lord); but if any man hath dreamed an ordinary dream, let him tell it as a dream; let him not entitle God to it.
And he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully; and let him to whom I have revealed my will publish and declare that in all truth and faithfulness, not adding his own fancies or dreams to it, 2 Corinthians 2:17 1 Peter 2:2, not corrupting my word.
What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord; there is as much difference between my will and their dreams as there is betwixt the chaff and the wheat; the one is of value to make food for the soul, as wheat doth for the body; the other is of no value: the one (viz. my word) is of a solid, abiding substance; the other is light and airy, and easily scattered by every wind.
Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?Full of life and efficacy, John 6:63 Hebrews 4:12;
like a fire that warmeth, and healeth, and melteth, and consumeth the dross;
and like a hammer that breaketh the flints, so my word breaketh hard hearts. Others think that the word is here compared to fire, and to a hammer, because of the certain effect that it should have upon those that would not obey it, to burn them up like fire, and break them in pieces like a hammer, and so think this text well expounded by the apostle, 2 Corinthians 2:16. Certain it is that God’s word is like fire in both senses; no words of men have an effect and efficacy like God’s words; nothing but that taketh hold upon the conscience, and hath such an effect upon the hearts of men; no words shall so certainly and infallibly be justified and made good.
Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.There are various opinions as to what the prophet meaneth here by those prophets that stole the Lord’s words from their neighbours. Some, by their
neighbour, understanding the true prophets, from whom they stole those forms of speech, Thus saith the Lord, or, The word of the Lord, or, The burden of the Lord. Or some of the matter which they prophesied, though they mixed it with their own lies and deceits. Others by neighbours understanding their associates, think that these false prophets conspired together what to say to deceive the people, and so stole what they said one from another: or, the generality of the people, from whom they are said to steal the Lord’s word because they withheld it from them injuriously; or by their arts and flatteries brought men out of love with or fear of the words of the Lord, which had by the true prophets been delivered to them.
Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.Some think the Hebrew words were more properly translated smooth their tongues: see the English Annotations. But the next words seem to assure us that the crime for which God here by the prophet reflecteth upon the false prophets, was not so much their flattering people, and speaking to them such smooth things as pleased them, as their entitling of God to their lies, saying,
He, that is, the Lord,
saith. So it may be, though the word might be translated smooth, yet it is her, better translated use.
Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.False dreams; that is, false things under the notion of things which I have revealed unto them in their sleep. By lightness here some understand volubility and smoothness of tongue and speech; others, lasciviousness; others, levity and inconstancy: the last seemeth most probably the sense.
I sent them not, ( saith God.) therefore they shall not profit. None can expect God’s blessing upon their ministry that are not called and sent of God into the ministry.
And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD.The true prophets, to let the people know how little pleasing it was to them to be the messengers of God’s threatenings, to denounce his judgments, usually thus began their prophecies of that nature, calling them
the burden of the Lord, as may be seen, Isaiah 13:1 15:1 22:1 Habakkuk 1:1 Zechariah 9:1 Malachi 1:1. The profane people, and false prophets, and corrupt priests, not loving to hear their doom, would ordinarily mock at the true prophets; and in derision ask them what was the burden of the Lord? what in news they had for them next? God bids the prophet tell them that God would forsake them, either as to the Spirit of prophecy, they should have no more prophets, or (which is more probable) as to his special providence, by which he had watched over, protected, and hitherto defended them; a burden heavy enough, Hosea 9:12.
And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house.That is, that shall in derision say thus, mocking at my threatenings and judgments. I will not only punish him, but his whole family.
Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken?I will have you speak more reverently of me and my word to my prophets.
And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man's word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God.The burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more; not in scorn and derision, as not believing there were any such judgments as they threaten; nor hardly, as if I sent yon no other messages but burdens. These false and irreverent speeches, which are in every man’s mouth, shall be burdensome to them, being such as shall bring down Divine vengeance upon them; because you have derided or misinterpreted the words of God, the living God; the sin of which is the more aggravated against you, because he is the living, mighty God, and because he hath been our God.
Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the LORD answered thee? and, What hath the LORD spoken?Thus shalt thou say to the prophet; to my true prophet. You shall speak to them reverently, and as becometh you.
But since ye say, The burden of the LORD; therefore thus saith the LORD; Because ye say this word, The burden of the LORD, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the LORD;Because you go on in your scoffing and deriding my word and my prophets; and that when I have expressly forbidden you those profane speeches, or that deriding form of speech; adding further contempt to your former profaneness.
Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence:I will forget you as to my affection, and that is more than if all your friends forgot you. There is a great emphasis in the doubling of the pronoun,
I, even I. I will forsake you as to the presence of my special gracious providence. And do not flatter yourselves that I will not do it, because of your fathers, or because I gave this city to your fathers, for that very city I will withdraw my special providence from, and that land, which heretofore was called the land which the Lord thy God careth for, upon which the eyes of the Lord are always, from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year, Deu 11:12. And I will cast both city and people out of my gracious presence; so as I will no longer do them good as I have done.
And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.And you shall be a reproach, and that not for a few days, but for ever; and a penal shame, which neither you nor those that see or hear of it shall forget. See such expressions Jeremiah 20:11.