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.
Verse 1. - They say, etc.; as the margin of Authorized Version correctly states, the Hebrew simply has "saying." Various ingenious attempts have been made to explain this. Hitzig, for instance, followed by Dr. Payne Smith, thinks that "saying" may be an unusual equivalent for "that is to say," "for example," or the like; while the Vulgate and Rashi, followed by De Wette and Rosenmüller, assume an ellipsis, and render, "It is commonly said," or "I might say." But far the most natural way is to suppose that "saying" is a fragment of the superscription of the prophecy, the remainder of which has been accidentally placed in ver. 6, and that we should read, "And the word of the Lord came unto me in the days of Josiah the king, saying." So J. D. Michaelis, Ewald, Graf, Naegelsbach. If a man put away his wife. The argument is founded on the law of Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which forbade an Israelite who had divorced his wife to take her again, if in the interval she had been married to another. The Jews had broken a still more sacred tie, not once only, but repeatedly; they worshipped "gods many and lords many;" so that they had no longer any claim on Jehovah in virtue of his "covenant" with his people. Shall he return, etc.? rather, Ought he to return? The force of the term is potential (comp. Authorized Version of Genesis 34:7, "which thing ought not to be done"). Shall not in the next clause is rather would not. Yet return again to me. So Peshito, Targum, Vulgate, and the view may seem to be confirmed by the invitations in vers. 12, 14, 22. But as it is obviously inconsistent with the argument of the verse, and as the verb may equally well be the infinitive or the imperative, most recent commentators render, "And thinkest thou to return to me?" (literally, and returning to me! implying that the very idea is inconceivable). Probably Jeremiah was aware that many of the Jews were dissatisfied with the religious condition of the nation (comp. ver. 4).
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.
Verse 2. - Lift up thine eyes, etc. No superficial reformation can be called "returning to Jehovah." The prophet, therefore, holds up the mirror to the sinful practices which a sincere repentance must extinguish. The high places; rather, the bare hills (comp. on Jeremiah 2:20). In the ways hast thou sat for them. By the roadside (comp. Genesis 38:14; Proverbs 7:12). As the Arabian in the wilderness. So early was the reputation of the Bedouin already won (comp. Judges 6.). Jerome ad loc. remarks, "Quae gens latrociniis dedita usque hodie incursat terminos Palaestinae."
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?
Verse 4. Wilt thou not, etc.? rather, Truly from this time thou callest unto me (literally, Dost thou not, etc.? a common way of giving an energetic assurance). The prophet admits the apparent revival of faith in Jehovah which attended the compulsory reformation under Josiah, but denies that it was more than apparent (comp, ver. 10). The guide of my youth; rather, the companion (the familiar associate); so in Proverbs 2:17. Comp. Jeremiah 2:2, and especially Isaiah 54:6, "and a wife of youth" (i.e. married in youth), "that she should be rejected [how incredible a thing!]"
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.
Verse 5. - Will he reserve? rather, Will he retain, etc.? It is a continuation of the supposed address of Judah. To the end? rather, everlastingly? Behold, thou hast spoken, etc.; rather, Behold, thou hast spoken it, but hast done these evil things, and hast prevailed (i.e. succeeded). The substance of the two verses (4 and 5) is well given by Ewald: "Unhappily her power truly to return has been exhausted, as not long ago after fresh signs of the Divine displeasure she prayed in beautiful language to [Jehovah] for new favor and abatement of the old sufferings, [but] she immediately fell again into her sin, and carried it out with cool determination."
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.
Verse 6. - The Lord said also unto me, etc. It has been suggested (see on ver. 1) that this introductory clause belongs rather to ver. 1. Some sort of introduction, however, seems called for; Ewald supposes a shorter form, such as "And the Lord said further unto me." The view is not improbable, for although there is evidently a break between ver. 5 and ver. 6, there are points of contact enough between vers. 1-5 and the following discourse to prove that they represent the same prophetic period (comp. ver. 10 with ver. 3, vers. 8, 9 with ver. 1, ver. 12 with ver. 5, ver. 19 with ver. 4). Backsliding Israel; literally, apostasy Israel. Usually a change or modification of a name is a sign of honor; here, however, it marks the disgrace of the bearer. Israel is apostasy personified (comp. vers. 14, 22). She is gone up; rather, her wont hath been to go up.
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.
Verse 7. - And I said after she had done, etc.; rather, and I said, After she hath done all these things, she will return unto me. And her treacherous sister. Observe the distinction between the two sisters. Israel had openly broken the political and religious connection with Jehovah (Hosea 8:4); Judah nominally retained both, but her heart was towards the false gods (comp. the allegory in Ezekiel 23, which is evidently founded upon our passage).
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.
Verse 8. - And I saw, when for all the causes, etc.; rather, and I saw that even because apostate Israel had, etc. But this is exceedingly strange in this connection. The preceding words seem to compel us either (with the Vulgate) to omit "and I saw" altogether, or (with Ewald) to read the first letter of the verb differently, and render "and she saw," taking up the statement of ver. 7 ("saw; yea, she saw," etc.). The latter view is favored by a phrase in ver. 10 (see note below). The same corruption of the text (which is palaeographically an easy one) occurs probably in Ezekiel 23:13. The error must, however, be a very ancient one, for the Septuagint already has καὶ εῖδον.
And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.
Verse 9. - Through the lightness of her whoredom; i.e. through the slight importance which she attached to her whoredom. So apparently the ancient versions. The only sense, however, which the word kol ever has in Hebrew is not "lightness," but "sound," "voice," and perhaps "rumor" (Genesis 45:16). Hence it is more strictly accurate to render "through the cry." etc. (comp. Genesis 4:10; Genesis 19:13), or "through the fame," etc. (as Authorized Version, margin). But neither of these seems quite suitable to the context, and if, as King James's translators seem to have felt it necessary to do, we desert the faithful translation, and enter on the path of conjecture, why not emend kol into klon (there is no vav, and such fragments of true readings are not altogether uncommon in the Hebrew text), which at once yields a good meaning - "through the disgrace of her whoredom ?" Ewald thinks that kol may be taken in the sense of k'lon; but this is really more arbitrary than emending the text. With stones, etc. (see Jeremiah 2:27).
And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.
Verse 10. - For all this; i.e. though Judah had seen the punishment of apostate Israel (Jeremiah 3:7, 8). So Rashi, Naegelsbach, Payne Smith. Most commentators suppose the phrase to refer to Judah's obstinate wickedness (ver. 9), but this gives a weak sense. "Judah defiled the land, etc., and yet notwithstanding her repentance was insincere" - this is by no means a natural sequence of ideas. The right exposition increases the probability of the correction proposed at the beginning of ver. 8.
And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.
Verse 11. - It is very noteworthy that Jeremiah should have still so warm a feeling for the exiles of the northern kingdom (more than a hundred years after the great catastrophe). Hath justified herself. "To justify" can mean "to show one's self righteous," as well as "to make one's self righteous," just as "to sanctify" can mean, "to show one's self holy" (Isaiah 8:13), as well as "to make one's self holy." In spite of Israel's apostasy, she has shown herself less worthy of punishment than Judah, who has had before her the warning lesson of Israel's example, and who has been guilty of the most hateful of all sins, hypocrisy (comp. ver. 7).
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.
Verse 12. - Israel, therefore, shall be recalled from exile. Her sins are less than those of Judah, and how long and bitterly has she suffered for them! Toward the north. For Israel had been carried captive into the regions to the north of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11). Comp. the pro-raise in Jeremiah 31:8. I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; rather, my face to fall towards you (i.e. upon your return).
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.
Verse 13. - This condition of restoration to favor. Israel is to acknowledge, or perceive, notice, recognize, her guilt. And hast scattered thy ways; alluding to that "gadding about" in quest of foreign alliances, reproved in the preceding chapter (Jeremiah 2:36). Comp. "interlacing her ways," Jeremiah 2:23.
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:
Verse 14. - Turn, O backsliding children. There is a play upon words, or rather upon senses, in the original, "Turn, ye turned away ones" (comp. ver. 12). To whom is this addressed? To the Israelites in the narrower sense, for there is nothing to indicate a transition. Long as they have been removed from the paternal hearth, they are still "sons." For I am married unto you. The same Hebrew phrase occurs in Jeremiah 31:32. Its signification has been a subject of dispute. From the supposed necessities of exegesis in Jeremiah 31:32, some (e.g. Pococke and Gesenins) have translated, "for I have rejected you," but the connection requires not "for" but "though," which, however, is an inadmissible rendering; besides, the Hebrew verb in question nowhere has the sense of "reject" elsewhere (yet the Septuagint already has it, virtually at least, in Jeremiah 31:32, q.v.). The literal meaning is for I have been a lord over you, i.e. a husband. Israel is despondent, and fears to return. Jehovah repeats his invitation, assuring Israel that he does not regard the marriage bond as broken. He is still (in spite of ver. 8) the husband, and Israel the bride (comp. Hosea 2; Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 54:6, etc.). One of a city, and two of a family. The promises of God are primarily to communities, but this does not prevent him from devoting the most special care to individuals. "One of a city, and two of a family," even though there should be but one faithful Lot in a city, and two such in a family (larger than a city, a single tribe containing only a few mishpa-khoth, or clans), yet I will admit these few to the promised blessings." Calvin's remark is worth noticing: "Hie locus dignus est observatu, quia ostendit Deus non esse, cur alii alios expectent; deinde etiam si corpus ipsum populi putreseat in suis peccatis, tamen si pauci ad ipsum redeant, se illis etiam fore placabilem." The historical facts to which the prophecy corresponds are variously regarded. Theodoret, Grotius, etc., suppose it to have been fulfilled exclusively in the return from Babylon; St. Jerome and others think rather of the Messianic period. Hengstenberg finds a continuous fulfillment, beginning at the time of Cyrus, when many belonging to the ten tribes joined themselves to the returning Judahites. He finds a further continuation in the times of the Maccabees, and in fact a continually growing fulfillment in preparation for that complete one brought in by Christ, when the premised blessings were poured out upon the whole δωδεκάφυλον (Luke 2:36). "Zion and the holy land were at that time the seat of the kingdom of God, so that the return to the latter was inseparable from the return to the former." Dr. Guthe, however, the latest critical commentator on Jeremiah, thinks that the passage can be explained otherwise, viz." from each city one by one, and from each family two by two." This gives a more obvious explanation; but the ordinary rendering is more natural, and the explanation based upon it is in the highest degree worthy of the Divine subject. The doubt, of course, is whether in the Old Testament a special providence is extended elsewhere so distinctly to the individual. But Jeremiah is pre-eminently an individualizing prophet; he feels the depth and reality of individual as opposed to corporate life as no one else among the prophets. (At any rate, one point is clear, that the prophet foresees that the number of the exiles who return will be but small compared with the increase to be divinely vouchsafed to them; see ver. 16.)
And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
Verse 15. - Pastors. In Jeremiah 23:4, the same word is rendered in the Authorized Version "shepherds," which would he less open to misunderstanding here than "pastors," civil and not spiritual authorities being intended (see on Jeremiah 2:8). The prophecy is, of course, not inconsistent with passages like Jeremiah 23:5, but as the national continuance of Israel was guaranteed, it was natural to refer to the subordinate civil authorities. According to mine heart; better, according to my mind; for here, as also in 1 Samuel 13:14, it is something very far from perfection which is ascribed to the chosen rulers. "Heart" is sometimes equivalent to "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.
Verse 16. - When ye be multiplied; a common feature in pictures of the latter days (Jeremiah 23:3; Ezekiel 36:11; Hosea 2:1). They shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord. A definition of the Messianic period on its negative side - the ark shall he no longer the center of religious worship. We must remember that the ark is represented in the Law as the throne of Jehovah, who was "enthroned upon the cherubim" on the lid of the ark. It is in virtue of this sacramental presence that the temple is called the "dwelling-places" of Jehovah (e.g. Psalm 46:4; Psalm 84:1, where Authorized Version has wrongly "tabernacles"). Now, in the Messianic period the consciousness of Jehovah's presence was to be so widely spread, at any rate in the center of God's kingdom, the holy city, that the ark would no longer be thought of; it would be, if not destroyed (we know, as a matter of fact, that the ark was destroyed in some unrecorded way), yet at least become utterly unimportant. Jerusalem would then naturally succeed to the title "Jehovah's throne" (applied to the temple in Jeremiah 14:12). Neither shall it come to mind. The same phrase is used of the old heaven and earth as compared with the new (Isaiah 65:17). In the concluding clauses, "visit" should rather be "miss," and "that be done" should be "it [viz. the ark] be made." On the whole subject of the prophetic descriptions of the worship of the Messianic period - descriptions which often wear at any rate a superficial appearance of inconsistency, see the luminous remarks of Professor Riehm, 'Messianic Prophecy,' pp. 161-163. At the same time, we must be extremely cautious how far we admit that Old Testament prophecies of the latter days have received a complete fulfillment in the Christian Church, considering how far the latter is from the realizable ideal, and also the importance attached in the New Testament as well as in the Old to the continuance of Israel as a nation.
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.
Verse 17. - Jerusalem's spiritual glory. With Jeremiah's description, comp. that of Ezekiel," The name of the city from that day shall be, "The Lord is there" (Ezekiel 48:35). This gives us the positive aspect of the Messianic period (comp. on ver. 16). Jerusalem shall be the spiritual center of the universe, because it is pervaded by the presence of the Most High (comp. Isaiah 4:5). May we explain with Dr. Payne Smith, "Jerusalem, i.e. the Christian Church?" Only if the provisional character of the existing Church be kept well in view. All the nations; i.e. all except the chosen people. The word for "nations" (goyim) is that often rendered "heathen." To the name; or, because of the name, i.e. because Jehovah has revealed his name at Jerusalem. The phrase occurs again with a commentary in Joshua 9:9, "Thy servants are come because of the name of Jehovah thy God, for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt." But we must not suppose that "name" is equivalent to "revelation;" rather, there is here an ellipsis - "because of the name" is equivalent to "because of the revelation of the name," or better still, "... of the Name." The "Name of Jehovah" is in fact a distinct hypostasis in the Divine Being; no mere personification of the Divine attributes (as the commentators are fond of saying), but (in the theological sense) a Person. The term, "Name of such and such a God,:' is common to Hebrew with Phoenician religion. In the famous inscription of Eshmunazar, King of Zidon, Ashtoreth is called "Name of Baal;" and to whichever proper name the religious term Name may be attached, it means a personal existence in the Divine nature, specially related to the world of humanity; or, to use the language of Hengstenberg, the bridge between the latter and the transcendent heights of God as he is in himself. In short, the Name of Jehovah is virtually identical with the Logos of St. John, or the second Person in the blessed Trinity. Hence the personal language now and again used of this Name in the Old Testament, e.g. Isaiah 30:27, "The Name of Jehovah cometh from far... his lips are full of indignation;" Isaiah 26:8," The desire of our soul was to thy Name;" Isaiah 59:19, "So shall they fear the Name of Jehovah from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun." Comp. also Proverbs 18:10; men do not run for safety to an abstract idea. Nor will all nations in the latter days resort either to a localized or to a spiritually diffused Jerusalem in the future, to gratify a refined intellectual curiosity. Neither shall they walk, etc.; i.e. the Israelites of the latter days; not the "nations" before mentioned (as Hengstenberg). The phrase occurs eight times in Jeremiah, and is always used of the Israelites. The word rendered "imagination" is peculiar (sheri-ruth). As Hengstenberg has pointed out, it occurs independently only in a single passage (Deuteronomy 29:18); for in Psalm 81:13, it is plainly derived, not from the living language, from which it had disappeared, but from the written. (The close phraseological affinity between the Books of Deuteronomy and Jeremiah has been already indicated.) The rendering of the Authorized Version, which is supported by the Septuagint, Peshito, Targum, is certainly wrong; the Vulgate has pravitatum; the etymological meaning is "stubbornness." The error of the versions may perhaps have arisen out of a faulty inference from Psalm 81:13, where it stands in parallelism to "their counsels."
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.
Verse 18. - The reunion of the separated portions of the nation (comp. Ezekiel 37:16, 17; Hosea 1:11; Isaiah 11:12, 13). Observe, Israel is converted first, then Judah. This detail in the prophecy is not to be pressed. Not that the force of any prophecy is to be evaded, but that in this case the form of the statement is so clearly conditioned by the abounding sympathy of the prophet for the ten tribes. These had been so long languishing in captivity that they needed a special premise. The form of the promise is imaginative; this seems clearly to follow from the fact that in no other passage (except, indeed, Jeremiah 31:9) is there a reference to the spiritual primacy of Etihraim in the restored nation. Out of the land of the north; i.e. Assyria and (Jeremiah 1:14) Babylonia. The Septuagint inserts, "and from all the countries," agreeably to Jeremiah 16:15; Jeremiah 23:3; Jeremiah 32:37. Of course, it would not be an accurate statement that the exiles from Judah were confined to "the land of the north." This is a fair specimen of the supplementing tendency of the Septuagint, though it is possible, and even probable, that the Hebrew text has suffered in a less degree from the same tendency on the part of later copyists.
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.
Verse 19. - The concluding words of the last verse have turned the current of the prophet's thoughts. "Unto your fathers." Yes; how bright the prospect when that ideal of Israel was framed in the Divine counsels! Condescending accommodation to human modes of thought; But I said fails to represent the relation of this verse to the preceding. Render, I indeed had said, and continue, How will I, etc. Put thee among the children. This is a very common rendering, but of doubtful correctness. It assumes that, from the point of view adopted (under Divine guidance) in the prophecies of Jeremiah, the various heathen nations were in the relation of sons to Jehovah. This is most improbable; indeed, even Exodus 4:22 does not really favor the doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God in the fullest sense of the word. Moreover, the pronoun rendered "thee" is in the feminine, indicating that the prophet has still in his mind the picture of Israel as Jehovah's bride. It would surely be an absurd statement that Jehovah would put his bride among the children! Render, therefore, How will I found thee with sons! comparing, for the use of the Hebrew verb, 1 Samuel 2:8, and for that of the preposition, Isaiah 54:11. It is, in fact, the familiar figure by which a family or a nation is likened to a building ("house of Abraham," "of Israel"). Jehovah's purpose had been to make Abraham's seed as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16). Instead of that, the restored exiles would be few, and weak in proportion, so that the Jewish Church of the early restoration period is represented as complaining, "We made not the land salvation, neither were inhabitants of the world produced" (Isaiah 26:18). A special Divine promise was needed to surmount this grave difficulty. A goodly... nations; rather, a heritage the most glorious among the nations. So in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:6, 15) Palestine is described as "the glory of all lands." The want of irrigation, and the denudation of the land, have no doubt much diminished the natural beauty and fertility of Palestine; but wherever moderate care is bestowed on the soil, how well it rewards it! Thou shalt call me... shalt not turn; rather, thou wilt call me... wilt not turn. It is the continuation of Jehovah's ideal for Israel. In response to his loving gifts, Israel would surely recognize him as her Father, and devote to him all her energies in willing obedience. Father is here used, not in the spiritual and individualizing sense of the New Testament, but in such a sense as a member of a primitive Israelitish family, in which the pairia potestas was fully carried out, could realize. The first instance of the individualizing use of the term is in Ecclus. 23:1-4. (For the Old Testament use, comp. Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 63:16; Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1.)
Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD.
Verse 20. - Surely. The word acquires an adversative sense from the context, as in Isaiah 53:4, and is virtually equivalent to "but surely." From her husband; literally, from her friend or companion. The choice of the word seems to indicate the inner hollowness of the married life. The woman only sees in her husband the companion, behind whoso back she can follow her own inclinations.
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.
Verse 21. - Another of those rapid transitions so common in emotional writing like Jeremiah's. The prophet cannot bear to dwell upon the backsliding of his people. He knows the elements of good which still survive, and by faith sees them developed, through the teaching of God's good providence, into a fruitful repentance. How graphic is the description! On the very high places (or rather, bare, treeless heights or downs, as ver. 2) where a licentious idolatry used to be practiced, a sound is heard (render so, not was heard) - the sound of the loud and audible weeping of an impulsive Eastern people (comp. Jeremiah 7:29). For they have; this evidently gives the reason of the bitter lamentation; render, because they have.
Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God.
Verse 22. - Return, ye backsliding children, etc.; more literally, Turn, ye turned-away sons; I will heal your turnings (as Hosea 14:4). It seems strange at first sight that this verso does not stand before ver. 21. But the truth is that ver. 21 describes not so much the "conversion" of the Jews as their willingness to "convert" (an archaism of King James's Bible, which we may well regret), or "turn" to God. Christ must touch, or at least make his presence felt, in order that the sick man may be healed; a special call of God must be heard, in order that the sinner may truly repent. Behold, we come unto thee. Efficacious, and not "irresistible" grace, is the doctrine of the Old Testament.
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.
Verse 23. - Truly in vain, etc. An obscure and (if corruption exists anywhere) corrupt passage, which, however, it is hopeless to attempt to emend, as the corruption consists partly in wrong letters, partly in omitted letters or words (or both); and, moreover, the text employed by the Septuagint appears to have presented the same difficulty. The latter point is especially noteworthy. It is far from proving that the traditional text is correct; what it does suggest is that the writings of the prophets were at first written down in a very insecure manner. The rendering of the Authorized Version is substantially that of Hitzig, who explains "the multitude of [the] mountains," as meaning "the multitude of gods worshipped on the mountains" -too forced an expression for so simple a context. It seems most natural to suppose (with Ewald, Graf, and Keil), a contrast between the wild, noisy cultus of idolatrous religions, and the quiet spiritual worship inculcated by the prophets. Compare by way of illustration, the loud and ostentatious demonstrations of Baal's ritual in 1 Kings 18, with the sober, serious attitude of Elijah in the same chapter. The word rendered in the Authorized Version "multitude" has a still more obvious and original meaning, viz. "tumult;" and probably the Targum is not far from the true sense in rendering, "In vain have we worshipped upon the hills and not for profit have we raised a tumult on the mountains."
For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.
Verse 24. - For shame; rather, and the Shame (i.e. the Baal). The words Bosheth ("Shame") and Baal are frequently interchanged; so again in Jeremiah 11:13 (comp. Hosea 9:10). So, too, Jerubbesheth stands for Jerubbaal (2 Samuel 11:21; comp. Judges 6:32); Ishbosheth for Eshbaal (2 Samuel 2:8; comp. 1 Chronicles 8:33). Hath devoured the labor of our fathers, etc.; a condensed way of saying that Baal-worship has brought the judgments' of God upon us,, our flocks, and herds, and all the other labor (or rather "wealth;' i.e. fruit of labor) of our fathers, being destroyed as the punishment of our sins (comp. Deuteronomy 28:30-32). Another view is that the "devouring" had to do with the sacrifices, but it is improbable that the sacrificial worship of Baal bad developed to such a portentous extent, and the former explanation is in itself more suitable to the context.
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.
Verse 25. - We lie down; rather, Let us lie down; said in despair, just as Hezekiah says, "Let us enter the gates of Sheol" (Isaiah 38:10). A prostrate position is the natural expression of deep sorrow (2 Samuel 12:16; 2 Samuel 13:31; 1 Kings 21:4). Our confusion covereth us; rather, Let our confusion (or reproach) cover us (like a veil) (comp. Jeremiah 51:51; Psalm 69:7).