Take you heed every one of his neighbor, and trust you not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant…
This is very strong language for a man to use concerning the society in which he lives, but it harmonizes with the strength of the language which the prophet has been using with respect to himself in Vers. 1, 2. A very bad state of things cannot be described by mild words. Such descriptions as that in this passage make plain how just and necessary the impending desolation of Jerusalem was. He who has just expressed such wishes for himself must speak with words that startle when he comes to counsel all who, in the midst of many perils, would wish to act prudently.
I. THERE IS AN IMPLICATION HERE AS TO WHAT SOCIETY IN ISRAEL MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Without looking for perfection, it was reasonable to expect something a great deal better than what the prophet saw. There is the strength and help coming from real friendship. The more men are brought together the more chances they have of making most precious friendships. Modern facilities of intercourse have probably done much to enlarge such relations. Men meet oftener and communicate more easily than they were once able to do. But it ought to be especially true of those living near one another that neighborhood and acquaintance, other things being equal, should lead on to friendship. The claim of friendship is recognized as something special - beyond the claim of kindred, humanity, and common country. In time of trouble we look to friends as those to whom we have a right to look, and we must be ready for similar claims upon ourselves, the prophet indicates also the claim of brotherhood. Brother should help brother. Not, of course, that mere natural nearness can compensate for deeper differences of disposition and temperament; but the remembrance of a common parentage should have at least the negative effect of destroying all temptation to injure. Then there is general integrity in all dealings between man and man. It is one of the most reasonable of all expectations that we shall so live and act that our word shall be as good as our bend. That which is fair and just towards every one should be wished and provided for. The good name of each should be the care of all.
II. THERE IS A VERY BOLD STATEMENT AS TO WHAT THE SOCIETY IN ISRAEL ACTUALLY WAS. The man who could speak thus must have been a man of great courage - a man into whom God had put a spirit of resolution agreeing with the words he had to speak. Stern, unsparing words are only belied and made to look ridiculous when uttered by a faltering lip. If the prophet's words here were true, this was a society only in name. Some may say that such words could not be true - that things could not possibly be so bad. But, remember, these are the words of a prophet of God, and God is he who searches the heart and can tell exactly how far advanced in corruption a society is at any particular time. Note how a skilled physician will assert the existence of mortal mischief in a patient when as yet there is no sign of it to others, and also predict with tolerable correctness how long it will take the mischief to run its course. And shall not God be much more discerning? All doleful statements as to the rottenness of society have come to be called jeremiads, as if they were really in the same class as the statement of Jeremiah here. But very often such doleful statements are only the result of ignorance and partial views, coming from a defect in him who sees and not in the thing seen. Jeremiah stated the simple truth here. If there had been hopeful signs they would have been mentioned, for God never lacks in an encouraging recognition of the preservative elements in society. To one who notes the warnings of Isaiah it will be nothing wonderful that the evils perceptible in his time should have strengthened into the deplorable universality indicated here. And even now, in places where the outward signs of Christianity abound, there are proofs that society might, in no very long time, approach the description of Jeremiah. The same evils are continually present, though kept in check. No one trusts a stranger. He must first of all take the lowest place, and do such things as need the least amount of trust, and so gradually work himself into the highest place of esteem. No one complains that he cannot win confidence at the first. Family jars and disputings are proverbial. Jesus, we know, divides brother against brother; but it is nothing new that he thus brings into society, for Jacob is the supplanter of Esau, and brother complains against brother to this very Jesus, because he thinks himself defrauded of his rights in the inheritance. There were two couples of natural brethren in the company of the apostles, and in their carnal days they were found hotly embroiled in the dispute as to who should stand greatest in the kingdom. There are abundant seeds of evil in society which are mercifully prevented from having free scope, else the result might soon show us that Jeremiah was in no wise going beyond the essential truth in what is said here. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders.