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23. Lying Prophets
1Woe unto the shepherds that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith Jehovah. 2Therefore thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, against the shepherds 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 Jehovah. 3And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4And I will set up shepherds over them, who shall feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be lacking, saith Jehovah. 5Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness. 7Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that they shall no more say, As Jehovah liveth, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 8but, As Jehovah liveth, who brought up and who led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries whither I had driven them. And they shall dwell in their own land. 9Concerning the prophets. My heart within me is broken, all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of Jehovah, and because of his holy words. 10For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. And their course is evil, and their might is not right; 11for both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith Jehovah. 12Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery places 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 Jehovah. 13And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied by Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. 14In the prophets of Jerusalem also I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies; and they strengthen the hands of evil-doers, so that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them become unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. 15Therefore thus saith Jehovah 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 ungodliness gone forth into all the land. 16Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they teach you vanity; they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of Jehovah. 17They say continually unto them that despise me, Jehovah hath said, Ye shall have peace; and unto every one that walketh in the stubbornness of his own heart they say, No evil shall come upon you. 18For who hath stood in the council of Jehovah, that he should perceive and hear his word? who hath marked my word, and heard it? 19Behold, the tempest of Jehovah, even his wrath, is gone forth, yea, a whirling tempest: it shall burst upon the head of the wicked. 20The anger of Jehovah shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall understand it perfectly. 21I sent not these prophets, yet they ran: I spake not unto them, yet they prophesied. 22But if they had stood in my council, then had they caused my people to hear my words, and had turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. 23Am I a God at hand, saith Jehovah, and not a God afar off? 24Can any hide himself in secret places so that I shall not see him? saith Jehovah. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith Jehovah. 25I have heard what the prophets have said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. 26How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies, even the prophets of the deceit of their own heart? 27that think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers forgat my name for Baal. 28The 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 straw to the wheat? saith Jehovah. 29Is not my word like fire? saith Jehovah; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? 30Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith Jehovah, that steal my words every one from his neighbor. 31Behold, I am against the prophets, saith Jehovah, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. 32Behold, I am against them that prophesy lying dreams, saith Jehovah, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their vain boasting: yet I sent them not, nor commanded them; neither do they profit this people at all, saith Jehovah. 33And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of Jehovah? then shalt thou say unto them, What burden! I will cast you off, saith Jehovah. 34And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of Jehovah, I will even punish that man and his house. 35Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, What hath Jehovah answered? and, What hath Jehovah spoken? 36And the burden of Jehovah shall ye mention no more: for every man's own word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of Jehovah of hosts our God. 37Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath Jehovah answered thee? and, What hath Jehovah spoken? 38But if ye say, The burden of Jehovah; therefore thus saith Jehovah: Because ye say this word, The burden of Jehovah, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of Jehovah; 39therefore, behold, I will utterly forget you, and I will cast you off, and the city that I gave unto you and to your fathers, away from my presence: 40and I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.
Jer 23:1-40. The Wicked Rulers to Be Superseded by the King, Who Should Reign over the Again United Peoples, Israel and Judah.
This forms the epilogue to the denunciations of the four kings, in Jer 21:1-22:30.
1. pastors—Shallum, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah (Eze 34:2).
2. Ye have not … visited them … I will visit upon you—just retribution. Play upon the double sense of "visit." "Visit upon," namely, in wrath (Ex 32:34).
3, 4. Restoration of Judah from Babylon foretold in language which in its fulness can only apply to the final restoration of both "Judah" and "Israel" (compare Jer 23:6); also "out of all countries," in this verse and Jer 23:8; also, "neither shall they be lacking," that is, none shall be missing or detached from the rest: a prophecy never yet fully accomplished. It holds good also of the spiritual Israel, the elect of both Jews and Gentiles (Mal 3:16, 17; Joh 10:28; 17:12). As to the literal Israel also, see Jer 32:37; Isa 54:13; 60:21; Eze 34:11-16.
5. As Messianic prophecy extended over many years in which many political changes took place in harmony with these, it displayed its riches by a variety more effective than if it had been manifested all at once. As the moral condition of the Jews required in each instance, so Messiah was exhibited in a corresponding phase, thus becoming more and more the soul of the nation's life: so that He is represented as the antitypical Israel (Isa 49:3).
unto David—Hengstenberg observes that Isaiah dwells more on His prophetical and priestly office, which had already been partly set forth (De 18:18; Ps 110:4). Other prophets dwell more on His kingly office. Therefore here He is associated with "David" the king: but in Isa 11:1 with the then poor and unknown "Jesse."
prosper—the very term applied to Messiah's undertaking (Isa 52:13, Margin; Isa 53:10). Righteousness or justice is the characteristic of Messiah elsewhere, too, in connection with our salvation or justification (Isa 53:11; Da 9:24; Zec 9:9). So in the New Testament He is not merely "righteous" Himself, but "righteousness to us" (1Co 1:30), so that we become "the righteousness of God in Him" (Ro 10:3, 4; 2Co 5:19-21; Php 3:9).
execute judgment and justice in the earth—(Ps 72:2; Isa 9:7; 32:1, 18). Not merely a spiritual reign in the sense in which He is "our righteousness," but a righteous reign "in the earth" (Jer 3:17, 18). In some passages He is said to come to judge, in others to reign. In Mt 25:34, He is called "the King." Ps 9:7 unites them. Compare Da 7:22, 26, 27.
6. Judah … Israel … dwell safely—Compare Jer 33:16, where "Jerusalem" is substituted for "Israel" here. Only Judah, and that only in part, has as yet returned. So far are the Jews from having enjoyed, as yet, the temporal blessings here foretold as the result of Messiah's reign, that their lot has been, for eighteen centuries, worse than ever before. The accomplishment must, therefore, be still future, when both Judah and Israel in their own land shall dwell safely under a Christocracy, far more privileged than even the old theocracy (Jer 32:37; De 33:28; Isa 54:1-17; 60:1-22; 65:17-25; Zec 14:11).
shall be called, the Lord—that is, shall be (Isa 9:6) "Jehovah," God's incommunicable name. Though when applied to created things, it expresses only some peculiar connection they have with Jehovah (Ge 22:14; Ex 17:15), yet when applied to Messiah it must express His Godhead manifested in justifying power towards us (1Ti 3:16).
our—marks His manhood, which is also implied in His being a Branch raised unto David, whence His human title, "Son of David" (compare Mt 22:42-45).
7, 8. Repeated from Jer 16:14, 15. The prophet said the same things often, in order that his sayings might make the more impression. The same promise as in Jer 23:3, 4. The wide dispersion of the Jews at the Babylonish captivity prefigures their present wider dispersion (Isa 11:11; Joe 3:6). Their second deliverance is to exceed far the former one from Egypt. But the deliverance from Babylon was inferior to that from Egypt in respect to the miracles performed and the numbers delivered. The final deliverance under Messiah must, therefore, be meant, of which that from Babylon was the earnest.
9. because of the prophets—so the Masorites and Targum. But Vulgate, Septuagint, &c., make this the inscription of the prophecy, Concerning the Prophets: as in Jer 46:2; 48:1; 49:1. Jeremiah expresses his horror at the so-called "prophets" not warning the people, though iniquity so fearfully abounded, soon to be followed by awful judgments.
bones shake—(Hab 3:16).
drunken—God's judgments are represented as stupefying like wine. The effects of the Holy Spirit also are compared to those of wine (Ac 2:17). In both cases ecstasy was produced. This accounts for the denial of wine to those likely to be inspired, Nazarites, &c. (Lu 1:15). It was necessary to put it out of men's power to ascribe inspired ecstasy to the effects of wine.
because of … words of … holiness—because of Jehovah's holy words, wherewith He threatened severe penalties, soon to be inflicted, against the breakers of His law.
10. adulterers—spiritual, that is, forsakers of God, Israel's true Husband (Isa 54:5) for idols, at the instigation of the false "prophets" (Jer 23:9, 15). Literal adultery and fornication, the usual concomitants of idolatry, are also meant.
swearing—Maurer, &c., translate, "Because of the curse (of God on it), the land mourneth" (De 27:15-26; 28:15-68; Isa 24:6). More than usual notoriety had been given to the curses of the law, by the finding and reading of it in Josiah's time (2Ki 22:11, &c.). But Ho 4:2, 3, favors English Version (compare Jer 12:4). A drought was sent by God on the pastures ("pleasant places," oases) in the desert, on account of the "profaneness" of the priests, prophets, and people (Jer 23:11).
force … not right—Their powers are used not on the side of rectitude, but on that of falsehood.
I will bring evil … visitation—still more calamities than those already inflicted. See on Jer 11:23; "visitation," namely, in wrath.
in Baal—in the name of Baal; in connection with his worship (see Jer 2:8).
caused … to err—(Isa 9:16).
14. "Jerusalem" and Judah were even worse than "Samaria" and the ten tribes; the greater were the privileges of the former, the greater was their guilt. They had the temple in their midst, which the ten tribes had not; yet in the temple itself they practised idolatry.
strengthen … hands of evildoers—(Eze 13:22).
16. make you vain—They seduce you to vanity, that is, idolatry, which will prove a vain trust to you (Jer 2:5; 2Ki 17:15; Jon 2:8), [Gesenius]. Rather, "they delude you with vain promises of security" (Jer 23:17; compare Ps 62:10) [Maurer].
17. say still—Hebrew, "say in saying," that is, say incessantly.
no evil—(Mic 3:11).
18. A reason is given why the false prophets should not be heeded: They have not stood in the counsels of Jehovah (an image from ministers present in a standing posture at councils of Eastern kings) (compare Jer 23:22; Job 15:8). The spiritual man alone has the privilege (Ge 18:17; Ps 25:14; Am 3:7; Joh 15:15; 1Co 2:16).
19. So far from all prosperity awaiting the people as the false prophets say (Jer 23:17), wrath is in store for them.
grievous—literally, "eddying," whirling itself about, a tornado. In Jer 30:23, "continuing" is substituted for "grievous."
fall grievously—it shall be hurled on.
20. in … latter days—that is, "the year of their visitation" (Jer 23:12). Primarily the meaning is: the Jews will not "consider" now God's warnings (De 32:29); but when the prophecies shall be fulfilled in their Babylonish exile, they will consider and see, by bitter experience, their sinful folly. The ultimate scope of the prophecy is: the Jews, in their final dispersion, shall at last "consider" their sin and turn to Messiah "perfectly" (Ho 3:5; Zec 12:5, 10-14; Lu 13:35).
21. sent … spoken—"sent" refers to the primary call: "spoken" to the subsequent charges given to be executed. A call is required, not only external, on the part of men, but also internal from God, that one should undertake a pastor's office [Calvin].
22. stood in … counsel—(Jer 23:18).
they should have turned them from their evil way—They would have given such counsels to the people as would have turned them from their sins (Jer 25:5; Isa 55:11), and so would have averted punishment. Their not teaching the law in which God's counsel is set forth proves they are not His prophets, though they boast of being so (Mt 7:15-20).
23. Let not the false prophets fancy that their devices (Jer 23:25) are unknown to Me. Are ye so ignorant as to suppose that I can only see things near Me, namely, things in heaven, and not earthly things as being too remote?
fill heaven and earth—with My omniscience, providence, power, and essential being (1Ki 8:27).
26. prophets—a different Hebrew form from the usual one, "prophesiers." "How long," cries Jeremiah, impatient of their impious audacity, "shall these prophecy-mongers go on prophesying lies?" The answer is given in Jer 23:29-34.
27. They "think" to make My people utterly to forget Me. But I will oppose to those dreamers my true prophets.
28. God answers the objection which might be stated, "What, then, must we do, when lies are spoken as truths, and prophets oppose prophets?" Do the same as when wheat is mixed with chaff: do not reject the wheat because of the chaff mixed with it, but discriminate between the false and the true revelations. The test is adherence to, or forgetfulness of, Me and My law (Jer 23:27).
that hath a dream—that pretends to have a divine communication by dream, let him tell it "faithfully," that it may be compared with "my word" (2Co 4:2). The result will be the former (both the prophets and their fictions) will soon be seen to be chaff; the latter (the true prophets and the word of God in their mouth) wheat (Ps 1:4; Ho 13:3).
29. As the "fire" consumes the "chaff," [Jer 23:28], so "My word" will consume the false prophets (Mt 3:12; Heb 4:12). "My word" which is "wheat" [Jer 23:28], that is, food to the true prophet and his hearers, is a consuming "fire," and a crushing "hammer" (Mt 21:44) to false prophets and their followers (2Co 2:16). The Word of the false prophets may be known by its promising men peace in sin. "My word," on the contrary, burns and breaks the hard-hearted (Jer 20:9). The "hammer" symbolizes destructive power (Jer 50:23; Na 2:1, Margin).
31. use—rather, "take" their tongue: a second class (compare Jer 23:30) require, in order to bring forth a revelation, nothing more than their tongues, wherewith they say, He (Jehovah) saith: they bungle in the very formula instead of the usual "Jehovah saith," being only able to say "(He) saith."
32. Third class: inventors of lies: the climax, and worst of the three.
lightness—wanton inventions (Zep 3:4).
not profit—that is, greatly injure.
33. What is the burden—play on the double sense of the Hebrew: an oracle and a burden. They scoffingly ask, Has he got any new burden (burdensome oracle: for all his prophecies are disasters) to announce (Mal 1:1)? Jeremiah indignantly repeats their own question, Do you ask, What burden? This, then, it is, "I will forsake you." My word is burdensome in your eyes, and you long to be rid if it. You shall get your wish. There will be no more prophecy: I will forsake you, and that will be a far worse "burden" to you.
34. The burden—Whoever shall in mockery call the Lord's word "a burden," shall be visited (Margin) in wrath.
35. The result of My judgments shall be, ye shall address the prophet more reverentially hereafter, no longer calling his message a burden, but a divine response or word. "What hath the Lord answered?"
36. every man's word … his burden—As they mockingly call all prophecies burdens, as if calamities were the sole subject of prophecy, so it shall prove to them. God will take them at their own word.
living God—not lifeless as their dumb idols, ever living so as to be able to punish.
39. I will … forget you—just retribution for their forgetting Him (Ho 4:6). But God cannot possibly forget His children (Isa 49:15). Rather for "forget" translate, "I will altogether lift you up (like a 'burden,' alluding to their mocking term for God's messages) and cast you off." God makes their wicked language fall on their own head [Calvin]. Compare Jer 23:36: "every man's word shall be his burden."
40. not be forgotten—If we translate Jer 23:39 as English Version, the antithesis is, though I forget you, your shame shall not be forgotten.