Jeremiah 23:17-18

17. 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.

17. Dicentes dicendo iis qui me contemnunt, Loquutus est Jehova, Pax erit vobis, et omnibus qui ambulant (cunctis ambulantibus; est quidem singularis numerus, ad verbum, cuique ambulanti) in pravitate cordis sui, dicunt, Non veniet super vos malum.

18. 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?

18. Nam quis stetit in consilio Jehovae? et vidit et audivit sermonem ejus? Quis attendit ad sermonem ejus et audivit?


Jeremiah introduces another mark by which the false prophets might be known as different from the true prophets, -- they flattered the ungodly and wicked despisers of God. He thus repeats what he had before said, that they strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that they became hardened in their impiety, and threw aside every care for repentance. Though he uses different words, yet the meaning is the same, that they promised peace, or prosperity, to the despisers of God, for the word Mwls, shalum, means to live well or happily.

They say, then, to those who despise or reject me; for Pan, nats, means both. The doubling of the word for "saying," is also emphatical, rwma Myrma, amrim amur:1for we know with how much haughtiness and confidence the false prophets dared to announce their dreams; for they were led by the spirit of pride, as they were the children of Satan. Hence then was their confidence, so that they made their declarations as though they had come down from heaven. They say, then, by saying; that is, they promise, and that with great effrontery, that peace would be to all the despisers of God; and not only so, but they pretended God's name, Spoken, has Jehovah2 They wished to be deemed the instruments or agents of the Holy Spirit, while they were vainly announcing, as it has been said, their own imaginations. And hence Jeremiah applied to them, though improperly, the word vision, They speak the vision of their own heart. By using this word he makes a concession; for he might have said only, that they adduced nothing but trifles, even the falsehoods which they themselves had devised, but he mentions the word Nwzx, chezun, which in itself ought to be deemed of high import. And yet he means that they were only apes as prophets, when they prattled of visions and confidently declared that they brought forward the revelations of the Spirit. He then concedes to them, though improperly, that they saw visions; but what did they see? even that Jehovah had spoken, Peace shall be to you.

Then he says, They promise to those who walk in the wickedness of their own heart, that all things shall turn out well to them, No evil shall come upon you; as though he had said, "They promise impunity to all the wicked."

The verse which follows is usually thus explained, Jeremiah condemns the false teachers for their carelessness, because they attended not to the word of God, and regarded as nothing what the Law contained. But interpreters seem to me to have been certainly much mistaken in this view; for Jeremiah here shews throughout, he passage how insolently and arrogantly the false teachers conducted themselves in audaciously opposing the true and faithful servants of God, Who has stood in the counsel of Jehovah? They no doubt spoke thus tauntingly of the true prophets, "What! These announce to you pestilence, war, famine, as though they were angels sent by God from heaven; have they stood in the counsel of God?" Thus I connect this verse with the former, for I am fully persuaded that he refers here to the arrogance which the false teachers manifested towards the true teachers.3

Examples of this in our time give a plain exposition to this passage. For when the Papists feel themselves driven to an extremity, when they prevail nothing by clamor and falsehood, they run to this sort of evasion, "He! if we must determine everything in religion by the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, what certainty can be found? The Scripture is like a nose of wax, for it can be turned to anything, and no meaning can with certainty be elicited; thus all things will remain perplexed and doubtful, if authority belongs to the Scripture alone." We then see that the enemies of truth at this day, when they cannot otherwise cover their filthiness, labor to throw all things into confusion, and to discredit God's word, and to introduce such darkness, that white cannot be distinguished from black, that light becomes mixed with darkness.

Similar to this was the perverse wickedness of the false teachers. For Jeremiah and his associates, when they came forth, declared that God's vengeance could no longer be deferred, for the people continued to provoke it; and they announced themselves as the heralds of God and witnesses to his hidden purpose; but these unprincipled men, that they might lull to sleep, yea, and stupify the consciences of men, said, "Eh! who has stood in the counsel of Jehovah? who has heard? who has attended? who has seen? all these things are uncertain; and though these severely threaten you with pestilence, war, and famine, yet there is no reason why ye ought to fear. Be then easy, and quietly and cheerfully enjoy yourselves, for they do not understand the purpose of God." And this meaning we shall presently see confirmed by what is said in verse 22, ydwob wdmeMaw, veam omdu besudi, "And if they had stood in my counsel." There is then no doubt but that he turns against them what they perversely boasted. But it now follows, --

1 Some, as Venema and Blayney, think that Myrma belongs to the preceding verse; but this would not consist with the Hebrew idiom, where a participle often precedes a verb in the future tense, but never follows it; nor is this countenanced by any of the Versions or the Targ. The words as they stand are indeed unusual; the probability is that rwma should be wrma, and all the Versions give it as such, "they say." Then it would be, "Saying they say;" which imports the boldness and the confidence of the false prophets; that is, "They boldly say." -- Ed.

2 There is a difference in the early versions as to this clause; it is connected in the Sept. and Arab. with the preceding, "They say to those who reject the word of the Lord," etc., and Blayney has followed this arrangement. The Vulg., the Syr., and the Targ., take it as a separate clause, and render it as here. The Hebrew no doubt admits of either constructions, but the Lord appears to be the speaker, and therefore the latter construction ought to have the preference, --

17. They boldly say to those who despise me, Spoken hath Jehovah, "Peace shall be to you;"

And to every one who walks in the resolutions of his own heart, They say, "Not come upon you shall evil." This rendering also corresponds more with what is said in Jeremiah 23:25, that the prophets prophesied lies in God's name. -- Ed.

3 What seems to militate against this view is the fact, that these false prophets themselves pretended to a divine revelation; they announced their message as coming from God. Hence these questions seem to deny their pretensions. He seems to say, "Who of you have been in the council of Jehovah?" The tautology may be avoided without having recourse to the emendations which Blayney proposes, --

But who (of you) has stood in the secret council of Jehovah? And saw and understood his business? Who has listened to his word and heard it?

We know that rbd means not only a word, but also a thing, affair, business, matter, any thing represented or imagined. The verb to "see," which implies a vision, proves that it means the latter here. Then in the last line it means a message, because it was what was listened to and heard. But the verb ems, in the first clause, comports with seeing, and understanding is what it sometimes signifies; and in the last clause it comports with listening, which is that of hearing. The Prophet refers to a vision and to a message, or to an affair as set before one admitted into the council chamber of his sovereign, (for this is the representation,) and to a message given to him who is commissioned to transact the business. It is not an unusual thing in Scripture to use a word in two different senses in the same passage; but the surrounding context is always sufficient to make the subject clear. -- Ed.