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Israel and Judah Have Broken the Covenant


The word that came to Jeremiah from the L ord: 2Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3You shall say to them, Thus says the L ord, the God of Israel: Cursed be anyone who does not heed the words of this covenant, 4which I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron-smelter, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, 5that I may perform the oath that I swore to your ancestors, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day. Then I answered, “So be it, L ord.”

6 And the L ord said to me: Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7For I solemnly warned your ancestors when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. 8Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of an evil will. So I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.

9 And the L ord said to me: Conspiracy exists among the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10They have turned back to the iniquities of their ancestors of old, who refused to heed my words; they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant that I made with their ancestors. 11Therefore, thus says the L ord, assuredly I am going to bring disaster upon them that they cannot escape; though they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. 12Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they will never save them in the time of their trouble. 13For your gods have become as many as your towns, O Judah; and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars to shame you have set up, altars to make offerings to Baal.

14 As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. 15What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done vile deeds? Can vows and sacrificial flesh avert your doom? Can you then exult? 16The L ord once called you, “A green olive tree, fair with goodly fruit”; but with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. 17The L ord of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced evil against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.


Jeremiah’s Life Threatened


It was the L ord who made it known to me, and I knew;

then you showed me their evil deeds.


But I was like a gentle lamb

led to the slaughter.

And I did not know it was against me

that they devised schemes, saying,

“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,

let us cut him off from the land of the living,

so that his name will no longer be remembered!”


But you, O L ord of hosts, who judge righteously,

who try the heart and the mind,

let me see your retribution upon them,

for to you I have committed my cause.

21 Therefore thus says the L ord concerning the people of Anathoth, who seek your life, and say, “You shall not prophesy in the name of the L ord, or you will die by our hand”— 22therefore thus says the L ord of hosts: I am going to punish them; the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; 23and not even a remnant shall be left of them. For I will bring disaster upon the people of Anathoth, the year of their punishment.


The Prophet afterwards shews more clearly that the command was especially given to him, for he uses the singular number, Thou shalt say to them Nor is it inconsistent that at first he joined others with himself; for God might have united the suffrages of the few who wished the restoration of pure religion among the people, while yet Jeremiah, who was superior to the rest, sustained the chief part. There is no doubt but that others were anxious by their consent to confirm his doctrine: but there was no emulation among them; and though he excelled them, he yet winingly admitted into a connection with himself all those whom he found to be united with him in so good and holy a cause. God then, in the last verse, spoke of them in common, for he wished all his servants to add their testimony to that of his Prophet; but now he addresses the Prophet alone, for his authority was greater.

It follows, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, cursed the man who does not hearken to the words of this covenant As often as the word covenant is mentioned, Jeremiah no doubt cuts off every pretext for all those evasions to which the Jews, according to what we have said, had recourse: for they never winingly allowed that they took away anytiling from the law, though they yet despised Jeremiah, who was its true and faithful interpreter, who had blended with it nothing of his own, but only applied what had been taught by Moses to the condition of the people at that time. There is then to be understood an implied contrast between the word covenant and the doctrine of Jeremiah; not that there was any difference or contrariety, or that Jeremiah had anything apart from the law, but that he formed his discourse so as to suit the condition of the people. And there is a kind of concession, as though he had said, “I do not now demand to be heard by you, but hear only the law itself: I have hitherto brought forward nothing but what God has commanded; and I have taught nothing at variance with Moses; there has been nothing additional in my doctrine: but as I cannot convince you of this, I now give over speaking to you; Moses himself speaks, hear him.”

By adding the pronoun demonstrative, “Hear ye the words of this covenant,” it is the same as though he had openly shewed them as by his finger, so that there was no room for any doubt. 3131     Gataker says, “It is not unlikely that the Prophet held out the book or volume of the law, wherein the covenant was engrossed and recorded, then in his hand.” — Ed. He then upbraided them by pointing out the covenant, as though he had said, “What avails you to feign and to pretend that what we say is ambiguous, and to hold it as uncertain whether we are or not the servants of God? whether we speak by his Spirit? whether he himself has sent us? The thing is clear; this is the covenant.” We now perceive the force of this pronoun.

But in referring to the curse, his purpose, no doubt, was to bend the stubbornness of the people. Had the Jews been teachable and submissive, God would have used a milder strain, and allured them by words of kindness and love: but as he had to do with perverse minds, he was under the necessity of addressing them in this manner, in order to strike them with terror, and to render them more attentive, and also to make them to hear with more reverence, as they usually treated with contempt what he had spoken before. We hence see why he began with mentioning a curse. God followed in the law another order; for he first introduced the rule of life, and added also promises to render the people wining to obey; and then he subjoined the curses. But Jeremiah here begins by saying, Cursed are all those who hear not the words of this covenant Why was this done? Even because he had already found out the hardness and the obstinate wickedness of the people. He then does not propound a simple doctrine, but before all things he sets before them the curse of God; as though he had said, “It is very strange that you have not hitherto been moved, since God’s curse has been so often denounced on you: as then ye are so stupid, before I begin to speak of God’s commands, his curse shall be mentioned to awaken your torpidity.”

But we learn from the Prophet’s words that he alluded to the form prescribed in the law: for after Moses rehearsed all the precepts, he added, “Cursed is every one who turns aside to foreign gods;” and he commanded the people to respond, Amen; and, “Cursed is every one who curses father and mother,” and he bade them to respond, Amen; and after having narrated all the precepts, he added, “Cursed is every one who fulfils not all the words of this law,” and the people responded, Amen. (Deuteronomy 27:15, 16, 26) The same form does Jeremiah now adopt when he says,

“Declare then to the people, that they are all accursed who obey not my precepts;”

and then the Prophet adds, I answered and said, Amen, O Jehovah But it must be observed, that the Prophet here personates as before the whole people; as though he had said, “I subscribe to God’s judgment, even though ye should be all gainsayers, as ye really are. Though then ye think that ye can escape from God’s hand, as though it were easy to elude the curse which is pronounced in his law, yet I subscribe with my own name, and answer before God, Amen, O Jehovah

But we must notice also the other words, Cursed, he says, is every one who hears not the words of this covenant To hear, in this place, and in many other places, is to be taken for obeying. He then speaks of the words or of the covenant itself; for the expression may be taken in either sense, as God had made a covenant with the Jews and at the same time expressed words. I am inclined to consider the covenant itself as intended. God then says that he had made a covenant with them. There is yet a fuller explanation, The words which I commanded your fathers, he says, in the day when I brought them up from the land of Egypt, God shews here by a circumstance as to the time how inexcusable the Jews were; for he says that he gave the law to their fathers at the very time when they were extricated from death; as they were drawn out of the grave, as it were, when God made them a passage through the Red Sea. That redemption ought to have made such a deep impression as to convince them wholly to devote themselves to God; yea,, the memory of such a benefit ought to have been deeply fixed in their hearts.

We hence see how aggravated here is the sin of ingratitude; for the law was given to the Israelites when they had before their eyes the many deaths to which they had been exposed, and from which the Lord had miraculously delivered them. For the same reason also he mentions their miserable state as an iron furnace, according to what we find in the third chapter of Exodus and in many other places, he then compares their Egyptian bondage to a furnace; for the Jews were then like wood and straw in a burning furnace; and he calls the furnace iron, as it could melt and reduce to nothing things harder than wood, evcn gold or silver or any other metal. In short, the deplorable state of the people is here set forth; and the Prophet, by the comparison, magnifies the favor shewn to them — that God, beyond all hope, had delivered them from death. Since then the authority of the law was sanctioned by so great a benefit, it became evident how much was the impiety of the people, and how unbecoming and wicked their ingratitude; for they did not winingly suffer God’s yoke to be laid on them.

He says that God commanded these things This expression, as I have said, is to be applied to the words of the law, and not to the covenant. But the Prophet speaks indiscriminately, now of the covenant, then of the things it embraces, that is, of all the precepts it includes. In other words, he expresses how inexcusable was the sin of the people; for God, in substance, required of them no other thing but to hear his voice: and what can be more just than that they who have been redeemed should obey the voice of their deliverer? and what could have been more detestable and monstrous than for the Israelites to refuse what God had a right to demand? We now then perceive the design of the Prophet in saying, that God commanded this only to his redeemed people, even to hear his voice, and to do what he commanded. 3232     There is no need of any alteration in the text, as proposed by some: the literal rendering is, “Hearken to my voice, and do ye according to all that I shall command you.” The אתם “ye,” after “do,” seems to be placed there instead of with “hearken.” Some MSS. have אותם, which is evidently wrong. It is only the Targum that countenances this reading: all the versions read according to the meaning given above. — Ed.

He further adds a promise, which ought to have softened their stony hearts, Ye shall be, he says, to me a people, and I will be to you a God God might have positively required of the Jews what is implanted in all by nature; for they who have never been taught acknowledge that God ought to be worshipped; and the right way of worshipping him is when we obey his precepts. God then might have thus commanded them according to his supreme aufilority. The commands of kings, as it is said, are brief, for they are no soothing expressions, nor do they reason, nor employ any persuasive language. How much greater is the authority of God, who can intimate by a nod what he pleases and what he demands? But as though he descended from his high station, he seeks by promises to attach people to himself, so that they may winingly obey him. Thus God recommends his law by manifesting his favor, and does not merely assert his own authority. Since then God thus kindly addresses his people, and promises so great a reward to obedience, how base and abominable is the contumacy of men when they repudiate his law. Hence the Prophet shews here more clearly why he began by saying, Cursed is every one who obeys not, etc.: for kindness had profited nothing; friendly and tender words, the paternal invitation of God, produced no effect; as though he had said, “God could not, doubtless, have treated you more gently and kindly than by reminding you in a paternal manner of your duty, and by adding promises sufficient to soften even the hardest hearts; but as this has been done without effect, what now remains for God to do but to thunder and announce only his curses?”

We now understand what the Prophet had in view. But it may be here objected, — that all this was useless and without any benefit, for the Jews could not have undertaken the yoke of the law, until it was inscribed on their hearts. To this I answer, that of this very thing they were here at the same time reminded: for though the teaching of the letter could do nothing but condemn the people, and hence it is said by Paul to be what brings death, (2 Corinthians 3:6) yet the faithful knew that the Spirit of regeneration would not be denied them, if they sought it of God. Then, in the first place, it was their fault that the law was not inscribed on their hearts; and, in the second place, a free promise of forgiveness was added; for why were those sacrifices and expiations under the law, and so many ceremonies, which had respect to their reconciliation to God, but in order that the people might feel assured that God would be propitious and appeasable to them, though they could not satisfy the law? This teaching then was not useless as to the faithful; for God, when he required from the Israelites what they ought to have done, was at the time ready to inscribe the law on their hearts, and also to forgive their sins. But when through obstinate wickedness they rejected the whole law, the Prophet justly declares here that the curse of God was on them; because they basely rejected God’s promises, by which he testified his paternal kindness towards them.

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