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2. Israel Forsakes God

Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. 3Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord. 4Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel:

5Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? 6Neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt? 7And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination. 8The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.

9Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the Lord, and with your children’s children will I plead. 10For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing. 11Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. 12Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. 13For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

14 Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? why is he spoiled? 15The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant. 16Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head. 17Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way? 18And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river? 19Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.

20For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot. 21Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me? 22For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much sope, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD. 23How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways; 24A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her. 25Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go. 26As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets, 27Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us. 28But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah. 29Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the Lord. 30In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.

31O generation, see ye the word of the Lord. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee? 32Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number. 33Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways. 34Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these. 35Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned. 36Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria. 37Yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head: for the Lord hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them.

As I have just stated, the Prophet confirms what I said, — that the people could not ascribe the cause of their evils to others; for they ought to have imputed to themselves whatever they suffered; and at the same time their sin was doubled, because they looked here and there for vain remedies, and thus accumulated for themselves new causes of misery; for they ought to have acknowledged no other remedy for their evils except reconciliation with God. If, for instance, any one being ill knew the cause of his disease, and instead of adopting the true remedy had recourse to some vain expedients injurious to his recovery, is he not deemed worthy to die for having willfully despised what might have healed him, and for indulging himself in what is deceptive and fallacious? The same thing does Jeremiah now reprove in the people of Israel. “If you carefully inquire,” saith God, “how it is that you are so miserable, you will find that this cannot be ascribed to me, but to your own sins. Now, then, what ought you to have done? what remedy ought you to have sought, except to reconcile yourselves to me, to seek pardon from me, and to strive to correct your wickedness? I would then have immediately healed you; and had you come to me, you would have found me the best physician. And why do you now act in a way quite contrary? for you run after vain helps; now you flee to Egypt, then you flee to Assyria; but you will gain nothing by these expedients.” We now understand the object of the Prophet. For after having proved the people to be guilty of impiety, and shewn that the evils which they suffered could be ascribed neither to God nor to chance, nor to any such causes, he now shews to them, that the one true remedy was to return into favor with God; but that it was an evidence of extreme madness to run now to Egypt, and then to Assyria.

Now this reproof is supported by history; for the people had at one time the Assyrians as their enemies, and at another the Egyptians; and the changes were many. God employed different scourges to awaken the sottishness of the people; at one time, he whistled for the Egyptians, as we shall presently see; at another, he blew the trumpet in Assyria: so that the Israelites might know that they could never be safe without being under the government of God. But all these things being overlooked, such was the blindness of the people, that when they were assailed by the Assyrians, they fled to Egypt and sought aid from the Egyptians, and entered into a treaty with them; afterwards, when a change occurred, they sought a treaty with the Assyrians, and also bought it at a high price.

This madness is what the Prophet now reprobates, when he says, What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt? that is, “What advantage dost thou gain? How great is thy folly, since thou knowest that God is angry with thee, and that thou art suffering many evils? God is adverse to thee, and yet thou thinkest nothing of reconciliation. Thy healing would be to flee to God and to be reconciled to him; but what dost thou now do? Thou fleest to the Assyrians and to the Egyptians. How wretched is thy condition, and how great is thy folly in thus wearying thyself without any advantage!”

Now we may learn from this passage, that whenever God chastises us for our sins, we ought to seek a remedy, and not to rest in those vain comforts which Satan often suggests; for such charms introduce drowsiness, and healable diseases are by such means rendered fatal. What then ought we to do? We ought, as soon as we feel the scourges of God, to seek to return into favor with him; and not in vain shall be our effort. But if we look around us in all directions for help, our evils shall not be lessened but increased. To drink the waters of the Nile, and to drink the waters of Euphrates, is nothing else but to seek aids here and there.

He indeed alludes to the legations which had been sent; for they who went to Egypt drank of the waters of the Nile, and others of Euphrates. He yet speaks metaphorically, as though he had said, “God was ready to help thee, hadst thou betaken thyself to his mercy as thine asylum; but having neglected him, thou thoughtest it more advantageous to have such aids as Egypt and Assyria could bring. Thou thus seekest drink in remote countries, while God could give thee waters.” And he seems to refer to the similitude which he had shortly before used: he had called God the fountain of living waters; as though he had said, “God is to thee a refreshing and perennial fountain, and there would be abundance of waters for thee wert thou satisfied with him; but thy desire is to drink the waters of the Nile, and the waters of the Euphrates.” 4444     No doubt this is the peculiar import of the passage, as though the Prophet had said, “What good to thee is to travel to Egypt to drink the waters of Sihor, a muddy river, (as the word imports;) and what good to thee is to travel to Assyria to drink the waters of the river, while thou hast at home a fountain of living, pure and perennial waters?” So Gataker considers the drift of the passage: — “To drink the water of Nilus in Egypt is put here for to seek help and relief there: but he delivereth it in these terms, as if he should say, that they could have nothing to do there, or no errand thither, unless it were to drink of the puddle water of that river, when they had, or might have had, as good, yea, far better than that, nearer at hand, at home. See Jeremiah 18:14; so 2 Kings 1:3.” Then the plainest version would be thus, —
   And now, what hast thou to do with a journey to Egypt, That thou mightest drink the waters of Sihor? And what hast thou to do with a journey to Assyria, That thou mightest drink the waters of the river?

   The comparison evidently is between the waters of Sihor and of the river Euphrates, and the living waters. As in other parts of Scripture the Euphrates is no doubt meant by the river, though here, as in Psalm 80:11, and Isaiah 7:20, the article ה is not prefixed to it. — Ed
We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet.

He, no doubt, speaks of the waters of the Nile and of the Euphrates, because both those nations abounded apparently in wealth and power and in military forces. As, then, the people of Israel trusted in such auxiliaries, the Prophet here reproves their ingratitude, because they were not content with God’s help, though that was not so visible and conspicuous. God, indeed, has help sufficient for us; and were we content with him alone, no doubt an abundance of good things would to a full satisfaction be given to us; and as he is not wearied in doing good, he would supply us with whatever is desirable: but as we cannot see his beneficence with carnal eyes, we are therefore carried away after the allurements of the world. We may hence learn that we are not to seek drink either from the Nile or from the Euphrates, that is, from the enticing things of the world, which make a great shew and display; but that we are, on the contrary, to drink from the hidden fountain which is concealed from us, in order that we may seek it by faith. It now follows —

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