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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.

Some render the words in the future tense, “So ashamed shall be the house of Israel,” etc.; and they think that the Prophet is speaking here of the punishment which was impending over the people: but I explain the words as they are, — that the impiety of the people was so gross, that there was no need formally to prove it, as it was so very palpable. Hence the Prophet compares the Jews to open thieves, as though he had said, that hypocrites among that people gained nothing by their evasions and subterfuges, for their impiety was quite public: they were like a thief when caught, who cannot deny nor hide his crime. Hence he says that they were caught, as they say, in the very act; that is, their flagitious deeds were so conspicuous, that whatever objections they might raise, they could not clear themselves, but their baseness was known to all. We now then perceive what the Prophet means. We have before seen that the people had recourse to many excuses, but Jeremiah shews here, that they attained nothing by their evasions, except that they more fully discovered their own effrontery, for their dishonesty was evident to all; it was so manifest that they could not cover it by any cloaks and pretences. 5858     The verb rendered “is ashamed,” is in the past tense in Huphal, and means “made ashamed,” or, “confounded,” as rendered, by the Targum and the Vulgate. The Septuagint have converted it into the future tense, and so have the Syriac and the Arabic, which have been followed by most modern versions, and by commentators. If we rightly view the whole passage, we shall see reason to take this verb as we find it, in the past tense. The verse is an answer, as it were, to what is contained in the latter part of the previous verse, by a reference to what had already taken place as to the people of Judah; and the 30th verse (Jeremiah 2:30) countenances the past tense. This and the following verse may be thus rendered, —
   26. As a thief is ashamed when he is found out, So made ashamed have been the house of Israel, They, their kings, their princes, Their priests and their prophets;

   27. Who have said to the wood, “My father art thou,” And to the stone, “Thou hast begotten me.” Though they have turned to me the back and not the face; Yet in the time of their calamity, They say, “Arise and save us.”

   The participles in Hebrew are regulated as to their tense by the verbs in the passage. Hence אמרים in Jeremiah 2:27, is to be in the same tense with the previous verb. The future in the last line is to be in the present, as it expresses what was commonly done. Then what was usually said to them is mentioned in the following verse, —

   28. But where are thy gods, which thou hast made for thyself? Let them arise, if they can save thee In the time of thy calamity: For according to the number of thy cities Have been thy gods, O Judah.

   Blayney has kept to the past tense as to the last line, and also as to the beginning of Jeremiah 2:26. — Ed.

Nor does he speak only of the common people; but he condemns kings, princes, priests, and prophets, as though he had said, that they were become so corrupt from the least to the greatest, that having cast off all shame, they openly shewed a manifest and gross contempt for God by following their own inventions and superstitions. And yet the Jews no doubt attempted by many excuses to defend themselves; but God here shakes off all those fallacious pretexts, by which they thought to cover their flagitious deeds, and says that they were notwithstanding manifestly thieves.

The Prophet had said before, that the Jews made a different declaration; and now he condemns their effrontery: but there is no inconsistency as to the meaning. The Jews denied that they were apostates and guilty of perfidy, or that they had forsaken the worship of God; they denied this in words; but the Prophet, in now proclaiming their shamelessness, does not refer to words; for they had ready at hand their false pretensions, as it has been already stated: but the Prophet now takes the fact itself as granted, and says that they wickedly and perversely resisted God, so that their wickedness and obstinacy were past all remedy. It now follows —

 


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