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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.

The prophet assumes the character, no doubt, of one in astonishment, that he might render the sin of the people more detestable: for he speaks as one astonished, generation! The word, דור, dur; as it is well known, means an age. It is then the same as if he had said, “On what time are we fallen? or in what an age do we now live?” We now then perceive the import of the word. Then he adds, See ye the word of Jehovah The word, see, seems not to be suitable; for he ought to have said, “Attend to, “or “hear.” But he bids them to see, and most appropriate is the term; for he does not require the people to hear, but, on the contrary, to know, as though he had said, “See ye yourselves what this is which the Lord declares.” And he emphatically says, אתם atem, “ye yourselves.” For the Jews might have been deservedly condemned by all nations, were they brought into judgment. But the Prophet shews, that however blind they were, they might see with their own eyes what the Lord now says. He does not refer to instruction, but to a fact, as though he had said, “The Lord by me expostulates with you; and though there should not be present any witnesses or a judge or an umpire, ye yourselves are able to understand and know the whole matter.” We hence see how fitly the Prophet speaks, when he bids them to see the word of Jehovah 6363     The beginning of this verse literally is “The age, ye,” that is, “Ye of this age,” or generation. He was speaking before more especially of the preceding age. He now appeals to the people of that generation, —
   Ye of this age, see, spoken hath Jehovah, — Have I been a wilderness to Israel, Or a land of darkness? Why have they said, even my people, “We have ruled, we will no more come to thee?”

   The above rendering of the latter part of the first line is favored by the Septuagint, “Hear ye the word of the Lord; thus saith the Lord.” The Arabic is the same. The Vulgate has, “See the word of the Lord,” — and the Syriac, “Hear the word of the Lord.” Blayney renders thus, “Behold ye the cause of Jehovah.” Gataker takes “see” in the sense of considering, “See,“ or seriously consider, “the word of the Lord.” The particle אם after ה, may be rendered “or,” as in the Syriac See Joshua 5:13. The word מאפליה is found in two MSS., מאפילה, which seems to be the true reading, countenanced by the Targum, and all the early versions, except the Vulgate, which has “serotina — lateward.” Darkness is a common metaphor for wretchedness and misery “We have ruled” is the literal rendering of רדנו, and there is no other reading. The Septuagint gives the same meaning, though the form is different, “We shall not be lorded over — οὐ κυριευθησόμεθα.” The Arabic is the same. It is the language of proud independence. The Targum, the Vulgate, and the Syriac have mistaken the verb for ירדנו, which means, to descend, to come down, to bring down. Blayney gives the correct idea, “We are our own masters, “which Horsley approves. The preterite in Hebrew often includes the present; so the full meaning is, “We have ruled and do rule.” — Ed

For he immediately adds, Have I been a desert to Israel? He makes the Jews themselves the umpires and judges of the cause, whether they had not experienced the bounty of God and had forsaken him, according to his former complaint, when he said that God was the fountain of living waters, and that they had dug for themselves broken cisterns. Hence he says, “How has it happened that ye have departed from me? Have I in vain promised to be bountiful and kind to you? Did I disappoint you or your expectation, while ye served me? Since then I had not been to you a dark and a gloomy land, a land without the light of the sun; but as abundance of blessings had ever been found in me, how has it been that you have departed from me?”

He afterwards mentions another crime, Why has my people said, We are lords The verb רדנו, redenu, is variously explained by interpreters. Some derive it from ידר, ired, to descend, and think that the י, iod, is supplied by a point. But these differ in their views: some refer to the calamities with which the Jews had been visited, and others to their apostasy. The first give this explanation, “We have descended;” that is, “We have been oppressed with calamities, what then can we gain by calling on God, since our affairs are in so hopeless a state?” The second draw forth another meaning, “We have gone back;” that is, “There is no reason for the prophets to stun our ears by their clamors, for we have once for all resolved never to return to God; we have wholly renounced him; away with him, let him begone together with his exhortations, for we will not attend to them.” Both these expounders think it to be the language of despair: but we perceive how they differ; the first apply “descend” to the calamities of the people, and the second to their perfidy, because they had bidden adieu, as it were, to God, and wished not to have any farther intercourse with him.

But there are others who take the word more grammatically: for רדה, rede, and רוד, rud, signifies to be lord, or to rule. I therefore prefer the view of those who render the word, We are lords Some take the verb in a passive sense, but I know not for what reason: and the comment of others is very diluted, “We have kings and counselors.” I consider it to be the language of pride and of vain boasting: for the Jews thought themselves to be kings, according to what Paul says of the Corinthians,

“Ye are rich, ye have reigned without us, and I would ye did reign.” (1 Corinthians 4:8.)

The Corinthians, being inflated with pride on account of the opulence of their city, despised the simplicity of the Gospel; they looked for refined things, and were much addicted to novelties. Hence Paul, seeing that they despised the grace of God, ironically reproved them, and said, that they wished to be rich and to be kings without him, to whom yet as an instrument they owed everything. The same vice is what Jeremiah now condemns in that people, We are lords, we will not come to thee; as though he had said, “Your happiness has hitherto proceeded from me; for whatever you have been, and whatever has been given you, ought to be ascribed to me and to my bounty: but now without me (for God himself speaks) ye are kings, but by what right and by what title? What have you as your own? Why then has my people said, We will come no more to thee?” We now understand the real meaning of the Prophet.

As to the subject itself, he in the first place, as I have already said, is in a manner astonished at the wickedness of the people, as at something monstrous. Hence he exclaims, O generation! as though he had said, that what he saw was incredible. Then he immediately adds, see ye yourselves the word of Jehovah, This was much more severe, than if he had summoned them before God’s tribunal; for he thus proved that their wickedness was extremely gross; for they had, without any cause, nay, without any pretext, and without shame, renounced God, who had been so bountiful towards them. He also in an indirect manner reproved them, because they refused to be instructed; for he commanded them to look on the fact itself, inasmuch as they were deaf, or having ears they closed them against all instruction; for, as we have said, he calls away their attention from the word to the fact itself, and this is what interpreters have not observed.

Then follows an upbraiding, — that God had not been a desert to them; but, as the Prophet had before shewed, abundance of all blessings had flowed to them so as fully to satisfy them. Since then God had enriched them through his blessing, their sin in departing from him was thereby more increased.

In the last part of the verse God expostulates with them on their ingratitude, because they thought themselves to be lords. They were indeed a royal priesthood, but it was through God’s favor. They did not reign through their own right, they did not reign because they had attained power through their own valor or efforts, or through their own merits or their own good fortune; how then? only through the favor of another. Though then they were kings only on the condition of being subject to the supreme King, yet they wished to reign alone, that is, according to their own pleasure; and thus trod under their feet the favor of God. It is with this wickedness then that the Prophet charges them. And the end of the verse is of the same import, we will come no more to thee; as though they stood in no need of God’s aid; for they thought that they could supply themselves with whatever was necessary to support them. As then they were inflated with much pride, they despised the favor of God, as though they stood in no need of the aid of another. It follows —

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