Jeremiah (Ch 3-4)

In Chapter 2 (Jeremiah 2:2), God’s words were directed against Jerusalem, the elders of Judah and priests: “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem,” but later in the chapter it was also directed at Israel: “Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel,” (Jeremiah 2:4,26). So Chapter 3 continues in that context.

Rashi is the acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, a well respected medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud; hence his opinion is often quoted here.

Jeremiah 3

1 “They say, ‘If a man put away his wife, and she go from him and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted?’ But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to Me,” saith the Lord. — but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers, none of them her lawful husband; yet, in spite of the fact that it is not in accordance with legal regulations, return to Me, saith the Lord, for He was ready to show mercy even under such adverse conditions.

“Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where hast thou not been lain with. By the wayside hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness. — and see where thou hast not been lien with; see if there is a hill or mountain or any high place, where thou hast not committed idolatry;

— their harlotry was so notorious, and the facts and instances so many, there was no denying it; every hill and mountain witnessed to their idolatry;

— to which the Targum says, “see where thou hast not joined thyself to worship idols,” in the ways hast thou sat for them; for the idolaters, waiting for them, to join in their idolatries as harlots used to sit by the wayside to solicit their lovers.

Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there hath been no latter rain. And thou had a whore’s forehead; thou refused to be ashamed. — the showers have been withdrawn according to God’s warning, Leviticus 26:19Deuteronomy 28:23-24; that is, droughts were sent upon their land as a punishment in a judgement against her.

Wilt thou not from this time cry unto Me, ‘My Father, Thou art the guide of my youth? — Rashi: will you not from now: if only you repent of your evil and call me “My Father.” If you do so, will your Lord bear a grudge forever for what you have sinned? Will He keep it to eternity? He will not keep it;

— thou art the Guide of my youth? She uses the endearing term “Companion of my youth,” in speaking to the Lord, as though to win Him back.

Will He reserve His anger for ever? Will He keep it to the end?’ Behold, thou hast spoken, and done evil things as thou couldest.” — the Targum says, “is it possible that thy sins should be kept for thee for ever, or the stroke (of punishment) be strengthened upon thee to the end?”

The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king: “Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? She hath gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. — hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? the ten tribes; that is, hast thou not heard? or dost thou not know the idolatry of the ten tribes, which was the cause of their captivity?

— for the facts, or the idolatrous actions of the ten tribes, were not done in Josiah’s and Jeremiah’s time; for they were carried captive in the sixth year of Hezekiah, ninety years or more before Jeremiah began to prophesy, and their idolatry was before their captivity, and therefore the house of Judah should have taken note, as a warning, and stopped following the path that the house of Israel had taken, least they should also be taken into captivity.

And I said after she had done all these things, ‘Return thou unto Me.’ But she returned not, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. — and I said after she had done all these things, these were the thoughts which filled the Lord’s heart. Turn thou unto Me, but the northern kingdom consistently rejecting the Lord’s call; and though her sister Judah saw it, being influenced by Israel’s evil example, she treacherously rejected any return.

And I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. — the Targum says, “I caused them to go into captivity, as those that give a bill of divorce (to their wives) and dismiss them:”

— yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not: committed idolatry and offended the Lord, nor stood in awe of his judgements; but went and played the harlot; committed idolatry, as the ten tribes did, taking no warning by what befell them.

And it came to pass, because she made so light of her whoredom, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. — and committed adultery with stones and with stocks; that is, with images made of stone and wood, which they served and worshipped as gods; and is the adultery or idolatry they are charged with, and by which the land was defiled;

— the Targum says, “she erred or committed idolatry with the worshippers of stone and wood.”

10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto Me with her whole heart, but feignedly,” saith the Lord. — there was a show of reformation in Josiah’s time, but it was but a outward show; there was no true, hearty cordial repentance for the sin of idolatry, only a feigned one;

— there was an outward reformation, but inwardly the desires of the heart were to continue their idolatry; though Josiah was a good king, with a few others, were hearty in its reformation, the greater part of the people played the hypocrites;

— Rashi: but falsely: Josiah’s generation would show themselves as righteous although the others were wicked. They would make forms of pagan deities on the inside of their doors, half on this door and half on this one, and when the destroyers of idols would inspect, the door would be open, and they would not notice it.

— Rashi is the acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, a well respected medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud.

11 And the Lord said unto me, “The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. — the backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah; that is, was comparatively more righteous of the two; though neither of them could vindicate their conduct, or justify themselves before God;

— Judah was more to blame because after Israel committed idolatry and was carried captive, Judah took no warning, but fell into the same trap; and in Manasseh’s time committed greater idolatries than ever Israel did; and more than even the Amorites or other heathen nations had done, 2 Kings 21:6;

12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: “‘Return, thou backsliding Israel,’ saith the Lord, ‘and I will not cause Mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful,’ saith the Lord, ‘and I will not keep anger for ever. — and I will not cause Mine anger to fall upon you, not continue to frown upon them in wrath and displeasure; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, preferring to show grace and mercy rather than indignation.

13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity: that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed My voice,’ saith the Lord. — only acknowledge thine iniquity, freely confessing her transgressions and her guilt, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord, thy God, against whom in the last analysis every sin is directed;

— Rashi: and spreading her private parts to strangers under every leafy tree, wandering back and forth in her harlotry, and have not obeyed My voice, saith the Lord.

14 ‘Turn, O backsliding children,’ saith the Lord, ‘for I am married unto you; and I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. — the Targum says, “for I am well pleased with you;” to which Rashi adds “because I am your Lord, and it is not my honour to leave you in the hand of my enemies.”

15 And I will give you pastors according to Mine heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.’ — and I will give you good shepherds, leaders in both the spiritual and the civil domain, as Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, according to Mine own heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

16 “And it shall come to pass when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days,” saith the Lord, “they shall say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ Neither shall it come to mind, neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it, neither shall that be done any more. — Rashi: they will no longer say, “The ark of the Lord’s covenant”: For your entire assembly will be holy, and I will dwell therein as though it were an ark;

— in the days when Israelites would be gathered; the sense is, that worship belonging to it, shall cease, Christ having came and been sacrificed, who was the substance of what the ark and all other rites did and a shadow for a time; and even during the Millennium, when there would have Passover and other Feasts with all the rites and ceremonies, they are only seen as memorial;

— neither shall that be done any more; the Targum paraphrases the last clause, “neither shall they make war with it any more.”

17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. —

18 In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. — in those days the two houses of Israel shall walk together, all true Israelites being united in the land of Israel, 

— and they shall come together out of the land of the North, from all the countries of the dispersion, to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers, to enjoy their blessings together.

19 “But I said, ‘How shall I put thee among the children and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations?’ And I said, ‘Thou shalt call Me “My Father,” and shalt not turn away from Me.’ — but I said, how shall I put thee among the host of other children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage compared to all the other hosts of nations? 

— and I said, thou shall call Me, My Father, returning once more to the true God; and shall not turn away from Me, fully restored to the favor of Yehovah.

20 Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,” saith the Lord. — surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, forsaking the companion of her youth, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord. Upon this final accusation of the Lord the sorrow of the people and their confession of sins is brought out with dramatic intensity;

— emphasis here is the house of Israel, the lost ten tribes; but could also include the house of Judah, for they committed the same sins and share the same destination.

21 A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel; for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God. — again, the emphasis here is the house of Israel, who have perverted their ways, went into captivity and now known as the lost ten tribes;

— here at least of a contrast to the house of Judah who had always remember the Sabbath, thus always known as God’s people to the outside world, and were never considered lost as the house of Israel is.

22 “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” “Behold, we come unto Thee, for Thou art the Lord our God. — the Targum says, “I will forgive you when ye return;”

— and I will heal your backslidings; that is, I will forgive your sins; sins are the breaking of God’s commandments, and the wounds that resulted from it; and pardoning them is healing them.

23 Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills and from the multitude of mountains. Truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel. — truly, in vain they awaited salvation from the hills and the mountains where they worshipped idols there, but it is a delusion and a snare to expect help from them; for truly, in the Lord our God, is the salvation of Israel; He alone can bring about the deliverance of His people.

24 For shame hath devoured the labor of our fathers from our youth — their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. — the idolatry with which they occupied themselves and had turned themselves into a shameful thing from the days of their fathers in their youth; the idols, whose worship brought shame and disgrace upon themselves;

— because of the iniquity of idols worship, their toil of the flocks and herds were pillaged, or as a steady stream of sacrifices, but their worship also brought down by which their children were torn from them; or that evils have befallen upon their sons and daughters.

25 We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us; for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.” — their consciences for the sins against God have surrounded them and filled them with shame, from the days of their fathers, from their youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, our God;

— a full and unequivocal confession of sins, a complete acknowledgement of guilt, is the first step in true repentance; he that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whosoever confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

Jeremiah 4

The first two verses of this chapter seem to be closely connected with the preceding, being directed to Israel, the ten tribes, by way of reply to their compliance with God’s call, encouraging them to keep and execute their resolution. The rest of the chapter concerns Judah and Jerusalem.

1 “If thou wilt return, O Israel,” saith the Lord, “return unto Me; and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of My sight, then shalt thou not be removed. — if you return to Me, O Israel, you shall not be exiled;

— and if you remove your detestable things, you will return to your former glory and greatness.

And thou shalt swear, ‘The Lord liveth,’ in truth, in judgement, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him shall they glory.” — and thou shalt swear, the Lord liveth, in truth, not in hypocrisy; and in righteousness, in a just cause and with genuine uprightness of heart;

— and the nations under the influence of this confession shall bless Him, and in Him shall they be glorified, thereby becoming partakers of the blessings which were promised to the patriarchs.

For thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. — unless the fallow ground is broken up, it will be no better than sowing among thorns;

— and unless the hearts of men are opened to God, they will not attend to the things that are spoken; preaching and eating the word will be like sowing among thorns; the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, are comparable to thorns.

Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. — lest my fury come forth like fire; to which the wrath of God is sometimes compared, Nahum 1:6 and is sometimes signified by a furnace and lake of fire, even his eternal wrath and vengeance.

“Declare ye in Judah and publish in Jerusalem, and say, ‘Blow ye the trumpet in the land!’ Cry, gather together and say, ‘Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities!’ — declare ye in Judah, announcing it, making it known widely and publish in Jerusalem and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land, as a signal calling the inhabitants to arms; 

— cry, gather together, and say, rather, “cry fully,” that is, with a loud voice, shouting; assemble yourselves and let them go into the fortified cities behind their strongest fortresses.

Set up the standard toward Zion. Retire, stay not! For I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.” — set up the standard toward Zion, raising their banners as a signal to make the city of God their refuge; retire, stay not, but flee, do not try to make a stand;

— for I will bring evil from the North, from Babylon, followed by a great destruction.

The lion has come up from his thicket (thick wood), and the destroyer of the nations is on his way. He has gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant. — the lion is come up from his thicket… meaning Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon who is compared to a lion for his strength, fierceness and cruelty; see Jeremiah 50:17;

— he is gone forth from his place, to make thy land desolate; from Babylon, where his royal palace was, in order to lay waste the land of Judea; and he is represented as being on the road to strike the inhabitants of Judea with great terror, their destruction being determined and certain.

For this, gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl; for the fierce anger of the Lord is not turned back from us. — for the fierce anger of the Lord . . . although Josiah repented wholeheartedly, others were not (II Kings 23:26)…“the Lord did not turn back from his great wrath… because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked Him.”

“And it shall come to pass at that day,” saith the Lord, “that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.” — Rashi: and it shall be on that day: On the day of Josiah they will wonder why so much befell him, for they do not know that his generation did not repent properly. When he came to abolish idolatry, what did the scorners of the generation do? They would engrave an image of a pagan deity on their doors, half of it on this door and half of it on this door. When he would open it, it was not discernible, and when he went away from there, he would close it, and it would join together;

— that the heart of the king shall perish; meaning Zedekiah king of Judah, who should be in the utmost fright and consternation, not knowing what to do, being devoid both of wisdom and courage; see Jeremiah 39:4;

— and the heart of the princes; who being seized with the same panic, and at their wits’ end, would not be able to give any advice and counsel to the king; so that the people would have no help from the king and his nobles, in whom they put their confidence.

10 Then said I, “Ah, Lord God! Surely Thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘Ye shall have peace,’ whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul.” — then said I, Ah, Lord God! The Hebrew word, Aha, is a word expressive both of admiration and lamentation;

11 At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem: “A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of My people — toward the daughter of My people, the children of God’s chosen nation, not to fan nor to cleanse, not the gentle breeze which ordinarily carried off the chaff as the threshed grain was winnowed;

— the Targum says, “as the south wind upon the heads of floods of water in the wilderness, so is the way of the congregation of my people; but rather the north wind is designed, since that is a dry one, and the south wind a moist one; and the rather, since this wind intends Nebuchadnezzar and his army, which should come from Babylon, from the north.

12 even a full wind from those places shall come unto Me. Now also will I give sentence against them.” — a wind full of those punishments which God had threatened, and determined to bring upon this people, and would not turn from, nor repent of: and the phrase “shall come unto me.”

13 Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind. His horses are swifter than eagles! Woe unto us, for we are despoiled! — the metaphor denotes the swiftness of the lion, Nebuchadnezzar’s coming, and the multitudes he should come with, and that darkness and distress he should bring with him upon the house of Judah.

14 O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? — O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, for a mere outward change of behavior is not sufficient; heart and mind and soul must undergo a complete transformation,

— that thou may be saved, for only he who truly repents may partake of the Lord’s deliverance. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? It was high time for all sinful thoughts to be dismissed.

15 For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from Mount Ephraim: — and publish affliction from Mount Ephraim: which lay on the border of the tribe of Benjamin, and near to Jerusalem; and this publication represents the enemy as advancing nearer, and being just at hand;

— the word for “affliction” signifies “iniquity” and it denotes that the affliction spoken of, which is the destruction of the house of Judah, and their captivity in Babylon, were occasioned by their sins. Some think that Dan and Ephraim are mentioned, because of the calves that were worshipped in Dan and in Bethel, which was in the tribe of Ephraim;

— thus the Targum paraphrases the words, “for the voice of the prophets that prophesied against them that go into captivity, because they worshipped the calf, which is at Dan; and they that bring evil tidings, shall come upon them, because they served the image which Micah set up in the mount of the house of Ephraim.”

— Q: who was Micah? Wasn’t he Jeroboam? Perhaps Jeroboam set the alters in Dan and Bethel, but a later Micah came and set up another idol in one of the mountains of Ephraim, hence Mount Ephraim?

16 “Make ye mention to the nations. Behold, publish against Jerusalem that watchers come from a far country and give out their voice against the cities of Judah. — the Targum says, “the army of a rapacious people, like the grape gatherers, come from a far country:”

— and give out their voice against the cities of Judah; threaten the ruin of them; blow the trumpet, the alarm of war; give the orders to besiege; and being sure of victory, triumph before the attack is made.

17 As keepers of a field are they against her round about, because she hath been rebellious against Me,” saith the Lord.

18 “Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee: this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart.”

19 My heart, my heart! I am pained at my very heart! My heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. — I writhe in pain; an expression of writhing in pain and shuddering;

— my heart makes a noise in me; palpitates, beats and throbs, being filled with fears and dread, with sorrow and concern, at what was coming on; it represents an aching heart, all in disorder and confusion;

— the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war, the shout of battle, as the enemy advances to subdue the land of Israel.

20 Destruction upon destruction is cried, for the whole land is despoiled; suddenly are my tents despoiled, and my curtains in a moment. — suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment: meaning either the armies of his people, which dwelt in tents, and were destroyed at once; or the cities, towns, and habitations of his countrymen, which he compares to tents, as being easily beat down or overthrown;

— and so the Targum interprets it of cities; and the prophet seems to intimate that this destruction would reach to Anathoth, where his tent; cottage, and curtains were. So sudden destruction some times comes, when men are crying “Peace, Peace.”

21 How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?

22 “For My people are foolish, they have not known Me; they are sottish children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.” — they are wise to do evil; cunning inventors of evil things, crafty schemers that way, may be full of all wicked subtlety,

— and expert at over reaching and defrauding their brethren; when professors of religion especially ought to be wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil;

23 I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.

24 I beheld the mountains, and lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. — I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, because the very foundations of the earth were shaken, 

— and all the hills moved, as heavy bodies which shake with the slightest disturbance.

25 I beheld, and lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. — and all the birds of the heavens had fled; at the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war; at the blackness of the heavens, filled with smoke; at the barrenness of the earth, there being no seed sown; and the earth, as at the first creation, having no herb, nor trees bearing fruit, and so no food for birds; and therefore they went elsewhere, both wild and tame.

26 I beheld, and lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord and by His fierce anger. — and behold, the fruitful field: the land, planted with all good like a forest, has become like a desert.

27 For thus hath the Lord said: “The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end. — yet will I not make a full end; God would not bring about a total annihilation at this time.

28 For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black, because I have spoken it; I have purposed it and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.

29 The whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; they shall go into thickets and climb up upon the rocks; every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein. — the whole city, or, “every city,” all the cities of the land, shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen as the invading army draws near; 

— they shall go into thickets, their hiding-places, and climb up upon the rocks, seeking refuge before the attacking hordes; every city shall be forsaken and not a man dwell therein.

30 And when thou art despoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rendest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair. Thy lovers will despise thee; they will seek thy life. — though thou clothest thyself with crimson, in garments of the most expensive material, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, in decking herself for the purpose of coquetting with heathen nations;

— though thou rentest thy face with painting, applying antimony black to the eyelids, in order to increase the luster of the eyes, a custom still followed by harlots and vain women, all arts exercised to procure the aid of foreign nations would be useless; thy lovers will despise thee, no longer attracted by such artifices, they will seek thy life.

31 For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, ‘Woe is me now, for my soul is wearied because of murderers!’ — for I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, heartrending wails and moans, the voice of the daughter of Zion, of the Lord’s own chosen people, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, panting in her agony;

— Woe is me now! for my soul is as one who yields to murderers, unable to withstand any longer. Such is the usual fate of men who disregard the warnings and pleadings of the Lord: when it is too late, they begin to mourn and lament, bewailing their fate. But as far as God is concerned, love is still with Him even in the height of His anger.

~ by Joel Huan on November 3, 2021.

One Response to “Jeremiah (Ch 3-4)”

  1. […] Study of Chapters 3 and 4 HERE ~ —— […]

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