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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 23

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

The pastors - shepherds, i. e., civil rulers Jeremiah 2:8.

The sheep of My pasture - literally, of My pasturing, the sheep of whom I am shepherd. The people do not belong to the rulers but to God.

Verse 2

They had scattered them first spiritually by leading them into idolatry; and secondly, many had literally been taken to Egypt with Jehoahaz, many in Jehoiakim’s time had fled there, while others fell away to the Chaldaeans: and finally the best of the land had been carried to Babylon with Jeconiah.

Driven away - i. e., made them outcasts. In the East, shepherds never drive their flocks, but go ahead of them John 10:4-5.

Have not visited them - i. e., have not concerned yourselves about their conduct.

Verse 3

While there is no promise of restoration for the kings, there is for the people (see Jeremiah 4:27), because they had been led astray by their rulers.

Have driven them - The evil shepherds drove the people into exile by leading them into sin: and God by inflicting punishment.

Their folds - Or, their pastures.

Verse 4

Shepherds - Men like Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Maccabees, raised up especially by God. It is a revocation of the promise made to David 2 Samuel 7:12-16 so far as the earthly throne was concerned.

They shall fear no more ... - The effect of good government will be general security.

Neither shall they be lacking - Not one sheep shall be missing or lost.

Verse 5

Even with the temporal kingship abolished, David’s mercies are still sure.

A righteous Branch - Or, sprout, germ (see Isaiah 4:2 note). The sprout is that in which the root springs up and grows, and which, if it be destroyed, makes the root perish also.

And a king shall reign ... - Rather, and he shall reign as king. David’s family is to be dethroned (temporally), that it may reign gloriously (spiritually). But compare Jeremiah 33:17, note; Jeremiah 33:25, note.

Verse 6

This is his name whereby he shall be called - From remote antiquity the person here spoken of has been understood to be “the righteous germ,” and this alone is in accordance with the grammar and the sense. Nevertheless, because Jeremiah Jeremiah 33:15-16 applies the name also to Jerusalem, some understand it of Israel.

the Lord OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS - Messiah is here called:

(1) Yahweh, and

(2) our righteousness, because He justifies us by His merits.

Some render, He by whom Yahweh works righteousness. Righteousness is in that case personal holiness, which is the work of the Spirit after justification.

Verse 9

Because of the prophets - Rather, concerning “the prophets.” These words should come first, as being the title of this portion of the prophecy Jeremiah 23:9-40.

Verse 10

Because of swearing - Rather, because of the curse denounced against sin Jeremiah 11:3. The mourning probably refers to the drought Jeremiah 12:4.

The pleasant places - “Pastures.”

Their course - Their mode of life.

Their force is not right - “Their heroism,” that on which they pride themselves as mighty men, “is not right,” is wrong (see Jeremiah 8:6 note).

Verse 11

For both prophet and priest are profane - While by their office they are consecrated to God, they have made themselves common and unholy by their sins. See Jeremiah 3:9 note.

Yea, in my house - This may refer to sins such as those of the sons of Eli 1 Samuel 2:22, or that they had defiled the temple by idolatrous rites.

Verse 12

Every word denotes the certainty of their fall. “Their path is like slippery places in darkness:” and on this path “they are pushed with violence.” External circumstances assist in urging on to ruin those who choose the path of vice.

Verse 13

And I have seen folly ... - Rather, “Also I have seen.” The prophet contrasts the prophets of Samaria with those of Jerusalem. In the conduct of the former God saw folly (literally that which is insipid, as being unsalted). It was stupidity to prophesy by Baal, an idol.

In Baal - i. e., in the name of Baal.

Verse 14

Rather, “But in the prophets of Jerusalem” etc. Their conduct is more strongly condemned than that of the Baal-priests.

They strengthen ... - First by neglecting to warn and rebuke sinners: secondly by the direct influence of their bad example.

They are all of them - They have become, “all of them,” i. e., the people of Jerusalem, and not the prophets only.

Verse 15

Profaneness - Desecration.

Verse 16

How were the people to know the false prophets from the true? The former bring a message that fills with vain hopes, or “speak a vision” out of their own invention.

Verse 17

Still - “Continually.” This verse gives the chief test by which the false prophet is to be detected, namely, that his predictions violate the laws of morality.

Verse 18

The prophet now applies this test to the circumstances of the times. A whirlwind has already gone forth Jeremiah 23:19. Had these false prophets stood in God’s secret “Council” (so in Jeremiah 23:22), they like Jeremiah would have labored to avert the danger by turning men from their evil way.

Verse 19

Rather, “Behold, the tempest of Yahweh, even hot anger hath gone forth and a whirlwind shall burst upon the head of the wicked.”

Verse 20

The latter days - The proper and final development of any event or series of events. Thus, the expression is used of the Christian dispensation as the full development of the Jewish Church. Here it means the destruction of Jerusalem, as the result of the sins of the Jews.

Consider - Rather, understand. When Jerusalem is destroyed, the exiles - taught by adversity - will understand that it was sin which brought ruin upon their country.

Verse 21

Ran - i. e., hurried to take upon them the responsibilites of the prophetic office.

Verse 22

They should have turned them ... - The work of the true prophet, which is to turn men from evil unto good.

Verse 23

At hand - Or, near. An appeal to the omnipotence of God in demonstration of the wickedness of the prophets. His power is not limited, so that He can notice only things close to Him, but is universal.

Verse 25

In Deuteronomy 13:1 “a dreamer of dreams” is used in a bad sense, and with reason. God communicating His will by dreams was a thing too easy to counterfeit for it not to be misused.

Verse 26

Some translate, “How long? Is it in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies, and prophesy the deceit of their heart - do they purpose to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they tell one to another?”

Verse 27

To his neighbor - i. e., to one another, to the people about him, to anyone.

As their fathers ... - Rather, “as their fathers forgot My name through Baal.” The superstition which attaches importance to dreams keeps God as entirely out of men’s minds as absolute idolatry.

Verse 28

A dream ... faithfully - Rather, as “a dream”... as truth. The dream is but a dream, and is to be told as such, but God’s word is to be spoken as certain and absolute truth.

The dreams are the chaff, worthless, with nothing in them; the wheat, the pure grain after it is cleansed and winnowed is God’s word. What have these two in common?

Verse 29

Like as a fire - God’s word is the great purifier which destroys all that is false and aves, only the genuine metal. Compare Hebrews 4:12.

Like a hammer ... - God’s word rouses and strengthens the conscience and crushes within the heart everything that is evil.

Verse 30

Jeremiah gives in succession the main characteristics of the teaching of the false prophets. The first is that they steal God’s words from one another. Having no message from God, they try to imitate the true prophets.

Verse 31

That use their tongues - literally, that take their tongues. Their second characteristic. They have no message from God, but they take their tongues, their only implement, and say, He saith, using the solemn formula by which Yahweh affirms the truth of His words. Solemn asseverations seemed to give reality to their emptiness.

Verse 32

The third characteristic. See Jeremiah 23:25.

Lightness - Vain, empty, talk.

Verse 33

Burden - Here a prophecy, either

(1) as being something weighty: or

(2) a something said aloud.

Isaiah brought the word into general use: Jeremiah never used it, though his predictions were all of impending evil. The false prophets, however, applied it in derision to Jeremiah’s prophecies, playing upon its double sense, and so turning solemn realities into mockery (see Jeremiah 23:34).

What burden? - Or, according to another reading, Ye are the burden.

I will even forsake you - Rather, and I will cast you away. From the idea of a burden the thought naturally arises of refusing to bear it, and throwing it off.

Verse 35

The proper words for prophecy. It is to be called an answer when the people have come to inquire of Yahweh: but His word when it is sent unasked.

Verse 36

Every man’s word ... - Rather, every man’s burden shall be his word; i. e., his mocking use of the word “burden” shall weigh him down and crush him.

Perverted - i. e., put into a ridiculous light.

Verse 38

Since - Or, But if ye say.

Verse 39

Translate, “Therefore, behold, I will even take you up (or will burden you), and I will cast you, and the city which I gave you and your fathers, out of my presence.”

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jeremiah 23". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/jeremiah-23.html. 1870.
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