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(1) The word that came to Jeremiah.—The words indicate that we are entering on a distinct message or discourse, which goes on probably to the end of Jeremiah 12:0. No date is given, and we are driven to infer it from the internal evidence of the message itself. This points to an early period of Jeremiah’s work, probably in the reign of Josiah. The invasion of the Chaldeans is not so near, as in the preceding chapter. Jeremiah is still residing at Anathoth (Jeremiah 11:21). By some critics, however, it is referred to the reign of Jehoiachin.
(2) The words of this covenant.—The phrase had obviously acquired a definite and special sense in consequence of the discovery of the lost book of the Law under Josiah, and the covenant into which the people had then entered (comp. 2 Kings 23:3). The “curse” under which the people had fallen was practically identical with that in Deuteronomy 27:26, the word “obeyeth” being substituted for “confirmeth.”
(3) Cursed be the man . . .—The verse is, as it were, a mosaic, so to speak, of phrases, with slight verbal changes, from the recently discovered book of Deuteronomy—the “iron furnace” from Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51, “Hear my voice and do them” from Deuteronomy 28:1, “Ye shall be my people” from Deuteronomy 29:13. The “iron furnace” was, of course, Egypt, the “furnace of affliction,” as in Isaiah 48:10, in which the people had endured sufferings of which that was the only adequate symbol. The word used denoted the “furnace” of the smelter, but the actual form of bondage through which the Israelites had passed, working in the brick-kiln furnaces (Exodus 1:14), had probably given a special force to the phrase.
(5) A land flowing with milk and honey.—The description appears for the first time in Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17. It rapidly became proverbial, and is prominent in Deuteronomy 6:3 and Joshua 5:6. It points primarily, it may be noticed, to the plenty of a pastoral rather than an agricultural people (see Note on Isaiah 7:22), and so far to the earlier rather than the later stages of the life of Israel.
So be it, O Lord.—The Amen of the liturgies and litanies of Israel, brought probably into fresh prominence by Deuteronomy 27:15-26, and uttered by princes and people in the solemn ceremonial of 2 Kings 23:3.
(6) In the cities of Judah . . .—It is, at least, probable that the words are to be taken literally, and that the prophet went from city to city, doing his work as a preacher of repentance, and taking the new-found book of Deuteronomy as his text. The narrative of 2 Kings 23:13-20 indicates an iconoclastic journey throughout the kingdom as made by Josiah; and the prophetic discourse now before us, enforcing the observance of the covenant just made, would have been a fit accompaniment for such a mission.
(7) Rising early.—The phrase in its spiritual meaning, as applied to Jehovah, is almost peculiar to Jeremiah, and is used by him twelve times. In its literal sense, or as denoting only ordinary activity, it is found often, e.g., Genesis 20:8; Proverbs 27:14. (See Note on Jeremiah 7:13.)
(8) Imagination.—Better, as before (Jeremiah 3:17), stubbornness.
Therefore I will bring upon them.—Better, I have brought upon them. The words contain not a direct prediction, but an appeal to the experience of the past as in itself foreshadowing the future.
(9) A conspiracy.—The words explain the rapid apostasy that followed on the death of Josiah. There had been all along, even while he was urging his reforms, an organised though secret resistance to the policy of which he was the representative.
(10) Their forefathers.—The Hebrew is more specific—their first fathers (as in Isaiah 43:27), with special reference to the idolatries of the forty years’ wandering and the first settlement in Canaan.
They went after other gods.—The Hebrew pronoun is emphatically repeated, as pointing back to the subject of the first clause of the verse, the men of Jeremiah’s own time—“they have gone after other gods.”
(11) I will bring evil.—The Hebrew expresses immediate action, I am bringing.
(13) According to the number of thy cities . . .—This and Jeremiah 11:12 reproduce what we have heard already in Jeremiah 2:27-28; Jeremiah 7:17. The “shameful thing” is, as in Jeremiah 3:24, the image of Baal, which would seem to have been set up openly in some prominent place in every city of Judan, every street of Jerusalem. The reference is probably made, as before, to the formal recognition of Baal-worship in the days of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:3; 2 Chronicles 33:3), but the sin may have been repeated as soon as the restraint of Josiah’s reign had been removed.
(14) Therefore pray not.—The words imply, as in Jeremiah 7:16, that the prophet’s human feelings had led him to pour his soul in passionate intercession that the penalty might be averted. He is told that it is at once too early and too late for that prayer. The people have not yet been moved to repentance, and their cry is simply the wail of suffering. The discipline must do its work, and the judgment they have brought down on themselves can be stayed no longer.
(15) My beloved.—sc., Judah—or, perhaps, Israel collectively—as the betrothed of Jehovah. What has she to do, what part or lot has she in that house of Jehovah which she pollutes?
Seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many.—The Hebrew is difficult, and probably corrupt. The most probable rendering is What hath my beloved to do in my house, to work it even evil devices? Thy many, i.e. (probably, as in Jeremiah 3:1), thy many lovers, and the holy flesh (i.e., her sacrifices), will they make it (the guilt of her devices) to pass away from thee? Keeping the present text of the Hebrew the latter clause would run, they shall pass away from thee, i.e., shall leave thee, as thou wert, unreconciled and unforgiven. A conjectural emendation, following the LXX., gives, will thy vows and the holy flesh remove thy evil from thee . . . The general sense is, however, clear. A religion of mere ritual-sacrifices and the like will not avail to save. The Hebrew for “lewdness” does not convey the idea which we now attach to the English word, but means primarily a plan of any kind, and then a “device” or “scheme” in a bad sense, as in Psalms 10:2; Psalms 21:11; Proverbs 14:17. Probably the translators, here, as in Acts 17:5; Acts 18:14, used the word in this more general sense. Primarily, indeed, “lewd” in Old English was simply the opposite of “learned.”
When thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest.—The clause is involved in the same difficulty as the rest of the verse. The English version is tenable, and gives an adequate meaning. By some commentators, however, the passage is rendered, referring evil to the previous sentence, Will they (vows, &c.) remove evil from thee? Then mightest thou rejoice.
(16) A green olive tree.—The parable is essentially the same, though a different symbol is chosen, as that of the vine of Isaiah 5:1; Jeremiah 2:21, or the fig-tree of Luke 13:6. The olive also was naturally a symbol of fertility and goodness, as in Psalms 52:8; Hosea 14:6; Zechariah 4:3; Zechariah 4:11. In the words “the Lord called thy name” we have the expression of the Divine purpose in the “calling and election” of Israel. This was what she was meant to be.
Fair, and of goodly fruit.—The words point, as before, to the ideal state of Israel. She had made no effort to attain that ideal, and therefore the thunderstorm of God’s wrath fell on it. The word for “tumult” is used in Ezekiel 1:24 for the sound of an army on its march, and is probably used as combining the literal or figurative meaning.
(17) The Lord of hosts, that planted thee.—As in Jeremiah 2:21, stress is laid on the fact that Jehovah had planted the tree and bestowed on it all the conditions of fruitfulness, and that it was He who now passed the sentence of condemnation.
(18) And the Lord hath given me knowledge.—A new section opens abruptly, and the prophet speaks no longer of the sins of Israel and Judah at large, but of the “doings” of his own townsmen, of their plots against his life. Unless this is altogether a distinct fragment, connected, possibly, with Jeremiah 9:8, the abruptness suggests the inference that the plots of the men of Anathoth against him had suddenly been brought under his notice.
(19) Like a lamb or an ox.—Better, as a tame lamb, i.e., one, like the ewe-lamb of Nathan’s parable (2 Samuel 12:3), brought up in the home of its master. There is no “or” in the Hebrew, and the translators seem to have mistaken the adjective (tame) for a noun. The LXX., Vulg., and Luther agree in the rendering now given. Assuming the earlier date of Isaiah 53:7, the words would seem to have been an allusive reference to the sufferer there described.
The tree with the fruit thereof.—Literally, the tree with its bread, here taken for its “fruit.” Some scholars, however, render the word “sap,” or adopt a reading which gives that meaning. The phrase would seem to be proverbial for total destruction, not of the man only, but of his work. While the prophet’s life had been innocent and unsuspecting, his own townsmen were conspiring to crush him, and bury his name and work in oblivion. The sufferings of the prophet present, in this matter, a parallel to those of the Christ (Luke 4:29).
(20) Let me see thy vengeance on them.—The prayer, like that of the so-called vindictive Psalms (69, 109), belongs to the earlier stage of the religious life when righteous indignation against evil is not yet tempered by the higher law of forgiveness. As such it is not to be imitated by Christians, but neither is it to be hastily condemned. The appeal to a higher judge, the desire to leave vengeance in His hands, is in itself a victory over the impulse to take vengeance into our own hands. Through it, in most cases, the sufferer from wrong must pass before he can attain to the higher and more Christ-like temper which utters itself in the prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Unto thee have I revealed my cause.—i.e., laid it bare before thee. The thought and the phrase were characteristic of Jeremiah, and meet us again in Jeremiah 20:12.
(21) Thus saith the Lord.—The “men of Anathoth,” it would seem, had at first tried to stop the preaching of Jeremiah by threats, as Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, had tried to stop that of Amos (Amos 7:12-13). Failing in this, after the manner of the men of Nazareth in their attack on the Christ (Luke 4:28-29), and of the later Jews in their dealings with St. Paul, they conspired against his life (Acts 9:23; Acts 9:29; Acts 14:19; Acts 23:12).
(22) The young men.—As the context shows, these are the men of military age who would die fighting, while their children should perish from famine within the walls of the besieged cities.
(23) There shall be no remnant of them.—In Ezra 2:23; Nehemiah 7:27 we find that 128 of Anathoth returned from exile. The words must therefore be limited either to the men who had conspired against the prophet, or to the complete deportation of its inhabitants. The situation of Anathoth, about three or four miles north-east of Jerusalem, would expose it to the full fury of the invasion. The words are apparently spoken with reference to the ever-recurring burden of Isaiah’s prophecy that “a remnant “should return (Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:21). The conspirators of Anathoth were excluded from that promise.
Even the year of their visitation.—See Notes on Jeremiah 8:12; Jeremiah 10:15.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 11". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29