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INTRODUCTION TO JEREMIAH 11
This chapter gives an account of the covenant God had made with the people of the Jews; their breach of it; and the evils threatened them on that account; and particularly against the men of Anathoth, for their ill treatment of the prophet. It begins with the order to Jeremiah to rehearse the words of the covenant in the ears of the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Jeremiah 11:1, which covenant is described by the sanction of it; a curse in case of disobedience; and a promise of being their God, and bringing them into the good land, in case of obedience; and by the time when it was made, when the Israelites were brought out of Egypt,
Jeremiah 10:3, which order, the prophet agreeing to, is repeated,
Jeremiah 10:5 declaring the earnest protestation and exhortation of God to obey it, which they not observing, were threatened with the curses of it,
Jeremiah 11:7, the present Jews doing as their forefathers had done, breaking the covenant, particularly by their idolatry, are threatened also with punishment they should not escape, Jeremiah 11:9 which is aggravated by a resolution to show no regard to their cries, Jeremiah 11:11, by the impotence of their idols to save them, though so numerous,
Jeremiah 11:12, by forbidding the prophet to pray for them,
Jeremiah 11:14, by their having no longer a place and protection in the house of God, because of their wickedness, Jeremiah 11:15, by comparing their former and present state together, having been as a beautiful and fruitful olive tree, but now burnt, and its branches broken,
Jeremiah 11:16, next follows an account of a design of the men of Anathoth against the prophet, to take away his life, which he was ignorant of, till the Lord gave him knowledge of it, Jeremiah 11:17, when he imprecates vengeance on them, Jeremiah 11:20, and, under a spirit of prophecy from the Lord, foretells their utter ruin and destruction, Jeremiah 11:21.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying. Here seems to begin a new prophecy; but when it was, and under what reign, and what time between this and the former, is not known; however, it was from the Lord, and so to be regarded.
Hear ye the words of this covenant,.... Which. Dr. Lightfoot understands of the covenant lately made in the times of Josiah, upon finding and reading the law of Moses, 2 Kings 23:3, but it seems rather to design the law of Moses itself; or the covenant made with the people of Israel on Mount Horeb, Exodus 24:7, or rather which was made with them in the land of Moab, Deuteronomy 29:1. The words of it are the things contained in it, the blessings and curses; the order to hear them is in the plural number, and is directed, not to Jeremiah only, but to others with him, the rest of the prophets that were in his days; as Zephaniah, who prophesied, as Kimchi observes, in the reign of Josiah; and there was Baruch his companion; or the priests at Anathoth are here addressed with him; though it is usual, in the Hebrew language, to put one number for another; and Jeremiah, in the next verse, is singly addressed; and the Syriac version renders it in the singular number; perhaps the book of the law might lie before him, and be pointed at; and so he is bid to take it, or "receive" it, as the Targum is, and read and publish it to the Jews, as follows:
and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: the words of the covenant, and what follows.
And say thou unto them,.... This shows that the command of publishing the law or covenant was, however, principally given to Jeremiah:
thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; that made them, and brought them out of Egypt, and made a covenant with them, and had taken care of them, and had bestowed many favours upon them:
cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant; which the prophet, it may be, had in his hands, even the book of the law, and held it forth unto them, while he was speaking; the language of which is, cursed is everyone that does not constantly and perfectly perform what is contained in it, Deuteronomy 27:26.
Which I commanded your fathers,.... To observe and keep:
in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: that is, quickly after, when they were in the wilderness, and before they came into the land of Canaan. The "day" seems to include the whole time from their coming out of Egypt, to their entrance into Canaan's land; it was in the first year of their coming out from thence that the law was given them on Mount Sinai, Exodus 19:1, and it was in the fortieth year, and when they were upon the borders of Canaan, that the covenant was made with them in the land of Moab, Deuteronomy 1:3: "from the iron furnace"; meaning Egypt, and their bondage and affliction in it, compared to an iron furnace for the grievousness of it, its long continuance, and the use of it to try and prove them; see Deuteronomy 4:20:
saying, obey my voice; in the law:
and do them; the commands of it, the words of the covenant:
according to all which I command you; everything was to be done that was commanded, and as it was commanded; a perfect and uniform obedience is to be yielded to the law, in order to enjoy the blessing, or a penalty is incurred:
so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God; this is the tenor of the covenant of works; covenant interest in God, according to the law, depends upon obedience; that is the condition of it; but the covenant of grace is not clogged with such a condition; but runs absolutely,
they shall be my people, and I will be their God, Jeremiah 32:39.
That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers,.... Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:
to give them a land flowing with milk and honey: that is, abounding with plenty of all kind of provisions; see Exodus 3:8:
as it is this day; the land of Canaan continued to those times a very fruitful country; it was as it was promised it should be, and which was a clear thing; their eyes saw it, and the day bore witness to it:
then answered I, and said; that is, the Prophet Jeremiah, to whom the above order was given:
so be it, O Lord; or, "Amen, Lord" f; either agreeing to publish what the Lord commanded him; or as wishing that the land of Canaan might continue the same fruitful land it was, and the people of the Jews in it, they keeping the words of this covenant; or else as assenting that the curse might fall upon the men that did not observe them, alluding to Deuteronomy 27:15. This is the sense of Abarbinel; Jarchi and Kimchi observe, that the word "Lord" is vocative, and in the language of prayer.
f אמן יהוה "Amen, Domine", Pagninus: Montanus; "Amen, O Jehovah", Schmidt, Cocceius.
Then the Lord said unto me,.... Again; for this is a repetition of the above order:
proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: with a loud voice, and openly, that all may hear:
saying, hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them; which their forefathers promised, when the covenant was made with them, Exodus 24:7, but did not perform; hearing without doing is of little avail; not the hearers, but the doers of the law are justified; wherefore men should not be content with hearing only, Romans 2:13.
For I earnestly protested unto your fathers,.... Or "witnessing, witnessed" g; testified his great affection for them; importunately solicited their observation of his precepts for their good; and strictly cautioned them against neglect and disobedience:
the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt;
even unto this day, rising early, and protesting, saying, obey my voice; that is, from the time of the giving of the law, in all successive ages, to the present time, he had sent his prophets to them, time after time, morning by morning, early and late, to press, exhort, and stir them up to an obedience to his will, and to warn them of the evils that would come by disobedience to it.
g העד העדתי "testificando tesficatus sum", Schmidt; "contestando contestatus sum", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius.
Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear,.... Though they had such strong solicitations and fair warnings, and these repeated again and again; all which was an aggravation of their disobedience and stubbornness:
but walked everyone in the imagination of their evil heart; which is desperately wicked, and is evil, and that continually, even every imagination of it; wherefore walking herein must be very wide and different from walking in the law of the Lord, and obeying that; see Jeremiah 3:17:
therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant; that is, all the curses and threatenings denounced in it against the disobedient; and so the Targum,
"and I brought upon them vengeance (or punishment) because they received not the words of this covenant:''
which I commanded them to do, but they did them not; because they did not do the commands of the law, therefore the curses of it lighted on them; for the words of the preceding clause may be rendered, "and I brought upon them" h, c. and it is suggested that the like punishment would be inflicted on the present generation, they imitating and pursuing the iniquities of their fathers; as follows:
h ואביא עליהם "et induxi", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus; "ideo adduxi", Junius Tremellius, Piscator "et feci ut venirent", Cocceius.
And the Lord said unto me,.... After he had given him the order to publish and proclaim the words of the covenant, and exhort to obedience to them; he showed the prophet the reason of it, and opened to him a secret he was not acquainted with:
a conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem; not against the king, and against the civil government, but against the King of kings, against God and his covenant, his word and his worship; some designs were forming to cashier these, and introduce a new religion, the idolatry of the Gentiles; and it was not a few only that were in the scheme, the combination was general, city and country were in it; the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the more polite part of the nation, and the country people, that dwelt in the several cities of Judah, were all united in this affair; and this was found out by him who sees and knows all things. It is common for innovators in religion to lay schemes privately, and secretly inculcate them, before things are ripe for the open introduction of them. The Syriac version renders it, "a rebellion"; and conspiracies often issue in open rebellion; and so the Targum,
"and it is found that the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, have rebelled against my word.''
They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers,.... According to Kimchi, this prophecy was delivered out in the times of Jehoiakim. There had been a reformation in the reign of Josiah, but now they had rebelled against the Lord, and had returned to their former idolatries that had been practised in the times of Amon, Manasseh, and Ahaz:
which refused to hear my words; sent unto them by the prophets, Isaiah, and others:
and they went after other gods to serve them; not their forefathers, though it was true of them; but the then present generation, that were in the conspiracy and rebellion against God; they put their schemes into execution, and worshipped and served the gods of the nations:
the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers; by their many transgressions, and especially by their idolatry; the house of Israel, or the ten tribes, had done so, many years ago, and were carried captive; and the house of Judah, or the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah, committing the same iniquities, might justly expect the like treatment.
Therefore thus saith the Lord, behold, I will bring evil upon them,.... The evil of punishment for the evil of their sins, such as famine, the sword, captivity, which latter is the evil more especially designed; and there is no evil of this nature but what is of God; it is of his sending and bringing; see Amos 3:6:
which they shall not be able to escape; they should not have wisdom enough to form a scheme, nor power enough to put one in execution when formed, whereby they could extricate themselves out of the difficulties they would be in; doubtless reference is had to their being besieged by the Chaldean army, the evil that should come out of the north, Jeremiah 1:14, which should so closely surround them, that none should escape:
and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them: because their prayers were hypocritical, and not attended with faith and true repentance; otherwise, when men cry to God, under a sense of sin, being truly sorry for it, and put their trust in him, he hears them, and delivers them; but these would be concerned only for the evil that was come upon them, and not the evil they had been guilty of; and such sinners, when they pray to him, the Lord hears not. The Targum is,
"and they shall pray before me, and I will not receive their prayers.''
Then shall the cities of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,.... That is, the inhabitants of the cities of Judah, as well as the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem; the former being in distress through the enemy being in their land, as well as the latter besieged by him:
go and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense; Baal, the queen of heaven, sun, moon, planets, and all the hosts of heaven, as in
Jeremiah 44:15, these they should cry unto for help and deliverance in vain:
but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble; not yield them the least relief and comfort in their trouble, so far from saving them entirely from it.
For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah,.... :-,
and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem; of which there were many, and some of note i:
have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal; one of whose names is Bosheth, "shame"; see Hosea 9:10, hence Jerubbaal is called, in 2 Samuel 11:21, Jerubbesheth; very properly is this name given to Baal, not only because the worship of him was to the reproach of the true God, but brought shame and confusion in the issue to its worshipper; as well as because shameful things were done in the worship of it, especially of Baalpeor; who seems to be the same with the Priapus of other nations.
i Vid. Lightfoot, Chorograph. Cent. ad Matt. p. 34.
Therefore pray not thou for this people,.... If for a remnant among them, yet not for the body of the people; and if for their spiritual and eternal good, yet not for their temporal salvation; their temporal ruin was certain; the decree was gone forth, and there was no revoking it; and this is said, not so much by way of prohibition of the prophet, as by way of threatening to the people, to show that as their own prayers should not profit them, so they should not have the benefit of the prayers of good men, their sin was a sin unto death, at least temporal death, and must not be prayed for, 1 John 5:16:
neither lift up a cry or prayer for them; more words are used, to show the divine resolution, how inexorable he was, and how desperate was their condition, and their ruin sure; these words are repeated from Jeremiah 7:16:
for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble; for, as he would not hear their prayers when they should cry to him to be delivered from their trouble, it cannot be thought that he should hear the prayers of others for them, The Targum understands this of the prayers of the prophet for them, paraphrasing the words thus,
"for there is no acceptance before me (or it is not pleasing to me) when thou shall pray for them before me, in the time of their evil;''
neither their prayers, nor the prophet's for them, would be acceptable to God, or of any avail, he being determined to bring evil upon them.
What hath my beloved to do in mine house,.... These are either the words of the prophet, as Kimchi and Ben Melech think, speaking after this manner; what has God, who is my beloved, he whom my soul loves, and who loves me, to do in the sanctuary, which is my house, and not this people's, that have defiled it, to cause his Shechinah to dwell there, after so much wickedness has been committed in it? and so Cocceius interprets it of Christ the beloved Son of God, and the beloved of his church and people, withdrawing from the temple, because of the wickedness of the Jews; or they are the words of God concerning the people of the Jews, who were beloved for the Father's sake; signifying that now, because of their abominations, it was not fitting they should continue in the house of God, or have any shelter and protection there. The Jews interpret k this of Abraham:
seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many; that is, the congregation of Israel, or the church of the Jews, had committed idolatry with many idols; or it was not only a few of them that were guilty of this sin, but a multitude, even their great men, the princes and nobles:
and the holy flesh is passed from thee? which Kimchi and Ben Melech understand of holy and good men, who ceased from among them, were perished and gone; and Jarchi, of the circumcision of the flesh, which was neglected: but it seems best to interpret it of the flesh of sacrifices; which were either laid aside by them, or, if offered and eaten of, were of no service to them, being offered up with a wicked mind; or rather the meaning is, the time was come that these were at an end, the temple being destroyed:
when thou doest evil; the evil of sin; or "when thine evil is" l; the evil of punishment is coming upon thee:
then thou rejoicest; instead of repenting of sin, and mourning for it, or being humbled at approaching judgments, gave themselves up to sensual lusts and pleasures; neither concerned at the one nor at the other; neither grieved for sin, nor trembled at punishment; but amidst all were brisk and jovial; though some say m the word has the signification of trembling; and render it, "then thou shalt tremble". The Targum of the whole is,
"What (have I to do) with this people, that was beloved before me? they have left the worship of the house of my sanctuary; they have took counsel to sin much; they mingle the flesh of abominations with the holy flesh; they shall go into captivity from thee; because of thy wickedness thou art strong.''
k T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 53. 2. l כי רעתך "quum adest malum tuum", Junius Tremellius "praesto est", Piscator; extabit, Cocceius. m R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 32. 1.
The Lord called thy name a green olive tree,.... That is, compared the Jewish church and people to one, and made them as one, very prosperous and flourishing in the enjoyment of privileges, civil and religious, being highly favoured with the word and ordinances: fair, and of goodly fruit; which, for a while, brought forth the fruit of good works; and, while such, was amiable and goodly to look upon; was, as the Syriac version is, "fair with fruit, and beautiful in sight"; and whereas it might have been expected she would have so continued, and been still as a green olive tree in the house of God, as David says, Psalms 52:8, now it was otherwise, she was become barren, dry, and fruitless: and therefore it follows:
with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it: that is, by means of the Chaldean army, which came with a mighty rushing noise, as a numerous army does; the Lord hath destroyed it, and burnt it with fire; what the Chaldeans did is ascribed to God, because it was done according to his will, and by his direction and overruling providence:
and the branches of it are broken; the high and principal ones, the king, princes, and nobles, their palaces, and the house of God. The apostle seems to have respect to this passage in Romans 11:17. The Targum is,
"as an olive tree that is beautiful in form and comely of sight, whose branches overshadow the trees, so the Lord hath magnified thy name among the people; but now that thou hast transgressed the law, the armies of the people, who are strong as fire, shall come against thee, and helps shall be joined to them.''
For the Lord of hosts that planted thee,.... As a green olive tree, and gave thee all thy verdure, fruitfulness, happiness, and prosperity; when he first put thee into the possession of the good land, and distinguished thee by so many favours and blessings; as he is able to take them away, so he will:
for he hath pronounced evil against thee; he hath determined it in his mind, and he hath declared it by his prophets:
for the evil of the house of Israel; the ten tribes, who had committed sin, and for which the evil pronounced had been executed on them already, being some time ago carried captive:
and of the house of Judah; who had taken no warning by them, but had followed them in their iniquities, and even exceeded them; and therefore must expect the like punishment for their sins:
which they have done against themselves; for sin is not only against God, his nature, will, and law; but it is against the sinner himself, and is to his hurt and ruin, both temporal and eternal:
to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal; this particularly was the evil which was so provoking to God; and therefore he determined to bring the evil of punishment upon them; and shows the cause and reason of it; and which is a sufficient vindication of his justice.
And the Lord hath given me knowledge of it,.... Either of what he had been declaring as the sins of these people; and of what he had been prophesying concerning punishment for their sins; what he had said was not of himself, did not arise from any pique or resentment in him against them; but it was of God, that knows all things, and had made known these things to him; and he had only faithfully related them as he had received them; or else of the malicious designs of the men of Anathoth to take away his life, after mentioned:
and I know it; and am sure of it; having it by divine revelation, and from that God that cannot lie, and will not deceive:
then thou shewedst me their doings. Some versions, as the Septuagint, Syriac; and Arabic, take the former words to be a prayer of the prophet's, "O Lord, make me know, or show me, or teach me, that I may know"; and these signify that his prayer was answered. The Lord showed him the sins of these people, and what punishments they deserved, and would be inflicted on them; or rather what they were doing in the dark, and what schemes they were contriving and attempting to put in execution against his life; but God was careful of it, and would not suffer them to do him any harm; and therefore made all known unto him; see Psalms 105:15.
But I was like a lamb, or an ox,.... The word "alluph", rendered an ox, is by many considered as an adjective to the word lamb n; since the disjunctive particle or is not in the next; and is differently translated; by the Vulgate Latin version, "as a meek or tame lamb"; by the Septuagint and Arabic versions, "as an harmless lamb": and by the Syriac version, "as a pure" or "clean lamb"; and by the Targum,
"as a choice lamb;''
and so R. Menachem in Jarchi, a large or principal one; but the words respect not the excellency, the meekness, patience, innocence, and harmlessness of the prophet; but his security and insensibility of danger, like one or both of these creatures:
that is brought to the slaughter; to be sacrificed by the priest, or killed by the butcher; not knowing but it is going to the pasture to feed in, or to the fold or stall to lie down in; so ignorant was the prophet of the designs of his townsmen against him, and not at all jealous that they wished him ill; since he meant none to them, but sought their good:
and I knew not that they had devised devices against me; that they had met and consulted together, and devised mischief against him:
saying, let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof; meaning either the prophet and his family, root and branch; or him and his prophecies; for taking away his life would put an end to his prophesying. Some think this respects the manner in which they proposed to take away his life, as by poison; so the Targum,
"let us cast (put) poison (or the savour of death) into his food;''
for the word rendered fruit signifies bread; and so the Septuagint, Arabic, and Vulgate Latin versions render it, "let us cast, or put wood into his bread" o; either some poisonous plant or tree, or rotten wood; or give him wood instead of bread, and so starve him. De Dieu observes, that לחם, translated "fruit", signifies, both in the Hebrew and Arabic languages, "flesh"; and renders it, "let us break wood upon his flesh", p or body; that is, beat him with staves till they are broken upon him, and so kill him. The ancient fathers understand this of Christ, who is the bread of life, and of his crucifixion upon the wood of the cross. Jerom says it is the consent of all the churches that these things are said of Christ in the person of Jeremiah, even in this and the preceding verse, and the following one:
let us cut him off from the land of the living. The Targum explains it of the land of Israel; but it designs the world in general, and the taking away of his life out of it, and from among men:
that his name may be remembered no more; that he and his prophecies may be buried in everlasting oblivion; he no more spoken of, and his predictions no more regarded: but, as they failed in the former in taking away his life, he outliving many of them, so in the latter; for as what he foretold exactly came to pass, his name and his prophesying are in remembrance to this day; and, as the wise man says, "the memory of the just is blessed", Proverbs 10:7.
n ככבש אלף "quasi agnus mansuetus", V. L. "agnus assuefactus"; so some in De Dieu; "tanquam agnus amicabilis", De Dieu; "un agneau aimable", Gallic version. o נשחיתה עץ בלחמו "mittamus lignum in panem ejus", V. L. "corrumpamus veneno cibum", Pagninus; "corrumpamus lignum in pane ejus", Montanus, Vatablus, Calvin. p "Rumpamus lignum in earnem ejus", De Dieu.
But, O Lord of hosts, that judgest righteously,.... This is the prophet's appeal to God, as the Judge of the whole earth, who will do right; he found there was no justice to be done him among men; he therefore has recourse to a righteous God, who he knew judged righteous judgment:
that triest the reins and the heart; of all men; as of his own, so of his enemies; and which he mentions, not so much on his own account as theirs:
let me see thy vengeance on them; which imprecation arose from a pure zeal for God, for his glory, and the honour of his justice; and not from private revenge; and so no ways inconsistent with the character of a good man; though some consider the words as a prediction of what would befall them, and he should live to see accomplished; and render them, "I shall see c." q and so the Targum,
"I shall see the vengeance of thy judgment on them:''
for unto thee have I revealed my cause; as a client to his patron; told his whole case, and left it with him, believing he would manage it for him, and do him justice. The Apostle Peter seems to have this passage in view, when speaking of Christ, 1 Peter 2:23.
q אראה "videbo", Munster, Schmidt; "visurus sum", Junius & Tremellius.
Therefore thus saith the Lord of the men of Anathoth,.... That is, "unto", or "concerning the men of Anathoth", the townsmen of Jeremiah, and who were the persons that combined together to destroy him; of this place, :-
that seek thy life; or "soul"; that is, to take it away:
saying, prophesy not in the name of the Lord; without their leave, and such hard things as he did, unless he would prophesy smooth things, and then he might go on, otherwise he must expect to die:
that thou die not by our hand; or means; they intimate, that, should he persist in this way of prophesying, they should not stay to carry on a judicial process against him, to bring him and accuse him before a judge, or the sanhedrim, or any court of judicature; but should do as those called zealots in later times did; lay violent hands upon him, and dispatch him themselves at once; perhaps this they said after they found that the prophet had knowledge of their designs against him.
Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, behold, I will punish them,..... Or, visit "them" r; look into this matter, try this cause, bring it to an issue, and pass sentence on them; which is as follows:
the young men shall die by the sword; by the sword of the Chaldeans, in the field, going out in battle against them; or rather when their town was taken and plundered, since they were the sons of priests:
their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; that is, their little ones, male and female; so that the famine, it seems, was not only in Jerusalem at the time of its siege, but in other parts also: no mention is made of the parents themselves.
r פקד עליהם "visitans super eos", Montanus, Schmidt; "visito", Pagninus, Vatablus, Cocceius.
And there shall be no remnant of them,.... And thus the measure they meted out to the prophet was measured to them; they devised to destroy him root and branch, the tree with its fruit; and now none shall be left of them; such who escaped the sword and the famine should be carried captive, as they were; for though there were none left in Anathoth, there were some preserved alive, and were removed into Babylon; since, at the return from thence, the men of Anathoth were a hundred twenty and eight, Nehemiah 7:27:
for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation; or, "in the year of their visitation" s; that is, of the visitation of their sins, as the Targum; which was the year of the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, and was in the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah 52:12 and this was not a chance matter, but what was fixed and determined by the Lord.
s שנת פקדתם εν ενιαυτω επισκεψεως αυτων, Sept. "anno visitationis eorum", Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Schmidt.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 11". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29