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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 3

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 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.

Contrary to all precedent in the case of adultery Yahweh offers a return to Judah, the spiritual adulteress (Jeremiah 3:1-5). A new portion of the book begins at Jeremiah 3:6, and ends at the close of Jeremiah 6:1-30. Judah worse than Israel; yet both shall be restored in the last days (Jeremiah 3:6-25).

They say - rather, as Hebrew, 'saying' in agreement with "the Lord," Jer. 3:37 of last chapter (Maurer). Or it is equivalent to, 'Suppose this case.' Some copyist may have omitted "The word of the Lord came to me," saying,

Shall he return unto her - will he take her back? It was unlawful do so (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Shall not - should not the land be polluted if this were done?

Yet return - (Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 4:1; Zechariah 1:3. The ground of this gracious willingness, on God's part to receive them again, if they will "return" to Him, is that Yahweh "remembers His own everlasting covenant with" Israel even though she has broken the covenant; cf. Ezekiel 16:51; Ezekiel 16:58; Ezekiel 16:60. God has put away Israel by a temporary separation for her unfaithfulness, not by a permanent divorce; Isaiah 50:1, "Where is the bill of your, mother's divorcement, whom I have put away?" note).

Verse 2

Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.

High places - the scene of idolatries, which were spiritual adulteries.

In the ways hast thou sat for them - watching for lovers like a prostitute (as Tamar did, Genesis 38:14; Genesis 38:21; Proverbs 7:12; Proverbs 23:28; Ezekiel 16:24-25), and like an Arab who lies in wait for travelers. The Arabs of the desert, east and south of Palestine, are still notorious as robbers.

Verse 3

Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.

No latter rain - essential to the crops in Palestine; withheld in judgment (Leviticus 26:19, "I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass;" cf. Joel 2:23, note).

Whore's forehead - (Jeremiah 8:12, "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush." Hence, the "forehead" of God's servants who prophesied to them had to be "made strong against their foreheads, as an adamant harder than flint," Ezekiel 3:8).

Verse 4

Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?

Wilt thou not from this time - not referring, as Michaelis thinks, to the reformation begun the year before,

i.e., the twelfth of Josiah: it means-Wilt thou not, now at once, now at last?

Me - contrasted with the "stock" whom they had heretofore called on as "father" (Luke 15:18).

Thou art - rather, 'thou wast.'

Guide of my youth - i:e., husband (Jeremiah 2:2; Proverbs 2:17, "Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God;" Hosea 2:7; Hosea 2:15). Husband and father are the two most endearing of ties.

Verse 5

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.

He - `thou,' the second person had preceded,"My Father, thou," etc. (Jeremiah 3:4). The changes to the third person implies a putting away of God to a greater distance from them. A new speaker is here introduced, representing the Jews: instead of repenting and forsaking their idols, they merely deprecate the continuance of their punishment. Jeremiah 3:12 and Psalms 102:9 answer their question in the event of their penitence.

Spoken and done - rather (God's reply to them), 'Thou hast spoken (thus: i:e., now that judgments are imminent, thou triest to cajole me with soft deprecatory words), and yet (all the while) thou hast done evil,' etc.

As thou couldest - with all thy might; with incorrigible persistency (Calvin).

Verse 6

The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.

From here to Jeremiah 6:30 a new discourse, delivered in Josiah's reign: it consists of two parts, the former extending to Jeremiah 4:3, in which he warns Judah from the example of Israel's doom, and yet promises Israel final restoration; the latter a threat of Babylonian invasion: as Nabopolassar founded the Babylonian empire 625 BC, the seventeenth of Josiah, this prophecy is perhaps not earlier than that date (Jeremiah 4:5, etc.; Jeremiah 5:14, etc.; Jeremiah 6:1, etc.; Jeremiah 22:1-30.); and probably not later than the second thorough reformation, in the eighteenth year of the same reign.

Backsliding - literally, apostasy: not merely apostate, but apostasy itself, the essence of it (Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 3:22).

Verse 7

And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

I said - (2 Kings 17:13, "Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments"). Sister - (Ezekiel 16:46, "Thine older sister is Samaria ... and thy younger sister is Sodom;" See Ezekiel 23:2-4).

Verse 8

And I saw, when for all the causes whereby 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.

I saw - I saw that, though (whereas) it was for this very reason (namely), because backsliding (apostate) Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 17:18), and given her a bill of divorce, yet Judah feared not, etc. (Ezekiel 23:11, "When her sister Aholibah saw this, she (Aholah) was more corrupt in her inordinate love," etc.)

Bill of divorce - literally, a 'writing of cuttings off.' The plural implies the completeness of the severance. The use of this metaphor here, as in the former discourse (Jeremiah 3:1), implies a close connection between the discourses. The epithets are characteristic: Israel, 'apostate' (as the Hebrew for "backsliding" is better rendered); Judah, not as yet utterly apostate, but treacherous or faithless.

Also - herself also, like Israel.

Verse 9

And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.

And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom ... - some take this verse of Judah, to whom the end of Jeremiah 3:8 refers. But Jeremiah 3:10 puts Judah in contrast to Israel in this verse. "Yet for all this," referring to the sad, example of Israel: if Jeremiah 3:9 referred to Judah, 'she' would have been written in Jeremiah 3:10, not "Judah." Translate, 'It (the putting away of Israel) had come to pass through ... whoredom; and (i:e., for) she (Israel) had defiled the land,' etc. (Maurer). The English version, however, may be explained to refer to Israel: her defiling the land, which is expressed, implying the consequent punishment (namely, her being put away from the land), which is to be supplied as understood.

Lightness - `infamy' (Ewald). Maurer, not so Well, takes it from the Hebrew root, 'voice,' 'fame' [ miqol (H6963), from qowl (H6963)]. It is rather from [ qaalal (H7043)] to be light or vile.

Verse 10

And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.

Yet - notwithstanding the lesson given in Israel's case, of the fatal results of apostasy.

Not turned unto me with her whole heart. The reformation in the 18th year of Josiah was not thorough on the part of the people, for at his death they relapsed into idolatry (Hosea 7:14).

Verse 11

And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.

Justified herself - has been made to appear almost just (i:e., comparatively innocent) by the surpassing guilt of Judah, who adds hypocrisy and treachery to her sin; and who had the example of Israel to warn her, but in vain (cf. Ezekiel 16:51; Ezekiel 33:11).

More than - in comparison with.

Verse 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.

Go and proclaim - not actually, but turn and proclaim toward the north (Media and Assyria, where the ten tribes were located by Tiglath-pileser in the days of Pekah king of Israel, and Shalmaneser in the ninth year of Hoshea's reign, 2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:9; 2 Kings 18:11).

Return, thou backsliding Israel - Hebrew, shuwbaah (H7725), mªshubaah (H4878) Yisraa'eel (H3478) (backslider, turn back), a play on sounds. In order to provoke Judah to godly jealousy (Romans 11:14) Yahweh addresses the exiled ten tribes of Israel with a loving invitation.

Cause mine anger to fall - literally, I will not let fall my countenance (cf. Genesis 4:5-6, "Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell;" Job 29:24).

Keep - anger is to be supplied (remark, Jeremiah 3:5).

Verse 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 - (Deuteronomy 30:1; Deuteronomy 30:3; Proverbs 28:13, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy").

Scattered thy ways ... - (Jeremiah 2:25). Not merely the calves at Bethel, but the idols in every direction, were the objects of their worship (Ezekiel 16:15; Ezekiel 24:25).

Verse 14

Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

I am married, [ baa`al (H1166) bª-...] - literally, I am Lord, i:e., husband to you, (so Jeremiah 31:32, "My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them;" cf. Hosea 2:19-20; Isaiah 54:5, "Thy Maker is thine Husband," etc.) Gesenius following the Septuagint version of Jeremiah 31:32, and Paul's quotation of it, Hebrews 8:9, "I regarded them not," translates, 'I have rejected you;' so the corresponding Arabic and the idea of lordship, may pass into that of looking down upon, and so rejecting. But the Septuagint, in this passage, translates, 'I will be Lord over you' And the 'for' has much more force in the English version than in, that of Gesenius. 'THOUGH I have rejected you,' is the translation of Rosenmuller: Hengstenberg and Maurer object to this rendering [of kiy (H3588)] as not good Hebrew; but undoubted instances occur of this sense, as in Daniel 9:9. But I prefer 'For I am husband unto you.'

I will take you one of a city - though but one or two Israelites were in a (foreign) city they shall not be forgotten; all shall be restored (Amos 9:9). So in the spiritual Israel, God gathers one convert hers, another there into Church: not the least one is lost (Matthew 18:14; Romans 11:5. "There is a remnant according to the election of grace;" cf. Jeremiah 24:5-7).

Family - a clan or tribe.

Verse 15

And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Pastors - not religious, but civil rulers, as Zerubbabel, Nehemiah (Jeremiah 23:4; Jeremiah 2:8).

Verse 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.

They shall say no more - the Jews shall no longer glory in the possession of the ark; it shall not be missed, so great. shall be the blessings of the new dispensation. The Throne of the Lord, present Himself, shall eclipse and put out of mind the ark of the covenant and the mercy-seat between the cherubim. Gods former throne. The ark, containing the two tables of the law, disappeared at the Babylonian captivity, and was not restored to the second temple, implying that the symbolical "glory" was to be superseded by a "greater glory" (Haggai 2:9).

Neither shall they visit it - rather 'neither shall it be missed' [ yipqoduw (H6485)], (so in Jeremiah 23:4).

Done - rather, 'neither shall it (the ark) be made (i:e., be restored) anymore' (Maurer).

Verse 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.

Jerusalem - the whole city, not merely the temple. As it has been the center of the Hebrew theocracy, so it shall be the point of attraction to the whole earth (Isaiah 2:2-4; Zechariah 2:10-11; Zechariah 14:16-21).

The throne of the Lord - the Shekinah, the symbol of God's special nearness to Israel (Deuteronomy 4:7), shall be surpassed by the antitype, God's own throne in Jerusalem (Psalms 2:6; Psalms 2:8; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Zechariah 2:5).

Imagination - rather, as margin, 'the obstinacy' or stubbornness [ shªriruwt (H8307), from shaarar (H8324), to be hard].

Verse 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 house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together ...

Two distinct apostasies, that of apostate Israel and that of treacherous Judah, were foretold (Jeremiah 3:8; Jeremiah 3:10) The two have never been united since the Babylonian captivity, therefore their joint restoration must be still future (Isaiah 11:12-13; Ezekiel 37:16-22; Hosea 1:11).

North - (Jeremiah 3:12, remark).

Land ... given ... inheritance - (Amos 9:15, "I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God").

Verse 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? The good land covenanted to Abraham is to be restored to his seed. But the question arises, How shall this be done?

Put thee among the children - the Greek for adoption means, literally, putting among the sons [huiothesia], the children - i:e. my children. How shall I receive thee back into my family, after thou hast so long forsaken me for idols? The answer is, they would acknowledge Him as "Father," and no longer turn away from Him. God assumes the language of one wondering how so desperate apostates could be restored to His family and its privileges (cf. Ezekiel 37:3, "Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest"). [Calvin makes it, How can the race of Abraham be propagated again, being, as it were, dead?] Yet as his purpose has decreed it so, He shows how it shall be effected-namely, they shall receive from Him the spirit of adoption to cry, "My Father." (John 1:12; Galatians 4:6). The elect are "children" already in God's purpose; this is the ground of the subsequent realization of this relationship (Ephesians 1:5; Hebrews 2:13).

Pleasant land - (Jeremiah 11:5, "A land flowing with milk and honey;" Ezekiel 20:6; Daniel 11:16, "The glorious land," margin, Hebrew, 'the land of ornament,' i:e., goodly land).

Heritage of ... hosts - a heritage the most goodly of all nations (Maurer); or a 'heritage possessed by powerful hosts' (Deuteronomy 4:38, "To drive out nations from before thee, greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance;" Amos 2:9). The rendering 'splendours,' instead of "hosts," [ tsib'owt (H6635), from tsaabaa' (H6633), a host], is opposed by the fact that the Hebrew for 'splendour' [thªbiy] is not found in the plural.

Verse 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 - rather, But.

Husband - literally, friend.

Verse 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.

In harmony with the proceeding promises of God, the penitential confessions of Israel are heard.

A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping ... - the scene of their idolatries is the scene of their confessions. Compare Jeremiah 3:23, in which they cast aside their trust in these idolatrous high places. The publicity of their penitence is also implied (cf. Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 48:38).

Verse 22

Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God.

Return, ye backsliding children - Yahweh's renewed invitation (Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 3:14) and their immediate response.

Heal - forgive (2 Chronicles 30:18; 2 Chronicles 30:20; Hosea 14:4, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them, freely").

Behold, we come unto thee - rather, 'in obedience to thee;' literally, for thee (Rosenmuller.)

Verse 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.

Multitude of mountains - i:e., the multitude of gods worshipped on them, (cf. Psalms 121:1-2, margin).

Verse 24

For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.

Shame hath devoured the labours of our fathers ... their flocks ... herds - i:e., the idols, whose worship only covers us with shame (Jeremiah 11:13, "According to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing (Hebrew, shame), even ... unto Baal;" Hosea 9:10). So far from bringing us "salvation," they have cost us our cattle, and even our children, whom we have sacrificed to them.

Verse 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.

We have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers - (Ezra 9:7).

Remarks: (1) The injured husband is seldom willing to take back the adulterous wife, yet God, whom backsliders have so much more grievously wronged, is most willing to receive them back, on their penitence, with open arms. He lovingly beseeches these who, have declined from their first love to Him, 'Wilt thou not from this time-now at last, now at once-cry unto me, My father, who wast the guide and husband of my youth, be my guide and my Lord now again' (Jeremiah 3:4). Happy it is for those who from early childhood take God for their father, and the Lord Jesus and His Spirit for their guide through this wilderness journey. Happier still is the portion of those who, having begun early, never decline afterward from His service. Those who have not yet been by adoption "put among the children" (Jeremiah 3:19), whether young or old, should not lose a moment in praying for the gift of the spirit of adoption, whereby they may cry, Abba, Father.

(2) It is an awful proof of the obstinacy of corrupt man, that he is not moved to fear even by the judgments inflicted on his fellows, just as Judah feared not to go on in apostasy, though warned of its awful consequences in the ease of exiled Israel (Jeremiah 3:6-9). Or if he undergoes an outward reformation, such as Judah submitted to under Josiah, he does not "turn to God with his whole heart, but feignedly" (Jeremiah 3:10). And without a thorough change of heart, and an inward repentance worked by the Holy Spirit, there is no security for such a one not falling back again, as Judah did at Josiah's death, and then "the last state of that man is for such a one not falling back again, as Judah did at Josiah's death, and then "the last state of that man is worse than the first."

(3) How graciously God uses every means to stir up sinners and backsliders from their perilous state! He would provoke us to emulation by the case of others (Jeremiah 3:12) who have found pardon and peace. All He asks of us is. "Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God" (Jeremiah 3:13). Judah had asked (Jeremiah 3:5), "Will he reserve His anger forever?" God replies, "I am merciful ... I will not keep anger forever" (Jeremiah 3:12). His character and His promises are a double ground for assurance of pardon, if we will "return" to Him.

(4) The Lord has an elect people to whom He "is married" (Jeremiah 3:14) in the bonds of everlasting love. Not one of those whom the Father gives the Son (John 17:9) is suffered to be lost. Not the least grain of the spiritual harvest falls upon the earth (Amos 9:9). However sifted by Satan, as was Simon Peter (Luke 22:31-32), the believer is restored by the intercession of the Lord Jesus. As literal Israel shall hereafter be gathered out of all the cities (Jeremiah 3:14) in which they have been scattered, so that not one solitary Jew shall be overlooked, but all shall be restored; so not the least one of "the remnant according to the election of grace," the spiritual Israel, shah be forgotten when Yahweh "makes up his jewels" (Malachi 3:17).

(5) Meanwhile they are now drawn to God by His pardoning mercy, His tranquilizing peace, and His renewing grace. With, weeping and supplication (Jeremiah 3:21), relying on God's invitation, "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings," they cry "Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God" (Jeremiah 3:22). They disclaim all hope of relief from anyone except the Lord (Jeremiah 3:23). They renounce all past confidences, and say, "Truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel." They justify God in their troubles, and condemn themselves for their past sin and shame. Reader, hast thou these marks of the true penitent? If so, be of good courage, Christ saith, "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee."

(6) Let believers never cease to pray for the blessed time, fraught with such spiritual joy to the whole earth, when, according to the promise, which should be the stimulus to our prayers, "Men shall call Jerusalem the throne of Yahweh, and all the nations shall be gathered unto it; ... neither shall they walk anymore after the imagination of their evil heart" (Jeremiah 3:17). "Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!"

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-3.html. 1871-8.
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