The Conspiracy in the Prophet's own Family
v. 1. Righteous art Thou, O Lord, maintaining justice, when I plead with Thee, when he brings his case to the Lord's attention; yet let me talk with Thee of Thy judgments, reasoning with Jehovah concerning a matter which seems incompatible with divine righteousness: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Why is it that they seem to be fortunate in all their dealings? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? How may the fact be explained that the very ones who are guilty of the worst perfidy, who practice the basest knavery, live in peace? The same question occasionally rises in the hearts of most children of God, and it is safe to be always armed with the firm conviction that the ways of the Lord are ever right and good.
v. 2. Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root, apparently secure in their places, safe in their happiness; they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit, what they undertake is crowned with rich success. Thou art near in their mouth, they are very active in lip-service, and far from their reins, their hearts are far from Him. Cf Isa_29:13; Mat_15:8.
v. 3. But Thou, O Lord, knowest me, the prophet freely leaving the judgment regarding himself to the Searcher of hearts, secure in the testimony of a good conscience; Thou hast seen me and tried mine heart toward Thee, wherefore he freely invites a scrutiny on the part of the Lord. By the same token he can call upon the Lord to bring punishment upon the evil-doers: Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, with violence, as though torn out by the roots, and prepare them for the day of slaughter, as animals set apart for sacrifice.
v. 4. How long shall the land mourn and the herbs of every field, of the entire cultivated plain, wither? For the wickedness of them that dwell therein the beasts are consumed and the birds, the very irrational brutes being placed under the ban of Jehovah on account of the hypocrisy of their masters, because they said, He shall not see our last end, the wicked Jews trying to persuade themselves that the Lord is blind toward their wickedness, that they may pursue their ungodly ways without interference, safe from the calamity which Jeremiah had threatened. But the Lord answers in such a way as to rebuke the prophet in a gentle manner for the impatience displayed by him, at the same time pointing out that he is due to experience still greater tribulations.
v. 5. If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? If he could not endure the comparatively little trouble which had come upon him till now, he would assuredly never be able to stand the great sufferings which would come to him in the future. And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan? literally, "And in a land of peace thou wast secure, how wilt thou do along the wooded banks of Jordan?" The comparison is between an inhabited district, with its comparative security, and a country of primitive forests and undergrowth, where wild animals abounded, the application being the same as in the first part of the verse.
v. 6. For even thy brethren and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee, his very closest relatives practicing perfidy against the prophet; yea, they have called a multitude after thee, pursuing him after the manner of a pack of dogs. Believe them not though they speak fair words unto thee. Thus the Lord warns His servant against hypocrisy and coming tribulation, at the same time intimating that the wickedness of the people had not yet reached its highest stage. But eventually the judgment would strike them.
Israel Spoiled by the Enemies
v. 7. I have forsaken Mine house, so the Lord tells His prophet, I have left Mine heritage, repudiating His chosen people, in the midst of whom He had established, and hoped to maintain, His Church; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies, this being said of the exile with which He intended to punish His disobedient people.
v. 8. Mine heritage is unto Me as a lion in the forest, presuming to rise up against Him like a beast of prey; it crieth out against Me, roaring with hatred and rage, therefore have I hated it, His former love having departed from it on account of its obstinate opposition to His will.
v. 9. Mine heritage is unto Me as a speckled bird, a bird of prey with its plumage striped brown and gray, or an albino; the birds round about are against her, pouncing upon such a bird in either case with the greatest rage. Come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field; come to devour! The whole sentence may also be rendered in the form of a question stating the situation as it actually was found when the heathen nations began their attacks upon Judah.
v. 10. Many pastors, the very ones who were expected to give the Church the proper spiritual care, have destroyed My vineyard; they, together with the heathen kings and their hordes, have trodden My portion, His particular property, under foot; they have made My pleasant portion, the land and the people of His desire, a desolate wilderness. Cf. Jer_3:19.
v. 11. They have made it desolate, practically an uninhabited desert, and being desolate, it moumeth unto Me, making a lament of sadness over the punishment which had come upon it. The whole land is made desolate because no man layeth it to heart, there had been none to turn to the Lord in true repentance.
v. 12. The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness, appearing on the heights of the steppes throughout the land; for the sword of the Lord, the war which the Lord would send upon Judah as a just punishment, shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land; no flesh, in this case the entire sinful population of Judah, shall have peace, no section of the country would be excepted in the general affliction.
v. 13. They, the people of Judah, have sown wheat, they have undertaken many things in the pride of their hearts, but shall reap thorns, the very opposite of what they expected; they have put themselves to pain, exhausting their strength and almost tormenting themselves in the endeavor to gain their proud ends, but shall not profit, not getting the results which they had anticipated; and they shall be ashamed of your revenues, in the small amounts which they actually produced, because of the fierce anger of the Lord, who would not permit their proud plans to mature. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
The Lord's Answer
v. 14. Thus saith the Lord against all Mine evil neighbors, that touch the inheritance which I have caused My people Israel to inherit, laying their hands upon the Land of Promise: Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, causing them also to be led away into captivity, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them, restoring them once more to the land promised to their fathers.
v. 15. And it shall come to pass after that I have plucked them out, the heathen nations, I will return and have compassion on them, showing mercy also to these children of the Gentiles, giving evidence of the fact that He is the Savior of all men, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage and every man to his land, the return of the Lord's own people being assumed as a matter of course, preceding that of the heathen to their country.
v. 16. And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of My people, the true and only religion, to swear by My name, "The Lord liveth," this being one of the chief manifestations of religious life in those days, as they taught My people to swear by Baal, then shall they be built in the midst of My people, being added to the Church of the living God.
v. 17. But it they will not obey, if they refuse to heed God's message of salvation, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the Lord; for sin is a reproach to any people and will be treated accordingly by the just God. The passage clearly has a Messianic trend, referring to that period of time when people from every nation would find their way into the Church of Christ.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Jeremiah 12". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany