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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 3

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-25


(Jeremiah 3-6)

This discourse, according to Jeremiah 3:6, belongs to the reign of Josiah, and moreover, according to Jeremiah 3:4; Jeremiah 3:10; Jeremiah 4:1 to the period of his reformation, which occupied from the twelfth to the eighteenth year of his reign. (2 Chronicles 34:3; 2 Chronicles 34:8; 2 Chronicles 35:19). Since Jeremiah began his ministry in the 13th year of Josiah, this discourse pertains to the period from the 13th to the 13th year of Josiah, consequently to the commencement of his ministry. Its position at the beginning of the book corresponds, therefore, entirely to the historical date of its composition.

The discourse falls into two main divisions and a conclusion. It may be arranged as follows:

I. First Main Division ( Jeremiah 3:1 to Jeremiah 4:4)

The Call of Return, שׁוּב

1. Basis:—Notwithstanding Deuteronomy 24:1-4, a return is possible, Jeremiah 3:1-5.

2. The call to return in the past, Jeremiah 3:6-10.

3. The call to return in the future, Jeremiah 3:11-25.

4. The call to return in the present, Jeremiah 4:1-4.

II. Second Main Division ( Jeremiah 4:5 to Jeremiah 6:26)

Threatening of Punishment on Account of their Neglect to Return.

1. Description of the judgment to be expected, Jeremiah 4:5-31.

2. Proof of its justice by an enumeration of causes, chap. 5.

3. Recapitulation, consisting of a combination of the call to return, the announcement of punishment, and the ground of punishment, Jeremiah 6:1-26.

III. Conclusion.—Object And Effect Of The Discourse, ( Jeremiah 6:27-30)

First Division ( Jeremiah 3:1 to Jeremiah 4:4)

The Call to Return, שׁוּב

1. Basis:—Notwithstanding Deuteronomy 24:1-4, a return is possible.

Jeremiah 3:1-5

1           … . therefore, if a man dismiss his wife,

And she go from him and become another man’s,
Will he return to her again?
Would not such a land be desecrated?
But thou hast whored it with many paramours,
Yet return to me, saith Jehovah.

2     Raise thine eyes to the hills1 and see;

Where hast thou not been lain with?2

By the roads thou satest for them like an Arab in the desert,
And desecratedst the land by thy whoredom3 and wickedness.

3     And the showers were withheld,

And there came no latter rain:
But thou hadst the brow of a harlot,
And wouldst not be ashamed.

4     Hast thou not henceforth cried4 to me, my Father!

Thou, the companion of my youth!

5     Will he then everlastingly Mark , 5

And always bear a grudge?
Behold, thus didst thou speak,
And didst the evil and didst prevail.6


That these verses belong not to chapter 2 but to the following discourse, and indeed form its basis, is evident from the following reasons: 1. The fundamental thought of the previous strophe was that Israel had incurred misfortune not by Jehovah’s fault but by his own. 2. It is shown in Jeremiah 3:6-11 that hitherto neither Israel nor Judah has been obedient to the call “return.” In Jeremiah 3:12-25 it is shown that in the distant future they will obey this call; in Jeremiah 4-6. that if the people do not obey the call made to them now, in the present, they must expect severe punishment, to be inflicted by a people from the North. Since then the basis of the thought developed in Jeremiah 3:1-5 is that the return of apostate Israel is brought into connection with the regulation of the Mosaic law, according to which a woman who had been divorced and married to another man, could not return to her former husband, it is manifest that Jeremiah 3:1-5 attach themselves to what follows, and not to the previous section. That לֵאמֹר in Jeremiah 3:1 does not militate against this, will be shown immediately, and that this strophe serves as the basis of what follows will be clear from the explanation of וְשׁוֹב.

Jeremiah 3:1. … therefore: If a man dismiss his wife … yet return to me, saith Jehovah. The various explanations of לֵאמֹר may be divided into two classes. 1. The LXX. and the translations and commentaries which follow it, (of the later Comm. also Gulcherus in Symb. Hagan., Colossians 1:0Colossians 1:0, Fasc. 1) omit it altogether. The character of the LXX. renders it probable that this omission was founded not on MS. evidence, but in mere caprice. 2. It is connected with the preceding, viz., מָאַם, Jeremiah 2:37, by Kimchi, Abarbanel, Luther, Bugenhagen, Œcolampadius, Vatable, Tremelli, Muenster, Starke, Maurer and Hitzig. It is opposed to this connection, (a) that the contents of this verse are as heterogeneous with the previous verse as they are homogeneous with the following, as already shown; (b) that לאמר is separated from מאס by a sentence, so that it would be intolerably harsh to connect them. 3. Most commentators explain it by the aid of an ellipsis before לֵאמֹר, supplying אָֽמְרוּ ,יֵשׁ לִי ,וַיּאמֶר י״ ,יֵאָמֵר; so the Vulgate and the Roman Catholic divines; also Raschi, Zwingli, Bullinger, Seb. Schmidt, De Wette, Rosenmueller, etc. But all these supplementations are arbitrary and unexampled. An idea, on which לֵאמֹר depends as a more particular definition, would no more be unexpressed in Hebrew, than one before “therefore” in English. To render this clear we have begun the translation of this verse thus “… therefore.” The passages Joshua 22:11; Judges 16:2; Isaiah 9:8; Isaiah 44:28 are indeed quoted as analogous. But in the passages in Joshua and Isaiah, the idea which serves as a point of support is not wanting, though only implied (comp. Naegelsb. § 95, e). The passage in Judges might be appealed to if a corruption of the text were not very much to be suspected. 3. Calvin and Venema seek to render לֵאמר in such a sense that it need not depend on the foregoing. Calvin translates indeed dicendo, but would take this in the sense of par manière de dire or of posito casu. Venema modifies this interpretation, rendering “if it is said,’ and regarding it as the antecedent to which “saith Jehovah” at the close of the verse, corresponds:—“If it is said, Will a man return? etc—yet saith Jehovah, thou hast been lewd, yet return to Me.” But leaving out of account that לאמר would then be superfluous, this absolute use of it is quite undemonstrable. 5. J. D. Michaelis, Ewald and Graf acknowledge that this isolated לֵאמר is a grammatical anomaly, and therefore declare the text to be corrupt. They assume that either before לאמר a formula like וַיְהִ דְּבַר י״ אֵלַי has dropped out, or that the date in Jeremiah 3:6, after which לאמר contrary to rule, is wanting, should be transposed to this place. The latter would seem to be the most probable. [Henderson renders Further, which seems to be an evasion of the difficulty. The English Editor of Calvin suggests that לְ be rendered according to, “According to what is said,” but as Wordsworth notes, this phrase is the universal formula for introducing a message from God; and he therefore regards it as used by the prophet to intimate that what he is uttering is a quotation from the Law of the Lord. Cowles renders “Saying” and connects it with the preceding context. Blayney, “whilst thou sayest.” Noyes, “it is said.”—S. R. A.]—הן is here, as frequently, used in a hypothetical sense, comp. Exodus 4:1; Exodus 8:22; Leviticus 25:20; Isaiah 54:15. The following contains a partial verbal reference to Deuteronomy 24:1-4, where it is said, that a woman who has been divorced and married again, cannot when released from her second marriage by separation or death, again become the wife of her first husband, since this would be an abomination before the Lord, and increase the moral corruption of the land חַנֵף in an intransitive sense (comp. טָמֵאLev 18:25) as in Isaiah 24:5; Psalms 106:38 = profanari, to be desecrated. The LXX. reads οὐ μιανvήσεται ἡ γυνἡ ἐκείνη; probably in connection with the previous translation μὴ�; which change without doubt was intended to render this sentence accordant with the subsequent, application (return to me). The Syrohexapla translation however follows the Hebrew, and Grabe in his edition reads ἡ γῆ. So also Spohn. Both are certainly wrong.—זָנָה with accus. of the person is found also in Ezekiel 16:28. Most of the ancients (with the exception of the LXX. ἀνέκαμπες, Ar. et revertereris?Theodor. ἐπανῄεις. Victor. Presb., πῶς ἐπιστρέφεις πρός με); render ושׁוֹב אלי as imperative; the moderns (Maurer, Hitzig, Ewald, Umbreit, Neumann, Graf) as interrogative. I decidedly regard the first as correct. As I have shown above it is the fundamental idea of the whole discourse that Israel is to return to his Lord. The adherents of the more recent interpretation also find themselves compelled, to avoid contradiction, to take the question not as a negation but as expressing wonder, which is not logically admissible; for why should the Lord wonder concerning that which, according to what follows, is His definite wish? The vau is therefore to be taken as adversative—“although in accordance with legal regulations, I ought, not to receive you, yet I say, Return to me.” The appeal to the passage in the law belongs to the domain rather of prophetic rhetoric than of morals; for the command refers to a physical relation, which does exist between Jehovah and His people. If however we interpret this relation spiritually, we prove too much, for every sin is spiritual adultery. When it was remarked above that this strophe forms the introductory basis of the discourse, it was meant that in this strophe, (a) an apparent hindrance, (b) a false presumption is removed which might stand in the way of a true return. The apparent hindrance is the legal regulation which is removed by an authoritative decree (Jeremiah 3:1-3 a). The false presumption is that pseudo-conversion, which took place under Josiah, and which consisted in this, that the people sought to deceive themselves and others with fine words, which their deeds proved to be lies (Jeremiah 3:3-5Jeremiah 3:3-5Jeremiah 3:3-5).

Jeremiah 3:2. Raise thine eyes … and wickedness. These words furnish the actual proof of “thou hast played the harlot,” etc., Jeremiah 3:1.—Hills. Comp. “high mountain,” Isaiah 13:2. Mons culmine planus, silva non contectus.

Jeremiah 3:3. And the showers were withheld … wouldest not be ashamed. The first hemistich refutes the objection that Israel committed this wickedness unreproved, comp. Jeremiah 2:30. The divine displeasure was rendered palpable by the withholding of the necessary rain (Jeremiah 5:25; coll. Jeremiah 4:18; Jeremiah 2:19), but Israel refused to be brought by this chastisement to perceive, confess and repent of his sin. With the boldness of a harlot who not only does not confess that she has done wickedly, but does it besides as though she had a claim to the recognition of her services,—with such boldness does Israel speak in a confident and affectionate tone to the Lord, and even ventures on a gentle reproach for undeserved severity. While Jeremiah 3:2 expresses a subordinate thought which merely defines more particularly a point in Jeremiah 3:1, and to which Jeremiah 3:3 a is attached as a corollary, Jeremiah 3:4-5 express the second main thought of the strophe, to which Jeremiah 3:3, b serves as a transition.

Jeremiah 3:4. Hast thou not henceforth cried to me … the companion of my youth?—Henceforth appears to refer to the time when the people recognized the divine anger in the withholding of the rain, for then they at once became, at least in words, friendly and officious. But it is not equivalent to מֵאָז, from times of old. We are thus led to conjecture that the three facts, withholding of rain, hypocritical conversion of the people, and this prophecy, were contemporaneous. This is also confirmed by a comparison of the dates in Jeremiah 1:2 and 2 Chronicles 34:3. According to the latter passage Josiah began in the twelfth year of his reign “to purge Judah and Jerusalem,” while according to Jeremiah 1:2, our prophet commenced his ministry in the 13th year of Josiah. Now, since according to Jeremiah 3:6, the present discourse belongs at any rate to the time of Josiah, and from its position and contents, probably to the beginning of Jeremiah’s prophetic labors, the prophet doubtless, as Chr. B. Michaelis, Rosenmueller, Hitzig and Graf, have also perceived, describes in Jeremiah 3:4-5 the conduct of the people in the time of Josiah’s reformation, to which there is also a very distinct allusion in Jeremiah 3:10. The prophet, therefore, says henceforth, because really even at the time when he proclaimed this divine message, such voices were still heard from the midst of the people. We need not, therefore, render it in the sense of haud ita pridem, nor shall cry, in the future. On companion of my youth, comp. Proverbs 2:17.

Jeremiah 3:5. Will he then everlastingly mark? … prevail. In these words of the first hemistich is a slight reproach. It is as though Israel’s misfortune was due to the pertinacious anger of Jehovah.—The sense of the second half of the verse is this:—the acts of the people are in contradiction to their words, that the latter were not honestly meant, but were false and deceptive. Observe the antithesis of saidst and didst. Comp. a similar want of uprightness on the part of the people, Jeremiah 2:35.—וַתּוָּבֽלdidst prevail, is here used as in Jeremiah 20:7; Jeremiah 20:9. Comp. Gen 32:28; 1 Samuel 26:25; 1 Kings 22:22. It is strange here that the preceding verbs do not appear to involve the idea of effort, as is the case in the other passages and as the meaning of יָכֹל (to be grown, to be able, to set through) seems to require. But leaving out of account that עֹשׂה and יכל following one another, seem to have a sort of proverbial character (comp. 1 Samuel 26:25), it is evident that the idea of a struggle lies at the basis of the antithesis mentioned, and didst prevail intimates that the struggle will be decided in favor of the evil.


1. That a man live a second time with a woman whom he has divorced, and who has been the wife of another man, is regarded as an abomination which corrupts the land. In what does this abomination consist? Not that the woman has previously been the wife of another, for then a divorced woman is not permitted to marry the second time, and all marriages of widows would be an abomination. In this case then the abomination must consist in this, that the man takes back a woman who had first been his wife, but afterwards another’s. Not the series A+B+C, etc., is forbidden, but the series A+B+A. But why is this? Michaelis, (Mos. Rechte., 1 S. 241, 2), after his manner seeks the ratio legis in this, that if the re-marriage were permitted, the second husband’s life would not be safe, should the old love be revived, or that the chastity of the woman would not be safe, her feminine modesty not being easily able to resist the advances of one to whom she had formerly yielded. But this is superficial talk. The matter must lie deeper than this, and be founded in the laws of a higher corporeality, which are still far too little known to us. It is remarkable that according to the Koran (Sur. II., 226), a man is at liberty to take back a divorced wife only in case she has been in the meantime the wife of another man. Comp. Michaelis, Mos. Rechte., I. S. 237.

2. “Quodlibet igitur studendum unicuique est, ut evitetur peccatum sicut fornicatio, quia per peccatum quodlibet quædam cum aliqua creaturarum admittitur fornicatio, per quam membra Christi fiunt membra iniquitatis, duoque fiunt in carne una.” Ghislerus.

3. “How great is the goodness of God, when the sinner wilfully thrusts Him away from him, yet God receives him again into His favor when he truly repents! Ezekiel 18:21-22.” Starke.

4. “Revertere ad me et mundaberis, reparaberis, si confundaris tibi et refundaris mihi,” Augustin. contra Faustum, I. 15, i. f.

5. “The feeling of need to call God Father and beseech Him to save, is not an infallible sign of true penitence, Isaiah 26:16.” Starke.


The mercy of God to sinners is,—1. On the one side endless (the prohibition of re-marriage with a former wife, who has been married to another,—the sinner is not dismissed, but is voluntarily apostate, sin is not a conjugal, but an adulterous relation,—still the Lord is ready to receive the sinner back); 2. On the other hand limited, in so far that it is connected strictly with the fulfilment of a condition (not a hypocritical return with fine words, but only sincere, earnest return, with fruits meet for repentance, can render us partakers of His grace).


Jeremiah 3:2; Jeremiah 3:2.—[Literally “bare heights” as Hitzig renders. Blayney incorrectly translates “open plains.”—S. R. A.]

Jeremiah 3:2; Jeremiah 3:2.—לֹא שֻׁגַלְתְּ Per verecundiam the Masoretes always put for this the corresponding form from שָׁכַב Deuteronomy 28:30; Isaiah 13:16; Zechariah 14:2. [“A few MSS. and the Soncin. Edition also exhibit שֻׁכַבְתְּ. ”—Henderson].

Jeremiah 3:2; Jeremiah 3:2.—זְנוּתֵיִךְ a plural formation like חֲנִיתִים, which occurs besides only in Numbers 14:33, analogous to תַּזְנוּתִים, frequent in Ezekiel, Jeremiah 16:0. (Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 3:22, etc.), and Jeremiah 22:0. (Jeremiah 3:7-8, etc.). Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 48, 4.

Jeremiah 3:4; Jeremiah 3:4.—On the form קָרָאתִי and דָבָרְתִי, comp. rem. on Jeremiah 2:20.

Jeremiah 3:5; Jeremiah 3:5.—To יִנְטֹר and יִשְׁמֹר suppl. אַפוֹ. Comp. Jeremiah 3:12; Psalms 103:9.

Jeremiah 3:5; Jeremiah 3:5.—On the form ותַּוּכלָ (for וַתּוּכְלִי.) Comp. Ewald, § 191 b. [Noyes translates this line, “but doest evil with all thy might,” but comp. Exeg. rem.—S. R. A.]

2. The call to return in the Past

Jer 3:6-10 7

6The Lord [Jehovah] said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding8 Israel hath done? She hath gone up upon every 7high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me! But she returned not. And her treacherous sister [Faithless, her sister] Judah saw it.

8And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce;9 yet her treacherous10 sister 9Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass11 through the lightness [correctly: cry] of her whoredom, that she defiled the land,12 10and committed adultery with stones and with stocks [wood]. And yet for [notwithstanding] all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned to me with her whole heart, but feignedly [hypocritically; lit. in falsehood] saith the Lord [Jehovah].


The theme of this strophe is “Return unto Me” (Jeremiah 3:7, comp. Jeremiah 3:10). It is however shown how this call hitherto, in the past, has been heeded, or rather not heeded, by Israel and Judah. The main regard of the prophet is naturally directed to Judah. Israel serves only as a foil; on the background of the transgression of Israel, which should have served for a warning to Judah, the sin of the latter stands out still more glaringly.

Jeremiah 3:6. And Jehovah … played the harlot. If as cannot be disputed there is a close connection between this strophe and the preceding, it is evident that this inscription is not in place. For it would indicate the beginning of a larger section, while here, on the contrary, there is intimate connection. The greater section begins at Jeremiah 3:1. The isolated and puzzling לאמר requires a sentence before it, where then this inscription belongs. The reason of its transposition from Jeremiah 3:1 may be, as Graf supposes, that Jeremiah 3:10 contains an evident allusion to the reformation of Josiah. But he overlooks the fact that such an allusion is contained also in Jeremiah 3:4-5.—Upon every high mountain. Comp. Jeremiah 3:13; Jeremiah 2:20.—ותזני. If this is not the 2d Pers. Fem., which would be possible only by a violent change of person, the formation is to be explained either according to the analogy of תִּשְֽׁקֹטִי (Jeremiah 47:7) as an Aramaism (comp. Ewald, § 191, c, and Anm.) or according to the analogy of תֶּמְחִי (Jeremiah 18:23) as a ־לה֞ formation with prominence of the radical Yod (comp. Ewald, § 224, c). Olshausen, (S. 510, Anm.) at once assumes an error.

Jeremiah 3:7. And I said … sister Judah saw it. It is not necessary, with Graf and others to take וָאֹמַר in the sense of “I thought,” and תָּשׁוּב as 3d Pers., since the Lord not only thought, this but really said it to Israel. This “Return to Me” is the underlying theme of all prophetic admonition (Jeremiah 31:20). In this passage it is emphatic. It points back to the Yet return to me in Jeremiah 3:1, and with the following returned not represents the main thought of the section. In form תשׁוב is like תוכל in Jeremiah 3:5And Faithless, her sister Judah. To take בָּגוֹדָה as subst. abstr. corresponding to מְשוּבָה = faithlessness, would form a fine parallelism; but we should then expect בְּגוּדָה. The form קָטולwith firm a (בָּנוד even or בִּוודִה only here and in Jeremiah 3:10) designates everywhere else only concreta. Comp. Ewald, § 152, 6. The position of the word and the absence of the article seem to intimate that it is intended for a proper name, and we have therefore written it with an initial capital.—The Keri וַתֵּרִא is unnecessary, וַתִּרְאֶה does not indeed occur elsewhere, but וַנִּרֵאְה does (1 Samuel 17:42; 2 Kings 5:21; Job 42:16; Ezekiel 18:14, Keri. 28); and וַנִּרְאְה (1 Samuel 10:14) leaving out of account the analogous forms of other verbs, ex. gr.וַתּֽעֲשְׂה, Jeremiah 32:20; Jeremiah 36:5; Jeremiah 36:26, etc.—The question whether it is to be translated “and Judah saw it,” or whether the object seen is contained in the following sentence beginning with בִּי depends on the other, whether the following וָאֵרֶא is genuine and original.

Jeremiah 3:8, (And I saw) … played the harlot also. The construction: “I saw, that I, because she played the harlot, had dismissed Israel, and I gave her a bill of divorce, and Judah feared not,” is not so devoid of meaning, as Graf supposes, if we change the paratactic mode of expression into the syntactic. The main object of saw is feared not. All that lies between has the force of a parenthetical clause of adversative signification: “And I saw, that, although I had dismissed Israel, and given her a bill of divorce, yet Judah feared not.” Comp. Naegelsb.Gr., § 111, 1, Anm. But at all events the connection of verses 7 and 8 is interrupted in a very awkward way by And I saw. Verse 7 concludes in this way, that Judah had seen how Israel had not returned at the call of Jehovah, and then Jeremiah 3:8 designates as the object of the divine seeing what, according to the conclusion of the whole course of thought, Jeremiah 3:8 b, Jeremiah 3:9, Jeremiah 3:10, must be the object seen by Judah. For the prophet draws a parallel between the behaviour of Israel and of Judah. Israel, first apostate, is called to repent, but returns not and is rejected. Judah sees this and—also does not return. It is evidently in this connection very essential that Judah should have perceived not only the impenitence of Israel, but also the punishment he thus incurred The very sight of this destructive judgment should have brought Judah to sincere repentance Judah’s seeing the impenitence. but not the judgment, the latter being ascribed to the Lord, introduces an inappropriate element into the connection, although we cannot say that an incorrect idea would be thus originated. If however we omit the words, and I saw. we have a perfectly clear and satisfactory connection The critical authorities indeed give no safe support to its rejection. Only Jerome omits the word, but whether on MS. evidence, may be questioned. He is followed by Luther in his translation, and Gulcher. Symb. Hag., Colossians 1:0 Fasc. 1. The LXX. Chaldee and Arabic versions certainly found it in their copies of the original But the Syriac appears to have read יתרא, the same word twice, and this Ewald regards as the correct reading.—If וארא is an error it is at any rate a very ancient one. According to the rule of preferring the more difficult reading, it is certainly safer to retain it, although it is easy to conceive a reason for its insertion. If we strike it out, the words “her sister Judah saw” belong to the following sentence, and the second hemistich of Jeremiah 3:7 consists merely of the words “But she returned not.” The brevity of this clause may have been the occasion of connecting the words “and Faithless,” etc., with Jeremiah 3:7, but then it became necessary to introduce a verb in the beginning of Jeremiah 3:8, as וארא or ותרא.—For all the causes. רֹּל before אֹדות and אשׁר after it, are found here only. Elsewhere אֹדות is always connected with a following genitive (Genesis 21:11; Genesis 21:25; Genesis 26:32.Exodus 18:8; Exodus 18:8) or with suffixes (Joshua 14:6) רֹּל expresses the multitude of the adulteries (hence Graf suitably translates “alldieweilen” = for all the causes). אשׁר is rendered necessary to the connection of אֹדוֹת with a finite verb. As a relative particle in the widest sense, (Comp. Naegelsb.Gr., § 80, 1) it involves here the meaning of eo quod, thereby that, (on the ground of all the occasions that have been afforded thereby, that, etc.)

Jeremiah 3:9. And it came to pass … with wood. קל is elsewhere always written plene. On account of this unusual defective manner of writing the ancient translations seem to have derived the word from קלל; for the Vulgate translates “facilitate fornicationis suæ contaminavit terram; LXX. καὶ ἐγένετο εἰς οὐδὲν ἡ πορνεία αύτης. Arab., “fuit fornicatio ejus cum nihilo;” Chald. “levia videbantur idola in oculis ejus.”—But this defective manner of writing is not a sufficient reason for departing from the primary meaning (comp. Genesis 27:22), nor is this in itself doubtful. Only we must not take קל in the sense of “report” (Genesis 45:16), but the prophet means to say that so far as the land extends, so far also whoredom with idols, as a heaven-crying sin, defiles the land (comp. Genesis 4:10). It may not be objected to this, that the cry for the vengeance of heaven does not defile the land, for this cry is not an immediate, but a mediate provocation of the divine justice; that is, by their very impudent appearance (this is their cry), their sin challenges the justice of God.—As to the construction with the accusative, we need neither to read וַתַּֽחֲנֵף with Ewald, nor to strike out אֶת with Graf. For the intransitive verb may be taken in a passive sense, and accordingly, as the passive, may have an accusative of the proximate object which may be regarded as dependent on an ideal transitive, חָנֵף is to be desecrated (comp. Fuerst), therefore properly rendered et profanatum est terram. This profanatum est is, however, properly no more than profanare in a passive-perfect statement; et factum est profanare terram. Comp. אַל יֵרַע אֶת־הַדָּבָר (2 Samuel 11:25; coll. 1 Samuel 8:6 : See Naegelsb.Gr., § 69, Anm. 1; § 100, 2.) Certainly תֶּחֱנַף הָאָרֶץ may also be said (Psalms 106:38.)

Jeremiah 3:10. Further, notwithstanding all this … but hypocritically, saith Jehovah.—If we should refer the words “Further,” etc., to what immediately precedes, they would retain no meaning, for it is absurd to say that Judah in spite of her idolatry had yet not repented. They refer rather to Jeremiah 3:8, a, where it was said that the Lord had repudiated Israel. On this account a double accusative thought is added; (1) “feared not,” etc., Jeremiah 3:8 b.; (2) “notwithstanding all this,” Jeremiah 3:10. Although Judah had witnessed the punishment of Israel, she did two things; first, she continued the whoredom of idolatry, and then sought to appease Jehovah by a hypocritical conversion, by which the prophet apparently alludes to the reformation of Josiah, which was entered on in earnest by the king, but not by the people.


1. God in His judgments has in view not merely those who are primarily affected by them, but those who witness them also. If the latter do not allow themselves thus to be warned, their guilt increases just in the proportion that the judgment might have been an impulse and a help to repentance. Comp. 2 Kings 17:18; Proverbs 28:14; 1 Corinthians 10:6; 1Co 10:11; 2 Peter 2:4-6, (ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων�, Jeremiah 3:6.)

2. “Blessed is he who is rendered wise by the losses of others.” Cramer. Comp. Jeremiah 18:5-8; Zechariah 1:3.

3. Ghislerus remarks that the present passage has been frequently interpreted allegorically. Thus the Abbot Joachim de Flore (ob. 1202, Commentary on Jeremiah, printed at Venice, 1525, and Cologne, 1577), interprets it of the Greek and Roman church (comp. Herzog’s Real-Enc., VI. S., 713). Nicolaus de Lyra interpreted it of the rich monastic orders, and the mendicant friars; Cardinal Hugo (de St. Caro, one of the inquisitors of the Abbot Joachim, ob. 1263), of the “illiterati et sæculares pravi,” and of the “improbi religiosorum et clericorum et literatorum.”

4. Origen also treats of this passage (Jeremiah 3:6-10) in his fourth homily on Jeremiah (in Jerome it is the fourteenth). He understands by Israel, the whole Jewish people, and by Judah, the Gentile church which, in spite of the judgments inflicted on Israel before their eyes, had in the course of time fallen into many sins and errors.

5. Ephrem Syrus emphasizes the encouragement contained in Jeremiah 3:7 (“Return to me”), when he says (Tom. 1. In threnis de div. retributione, according to Ghisler.), “O miseranda anima quousque torpescis et de salute animum despondes? Quam veniam in die judicii assequeris, quum salvator per prophetam exclamet dicens: ad me revertere!”

6. On Jeremiah 3:10. Though the reform of Josiah was only a pseudo-revival, it furnishes us with the means of judging how deep a genuine revival must go. If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee (Matthew 5:29; Matthew 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-48).


1. The severity and the goodness of God in His dealings with the Jewish nation (Romans 11:22): (1) His severity in His judgments upon Israel; (2) His goodness in His constantly repeated invitations to return (Jeremiah 3:7.)

2. The difference between false and true repentance. (1) False repentance; (a) its ground—servile fear; (b) its effect—external reform. (2) True repentance; (a) its ground—love to God; (b) its effect—honest fruits of sanctification.


[7][As this passage presents no signs of poetry I have followed Blayney, Noyes, and Henderson in giving it the form of prose. Umbreit prints it in parallelisms, while Wordsworth renders not only these verses but the whole chapter as prose.—S. R. A.]

Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 3:6.—מְשֻׁבָה rejection, revolt, apostacy, the abstract for the concrete; comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 19, 1. The word in this sense is peculiar to this chapter; comp. Jeremiah 8:11-12. Comp. also Jeremiah 8:5.

Jeremiah 3:8; Jeremiah 3:8.—כְּדיתְתֶיהָ. The plural here only, comp. Deuteronomy 24:1; Deuteronomy 24:3; Isaiah 50:1.

Jeremiah 3:8; Jeremiah 3:8.—בֹּגֵדָה is related to בָּגוֹדָה as שׁוֹבָב (Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 3:22) to מְשֻׁבָה. On the form comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 47, 1; Ewald, § 188, b.

Jeremiah 3:9; Jeremiah 3:9.—וְהָיָה here as in 1 Samuel 13:22; 1 Samuel 25:20, and elsewhere, stands for וַיְהִי. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 88, 7, Anm.

Jeremiah 3:9; Jeremiah 3:9.—וַתֶּחֱנַף אֶת־הָאֶרֶץ, a frequent paratactic construction. Comp. וּפִּיַלגְשׁוֹ וַתֵלֶד, Genesis 22:24. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 87, 7; § 111, 1 b.

3. The call to Return in the Future (Jeremiah 3:11-25)

a. How and whom God will call

Jeremiah 3:11-17

11          And Jehovah said to me, Apostasy Israel

Has justified her soul before Faithless Judah.

12     Go and cry these words to the north, and say,

Return13 Apostasy Israel, saith Jehovah.

I will not lower my face14 against you,

For I am merciful, saith Jehovah,
I do not bear a grudge for ever.15

13     Only acknowledge thy sin,

That thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God,
And hast run hither and thither to the strangers under every green tree,
And ye have not heeded my voice, saith Jehovah.

14     Return, apostate children, saith Jehovah,

For I am your husband16 and take you one from a city,

And two from a tribe and bring you towards Zion.

15     And give you pastors after my heart,

And they shall pasture you with understanding17 and judgment.18

16     And it shall come to pass, when ye shall multiply,

And spread in the land in those days, saith Jehovah,
It will no more be said, Ark of the covenant of Jehovah!
And it will no more come to mind,19

Nor will they remember it or esteem it;
Also they will not make it again.

17     At that time Jerusalem will be called Jehovah’s throne,

And all the nations shall gather to it,
To the name of Jehovah, to Jerusalem,
And will no more follow the perverseness of their evil heart.


The purport of this and the following strophe points evidently to the future. We find the call שִוּבָה ,שׁוּבוּ here also, addressed in the first instance to the Israel of the ten tribes, then to the whole people; but he who calls has the consciousness, that no longer, as hitherto, is he preaching to deaf ears. The times are changed. Israel repents, and a period opens before him of unanticipated outward and spiritual glory. The prophet comprises in his view first the past and the future, then the present, for the same reason that he treats of the present so much more at length; he has the present Israel most at heart; it is his object to subordinate the Past and the Future as means. Before, therefore, he enters in detail into the present condition of things, he seeks by brief and significant intimations concerning the past and future, to make an impression on the hearts of his hearers.

Jeremiah 3:11. And Jehovah … Judah. It results from the preceding section that Judah, besides the aids afforded by the temple and the legitimate royalty, had also the example of Israel before her as a powerful impulse to amendment. The consequence of leaving these advantages unemployed, is that Israel appears more righteous than Judah. Comp. Ezekiel 16:51-52, the reverse of the expression, κατακρίνειν, Matthew 12:41, coll. 3:27. This point, favorable to Israel, serves the prophet as a point of support for a consolatory prophecy which is addressed primarily to Israel.

Jeremiah 3:12. Go and cry these words towards the north … I do not bear a grudge for ever.—Go and cry, comp. Jeremiah 2:2.—Towards the north. Comp. Jeremiah 3:18. The prophet is to cry towards the north because Israel was carried captive into Assyria, towards the north. Comp. Jeremiah 16:15; Jeremiah 23:8; Jeremiah 31:8.—Lower my face, comp. Genesis 4:5-6. The expression denotes that lowering of the countenance, which is accompanied by the look which Homer portrays in the expression ὑπόδρα ἱδών.—Bear a grudge, comp. Jeremiah 3:5.

Jeremiah 3:13. Only acknowledge … heeded my voice. The only condition of the grace promised in Jeremiah 3:12 is acknowledgment of sin. The prophet of course means that fruitful acknowledgment which includes corresponding action, comp. Luke 12:10-11.—ותפּזרי, comp. Jeremiah 2:23; Jeremiah 2:25; Jeremiah 2:36 (תֵּזְלִי) [lit. scattered (thy ways)].

Jeremiah 3:14. Return … towards Zion. The old call in a new form. No longer Apostasy Israel is addressed (so Israel alone is called, comp. Jeremiah 3:6), but apostate children. This not only sounds more comprehensive, but seems besides in Jeremiah 3:22, to be the common designation of both halves of the people. Observe further, that the following strophe, Jeremiah 3:18, begins at once with the declaration that Judah and Israel would come together. This seems to be the performance of the command given them in Jeremiah 3:14. Finally in Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 3:17, the possession of Zion and Jerusalem is spoken of. Should Judah be excluded from this possession? Evidently then the prophet in Jeremiah 3:11-13, turns first to Israel, who had the preference, because less was given him; but, although he does not expressly name Judah, wishing to excite her to emulation by the promise of salvation apparently addressed to Israel alone (comp. παραξηλοὺν, Romans 11:14), yet in substance the pictures of the two kingdoms in the prophetic perspective, pass imperceptibly into one another, Jeremiah 3:14-17. This strophe is thus preliminary to the following, in which the union of Israel and Judah is the fundamental idea.—For I am your husband, etc., בָּעַל (as verb. denom. = to be Lord, possessor, especially a spouse, to take a wife), is certainly elsewhere construed with an accusative (Isaiah 26:13; Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 62:4), or with לְ (1 Chronicles 4:22). But the construction with בְּ is possible, because the verbs of ruling (comp. Genesis 3:16; Deuteronomy 15:6; Judges 8:22) are thus connected. The explanation of Kimchi, Schleussner, Schnurrer and others, who would take בָּעַל here as in Jeremiah 31:32, according to the doubtful analogy of the Arabic (See Hengstenberg, Christol., II., S. 416), in the meaning “to be disgusted, to disdain,” is admissible neither here nor in Jeremiah 31:32 (vide ad loc), and the less in this place, that we are obliged to take כִּי in the sense of although. It is also grammatically incorrect to take בָּעַלְתִּי in the sense of the future, as some do, following the example of the LXX. (κατακυριεύσω ὑμῶν). Rather does the Lord ground His promise of blessing on the fact that He is Israel’s husband, and has never ceased and never will cease to be so. Comp. the remarks on Jeremiah 2:1-3.—One from a city, etc.Eichhorn, Ewald, Graf understand this: “and even if so few fulfil the condition of true return,” (named in Jeremiah 3:13). But to the ear it would then be definitely stated that only a few would return. We should then also expect the antithesis of בֵית אָבוֹת ,מַטֶּה or שֵׁבֶט. The expressions city and tribe (comp. Genesis 10:5; Genesis 12:3; Psalms 22:28; Psalms 96:7), intimate rather that the prophet has the cities and tribes of the heathen in view. He would evidently indicate the great scattering of Israel, cast out among the heathen, and would say that great as this scattering was, if ex. gr., there were only one Jew in a city, or only two in a whole nation; yet these members of the holy family, almost vanishing amid the mass of the heathen should not be forgotten. Thus also Kimchi and Rosenmueller. [Noyes and Henderson.]

Jeremiah 3:15. And give you pastors … understanding and judgment. The promise that Israel shall be gathered out of his dispersion (Jeremiah 3:14) contains an allusion to the final period, and this point is now brought out more clearly. Pastors after God’s heart can be those only, who are no longer as hitherto (comp. Hosea 8:4), governed inwardly or outwardly by the spirit of the world, but who allow themselves to be guided by the Spirit of God alone, and are therefore fit instruments for the realization of God’s kingdom upon earth. There is here an unmistakable allusion to David, the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), and at the same time the representative of the idea of God’s kingdom in its earthly realization (2 Samuel 7:0), as well as to Solomon, who next after David, prayed for and received wisdom and judgment from God (2 Chronicles 1:10-11). The explanation of the older commentators, who understand by the pastors, Zerubbabel, Joshua, Ezra, or the Apostles and their successors, may have this much of truth in it that the return under Zerubbabel or the Christian Church may be numbered among the beginnings of the fulfillment of this promise. At any rate we must understand spiritual as well as worldly pastors (ποιμένες λαῶν). Comp. Jeremiah 10:21; Jeremiah 23:4; Ezekiel 34:23; John 10:1.

Jeremiah 3:16-17. And it shall come to pass … evil heart. These verses portray in a few but expressive traits the character of that future epoch. Its characteristic feature will be this, that in the place of a merely representative there will be a real and therefore, extensively and intensively, an infinitely active presence of God. The pastors of understanding and judgment will bring about a period of prosperity to which it is an essential element, that Israel from the little heap, which according to Jeremiah 3:14 it will be on its return to the land, will become as to numbers a respectable nation. Comp. Jeremiah 23:3-4; Isaiah 49:18-21; Isaiah 54:1-3. As in the beginning of the human race, as the basis of all further steps towards the attainment of its destiny, the command was given to be fruitful and multiply (פְרוּ וּרְבוּ, Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1), of which we are reminded by the sound of the words here (תרבו ופריתם), and as the family of Jacob in Egypt had first to develop into a great people before it could be the receptacle of the fundamental revelation of the kingdom, so according to this passage the Israel of the future is first to become numerous, in order to be fitted for the concluding and perfected revelation of the kingdom.—In those days. Though connected with the preceding by the accents, which make a pause at נְאֻם יְהוָֹה, these words belong, at any rate in meaning to it will no more be said. They correspond to כּי as tum to a previous quando.—Ark, etc., is not the accusative of the object dependent on say, but an exclamation; and the latter word, therefore, is not to name, to mention, but to say, to speak. The word “ark of the covenant” will no more be heard, because the thing itself and every thought of it will have disappeared. The ark will not be an object of desire or remembrance. In consequence of this it will no more be looked for or sought, as something that is missed (1Sa 20:6; 1 Samuel 25:15; Isaiah 34:16; 1 Chronicles 13:3) and still less prepared anew.—Will not make it. Luther: they will no longer sacrifice there, but עָשָׂה, occurs in this meaning without an object-accusative only at a very late period (2 Kings 17:32), and it is not credible that the prophet should designate this important idea by an expression so easily misunderstood. The Chaldee, Raschi, Grotius and others render “and it shall no more take place,” but they differ among themselves in reference to what shall no more take place. They thus resort to arbitrary supplementations (the taking of the ark into battle 1 Samuel 4:11; ea quæ nunc in bello fieri solent; the previously stated). The only natural subject is ark.—Jehovah’s throne. The period when the ark is lacking, described in Jeremiah 3:16, does not represent a retrograde but a progressive interval. What the ark has hitherto been to Jerusalem (Exodus 25:18-22; Numbers 7:89; Psalms 80:2; Psalms 99:1) Jerusalem is now to be in relation to the nations. All Jerusalem is now to be the throne of the Lord. The prophet’s glance penetrates to the remotest distance, without distinguishing the progressive stages into which the final period itself is divided. While thus this prophecy on one hand reminds us of Micah 4:0 (coll. Isaiah 2:2 sqq.; Zechariah 8:20; Jeremiah 31:6. Comp. Casp.Micah der Morasth. S. 453), on the other hand it reminds us of Revelation 21:0—The declaration of this passage that Jerusalem itself will be the throne of God is covered by the declaration of the Apocalypse that the New Jerusalem will be the tabernacle of God with men (Jeremiah 21:3) as the earth was in the beginning (Genesis 3:0), and as the glory of Melchisedek consists in his being the representative of that original relation to God. Comp. the article in Herzog, Real-Enc. on Melchisedek, IX., S. 303. Comp. also Ezekiel 48:35; Joel 4:17. The correspondence of the Jerusalem of this passage with the New Jerusalem is further intimated by what is said in “Revelation 21:22-23, that the latter will have no temple, neither sun nor moon, but all these the Lord Himself will be to it. The analogy of this declaration with that in Jeremiah concerning the absence of the ark is strikingly evident. Comp. Tholuck, Die Propheten und ihre Weiss. S. 154 and 194.—This analogy is finally confirmed by the declaration that all the heathen will assemble in the name of God at Jerusalem, for a similar declaration is made in Revelation, on the basis of many prophetic passages (Isaiah 60:0; Isaiah 66:18 sqq.; Zechariah 14:16; Zephaniah 3:9-10; comp. Romans 9:24-26; Romans 10:18-20) of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:24; Revelation 21:26.—To the name. The expression is supported by the passages Exodus 20:21; Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 12:11 : coll. 1 Kings 8:16 sqq.; 2 Chronicles 6:5 sqq., where even the first earthly sanctuary is designated as the residence of the name of Jehovah. As the preposition אֵל designates the direction in space, so לְ before שֵׁם designates the object of the coming; to Jerusalem, however, cannot be the bare repetition of the idea in it (Hitzig) any more than the addition of a later hand, for it renders the sense more difficult, instead of more easy, on which account the absence of the word in the LXX and the Syriac is evidently due to the critics. We can regard it only with Hengstenberg as the more exact definition of לְשֵׁם י׳, before which אשר is to be supplied. It has then a causative sense; not Jerusalem is the object of the assembling of the nations, but the name of the Lord, which belongs to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem only in so far as the name of the Lord was inseparably connected with it.—And will no more follow, etc. The expression שְׁרִרוּת לִבָּם is found on the basis of Deuteronomy 29:18, also in Psalms 81:13, and in Jeremiah 7:24; Jeremiah 9:13; Jeremiah 11:8; Jeremiah 13:10; Jeremiah 16:12; Jeremiah 18:12; Jeremiah 23:17—in all these places of Israel. It has nothing in itself which requires this limitation, it may therefore be used also in a wider sense, so that the heathen, in so far as Jerusalem is also their centre, may be reckoned together with Israel. All then, Israel and the heathen, will finally lose their stony heart and receive a heart soft and filled with the Spirit (Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26), and not outwardly only but with the whole heart will they be subject to the Lord and His kingdom.—If we once more look over this strophe we are struck above all by the sublimely rapt progress of the prophet’s discourse from the circumstances of the present to the remotest future. The prophet proceeds from the comparison of the Judah of the present with the Israel in a certain sense belonging already to the past. This comparison issues favorably to Israel. Thus a prophecy is called forth which sets in prospect before Israel the highest material and spiritual prosperity. With this two questions are connected. Since the realization of this prosperity is connected with the condition of Israel’s conversion, the question arises, Will this conversion take place? and when? The prophetic gaze can in the inconceivably distant ages perceive no element of religious or political restoration in the Israel of the ten tribes, as these are in fact unknown even to the present day. It must then be reserved for the final period (אַֽחֲרִית הַיָּמִיםMic 4:1) to bring back the lost ten tribes to the light,—the light of knowledge and of salvation. But here another question also arises, Will not Judah also participate in this light of knowledge and salvation? These two questions then: What will become of Judah? and How is it as to the conversion required in Jeremiah 3:13? still wait for a solution. We may indeed read this solution from Jeremiah 3:14 between the lines. But the sublime haste of the prophet’s flight hindered him from giving it in express words; he adds it therefore in the following strophe.

(Special dissertations on this passage by Loscanus, Frankfort, 1720; Zickler, Jena, 1747; Frischmuth, Jena).


1. [“Here is a great deal of Gospel in these verses, both that which was always gospel, God’s readiness to pardon sin, and to receive and entertain returning, repenting sinners, and those blessings which were in a special manner reserved for gospel-times, the forming and founding of the gospel-church by bringing into it the children of God that were scattered abroad, the superseding of the ceremonial law, and the uniting of Jews and Gentiles, typified by the uniting of Israel and Judah in their return out of captivity.” Henry.—S. R. A.]


[13][Jeremiah 3:11.—Blayney, Noyes and Henderson, render Jeremiah 3:11-12 as prose.—S. R. A.]

[14][Jeremiah 3:12.—Henderson renders: I will not continue to frown upon you.—Noyes: I will not turn a frowning face upon you.—S. R. A].

Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 3:12.—שׁובה, apart from the assonant מְשֻׁבָה the paragogic He is never attached to forms with vowel terminations. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr. § 23, Anm. 5

[16][Jeremiah 3:14.—Hitzig, Umbreit and others, translate “lord, master.” Henderson and Noyes follow De Wette, Gesenius and others in rendering “I have rejected you;” Noyes also renders, “yet will I receive you again.”—S. R. A.].

Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 3:15.—דִּעָה nom. verbale. Comp. Exodus 2:4; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 28:9.

Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 3:15.—הָשִׂכֵּיל Inf. abs., with substantive meaning as Proverbs 1:3; Proverbs 21:16; Daniel 1:17. On the acc. adverb. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 70, k.

Jeremiah 3:16; Jeremiah 3:16.—זכר. The Kal with בְ here only, the Hiphil is so construed in Psalms 20:8; Amos 6:10; Isaiah 48:1, analogously to the construction of verba sentiendi with בְ Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 112, 5, a. On יַֽעֲלֶה עַל־לֵב. Comp. Jeremiah 51:50; Isaiah 65:17.

b. Supplement of the preceding, stating more exactly who is called and how the call is received

Jeremiah 3:18-25

18          In that day the house of Judah and the house of Israel shall walk together,

And shall come with each other from the north country
Into the land which I have given your fathers for an inheritance.

19     And I said: How will I put thee among the children,

And give thee a pleasant land,
The most glorious inheritance among the nations!
And further I said, My Father thou wilt call me,20

And wilt not turn away behind me.

20     But! Was ever a woman faithless to her lover,

So were you faithless towards me,
O house of Israel, saith Jehovah.

21     A cry is heard on the hills,

The weeping supplication of the children of Israel;
That they have perverted their way,
Have forgotten Jehovah, their God.

22     Return, ye apostate children,

I will heal21 your apostasies!

Behold, we come22 to thee,

For thou art Jehovah, our God.

23     As certainly as hills are false,

Mountains an empty sound,23

So certain is the salvation of Israel
With Jehovah our God.

24      Shame however hath devoured the gains of our fathers from our youth,

Their sheep and their oxen,
Their sons and their daughters.

25     Let us lie in our shame,

And our disgrace cover us,
That we have sinned against Jehovah our God,
We and our fathers from our youth to this day,
And have not heeded the voice of Jehovah our God.


This strophe evidently consists of two parts, of which the first (Jeremiah 3:18-19) treats of the participation of Judah in the prosperity promised to Israel, the second (Jeremiah 3:20-25) of the conversion of both as one which satisfies all demands.

Jeremiah 3:18. In that day an inheritance. Reference to the last strophe. Comp. at that time Jeremiah 3:17.—together, in the sense of heaping so that those are designated as upon one another, of whom we should speak as together, with each other, is frequent: Genesis 28:9; Genesis 32:12; Exodus 12:9; Exodus 35:22; Amos 3:15; Job 38:32. We see also that עַל is to be regarded as a preposition from the following sentences where their coming in company is manifestly the result of their meeting together. The promise of a reunion of the exiles from Judah and Jerusalem, and their return in company to the land of their fathers is found also,—to mention only the principal passages, in Hosea 2:2; Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 30:0. and Isaiah 31:0; Isaiah 50:4-5; Ezekiel 37:15-17.—It forms an essential element in the glorious picture of the future, which prophecy presents by the announcement of a glorious restoration of Israel to Canaan after long humiliation and dispersion. To the original passages Leviticus 26:42-45; Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Deuteronomy 32:36-43 follows a long series of prophetic declarations, of which the most important are Psalms 72:0.; Isaiah 2:2 to Isaiah 4:6; Isaiah 4:2-6; Isaiah 9:1-6; Chap. 24. sqq; 60. sqq; Jeremiah 29:10-14; Jer 30:-24.; Ezekiel 34:23-25; Joel 4:16; Amos 9:8; Obadiah 1:17-21; Micah 4:5; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Zechariah 2:4, sqq. Zechariah 8:7 sqq; Zechariah 9:9 sqq. Zechariah 10:8 sqq—Comp. Auberlen, der proph. Daniel, S. 391 sqq.—Hebart, The Second Visible Coming of Christ, (Die Zweite, etc. Erlangen. 1850. S. 70, 84, etc.)

Jeremiah 3:19. And I said … behind me. If above, in the concluding remark on the preceding strophe, we have correctly denned its relation to Jeremiah 3:18-25, it follows that Jeremiah 3:18 does not belong to the foregoing, and that Jeremiah 3:19-20 are not connected as thesis and antithesis, as most modern commentators would have it. The reasons for this view are the following: (1) Jeremiah 3:18 seems then entirely isolated. Graf says: “Only in passing is a glance cast in this verse at the final destiny of Judah.” But the destiny of Judah demands more than a passing glance. Either an elucidation concerning the fate of Judah must be interwoven with the contents of the preceding discourse, or Judah must be spoken of in appropriate measure in a special section. (2) According to the view which I combat, there is a hiatus between Jeremiah 3:18-19. With Jeremiah 3:19, the discourse proceeds to an entirely new subject, the relation of which to the preceding can be designated neither by a separative nor by a connective particle. The Vau before אנכי accordingly appears not only superfluous, but interruptive. (3) If Jeremiah 3:19-20 are so connected that the former declares the expectation cherished by Jehovah, the latter the sad non-fulfilment of this expectation, the discourse makes a spring from Jeremiah 3:20 to Jeremiah 3:21 which could not be more abrupt. No one would then expect the delightful continuation of the discourse after Jeremiah 3:20. Suddenly and without preparation we are met by the description of Israel’s penitence. In short, verses 19 and 20 do not then at all agree with what follows, and since they are equally severed from what precedes, they appear to be a wholly needless and interruptive interpolation. It will therefore be correct to attach Jeremiah 3:19 closely to Jeremiah 3:18, as a short but satisfactory description of the condition of the entire Israelitish people after their return to the land of their fathers. In the form of an objection, which is subsequently removed, Jeremiah 3:20 then forms an appropriate transition to the second subject, concerning which, as remarked above, the prophet had to pronounce in this strophe. The emphatic אנבי, “I,” on the one hand forms an antithesis to Israel and Judah in Jeremiah 3:18, and on the other brings out the importance of the promise here given—Not a man, but I, Jehovah, declare this. אמרתי is neither future, as ex. gr.Seb. Schmidt supposes, nor is it a narrative preterite, so as to refer to a definite event in the past, as ex. gr., Abarbanel reads, referring it to the exodus from Egypt. It simply presents this declaration of God as an accomplished fact. It asserts that there is a divine decree of the afterwards designated import. But thus this import is absolutely guaranteed, for the Lord’s word is true, and what He says is certain (Psalms 33:4). The strange addition, γένοιτο κύριε, which the LXX. make after καὶ ἐγὼ εἶπα, may be explained by the circumstance, as we may gather from Theodoret, that they understood אנכי not of God but of the prophet, and since I put thee among the children could not possibly be uttered by the prophet, they supplied him with words ex propriis.—The explanation of this expression of reception-among the children, agrees well with that view of the connection which has been rejected by us, although it is still strange even according to this view, that Jeremiah 3:20 should pass over to another picture. We should expect that the Israelites, in view of the gracious purpose of God expressed in Jeremiah 3:19, would be designated as disobedient children (comp. Isaiah 1:2), and not as a faithless spouse. We render the expression with the Chaldee, Bugenhagen, Luther, Clarius, Grotius, Schmidt, Venema, Hitzig in the sense of bestowing a rich paternal benediction. On the importance of such benediction, compare the remarks on Jeremiah 3:16; Kueper (S. 9,) calls this a benedictio vere theocratica. Israel and Judah, according to Jeremiah 3:14, having returned in small numbers must before all become a numerous people. The promise in Jeremiah 3:16, made primarily to Israel, is here presented to the view of both.—Venema mentions, that they say also in Dutch, jemant in kinderen setten. Comp שִׁית בְּיֵשַׁעin salute ponere, Psalms 12:6.—a pleasant land. Comp. Psalms 106:24; Zechariah 7:14.—a most glorious inheritance. It is a question whether to derive צבאות from צבא or from צבי. Both are grammatically possible. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr. S. 106; Olshausen, § 145, 6; Ewald, § 186 e; § 55, e. Comp. צְבָאִים (Gazelles) 1 Chronicles 12:8; and צְבָאוֹת (in the same meaning) Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5.—It is of no account, that the form occurs elsewhere only as St. constr. from צָבָא (Exodus 12:41; 1 Kings 2:5), and that צְבִי in the sense of decus does not occur elsewhere in the plural, since for the sake of a play upon words the prophet might employ an unusual expression. The juxtaposition of the singular and plural to form a climax, is also, as is well known, not infrequent; Ecclesiastes 1:2; Ezekiel 16:7. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr. § 61, 3. The decision is the more difficult since the meaning in both cases is the same (Maurer). Most commentators preferring the more normal form decide in favor of the derivation from צָבָא. Yet I would prefer the derivation from צבי. Since the juxtaposition of צבי צבאות seems more pregnant and forcible than the flat and tautological צבאות גוים. Besides which the Holy Land is elsewhere called ארץ צבי, Ezekiel 20:6; Ezekiel 20:15; Daniel 11:16; Daniel 11:41.—ואמר we translate: “And further I said,” for from the first divine decree flows a second of this import, that Israel will not only receive but show himself worthy of receiving. That which Israel spoke before (Jeremiah 3:4) in hypocritical pretence, will be presented in the future, which the Prophet has in view, in glorious reality.

Jeremiah 3:20. But! Was ever woman faithless to her lover? … O house of Israel! saith Jehovah. In these words the Lord Himself raises a protest against the promise given to Judah and Israel in verses 18 and 19. How shall such glory be imparted to this people, who have hitherto been distinguished only for their infidelity? אכן is taken by many, ex. gr.Fuerst (Handwb. s. v.) Ewald, (Lehrb. S. 273,) in a relative signification=so as, entirely so as. But there is no example of this meaning and it is not necessary that there should be here a particle of contingency or comparison. (Comp. Isaiah 55:9; coll. Jeremiah 3:10-11). We therefore take אָכֵן (which like אַךְ may from the meaning “tantum, only” obtain an affirmative as well as a restrictive sense) here=but, however, which meaning it undoubtedly has in Psalms 31:23; Psalms 82:7; Isaiah 49:4; Zephaniah 3:7. Since the prophet in this strophe has in view the period of re-united Israel, Israel or house of Israel is to be taken in these verses to 4, 2, not in the restricted sense of Jeremiah 3:6 sqq. but in the wider sense mentioned. (Comp. Isaiah 1:3, etc.)

Jeremiah 3:21. A cry is heard on the hills ….forgotten Jehovah, their God. With dramatic vividness the penitent people are now brought forward to refute the exception taken in Jeremiah 3:20, in such a way that Jeremiah 3:21 designates their appearance in general outlines, Jeremiah 3:22 the call to the people to repent, repeated from Jeremiah 3:14; and in the following verses it is shown by the verba ipsissima of the people, how they responded to this call.—On the hills. These high places which had formerly been the seats of wickedness (see Jeremiah 3:2) are now the scenes of penitence, comp. Jeremiah 7:29.

Jeremiah 3:22. Return, ye apostate children … for thou art Jehovah, our God. The same call as in Jeremiah 3:14, from which we see that this passage is closely connected with that. The question; Will the people respond to the call? there obtruded itself. Here it is satisfactorily answered. It might be asked why the words “Return, etc,” do not come before Jeremiah 3:21. But this verse is only to describe the disposition of the people towards repentance, their general penitence. Israel was indeed formerly “faithless” (Jeremiah 3:20), but now they acknowledge their sin and are able to obey the call, should it again be heard as before (ver 22, a) in a manner well-pleasing to God. (Jeremiah 3:22, b–25)—I will heal, etc. The thought is from Hosea 14:5. In the connection of heal with the plural it seems to be implied that the Lord will both pardon the single acts, and remove the evil root.

Jeremiah 3:23. As certainly as the hills are false … Jehovah, our God. Without Dagesh forteמִגְבָעוֹת would mean the priests’ caps, since the word occurs in this sense only; Exodus 29:9; Exodus 28:40; Exodus 39:28; Leviticus 8:13. But what have these to do here? The Masoretes have therefore punctuated the ג with Dag. forte., in order thus to secure the meaning of “hills.” Now the explanation of the מן prepares new difficulties. The ancient translators ignore this מן altogether, and yet take the rest in the sense of colles. The later commentators (if they do not with Lud. de Dieu take הָרִים=offerre i.e. victimas) either supply מִן before חָרִים or alter הָמוֹן into הֲמוֹן Besides this they differ very widely in determining the meaning of הָמוֹן.—It seems to me that the prophet understood the word מגבעות in the sense of “hills,” and chose it for the sake of its secondary meaning. Although the word occurs in the Old Testament only in the sense of “priests’ caps,” yet, “hills” was the original meaning from which the other was developed, the word being transferred on account of the hill-like shape of the caps. Now as ex. gr. the word for weapon in German (Gewehr) has gradually assumed the meaning of musket, but might be used in its original and more general sense in a manner intelligible to every German, so here the prophet has employed a word restricted by usage to a special meaning, in its original signification in such a way that at the same time he intended an allusion to the secondary sense. Not the hills are the deceivers, but the priests, of whom Elijah on this account slew a great number (1 Kings 18:40). In הָמוֹן which means tumult, strepitus, there may be an allusion to the bacchanalian noise of the unchaste idol-worship. Comp. Amos 5:23—לַשֶׁקֶר like לֵשָׁוְא has become an adverb and signifies false, deceptive, useless. (Levit. 5:24; Leviticus 19:12; 1 Samuel 25:21; Jeremiah 5:2; Jeremiah 7:9; Jeremiah 8:8; Jeremiah 27:15; Zechariah 5:4; Malachi 3:5). אָכֵן is taken by the commentators both times in the affirmative sense (Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 8:8). It appears to me that this doubling includes also the idea of reciprocal relation (comp. כְּעַל־כְּעַל ,כֹּה־כֹּה): as certainly as the hills are vanity and nothing, so certainly is Israel’s salvation in Jehovah, their God.

Jeremiah 3:24. Shame however … their sons and their daughters. Not merely as vanity and nothing, but as positively injurious are the idols opposed to the real saving power of Jehovah. The Vau at the beginning of this verse corresponds especially to the last clause of Jeremiah 3:23, as containing the main thought, and is accordingly adversative=however. הבשׁת. From 11, 13; Hosea 9:10 we see that בשׁת is here placed in parallelism with בעל. Kimchi remarks that in ancient names composed with בשת the place of this word is afterwards supplied by בעל. Hence for אישׁ־בשׁת2Sa 2:8; אֶשִׁבַּעַל1Ch 8:33. For יְרֻבַּצּלJdg 6:32יְרבּשֶׁת2Sa 11:21. From all this we see that the abstract בשׁת is to be regarded primarily as an ironical synonym of בעל, the chief deity. From what, however, is ascribed in this passage to בשׁת the prophet cannot have had merely Baal in mind but also the other idols. All these have from the youth not of the speaker, but of the people generally (comp. the golden calf, Exodus 32:0, and Baal Peor, Numbers 25:0), devoured the substance of the fathers, in part immediately by sacrifices which were not due to them as to the Lord, in part mediately by the judgments which such apostasy brought upon the people.

Jeremiah 3:25. Let us lie … the voice of Jehovah, our God. As Jeremiah 3:22-24 contain acknowledgment and confession, so Jeremiah 3:25 contains shame and sorrow. As the penitent seats himself in dust and ashes (Job 42:6; Daniel 9:3), so they casting themselves down in the feeling of their shame, would lie before the Lord, and as the penitent clothes himself in sackcloth (1 Kings 21:27 : 2Ki 6:30; 2 Kings 19:1-2,) or veils his face (Exodus 3:6; 2 Samuel 15:30), so would they, deeply feeling their disgrace, hide their countenance before the Lord (comp. the publican, Luke 18:13). The entire guilt which the people had incurred from their youth up (Jeremiah 2:2; Hosea 11:1) is according to the scale of Psalms 32:5, to be expiated.


Jeremiah 3:19; Jeremiah 3:19.—The Masoretes would read תקראי and תשׁובי on account of אֲשׁיתֵךְ and לָךְ, but unnecessarily. [“The Keri are found in the text of upwards of thirty MSS., and in some of the earlier editions, and would seem to deserve the preference, on the ground of אָנִי in the singular occurring immediately before. The LXX, Arab., and Syr., however, have read תִּקְרְאוּ the present textual reading.” Henderson.—S. R. A.]

Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 3:22.—On the exchange of the forms לא׳ and לה׳ comp. Ewald, § 142, c; 198, b; Olshausen, § 233.—In reference to רפא and רפה comp. Jeremiah 6:14, coll. Jeremiah 8:11; Jeremiah 19:11; Jeremiah 51:9. The Masoretes approve of the Chethibh here, while they correct it in Jeremiah 19:11, because here the vowel pronunciation is correct (1 Pers. with He parag.) but not in Jeremiah 19:11.

Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 3:22.—אָתָנוּ instead of אָתָאנוּ (Comp. Naegelsb. Gr. § 10, 11, Anm. from אָתָא comp. Isaiah 21:12), and this instead of אָתִינוּ; comp. Olshausen, § 233 b; Ewald, § 198, b.

Jeremiah 3:23; Jeremiah 3:23.—[“On the authority of thirty-six MSS. and others in the margin, two early editions, the LXX., Arab., Hexaplar, Syr., the Peshito, Aq., Symn., Vulg. הָמוֹן should be pointed הִַמוֹן in the construct.” Henderson. In the rendering Henderson and Noyes follow the A. V.; Blayney has “Surely hills are lies, the tumult of mountains;” Hitzig, “for a deception from the hills is the host of mountains;” Umbreit, “Verily! a lie is become from the hills, the tumult of the mountains.”—S. R. A.]


1. On Jeremiah 3:21. Although Paul in Galatians 6:4-5, says that every one should prove his own work, that he may have praise in himself and not in another, and that every one will have his own burden, yet we read on the other hand that the people of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba will in the day of judgment condemn the γενεά of Christ’s contemporaries (Matthew 12:41-42; comp. Jer 3:27, Jeremiah 3:11, Jeremiah 3:21, etc.). The apparent contradiction is dispelled when we consider that Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians urges the absolute standard against those who desire to find in the faults of others a mantle for their own, that is, that every one will be judged above all and essentially according to that which he is in and of himself. Christ Himself, however, in the passages cited applies the relative standard to those who, in the blindness of their pride, believe themselves beyond comparison better than all others. To these it is said that a comparison may certainly be made, but that it will result to their disadvantage, since the guilt which they have incurred, notwithstanding the most favorable circumstances, will serve for a ground of mitigation for others, who have sinned in less favorable circumstances, (ἀνεκτότερον ἕσται, Matthew 11:22; Matthew 11:24).

2. “Erubesce Sidon, ait mare. Quasi enim per vocem maris ad verecundian Sidon adducitur, quando per comparationem vitæ sæcularium atque in hoc mundo fluctuantium ejus, qui munitus et quasi stabilis cernitur, vita reprobatur.” Gregor M. in Isidor. Hisp. Vide Ghisler. S. 289.

3. On Jeremiah 3:12-13. The grace of God is an open door to every one who knocks with the finger of penitence, 1 John 1:8-10. “Erranti medicina confessioCessat vindicta divina, si confessio præcurrat humana.” Ambros.

4. Ghislerus. “Deus sol hominis et homo sol Dei. Quod Deus sit sol hominis, indicatur eo, quod peccatores metaphora designati sint aquilonis. Ut enim ab aguilone sol sensibilis, ita a peccatoribus Deus, sol justitiæ longe est. Quod antem homo quodammodo sit et Dei sol, indicat ipsemet Deus, dum ait: revertere aversatrix Israel et non avertam faciem meam a vobis (Vulg.). Significat enim ad hominem se habere ut heliotropium ad solem; convertente homine se ad Deum, convertit statim et se Deus ad illum; eoque non se avertente, nec Deus faciem suam ab illo avertit.”

5. On Jeremiah 3:14. “God in proof of his mercy keeps his covenant, which men have broken by their sins, as strictly and securely, as though they had never broken it. Ezekiel 18:22.” Starke.

6. On Jeremiah 3:15. Donatur, fato non decidit arbore mysta.

A teacher true never falls from a tree,
But comes by divine authority.

M. G. Albrecht. Hierarch. Eccl. Cap. 10.

7. On Jeremiah 3:16. “The ceremonial law and custom must have an end, and the ark of the covenant, as only a shadow of good things to come, must also cease to be (Hebrews 10:1). It is therefore only a rabbinical fiction, that people still derive consolation from the second book of Maccabees (Jeremiah 2:5), as though the ark of the covenant were somewhere in a mountain and would eventually be found, for the true ark of the covenant, which is found again, is Jesus Christ, the true Messiah typified by the Ark.” Cramer. The manner in which Jeremiah here speaks of the ark of the covenant is moreover so extraordinary that we may apply to it the words of Matthew 16:17. Flesh and blood have not revealed it unto thee, but my Father in heaven. The ark at that time in the reign of Josiah was again regarded with the greatest reverence (comp. 2 Chronicles 35:3; III. Ezr 1:3-4). What a divinely lofty and distant view must the prophet have had to be able to treat the ark as he here does, as something of small account!

8. The view that this prophecy was fulfilled by the return under Zerubbabel and Ezra is opposed by the fact (1), that not even the whole of Judah, not to speak of the whole of Israel then returned (of the latter a few at most: comp. Herzog Real-Enc. XIV. S. 773; I. S. 651); (2), that not even Judah had then returned to the Lord, not to speak of the conversion of the heathen. Its fulfilment by the founding of the Christian church is contradicted by the fact, (1) that the reunion of Judah and Israel had not yet taken place, the latter people must still be regarded as unknown (comp. Herzog, Real-Enc. I. S. 651; XVII. S. 284): (2) that Israel in general has rejected the Lord and refused to enter the Christian church (comp. Rom. chap. 11–12): (3) that the heathen have indeed begun to turn to the name of the Lord and to the Jerusalem that is above (Galatians 4:26), but that this has taken place neither in such measure nor in such a manner that we can recognize in it the complete fulfilment of that which this passage declares of the conversion of all nations and the removal of their hardness of heart. We must therefore still wait for the complete fulfilment of this prophecy. The argument of Bertheau in his essay, “The Old Testament prophecies of Israel’s imperial glory in his own land,” (“Die Alttest., Weiss, etc.In Jahrb. f. deutsche Theol. IV. 2, 4; V. 3,) which he urges from the point of view that many prophecies remain unfulfilled, because men on their part have not fulfilled the required conditions, is not applicable here, for in Jeremiah 3:20, sqq., it is expressly said that Israel will comply most satisfactorily with the single condition imposed by the Lord, (Jeremiah 3:13).

9. On Jeremiah 3:18-19. As the separation of the kingdom of Israel from the kingdom of Judah may be regarded as the type of the denominational divisions in Christendom, so the reunion here promised may be regarded as a type of all true union. This must always rest on a double, negative and positive, basis: (1) on the fundamental return of both from the false ground on which they have been standing (typified by the common exit of both tribes from the north country, the land of captivity): (2) on unreserved sincere devotion to the Lord, who is for both the only source of life and truth, (typified in the words “My father, wilt thou call me, etc.” Jeremiah 3:19). The result of this will be a condition of glorious prosperity in the church (typified in the first clause of Jeremiah 3:19).

10. On Jeremiah 3:20-25. The peculiarities of true penitence meet us plainly in this section: it proceeds from the inmost heart (the weeping supplication of the people, Jeremiah 3:21, as well as their deep shame evince this, Jeremiah 3:25). It is free from all false penitence, which proceeds merely from the feeling of the disadvantageous consequences of wickedness. Its principle is rather sorrow at having grieved God by the rejection of His holy love. This is intimated by the second clause of Jeremiah 3:21. True penitence, finally, is made known by the honest fruits of repentance. These are here set forth in the words “I will heal your apostasies” Jeremiah 3:22, and by the detestation of evil, and yearning for the Lord, which are expressed in Jeremiah 3:24-25.


1. On Jeremiah 3:11. “To what reflections should the declaration of Scripture give rise, that the divine judgment is determined by the comparison of men with each other? 1. We should reflect that it is impossible for us to institute this comparison with perfect justice ourselves. 2. We should therefore draw from comparison with others occasion neither for despair nor false comfort. 3. We should rather allow this comparison to be a motive to severe self-discipline.

2. On Jeremiah 3:12. Reformation sermon by Lohe (7 Predigten. Nürnberg, 1834, S. 49). 1. The reformation was a return; 2. a return is necessary now; 3. it is now possible.

3. On verses 12 and 13, God’s call to repentance, (a) its ground (I am merciful); (b) its object (to obtain grace): (c) its condition (acknowledge thy sin).

4. On Jeremiah 3:15. (Text for an installation sermon). The evangelical pastorate; (a) its standard, (after my heart); (b) its task, (to feed them with doctrine and wisdom).

5. On Jeremiah 3:16-17. The true worship of God. (John 4:21-24). 1. It is not connected with any outward forms or ceremonies. 2. It consists, (a) in the direction of the inmost heart to God (assembling at the throne of the Lord), (b) in the evidence of this direction of the heart in a holy walk (to walk no more according to the thoughts of the wicked heart).

6. On Jeremiah 3:18-19. The conditions of true union, 1. common return from sin and error (Judah and Israel come together from the north), 2. common return to the source of life and truth (the inheritance of the fathers—dear father!—will not depart from me).

7. On Jeremiah 3:21-22. How does a nation worthily keep the yearly fast? 1. When it humbles itself before God in hearty repentance of its sins. 2. When it believingly hears the call of the Father of eternal grace. 3. When it heartily returns to the Lord, its God.—From an anon, sermon.

8. Jeremiah 3:21-25 (Text for a penitential discourse) True repentance. 1. Its form (crying and weeping, Jeremiah 3:21). 2. Its subject—primary, forgetting God (Jeremiah 3:21) and sinning against Him (Jeremiah 3:25)—secondary, the destruction come upon us in consequence of the deception of sin, (Jeremiah 3:23, sqq.). 3. Its object (salvation in God).—Comp. the fifth homily of Origen on Jeremiah 3:21 to Jeremiah 4:8.—On Jeremiah 3:22. Comp. the Confirmation Sermon of Dr. F. Arndt in his work, “The Christian’s pilgrimage through Life” (“Der Christen Pilgerfahrt,” etc. Halle, 1865) on the subject. “The gracious hours of life at and after confirmation.”

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 3". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/jeremiah-3.html. 1857-84.
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