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The judgments of God upon the Jews for their perverseness, for their adultery, for their impiety, for their contempt of God, and for their great corruption in the civil state, and ecclesiastical.
Before Christ 612.
Jeremiah 5:1. Run ye to and fro— This is a continuation of the preceding discourse, wherein the Almighty justifies the severities of the judgments denounced in the former chapter. The expressions are strong, but not to be taken precisely in the letter; signifying only the extreme degeneracy of the times, and the great want of justice and piety in Jerusalem: instead of pardon it, we should read, pardon her.
Jeremiah 5:2. Surely they swear falsely— Nevertheless, &c. See Jer 5:7 and ch. Jeremiah 4:2. Let what we say be ever so true, if we believe it not to be so, we have not spoken truth. Custom has brought many to church and to meeting, who forget why they came thither when they are there; and too frequently do many of us find ourselves at our prayers, when we least think of Him, to whom we pretend to direct those prayers. And as they whom we trust, and are familiar with, have much more power to do us hurt, to betray us, and expose us to ruin, than our open and professed enemies, towards whom we stand upon our guard, and whom the world looks upon as unjust, or at least as disaffected towards us; so God himself suffers more dishonour from those who pretend to his service, profess the religion enjoined by him, and in their lives and actions practise those things which are inconsistent with, and destructive to that religion, than from those who really understand him not, and therefore never make a shew of looking after him. Let us flatter ourselves as we may, with an opinion of the saving power of our true and right ideas of God, and our Saviour, and of his Holy Spirit; of our being Christians and true members of the church of Christ, it is to be very reasonably feared, that the pure confest atheist, who does not know God at all, and therefore never thinks of pleasing him; who believes that there are no such places as heaven and hell, and so considers not the ways which lead to either; but determines all his hopes and fears within that span of life which nature allows us in this world; who either has not seen those books which we call the Scripture, or, if he have, looks upon them as the invention, or fancy, or speculation of men, and so no further the objects of his faith, than they are the objects of his reason: I say, we may reasonably believe this direct plain Atheist to be less condemnable, than the practical, hypocritical Atheist, the proud false traducer of the fame and reputation of his neighbour, or the cruel and rebellious oppressor of the innocent; who, while with his lips he acknowledges God to be the Creator of heaven and earth, and his Holy Scriptures to be the voice of his mouth, does yet foolishly in his heart deny the being of a God, by neglecting to do all that his divine majesty hath enjoined, and doing all that he hath expressly forbidden to be done. As good parts and education, example and good conversation, are so many aggravations against him whose mind is not improved by these extraordinary advantages; so, doubtless, they who should be found atheists in Christian congregations, who magnify God in their opinions and discourses, and contemn him in their practices, have a more dismal account to make, than the most impious men who have only breathed in heathen and barbarous climates.
Jeremiah 5:3. Are not thine eyes upon the truth?— The eyes turned upon, or towards an object, denote, not only a diligent inspection and nice discernment of it, but also an earnest expectation or looking after it. The phrase may here be taken in both senses, that God both seeth and discerneth the truth, and also expects it from others, especially from those who call upon his name in attestation of it.
Jeremiah 5:4. Therefore I said, Surely, &c.— The meaning of this verse is sufficiently plain from that which follows. Houbigant, however, renders it better thus: But I thought thus with myself; these men of mean condition are certainly foolish, because they have not known, &c.
Jeremiah 5:6. Wherefore a lion, &c.— By the lion, say some, Nebuchadnezzar is meant: see chap. Jeremiah 4:7. By the wolf, Nabuzaradan; and by the leopard, Antiochus Epiphanes. Others by the lion think that the Babylonians are understood; by the wolf the Medes and Persians; and by the leopard the Greeks: while others again, with more reason, suppose that Nebuchadnezzar alone is here pointed at; violent and courageous as a lion; rapacious, greedy, devouring, as a wolf; swift, lively, and active as a leopard. See Grotius and Calmet.
Jeremiah 5:10. Go ye up, &c.— See Jer 5:17 and the note on Jer 5:27 of the preceding chapter. Instead of take away her battlements, &c. Houbigant reads, Leave her foundations, for they are the Lord's. See his note. It is well known from history, that the Chaldeans left the foundations of the walls of Jerusalem, which Jeremiah here foretells.
Jeremiah 5:12. And said, It is not He— היא לוא lo hu. "Not He;" that is, either, he hath not spoken, or, he will not do as the prophets have threatened in his name. See Psalms 94:7.
For they said, Jehovah will not see, Neither will the God of Jacob regard.
Jeremiah 5:13. And the prophets shall become wind— These are the words of the wicked. "The prophets," say they, "shall become wind;" all their prophesies are vain and to no purpose. "The word [that is to say, of true prophesy] is not in them: Thus shall it be done unto them; nay, the very evils which they denounce upon others shall happen to themselves."
Jeremiah 5:19. So shall ye serve strangers— Some understand and read this, strange gods; but it seems best to understand it of strange people. "As you have refused to have me for your God, your master, and king, you shall have other kings and masters in a strange land, and shall experience the difference between my dominion, and that of those severe and tyrannical masters."
Jeremiah 5:24. Let us now fear the Lord— The vicissitudes of seasons, of cold and heat, of drought and moisture, so wisely fitted for the growth of the fruits of the earth, and other uses of human life, are so remarkable a proof of the being of a God, and his providence, as to be obvious to the meanest capacity; and on this account they are frequently insisted on by the inspired writers. The prophet seems here to have had an eye to the sanction of the law, Leviticus 26:4. The former rain fell just after sowing-time; the latter rain was just before harvest, to plump and fill the ears; and is called by Joel the latter rain of the first month, at which time the harvest begun. In chap. Jeremiah 8:13; Jer 8:20 and Jeremiah 14:1; Jer 14:18 the prophet speaks of a dearth that happened before the siege of Jerusalem; which, says Calmet, is different from that here spoken of; though some are of a contrary opinion, and imagine that one and the same dearth is referred to in these different places. See Calmet, and Taylor's Script. Vind. p. 341.
Jeremiah 5:27. As a cage is full of birds— A trap-cage. כלוב kelub, comes from כלב keleb, a dog; and this name was undoubtedly given to the trap-cage, because it served the same purpose as a dog in assisting to catch game. That sort of trap-cage also seems to be alluded to, in which tame birds are put to hop and fly about as a decoy to others.
Jeremiah 5:28. Yea, they overpass, &c.— Yea, they have exceeded all expression of wickedness; or, have been wicked beyond expression. Houbigant renders it, Therefore they burst forth into words of iniquity.
Jeremiah 5:31. The prophets prophesy falsely— Instead of, The priests bear rule by their means, Houbigant and others render it, And the priests give them their hands; that is to say, approve, applaud, and unite with them in the same false and destructive measures; both priests and prophets agreeing to speak pleasing things to the people, in order to support their own interest and authority: The consequence of which must be, a total corruption of manners, and so utter ruin to the state.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, God will ever be justified in his judgments: and when he visits, verily there is a cause.
We have here,
1. The many and aggravated sins of the Jews.
[1.] All truth and honestly were banished. Search Jerusalem throughout, in all the places of concourse, and neither a magistrate could be found upright, nor a man faithful, such an universal corruption was spread through all ranks and degrees. To spare Sodom, ten righteous were required: to spare Jerusalem, one it seems would have sufficed, and is not found; at least no such was to be met in the places of public resort, where, if a few remained, they dared not appear.
[2.] They were false-hearted hypocrites. Some, indeed, made profession of religion, and pretended a regard for truth; but they were perjured, and faithless in all their vows of fidelity to God, whose eye was upon them, and from whom they could not be concealed. Note; (1.) Perjury is a crying sin, and there is an avenging God who heals. (2.) They who are insincere in their professions of godliness, are more guilty than the openly abandoned.
[3.] They were obstinately hardened. All God's visitations produced no humiliation: they neither grieved for the sins which provoked him, nor sought to answer the end of his corrections; but daringly braved the divine vengeance, as neither ashamed of their wickedness, nor afraid of the punishment, and insolently refused to return. Note; When judgments have no effect, and men grow impudent in sin, their case appears desperate.
[4.] They were shamefully ignorant. They knew not the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God. They understood neither his word, the manner of his worship, nor the designs of his providences. But the prophet was willing to hope that these were foolish, because poor, and might have less opportunities of improvement: yet he found the case no way mended with the rich. Note; (1.) Prevailing ignorance of the things of God cannot but be accompanied with abounding iniquity. (2.) Though high attainments of knowledge may not be in their power, all truths needful to salvation the poorest may learn: so that they are without excuse: for wilful ignorance is wilful sin.
[5.] The great had utterly cast off the divine government. Among the princes, the priests, and the elders, at least, he might expect wisdom and piety, and that they would pay attention to his word. But just the reverse: whatever their knowledge was, their practice was avowed ungodliness; breaking the yoke, and bursting the bonds of God's commands. Note; In a corrupted state, the higher men's stations are, we may expect to find in them the greater abominations.
[6.] Their idolatries were infamous. Forsaking God, they paid their worship to stocks and stones, and swore by them that were no gods. Well might he therefore say, How shall I pardon thee for this?
[7.] They gave full scope to their bestial lusts, abused the plenty which God bestowed, to pamper their bodies; and, having made provision for the flesh, so impudent and barefaced were they in their indulgences, that in troops they assembled in the harlots' houses; and added adultery to their other crimes, to fill up the measure of their iniquities. Note; They who would keep from grosser pollutions must bridle their appetites, and shun idleness. If the fuel be prepared, the fire will quickly kindle.
2. Their destruction is threatened by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. As a lion, resistless in strength; as an evening wolf, fierce with hunger; and as a leopard, watching, darts on his prey; so irresistible, ravening, and swift, shall he come to execute God's judgments, to besiege their cities, and rend in pieces those who either come forth to oppose him, or seek to escape: and this because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased.
3. God appeals to them for the justice of this procedure. Shall I not visit for these things? The honour of his government, as well as the holiness of his nature, requires that inquisition should be made, and judgment pass upon such offenders. And shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? His punitive justice is essential to his nature; and national sins call for national judgments.
2nd, The prophet still further prosecutes his subject. We have,
1. The provocations that they have given. Israel and Judah, alike rebellious, have treacherously departed from God's ways and worship, fearless of God's warnings, yea, daring to give the lie to his word in the mouth of his prophets, and vainly promising themselves peace and plenty: as if the threatenings which the prophets denounced were melancholy fancies in their own imaginations, and would prove but as a puff of wind; and as if their own false prophets were rather to be regarded, retorting their denunciations upon them; thus shall it be done unto them, or let it be done, giving orders to punish the true prophets with the famine and the sword, for presuming to predict such judgments against them. Note; (1.) It is at the bottom of the sinner's presumption and security, that he does not believe God to be so holy as his word declares, and flatters himself there are some reserves of mercy in contradiction to his justice, or that his faithful servants are too severe, and misrepresent his word. (2.) Many now scoff at the preaching of God's prophets as folly, and treat them as visionary enthusiasts, who will shortly find, that what they despise as fictions, and as contrived to frighten the minds of the superstitious, are fearful realities.
2. The punishment threatened for their impenitence. That word of God's prophets which they had despised should fearfully be fulfilled: as fire it should burn, and they be fuel to the flame. Those proud battlements, on which they relied, deserted of God their only sure defence, shall be easily thrown down by the besieging foe. From far, a mighty nation, an ancient nation, to whom they were utter strangers, marches at God's command against them; their arrows devouring as the grave, and their warriors so mighty that they cannot stand before them. Their country shall be foraged, wasted, and plundered; their corn and cattle seized, and themselves and children left to pine with hunger; their cities ruined, and their garrisons slain with the sword. Note; (1.) God will make sinners know at last whose word shall stand, his or theirs. (2.) Vain are all our confidences, when God hath forsaken us. (3.) The God of Hosts hath all nations at his beck, and soon can make one sinful nation a scourge to its neighbour.
3. In wrath God remembers mercy. For the sake of the faithful few, a full end shall not be made of this sinful nation. Note; When God gives a commission to the sword, he prescribes the bounds; hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther.
4. God's justice will appear in his judgments. Many of them, quarrelling with their punishment, would charge God foolishly; and, as if undeserving of this treatment, expostulate with him thereupon: Wherefore doeth the Lord our God (to whom they hypocritically pleaded relation) all these things unto us? The reason is obvious, and the uprightness of his procedure clear; then shalt thou answer them, Like as ye have forsaken me, my worship and service, and served strange Gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers, the Chaldeans, in a land that is not yours: and this was a most just retaliation. Note; (1.) It is a sure sign of an un-humbled heart, when we murmur against and find fault with the severity of our corrections. (2.) They who make themselves servants of sin shall, sooner or later, be made sick of the service.
3rdly, When the prophet had to do with a people so obstinate and perverse, he had need cry aloud and spare not. He charges them,
1. With their stupidity and sottishness. They neither used their ears to attend to God's word, nor their eyes to contemplate his works; but, as if blind and deaf, continued void of understanding. Note; None so blind as those who will not see, or deaf as they who refuse to hear; and none so criminal as those who, in the midst of means and mercies, choose darkness rather than light.
2. They were destitute of God's fear, notwithstanding the displays of majesty and mercy which they beheld and experienced. They saw the raging seas arise, and threaten to raise another deluge; yet, by his mighty power shut up as with gates of adamant, the proud waves are stayed, and their limits fixed by a perpetual decree; and Fear ye not me? saith the Lord; will ye not tremble at my presence? Surely this must prove them more senseless, perverse, and disobedient, than these foaming billows. Yet, if his majesty moved them not, his mercy should engage them to fear the Lord and his goodness; who, with such constant providential care, causeth the rain to descend, the former and the latter rain in his season, as would be most conducive to produce a plenteous harvest, which he graciously bestowed upon them. Yet so ungrateful and insensible were they, that all this kindness wrought not on their obdurate souls, nor engaged them to say in their hearts, Let us now fear the Lord our God. Note; (1.) If the fear of the Lord be not in our hearts, neither the works of his power, nor the wonders of his providence will affect us: yet will they leave us inexcusable. (2.) Where the fear of God is not, there must be confusion and every evil work.
3. They were obstinately rebellious, and revolted from God: their hearts were apostate from him: and not for a season merely, but they went on in one continued course of iniquity, daily widening the breach, and filling up the measure of their iniquities. Note; Such rebels are we all by nature; so foolish, fearless, and revolted: at enmity against God, and hating the restraints of his law, till he by his grace open our eyes, and we return in true penitence to him, and he put his fear in our hearts, and reduce them to the obedience of Christ.
4thly, We have,
1. The miseries which their sins had already brought upon them: Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you. The heavens had been shut, the earth unfruitful, the seasons unkindly, and their harvests had failed. Note; Lesser visitations, slighted, prepare the way for heavier judgments.
2. Their provocations continued as bad as ever, yea, grew worse and worse. Their general character was wickedness, and that the more aggravated as being in profession God's people. They were deceitful, treacherous, oppressive, covetous. They laid snares to entrap and destroy those who any ways interfered with their interests, or were become the objects of their resentment for reproving them for their sins. As a cage with birds set for a decoy, which is filled with those that are caught, so are their houses filled with the gain of fraud and deceit. Thus they become great, and, indulging their appetite out of their ill-gotten wealth, wax fat and shine. They overpass the deeds of the wicked, are worse than the heathens around them; or, though pretending to religion, they exceed in iniquity the most abandoned profligates. In vain the fatherless and needy cry for their assistance, to vindicate them from oppression, or relieve them from their distresses; their ears are deaf to their cry; neither as advocates for them, nor as magistrates, do they regard right or justice; and yet, astonishing to tell! they prosper. Yet surely they fatten but for the slaughter. But, above all other crimes, a wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land, enough to make the ears of every one that heareth it to tingle, and be amazed at the pitch of impiety to which they are arrived: The prophets prophesy falsely, see lying divinations, and visions of peace for this devoted people; and, far from being discountenanced, the priests, or princes as the word signifies also, espouse them, and oppose them against the true prophets as the tools of their ambition, that they may bear rule by their means, supporting themselves by a combination in iniquity; and my people, who should have espoused his cause against such a confederacy of iniquity, love to have it so; were well enough pleased with such priests as flattered them in their vices, and prophesied smooth things; and with rulers who took no care to execute the laws which should have restrained them. Note; (1.) An honest man, in this wicked world, is in great danger of being a prey; for, unable to speak lies and act deceitfully, he often cannot deal on even terms. (2.) We are here frequently struck with the view of prosperous wickedness: but let us not be staggered: mark the end of those men. (3.) Sin is a horrible thing; we need startle at it. (4.) They who pretend a commission from God, yet by their lies contradict his revealed word, are the most dangerous deceivers.
3. The consequences of there iniquities would be fatal. God will visit for their sins: his justice requires that condign punishment be executed on such offenders; and what will ye do in the end thereof? What a state of misery and despair would they be driven to, when their country should be conquered, and themselves captives in Babylon? Note; An end will come of the longest life of prosperous wickedness; and it is an awful consideration, what sinners will then do when they shall fall into the hands of the living God.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 5". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29