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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 23

 

 

Verses 1-40

Jeremiah 23:1. Woe be to the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep. Princes are often called pastors, as Cyrus, Isaiah 44:28, because they enforce the laws and protect the people. Shallum, and the last kings of Judah, were the worst of shepherds, who scattered all the sheep. The degenerate priests and the false prophets flattered those princes in all their errors.

Jeremiah 23:5. I will raise to David a righteous branch. The Messiah, as the Chaldaic reads. See Isaiah 4:2. The Hebrew word צמח tzamach, a shoot or branch, here used as a title of the Messiah, is by the LXX rendered by the Greek word ανατολη anatole, which signifies not only a branch or shoot, but also the springing or rising of the day. Hence the variation in the quotation of this passage by Zacharias: “through the tender mercy of our God, the dayspring from on high hath visited us.” Luke 1:78. The word ανατολη was applied to the Messiah by the Greek Jews, long before our Saviour’s time; and hence he was, by the Latin Jews, called Oriens.

Jeremiah 23:6. In his days Judah shall be saved. The Chaldaic and LXX read, “In the days of the Messiah.”

And this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. וזה שׁמו אשׁר יקראו יהוה צידקנו vezeh shemo asher yikreoo Jehovah tzidkenoo. “And this is his name by which he shall be called, [or they, or people, or Zion, or every one, shall call him] Jehovah our Just One,” or Hebraically, “the Lord our Righteousness.” This text is repeated, chap. 33:16, with a variation. “And this is his name by which SHE shall call him, the Lord our righteousness;” that is, Zion or the church shall glory to call him her JUST ONE, or her Righteousness. This is done in conformity to the analogy of faith. “Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” “Their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 45:24. So St. Paul, “Christ is made of God unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30. When Jeremiah says that she, or the church, mostly put in the feminine, shall call him “JEHOVAH our righteousness,” the high and holy name which designates the Divine Essence, as existing of itself, and by consequence, incommunicable to any creature, the prophet completely supersedes the Socinian gloss, that “Jehovah shall call him our righteousness.” The LXX, so reading the text, are no authority against the undisputed words of the inspired prophet, who calls the Messiah, Jehovah our Just One, or righteousness. So also is the gloss of the rabbins on Daniel 7:13.

Professor Dahler, in his new version of Jeremiah, reads this text exactly as our Poole in his Synopsis.

Et voici le nom dont on l’ appellera; L’ Eternel, Auteur de notre felicitè.

Which literally is, And behold the name by which they shall call him, The ETERNAL, the author of our felicity. In all versions of the French bible, L’ Eternel is the constant word for Jehovah, which designates the preëxistence and eternity of Christ, “the author and finisher of our faith.” Dr. Blaney, whose version and notes, now before me, sufficiently demonstrate that he was a Socinian, follows the LXX, whose only fault was ignorance of the glorious person of Christ. He reads, “And this is his name by which Jehovah shall call him, our righteousness.” If we adopt Dr. Blaney’s reading, then all the Nicene fathers, so ably defended by bishop Bull, were in error, and must be repudiated. The Hebrew text, which stands undisputed, must give way to the pride of socinian philosophy, which aims at the destruction of the Bible, as Dr. Priestley little less than avows. Such a word was formerly written differently, such a letter is lost, or such a word is wanting in the text! Thus

They sport with scriptures at their ease, And make them speak just what they please.”

We ask in defence of truth, Is it possible to separate the Messiah’s name from his character? If he be our righteousness, the Just—the Holy One of Israel—he must be Jehovah. If he be the righteous branch, to save Judah, and cause Israel to dwell safely, his incommunicable title must be correct. “In Jehovah (alone) shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”

Isaiah 45:25. No man can be the righteousness of a nation, except Jehovah. Therefore Paul is correct, “Let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord.”

Professor Cocceius, on this text, quotes Theodoret, who on Jeremiah 32:16, cites the LXX, ο κυριος δικαιοσυνη ημων, which he regards as an infraction, and that the LXX have not understood the words of Jeremiah. The Chaldaic paraphrase reads. לנא זכון מן קדם יי ביומוחי יתעבדן Efficientur nobis merita in diebus hujus. In his days he shall efficiently merit for us the pardon of our sins. The comment of rabbi Solomoh is, “The Lord shall make us righteous in his days.” Cocceius next superadds his own comment. “These words contain,

(1) The renunciation of our own righteousness.

(2) The righteousness of God by which sinners in his sight are justified, against all accusing tongues.

(3) They define the righteousness of God to be the righteousness which the people have in Jehovah; that is, the righteousness by which they are made just, or are justified before God.

(4) They declare the open confession of the people in the days of David’s righteous BRANCH which designates the righteousness of the germ, or Son of David, to be the righteousness of Jehovah.”

This, continues our learned professor, “is the mystery which the stupid people of Israel could not perceive, though everywhere inculcated by the prophets.”—Reader, this is virgin honey from the ancient hive.

Our righteousness. After the council of Trent had decreed in favour of works of supererogation, a warm controversy arose among protestant divines concerning the word RIGHTEOUSNESS. In the warmth of opposition to the popish doctrine of justification by human merit, they had made it in almost every place of the old testament to mean the righteousness of Christ. This offended many of the more sober divines, and contradicted the received glosses which antiquity had given of those texts. See Psalms 89:10, Psalm 48:18. Isaiah 54:17. On this latter text, “their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord,” Mr. Poole gives us five glosses which may serve as a key to other correspondent passages. Their righteousness is to me—of me— or with me. That is, (1) The reward of righteousness.

(2) The benefit or blessings of their righteousness, as Psalms 24:5.

(3) Their right is of me, which imports that the Lord would openly maintain their right, account them innocent, and in open day.

(4) Their righteousness, that is their justification and applause, as Calvin asserts.

(5) Their defence is of me, which is peculiarly the work of my righteousness. This last gloss is from Piscator, and it seems the most natural and striking. Thus Israel could say, surely in the Lord have I righteousness and strength. In hating idols, and in worshipping the only true God, I shall be justified and saved in the eyes of the heathen.

Such is the obvious connection of the text, as Poole fully allows. See Isaiah 44:24. Hence, in this text of Jeremiah, so glorious a pillar in the support of truth, we find the Messiah called JEHOVAH as in a multitude of correspondent texts. See Isaiah 40:10; Isaiah 45:24-25; Isaiah 48:17. Hosea 1:7. Zechariah 2:10-11. Malachi 3:1. He is as to his humanity, David’s righteous branch, Israel’s judge and king, and he is Judah’s safety and defence. He shall be called, or rather, they shall call him throughout all future ages, the Lord our Just One, as the Vulgate and Pagninus read, taking the word indefinitely. But Montanus, following the Syriac, reads, The Lord our righteousness. The former reading is however preferred by my worthy friend, the late Rev. John Crosse, vicar of Bradford. “And he who shall be called to it [the great work of restoring peace and prosperity to the church] is the Lord our Just One.”—We must however associate this text, and all others of like import, with texts in the new testament, which affirm that Jesus Christ is made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that God hath made him to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Hence when God is said to be our righteousness, he is, according to Poole, Auctorem Justitiæ nostræ; the Author of our righteousness, whether of justification, of sanctification, or of the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, peace, righteousness.

Jeremiah 23:7. Therefore the days come, saith the Lord, after the return from Babylon, quoting the words of Isaiah, Isaiah 65:16-17, that they shall not talk of the emancipation from Egypt, or from Babylon, in comparison of the new heavens and the new earth, which the Lord shall renovate in righteousness, with glories and with beauties which eye hath not seen nor ear heard.

Jeremiah 23:9. My heart within me is broken, to hear the false prophets blaspheme, Jeremiah 23:11, and to see the people applaud their lies and falsehood. I shake and tremble at the horrible wickedness in high places. The land is full of adulterers, vociferating amens in the temple, and singing songs to Venus on the hills.

Jeremiah 23:19. A whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury. The blasts of invasion. Job 38:1. Psalms 48:7.

Jeremiah 23:21. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. The king’s servants must hold their commission of the king. The love of God shed abroad in the heart must be the flame of evangelical preaching; the motives must be pure; not money, not a genteel profession, but the glory of God and the salvation of souls: all other motives disgrace the sacred profession. The dreams of those prophets, Jeremiah 23:27-28, compared with the pure word of the Lord, are but as the chaff to the wheat.

Jeremiah 23:29. Is not my word like as a fire—and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? The agents here are double, and the effects are double. The hammer breaks the rock. We sometimes hear a piercing cry from culprits, when the judge pronounces their sentence. Sermons of terror are best adapted to hardened men; but it is love, the fire of love, that melts and hallows the heart. Fusion is essential to mental purity, and to give a celestial form to reformation.

REFLECTIONS.

Our tender-hearted prophet, having cast many a tearful eye on the state of his country, and looked a thousand ways to do them good, traced the causes of Israel’s calamities to the latent wickedness of the heart, and to the open profligacy of pastors who scattered the flock. Such were the degenerate princes, priests and prophets of the age, who are charged with the loss of souls; nor did the Lord long delay to inflict the woe, and visit their doings.

The age in which the prophet lived being totally corrupt, he fled to a future age for comfort. He was consoled by the idea, that a new race of ministers should fill the church; even apostles, evangelists, and prophets. He saw the Messiah, a root of Jesse, or righteous branch, flourishing as the tree of life in the garden of God. He saw him raised to the throne of power, and called by his people, The Lord our Just One. Yea, the Holy One of God. Under his almighty wings, the converted jews and gentiles, now the true Israel, should dwell safely.

He not only saw this Israel justified and protected by the Lord, but he heard Zion speak a language of grace. They no more said, the Lord liveth which brought up Israel out of Egypt; but the Lord liveth that brought back his Israel from all the countries whither he had driven them. This new language, converts of all ages may adopt; but when a remnant of the Hebrews shall be gathered home, they will not, comparatively, talk of Egypt, but join the gentile church in singing, Unto him that hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests to God. Behold he cometh with clouds.

This blooming vision of the righteous branch, reconciled the prophet to the sentence of desolation pronounced against his country; for he saw the whole mass of the people entirely corrupt, from the prince to the wretch who grovelled in the street; and he saw the balm of Gilead totally fail of a cure. Yea, he saw the whole land mourning because of swearing, and groaning beneath a weight of wickedness little less than that of Sodom. In answer to those groans he saw the invading army, as the whirlwind of the Lord, haste to purify it by the breath of vengeance. To what awful issues do apostasy and crimes lead a people!

In those evil times we have a striking contrast between the ministry of the true and of the false prophets. The prophets of the profane altars, whose hearts were fixed on worldly good, prophesied of Elysian delights, of harvests, of vintages, of alliances, and national repose. Their eloquence charmed the ear; and the subject so beguiled the heart, that a fatal slumber fell upon the whole. But when the true prophets opened their mouths for God, it was with burning zeal; and the strokes of their thunder, like those on the anvil, sent the sparks to the most distant part of the crowd. Yea, the most obdurate of the rebels, if not melted by the flame, felt their heart give way to the omnipotence of truth, as the flinty rock yields to the repeated strokes of the hammer. Christian ministers may here learn, that the character of our ministry is far too mild and accommodating. The wickedness and profligacy of our age require an efficient remedy; and smooth things do but amuse the unregenerate crowd in the road to ruin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 23:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/jeremiah-23.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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