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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Jeremiah 5

 

 

Verses 1-31

II. Demonstration of the justice of the judgments by the enumeration of their causes

( Jeremiah 5:1-31)

The prophet enumerates these by first denouncing the universal corruption, especially in reference to the want of אֱמוּנָה. Jeremiah 5:1-6 he shows that truth and faith have entirely disappeared from public life; Jeremiah 5:7-9 that אֱמוּנָה is wanting in conjugal relations; Jeremiah 5:10-18 that none of this is any longer found in the sense of faith in God; Jeremiah 5:19-24 he describes the idolatry resulting from unbelief; Jeremiah 5:25-29 the deception and rude violence connected therewith; Jeremiah 5:30-31 finally he comprises all in a brief survey, in which the main points of this sad condition are set forth. The section contains six strophes of unequal length.

1. Universal want of truth and faith in public life

Jeremiah 5:1-6

1 Run through the lanes of Jerusalem and see,

And ascertain and search in her streets,

Whether ye find one, whether there be one,

Who doeth right and asketh after truth—

And I will pardon her.

2And though they say “As Jehovah liveth,”

Even thus they swear falsely.

3Jehovah, thine eyes, look they not for fidelity?

Thou hast smitten them, but it pained them not.

Thou destroyedst them,—they refused to receive correction;

They made their faces harder than a rock,

They refused to return.

4And I said: These are only the poor!

They are stultified![FN1]

For they know not the way of Jehovah,

The judgment of their God.

5I will go[FN2] to the great and speak with them,

For they know the way of Jehovah,

The judgment of their God.

Yet they have broken the yoke among them,

They have torn asunder the cords.

6Therefore the lion from the forest slayeth them,

The wolf of the deserts[FN3] rendeth them,[FN4]

The leopard lurks by their cities;

Every one who goes out is torn in pieces;

For many are their misdeeds, great their apostasies.[FN5]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Jeremiah 5:1. Run through the lanes … I will pardon her. This verse contains the theme not merely of this strophe, but in a certain degree of the whole chapter. For the statements here of the universality of the corruption apply not only to the moral deficiency which is denounced in this strophe, but to all the sins of the people afterward enumerated. And in the second place the lack of honesty is the root of all the rest.—Run through, comp. Amos 8:12; Zechariah 4:10.—her streets, comp. Genesis 18:23 sqq.—right—truth. Since the prophet uses these two words in conjunction with each other, since in Jeremiah 5:2 the unreliableness of the oath sworn in Jerusalem forms the contrast to the truth demanded, since further this moral deficiency is first designated as the most striking, manifesting itself in all the lanes and streets of the city, this being followed in the ensuing strophes by the more special sins against truth, we must understand the former word of “right, justice” (comp. Genesis 18:19; Exodus 23:6; Job 8:3) as the basis of all trade and intercourse, the guarantee of all security of life and property, but the latter as “truth and faith,” without which no public life can exist. The asker after truth cannot be Hebrews, who seeks it in others, for why should he in such a deficiency? but one who seeks it for its own sake, that he may have it and practise it himself.

Jeremiah 5:2. And though they say … swear falsely. There may have been many different kinds of swearing in use (comp. Matthew 5:34 sqq.). The formula חַי י׳ was at any rate regarded as the most sacred and binding. But even the oath thus made was broken.—לכן. The passages which are adduced for the meaning “nevertheless, yet” ( Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 27:9) are uncertain. We must therefore retain the original meaning (in reference to such a condition, this being the case)=even thus. The expression of identity;—an oath by Jehovah and a false oath are with them the same thing.

Jeremiah 5:3. Jehovah, thine eyes … refused to return. The explanation of Hitzig (are not thine eyes true, reliable, do they not see correctly? Psalm 17:2) does not suit the connection. What ground would the prophet have for opposing such a supposition, as that the Lord had erred? It is evidently declared that the Lord seeks truth, in contrast with the declaration in Jeremiah 5:1 that among the Israelites none asks after truth. After in Jeremiah 5:2 he had shown by a striking example, to what a degree truth and faith were lacking in this people, he shows in Jeremiah 5:3 how contrary this was to the will of the Lord. For (a) the Lord seeks אֱמוּנָה, (as to the sense comp. Psalm 53:3; as to the construction the לְ here is used after a verb of motion to be supplied, as it frequently Isaiah, after such actual verbs, instead of אֵל where the idea not of “into” but of “up to” is to be expressed: 1 Samuel 10:26; 2 Samuel 19:9; Ruth 1:8, etc.); (b) the Lord has sought by severe and manifold chastisements to bring the people to אֱמוּנָה, but in vain. Comp. Jeremiah 2:29 sqq. From which it is clear how the Lord regarded this quality. It is on this account that this idea stands at the head of this section, as its fundamental thought, as will also be seen in the ensuing explanation of the single strophes.—In they refused to return we have the fundamental thought of the entire discourse (see on Jeremiah 3:1 sqq.)

Jeremiah 5:4. And I said: these are only the poor … the judgment of their God. The prophet interrupts his address to the people by communicating an objection which he himself made to the Lord. It is thus presupposed that the prophet was not at the moment of speaking first made acquainted with the judgment of the Lord concerning the moral condition of the people, as contained in Jeremiah 5:1-3, but that he was previously aware of the divine purpose, so that he had time to go and make investigations among the higher circles of the people, the result of which he presents in Jeremiah 5:5. These are only the poor; poor is the subject, these is the predicate: it is only the poor to which the previous description applies.

Jeremiah 5:5. I will go to the great … torn asunder the cords.—With them. Comp. Jeremiah 1:16; Jeremiah 2:35; Jeremiah 4:12.—Yet they. The particle אךְ stands here also in a restrictive sense. It is as though the prophet would say: I also really went; only the success did not meet my expectation, they had, etc. Comp. Deuteronomy 18:20; 1 Samuel 29:9.—The great were the worst. They had burst all bands asunder. Comp. Jeremiah 2:20.

Jeremiah 5:6. Therefore the lion … great their apostasies. The prophetic perfect—the prophet beholds the future as though it were past. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr. § 84, g.—The wolf of the deserts. There are two explanations of this1. The Chald, Vulg, Syr, after Habakkuk 1:8; Zephaniah 3:3 render the evening-wolf (coll. Psalm 104:20). To this is opposed (a) the parallelism with from the forest, (b) the plural; since this never occurs elsewhere as the plural of עֶרֶב, nor is it at all here in place. Therefore most commentators take (2) עָרָבוֹת as the plural of עֲרָבָה, the steppe, desert: the desert-wolf.—For many, comp. Jeremiah 30:13-14.—On the subject-matter comp. Exodus 26:22.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Jeremiah 5:4.—נוֹאֲלוִ from אול used only in Niphal. Numbers 12:11; Isaiah 19:13; 50:36. The meaning is to become אֱוִיל, fools, to be stultified, to act foolishly.

FN#2 - Jeremiah 5:5.—אֵלְכָה לִּי Comp. Naegelsb. Gr § 112, 5b

FN#3 - De Wette, *Henderson, Noyes render: an evening-wolf; Blayney has: a wolf of the plains.—S. R. A.]

FN#4 - Jeremiah 5:6.—יְשָׁדְדֵם for יְשָׁדֵם ( Proverbs 11:3, Keri). Comp. Ewald, § 251, c.; Olshausen, § 243, a. [Green, Gr. § 141, 1.].

FN#5 - Jeremiah 5:6.—[Blayney, Noyes, Henderson render: their apostasies (rebellions) are increased.—S. R. A.]

2. Their infidelity in marriage, in marriage with Jehovah as in human marriages

Jeremiah 5:7-9

7 What reason[FN6] have I to pardon[FN7] thee?

Thy children leave me and swear by that which is no God.

And I bound them in allegiance,[FN8]

But they committed adultery

And rushed[FN9] into the harlot’s house.

8 Fat stallions,[FN10] dissolute are they;

Every one neighs after his neighbour’s wife.

9 Should I not punish such as these? saith Jehovah;

Or should not my soul avenge itself on a people like this?

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. What reason … into the harlot’s house. This strophe is an exact parallel to the preceding. As the beginning of the first strophe ( Jeremiah 5:1) presupposes a request for forgiveness, so does Jeremiah 5:7. There it was: when you find one, who asks after truth, I will pardon. Here it is: How can I pardon? Thy children have forsaken me. There the chief reason for not pardoning was the lack of truth in public life. Here, indeed, the word אֱמוּנָה is not mentioned, but the substance is the same, only in a different, more restricted sphere. The breach of conjugal fidelity, first in a theocratic and then in a human sense, is also a proof of the lack of fidelity. As finally Jeremiah 5:6 ends with a threatening of punishment, so does Jeremiah 5:7. The three, 7–9, thus form a whole, complete in themselves, a tableau after the usual type of the strophes of this prophet.—and swore, etc., corresponds exactly to Jeremiah 5:2. There their breach of fidelity was rebuked, because they swore falsely by Jehovah,—here, because they swore by those who were no gods (comp. Jeremiah 2:11; Deuteronomy 32:17; Deuteronomy 32:21).—And I bound them, etc. I believe that the difficulty in this sentence is solved if we transpose the paratactic mode of speech into the syntactic: and although I had allowed them to swear (had bound them by oath and allegiance) yet they committed adultery. The form of the word does not contradict this view, as Graf supposes. We must not, however, think that this allowing to swear refers to the restoration of the Jehovah-cultus, effected by Josiah’s reformation. For although that reformation, begun in the 12 th year of Josiah, and ended in the 18 th ( 2 Chronicles 34:3; 2 Chronicles 34:8), as frequently remarked, did not result in an honest return, yet it is not to be supposed that Jeremiah, during the period to which this discourse certainly belongs, had to complain of public idolatry. In saying “thy children have forsaken me and sworn by no gods” the prophet has in view not the events of that period, but of the whole past history of the people. In the course of this history, from the Exodus onward, it often enough happened that the people fell into idolatry, and were received again by the Lord into covenant with Him. Comp. e. g., the repeated apostasies in the wilderness ( Exodus 32; Numbers 25), and the renewal of the covenant, in Arboth Moab ( Deuteronomy 29:1); further, the continuance of the idolatrous cult, even after the capture of the Holy Land, and the repetition of the covenant, under Joshua ( Joshua 24:13, sqq). With reference to this and other facts of the past (e. g., 1 Samuel 7; 1 Kings 18): Jeremiah may well say: “thy children forsook me … and I let them swear, and they committed adultery,” etc., which according to our syntactic mode of expression is equivalent to: “although after their apostasy, to guard against another, I bound them by oath and allegiance, yet still again they committed adultery.” Comp on this paratactic mode of expression the remarks on Jeremiah 3:8 and NaegelsbachGr. § 111, 1, Anm. This explanation combines these advantages, that (a) it is supported by the more difficult and critically, more secure reading,—(b) it agrees with the grammar, and (c) with the connection. For in the latter respect it is clear that the prophet very suitably opposes the idol-oaths to the Jehovah-oath, and thus develops a chain of proofs of the faithfulness of God, and the unfaithfulness of the people, which place the latter in the clearest light.—Rush into the harlot’s house. That these words have a double sense, passing imperceptibly from the religious to the physical sphere of thought, is evident from a comparison of what precedes and follows. The justification of this mode of expression is found in the well known mingling of unchastity with the idolatrous nature-worship. Comp. Herzog, Real-Enc., Artt. Astarte and Baal [Smith, Dict. I, 123, 145].—The harlot’s houses are accordingly, if not exclusively yet preferentially the idol-temples, so far as these were at the same time places of spiritual and carnal adultery. Comp. Herzog I:199.

Jeremiah 5:9. Should I not punish … such a people as this. This verse is repeated, Jeremiah 5:29 and Jeremiah 9:8. As already remarked, its contents denote the conclusion of a strophe.

Footnotes:

FN#6 - Jeremiah 5:7.—אֵי לָזוֹת can only mean grammatically: in reference to what? why? [Green, Gr., § 75, 2.]— לָֽמָּה comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 17, 3; § 53, 1; Ewald, § 326, a Olshausen, 222, e. [Green, § 231, 4 a].

FN#7 - Jeremiah 5:7.—אֶסְלוֹחַ (for which the Keri has אָסְלַח as in Jeremiah 5:1) certainly did not, as Hitzig supposes, arise from לִסְלוֹחַ, but the ancient form (Rosenm.) us retained as being the more solemn (Neumann). Comp. Olsh. § 238, a. Anm. [Green, Gr., § 1251].

FN#8 - Jeremiah 5:7.—ואשׁביע אזתם. Many Codices and Editions, as given by De Rossi, read אשׂביע. By far the majority of the translators and commentators follow this reading: LXX, Vulg, Chald, Syr, Arab, Jerome, Theodoret, Raschi, Kimchi, Luther, Calvin, Bugenhagen, Oecolamp, Förster, Seb. Schmidt, Muenster, Grotius, Venema, the English Bible, J. D. Michaelis, Rosenmueller, Ewald, Umbreit, Meier. The former reading is adopted, after the example of some of the Rabbins, only by Zwingli, Ch. B. Michaelis, Gaab (=earnest petition, adjuvare,) Hitzig (divine assistance in human marriage) Maurer, Neumann (and I made them swear; namely, falsely=a judgment of obduracy. Jeremiah 6:9), Graf. [Blayney, Noyes and Henderson follows the former. Henderson: though I supplied them abundantly.—S. R. A.]

FN#9 - Jeremiah 5:7.—יִתְגּוֹדדוּ for which the LXX. and Codd578, 575 read, according to De Rossi יִתְגוֹרָדוּ, κατελύοντο, diversabantur is used as in Micah 4:14 in the sense of: to penetrate sharply, to rush in, which comes easily from the radical meaning incidere. [Others render: gather.]

FN#10 - Jeremiah 5:8.—Chethibh מוּזָּנִים, Keri מְיוּזָּנִים the former Hoph. from זון, the latter Pual from יזן. Neither of these roots occurs in Hebrew. The form of the Keri can be brought only by a wide and circuitous process to afford a tolerable meaning: יזן is regarded as the primitive root of אזן (to weigh, hence מאֹזְנַיִם); the part. Pual would then=weighed:—it is however taken as=provided with ponderibus (strong genitals), probe vasati.—It is simpler to retain the Chethibh. זוּן from which מָזוֹן, cibus, alimentum ( Genesis 45:23; 1 Chronicles 11:23) has also in the dialects the sense of nourish (comp. Daniel 4:9), סוּסים מוּזָנִים are therefore well-nourished, fat horses. The word is perhaps chosen in allusion to מַשְׁכִּים ּזוֹנָה has been variously explained (=מַשׁכִּימים by the Rabbins; משְׁבִים, trahentes, i.e, genitalia, emissarii, by Jerome, the Chald, etc.: Ewald reads מְשִבִים which according to the Arabic is said to denote “lewd,” etc.). The simplest derivation is that from שָׁבָה which indeed does not occur in Hebrew, but yet seems assured by the dialects and by שָׁגָהִ in the sense “to err, to rove” ( Jeremiah 2:23). So most of the recent commentators.

3. The Treachery of Unbelief

Jeremiah 5:10-18

10 Scale her walls[FN11] and destroy,

But make not utterly an end of her!

Hew off her branches,

For they are not Jehovah’s.

11 For they have been faithless towards me,

House of Israel and house of Judah, saith Jehovah.

12 They have denied Jehovah, and said:

“He is not—and calamity will not come upon us;

Nor sword and famine shall we behold.

13 And the prophets are become wind

And the word is not in them:

So will it happen to them.”[FN12]

14Therefore thus saith Jehovah, the God of hosts:

Because ye speak this word,

Behold, I make my word fire in thy mouth,

And this people wood, and it shall devour them.

15Behold, I bring upon you a people from afar,

O house of Israel, saith Jehovah.

A mighty nation it Isaiah, an ancient nation it Isaiah,

A nation whose language thou knowest not,

And understandest not what it speaketh.

16Its quiver is like an open sepulchre,—

They are all heroes—

17And it devours thy harvest and thy bread.

They devour thy sons and thy daughters,—

It devours thy sheep and thy cattle;

It devours thy vine and thy fig-tree,—

It destroys thy fortified cities,

In which thou trustest, with the sword.

18But even in these days, saith Jehovah,

I will not make an utter end of you.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

That these verses form a strophe is seen not only from the unity of the contents, but also from the concordance of the commencement and the close. The whole strophe is only a picture in detail of the brief sketch in Jeremiah 5:10 a, “destroy, but not utterly.”—It is further evident that the fundamental thought of the strophe depends on Jeremiah 5:1; that the people are wanting in אֱמוּנָה is clear from the fact that they deny Jehovah, and consequently do not believe the word of His prophets.

Jeremiah 5:10. Scale her walls … for they are not Jehovah’s. The image of a vine in an unwalled vineyard suggests the expression.—The phrase for they are not Jehovah’s involves the idea of depravation. Comp. Jeremiah 2:21.

Jeremiah 5:11. For they have been faithless toward me … saith Jehovah. The threatening of punishment repeated in a new form follows the fundamental declaration “Israel has been faithless towards the Lord.” The prophet says this of both kingdoms, though the kingdom of Israel was no longer in existence. We see that he still has always in view the entire past history of the people. Comp. the remarks on ואשׁביע at Jeremiah 5:7.—Faithless (comp. Jeremiah 3:7 sqq.) is evidently in antithesis to truth, Jeremiah 5:1; Jeremiah 5:3. It is a word of general signification, and would not in itself afford a new, specific element. It is therefore more particularly defined in what follows.

Jeremiah 5:12. They have denied Jehovah … shall we behold. It is here declared that they injured the truth in such a manner by their faithlessness, that they virtually denied the existence of Jehovah.—have denied, Joshua 24:27; Isaiah 59:13. Comp. Proverbs 30:9. The sense of this is explained unmistakably by He is not. If Jehovah is not, there is no possibility of a judgment to be effected by Him.

Jeremiah 5:13. And the prophets … so will it happen to them. It is the necessary consequence of Jehovah’s non-existence that the word prophesied in His name is regarded as nothing, or as wind. When it is said, the prophets are become wind, the reference is of course not to their persons, bat only to their prophetic ministry: qua prophets they will prove to be mere windbags. הַדִּבֵּר might certainly be rendered as a finite verb (comp. Hosea 1:2) and the article with the signification of Nota relationis ( Genesis 21:3; Isaiah 56:3; Joshua 10:24; 1 Chronicles 26:28; 1 Chronicles 29:17; Ewald, § 331 b;Naegelsb. Gr., § 71, 5, Anm. 3). [Green’sGr. § 245, 5 b.] The sense would then be: he who speaks is not in them, that Isaiah, what they say, they say entirely of themselves. But דִּבֵּר might also be a nominal form (ad f.פִקֵחַ) although this does not occur elsewhere. (Vid.Fuerst, s. v.). The meaning would then be: the speaker, the prophetic spirit. The LXX.: λόγος κυρίου. Both are grammatically possible, the sense in both cases being the same.—So will it happen to them. As they threaten us, so may it happen to themselves; let their empty threatening fall back upon themselves.

Jeremiah 5:14. Therefore thus saith Jehovah … and it shall devour them. Provoked by the bold declaration of unbelief in the word of the prophet, Jeremiah 5:12-13, the Lord here puts in the mouth of His prophet an emphatic repetition of the denunciatory prophecy, which from Jeremiah 1:13 onwards forms the focus of his prophetic announcement for the proximate future. Because Israel will not believe the word of the prophet, this word is to be equipped with the highest energy of a real active force. Comp Jeremiah 1:9-10.—The sudden change of person in in thy mouth should not offend. Comp. Jeremiah 5:19, and Naegelsb. Gr., § 101, 2 Anm.

Jeremiah 5:15-17. Behold I bring upon you … with the sword. This passage has its root in Deuteronomy 28:49 sqq. Comp. Isaiah 5:26; Habakkuk 1:6; Amos 6:14; Vid.Kueper, S. 12, etc.from afar. Comp. Jeremiah 4:16.—House of Israel is here used as a common name, Jeremiah 2:26; Jeremiah 3:20-21; Jeremiah 3:23; Jeremiah 4:1, etc.—The prophet heaps all the predicates on the people appointed to inflict the punishment which might cause them to appear terrible in the highest degree to the Israelites; they are coming from a distance, all sympathetic disposition to spare is therefore distant from their hearts; they are an ancient people (אֵיתָן of streams = unconquerable, ever-flowing, Deuteronomy 21:4; Psalm 74:15,—of rocks, mountains, mountain-fastnesses = firmly founded, immovable, Numbers 24:21; Micah 6:2; Jeremiah 49:19—designates firmly-rooted, impregnable power;—נּוֹי מֵעוֹלָם designates ancient nobility and the hard-hearted and ruthless pride called forth by it); further, they speak a foreign, unintelligible language (from Deuteronomy 28:49): their quiver is on account of its form compared with an open grave—that the quiver has not a receptive but an aggressive relation may have bean overlooked by the poet.—All the necessaries of life will be devoured by the enemy (the devouring of the children seems to be based on a reminiscence of Deuteronomy 28:53, where, however, it is said, that the Israelites will devour the flesh of their own children. Comp. Kueper, S. 12, 13;—moreover the prophet may have taken אָכַל in the more general sense, (comp. Jeremiah 10:25);—the fortified cities, in which Israel trusted ( Deuteronomy 28:52) shall be destroyed ( Malachi 1:4) with the power of the sword (sword as in the phrase “fire and sword” being employed for warlike implements generally, comp. Leviticus 26:6).—What people it is which is called to accomplish this, the prophet is not yet aware. Comp. the remarks above on Jeremiah 1:13 sqq. If he had known the name of the people, why should he not have mentioned it? To think of the Scythians because they once made an incursion through Palestine, and because there is a Scythopolis in the valley of the Jordan (comp. Herzog, Real. Enc. XIV. S. 170), is absurd. We can at most suppose that the prophet borrowed from the Scythian invasion some tints for the coloring of his picture. Moreover the whole description applies also to the Babylonians. These especially, according to Genesis 10, 11, might be regarded as an ancient people, even if we assume from Isaiah 23:13 that the Chaldeans were a younger branch grafted into the old stock. [Henderson:—“The antiquity ascribed to the invaders has special respect to the Chaldeans, a nation originally inhabiting the Carduchian mountains and the northern parts of Mesopotamia, but who had immigrated into the Babylonian territory, where they had a settlement allotted them; and being, like all mountaineers, distinguished for their bravery, doubtless composed the most formidable part of the invading army. See my comment on Isaiah 23:13. From its being affirmed that the Jews would not understand the language of this people, it follows that after they left their original abodes, they must have retained their native tongue, which was in all probability the mother of the present Kurdish,—a language totally different from any of Semitic origin, but showing much affinity with the ancient Persic.”—S. R. A.]

Jeremiah 5:18. But even in those days … an utter end of you. Comp. Jeremiah 4:27 and Jeremiah 5:10, and the remarks on the latter passage.—Make an end is decidedly connected with the accusative, Nahum 1:8; Nehemiah 9:31;—with בְּ, Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 46:28—decidedly with אֵת=“with” in this passage;—when it occurs elsewhere: Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 46:28; Ezekiel 11:13; Ezekiel 20:17; Zephaniah 1:18; it is uncertain whether את is a Nota Accus. or a preposition.

Footnotes:

FN#11 - Jeremiah 5:10.—שָׁרוֹת (not to be confounded with שָׁרוֹת, waves, Ezekiel 27:25) occurs here only. עֲלוּ denotes the idea of “walls” in general, as in Hemistich2, of the walls of a vineyard (comp. Isaiah 5). A wall is elsewhere שׁוּד Pl. עָדִים, which moreover occurs only in Job 24:11. The Plural שָׁרוֹת is formed like יָמִים from רָאשׁים,יוֹם from עָרִים,רֹאשׁ from עיר (comp. Olsh. § 151, Anm.) עָלָה with בְּ is not, as Hitzig asserts, to mount on something. The idea of the preposition is most variously modified by the connection, so that it denotes into ( 1 Kings 12:18; 2 Kings 19:28; Jeremiah 48:18); upon ( Deuteronomy 5:5) through, over ( Ezekiel 13:5) etc To read with E. Meier שָׂדוֹתֶּיהָ is therefore unnecessary and already forbidden by עֲלוּ.

FN#12 - Jeremiah 5:13.—[“This sentence is left out in the LXX. the Syriac and the Arabic, but retained by the Vulg.: Hæc ergo evenient illis—These things shall therefore come to them. This meaning the original will hardly bear. The reference seems to be to the prophet’s becoming wind, being so proved by the event.” Note by Eng. Ed. of Calvin.—S. R. A.]

4. Infidelity from blindness of heart and ingratitude

Jeremiah 5:19-24

19 And it shall come to pass, when ye say:

For what cause doth Jehovah our God all these things to us?—

So shalt thou say to them:

As ye have forsaken me, and served strange gods in your land,

So shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours.

20Announce it in the house of Jacob,

And publish it in Judah:

21 Now hear it, ye people, foolish and without understanding,

Who have eyes and see not, ears and hear not!

22Will ye still not fear me? saith Jehovah,

Or will ye not tremble before me,

Who have placed the sand for a boundary to the sea,

As an everlasting barrier, which it will not pass?

And though they rage, they can do nothing,—

And though they roar, its waves, they come not over it!

23But this people have an apostate and rebellious heart;

They have revolted and are gone.

24And say not in their hearts:

We will fear Jehovah, our God,

Who giveth rain, the early and the latter rain in its season,

Who secureth to us the weeks as harvest-tide.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The main object of this section (chap5) is to present before the people the causes of this punitive judgment, as is especially evident in the beginning of this strophe. For the question ( Jeremiah 5:19): Why doth the Lord all this to us? would then refer to the whole, if Jeremiah 5:14-17? did not present the principal object in the prophetic perspective. This question is therefore only a turn, in order to proceed to the main purpose of the section from another side. As, however, according to Jeremiah 5:1-3, the lack of אֱמוּנָה is the chief cause of the judgment, so also in this strophe it is only a new species of this which is adduced: apostasy to the idols in consequence of mad blindness, which recognizes not Jehovah as the Almighty Creator, and hence denies Him the thanks which are due to Him as the Author of the most precious gifts of nature. The strophe falls into two parts: 1. Cause of the punitive judgment, Jeremiah 5:19 (forsaking of Jehovah and idolatry); 2. Cause of this forsaking a double one: (a) being without heart ( Jeremiah 5:20-22); (b) an apostate and rebellious heart ( Jeremiah 5:23-24).

Jeremiah 5:19. And it shall come to pass … that is not yours.—On the change of the person (תּאֹמְרוּ—וְאָמַרְתָּ) vide supra, on Jeremiah 5:14.

Jeremiah 5:20-21. Announce it in the house of Jacob … ears and hear not.—House of Jacob frequently designates the whole people (e. g., in Numbers 23:7; Deuteronomy 32:9; Jeremiah 10:25; Amos 6:7), but here, as elsewhere (e. g. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 17:4; Micah 1:5), the kingdom of Israel, partly for the sake of the antithesis to Judah, partly on account of Jeremiah 5:11; Jeremiah 5:15. This in reality exists no longer as such, but ideally it is still ever present to the spirit of the prophet, and indeed with the more justice since its constituent parts were still in existence, though as membra disjecta. Observe that in chap3. Jeremiah sharply and emphatically distinguishes Israel and Judah, because he is speaking of the past and the distant future; in Jeremiah 4he uses in Jeremiah 5:1 the conjoint appellation, but in what follows, having the present in view he turns to Judah and Jerusalem only ( Jeremiah 5:3-6; Jeremiah 5:10-11; Jeremiah 5:14; Jeremiah 5:16; Jeremiah 5:31); in Jeremiah 5 he still addresses Jerusalem in Jeremiah 5:1, but in what follows ( Jeremiah 5:11; Jeremiah 5:15) the entirety of the people is more prominent in his mind, quite naturally, since he has to present the causes of the judgment predicted by him, which carry him back into the remote past. He could not then possibly restrict what he says in Jeremiah 5:21 sqq. to Judah, for it all applies with equal force to Israel—Foolish and without understanding. Comp. Jeremiah 4:22; Hosea 7:11. Have eyes, etc. Comp. Deuteronomy 29:3; Isaiah 6:9-10; Ezekiel 12:2. The apostasy of the people is here explained by their spiritual blindness and dulness generally, and this appears to have come upon them, because notwithstanding the grand displays of His power they had witnessed, they feared not the Lord.

[The sea is also an emblem of the world, and its waves of the turbulence of the nations, which are yet under divine control. Comp. Psalm 93:3-4. Hengstenberg on John 6:16-21.—S. R. A.]—They rage, comp. Jeremiah 46:7-8; 2 Samuel 22:8; Psalm 18:8; subject—its waves.—Can do nothing. Comp. Jeremiah 3:5; Jeremiah 20:11; Isaiah 16:12; Job 31:23 Jeremiah 5:23. But this people … are gone. How can a people be impelled by the greatness of God’s works to fear Him, who are not moved to such fear by His goodness? He whom the love of God wins not, is not won by His omnipotence, for the former is the stronger. The connection is therefore this, that Jeremiah 5:23-24 introduce a new element of their unfaithful disposition, which has at the same time a causal relation to that which was previously mentioned in Jeremiah 5:21-22. The Vau in וְלָעָם is adversative: I ask, Will ye still not fear? but to this question I can obtain no satisfactory answer, because this people is both apostate and rebellious.—These last named predicates are stronger than those in Jeremiah 5:21, for those were negative, while these are positive. They are not only insensible and dull, but positively hostile. They can not—and what is worse—they will not. There is no occasion in the text to take and are gone as forming a climax (comp. Judges 4:24; Genesis 3:8). It rather corresponds to have revolted as its positive side: they break loose from the Lord and go away into the unmeasured distance, whithersoever their heart impels them.

Jeremiah 5:24. And say not in their hearts … as harvest-tide.—We will fear [Let us fear—Henderson] corresponds to the not fear me, Jeremiah 5:22 : neither the grandeur nor the kindness of God’s works move them to fear Jehovah.—The rain is an emblem of blessing. Comp. Jeremiah 3:3.—נֶשֶׁם is the general term, as we may perceive from Leviticus 26:4 (וְנָתַתִּי נִשׁמֵיכֶם בְעִתָּם). The double Vau before יורֶה (early rain, October to December) and מַלְקוֹשׁ (the latter rain, in the spring, before the harvest) is disjunctive=et—et. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr. § 110, 3. The Masoretes, not understanding this, would strike out the first Vau, but unnecessarily.—Secureth. The fruit-fulness of the year depends on the regularity of the rainy seasons. Comp. Deuteronomy 11:14; 1 Samuel 12:17-18 : Raumer, Paläst. 4 Aufl. S. 90—[Vid.Lightfoot, XII. p71].—The weeks as harvest-tide are the seven weeks of harvest from Easter to Whitsuntide [Passover to Pentecost] ( Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22; Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:9-10; Deuteronomy 16:16). They are called thus because the beginning and the close of the (principal) harvest was determined by the two festivals as by fixed boundary-lines. The חֻקּת קָצִיר (harvest-tide) correspond to the חָק־עוֹלָם (everlasting barrier), Jeremiah 5:22.

5. Infidelity as deceit and violence

Jeremiah 5:25-29

25 Your transgressions hindered such things,

Your sins withheld the good from you.

26For godless [men] are found among my people;

They lurk, like fowlers crouch;

They set traps, they catch men.

27As a cage is full of birds

So are their houses full of unrighteous wealth.

Therefrom they are become great and rich.

28They are fat, they shine, they overflow with iniquities:

In justice they settle not the affairs of the orphan, and prosecute them;

And the rights of the poor they procure not.

29Should I not punish such, saith Jehovah,

Should not my soul avenge itself on a nation like this?

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Jeremiah 5:25 is closely connected with the previous strophe, but in such wise that it evidently does not belong to it, but conducts to a new passage. It involves in a certain measure a contradiction to the preceding. While in Jeremiah 5:24 it was declared: they say not, let us fear the Lord, who gives us rain, etc., it is here said that Jehovah had not given them rain because of the sins of the people. And these sins are now so specified in what follows, that we see the prophet would confirm by new facts the fundamental thought of the section that אמוּנה has departed from Israel. Moreover the end here reverts to the beginning. For when he here speaks of the ruling of the מִרְמָה, and of the unrighteousness of those in power it is evident that the phrase “any one doing right or seeking truth,” in Jeremiah 5:1, is hovering before his mind. Jeremiah 5:29 shows by its identity with Jeremiah 5:9, that it is the conclusion of the strophe, and thus in its structure this strophe entirely resembles that in Jeremiah 5:7-9, which likewise begins and ends with a reference to the divine judgment.

Jeremiah 5:25. Your transgressions … from you. Comp. Jeremiah 3:3; Jeremiah 4:18. When the prophet here, as in Jeremiah 3:3, refers to the withholding of the rain as past, he certainly had definite facts in view (e. g., 1 Kings 17; Amos 4sqq.) and would intimate that the Lord not merely will punish, but already has punished, by which a guarantee is afforded of the infliction of the expected judgment.

Jeremiah 5:26. For godless men are found … they catch men. יָשׁוּר is to be regarded as impersonal: it is lurked. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 101, 2.—כשׁך יקושׁים. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 95, 2. [Green’sGr., § 139, 2.—S. R. A.] (כַּעֲֽבֹר סוּפָה, Proverbs 10:25).—משׁחית, destroyer generally ( Exodus 12:13; Ezekiel 21:36), here specially, on account of הציב, destructive snares.

Jeremiah 5:27. As a cage is full of birds … become great and rich. מִרְמָה is evidently the antithesis of אֱמוּנָה. At the same time the word is to be taken as abstr. pro concr.=res fraude partæ, as עָמָל, Psalm 105:4; Ecclesiastes 2:19; comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 59, 1. From riches gained by deceit, is developed violent injustice.

Jeremiah 5:28-29. They are fat … nation like this. Being fat is not all: luxury produces lust, it runs over like a seething pot, and that with iniquities [matters of wickedness: Henderson] (דִּבְרֵי־רָע involving the ideas of res and verbum) which are afterwards enumerated. עָבֵר is construed as a verb of fulness with the accusative, like הָלַךְ, Joel 4:18. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 69, 2, a.They settle not. Comp. Psalm 10:18; Psalm 43:2; Genesis 30:5; Jeremiah 22:16.—and prosecute them, might certainly be rendered grammatically=that they prosper [Henderson]. But then the plural is strange and the sense is flat. Therefore it is better to regard it as the positive side of settle not = and they carry them through.

Jer 5:29, comp. Jer 5:9.

6. Comprehensive conclusion

Jeremiah 5:30-31

30 Fear and horror have happened in the land;

31 The prophets prophesy falsely,

And the priests rule by their hand,[FN13]

And my people love to have it so:

But what will they do when the end of the song comes?

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

These verses express the result of the examination instituted by the prophet into the moral condition of the people, viz., that it was horribly bad in all ranks of life. While Jeremiah 5:30 has reference to the entire section, Jeremiah 5:31 refers especially to Jeremiah 5:4-5.

Jeremiah 5:30. Fear … in the land.—Fear. Comp. Deuteronomy 28:37; 2 Kings 22:19; Jeremiah 19:8; Jeremiah 25:9, etc.horror, a horrible thing, Jeremiah 23:14. Comp. Jeremiah 18:13; Hosea 6:10.

[Lightfoot, XII. p550.—S. R. A.]

Footnotes:

FN#13 - Jeremiah 5:31.—[“The LXX. and the Vulgate have ‘And the priests have applauded with their own hands,’ and the Targum ‘And the priests have blessed their hands.’ Both mean the same thing [?] though the words are different; and Blayney [and Boothroyd] gives the same meaning. ‘And the priests have concurred with them.’ Horsley says the words literally are ‘And the priests go down according to their hands;’ that Isaiah, he adds, ‘the priests go which way their hands permit, i. e., the priests are directed by them.’—When followed by על as here, the preposition never means according to, as Horsley renders it, but ever, upon, toward or against, and mostly ‘upon.’ See Exodus 9:9; Numbers 4:9; Psalm 7:10; Psalm 72:6. Therefore the literal rendering is this. ‘And the priests have descended upon their hands.’ An idiomatic expression, which seems to mean, that the priests assisted the prophets, according to what is expressed by the Targum, etc. Note by Eng. ed. of Calvin, I. p309.—S. R. A.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Jeremiah 5:1. “The wicked world has in the pious and believing a noble treasure and defence” ( Genesis 18:32); Lange.—Even Zoar is preserved for the sake of Lot, ( Genesis 19:20 sqq.)—Comp. Isaiah 37:35.—Ghislerus reminds us of a story which Pliny relates (vol35 cap10) of King Demetrius, who retired from the city of Rhodium, because he could not take it on its only accessible side without destroying some celebrated paintings of Protogenes.

2. Zinzendorf here relates (S. 198) a story of M. Joh. Christoph Schwedler, ob. 1730. “Once when in the church at Wiese (Silesia) they were singing before the communion ‘I will say to thee Farewell,’ at the words ‘Thy sinful, wicked living, pleases me not at all,’ such an Elias-like zeal seized upon him, that raising his voice above the organ and the choral of a thousand voices, he cried out in tones of thunder, ‘For God’s sake what are you singing? What does not please you? The Lord Jesus does not please you. To him ye must say: Thou pleasest us not, then you would speak the truth; but you do say, the world.’—When now all, convicted by their consciences, sat there in grief and tears, and few knew how this happened to them, he said: ‘Now, if it be thus as it should be, let him to whomsoever your sinful life has become offensive, confess it in the name of the Lord,’ whereupon this verse was wept rather than sung.”

3. On Jeremiah 5:3. Origen says in his sixth homily, of which the text is Jeremiah 5:3-5, “If now thou wilt that the beams of God’s eye rest upon thee, embrace the virtues. So will it be with thee according to this ‘the eyes of the Lord look for faith.’ And if thou art such an one that the eyes of the Lord shine upon thee, then wilt thou say, ‘the light of thy countenance rose upon us, O Lord,’ Psalm 4:7.”—“He asks for returns and that too in cash. This is the fund to which he applies and on which he depends. Words, are of no value to him. But just this is the complaint: Faith is rare among the children of men ( Psalm 12:2); ‘it is not every man’s possession,’ as it is there said. In these days preachers might exclaim with Isaiah: who believes? ( Isaiah 53:1). And Abraham pleads with the Lord for Sodom on condition of five righteous persons being found in it ( Genesis 18).” Zinzendorf.—“Ecce verbera desuper et flagella non desunt, et trepidatio nulla, nulla formido est. Quid si non intercederet rebus humanis vel ista censura? “Cyprian, ad Demetrianum.—“Haud grave est plagis affici, sed plaga meliorem non fieri gravissimum est.” Gregor. Nazianz.

4. On Jeremiah 5:4-5. “A preacher has no more miserable and ignorant hearers than the respectable. While they are spelling their way back to the cross, and are getting so far as to know how to learn that we are saved alone by the grace of the Lord Jesus, till we get them so far as to understand that the command of the New Test. is to believe, and all that morality can lug about for eighty years is gone with a word: Song of Solomon, be of good courage, thy sins are forgiven thee,—the ignorant would have been able to do it thrice. Enough has been said to show that a teacher greatly deceives himself, if he seeks among the respectable that comfort in his office, which he does not meet with among the common people.” Zinzendorf, S. 12, 13. Comp. S. 65, 66; 1 Corinthians 1:26-27.

5. On Jeremiah 5:13. “Yes, the prophets are gossips. How does this sound and whence comes the saying? It sounds somewhat distinguished, and a teacher may draw it upon himself. Almost the whole body has incurred this, that they are reckoned with afterwards, and because after their discourse one has been able to do away with it by head work, he has finally come to the conclusion: the pastors are gossips; and the precious treasure of the public testimony is much calumniated. Whoever is grieved on account of the teachers, let him reflect that this arises not so much from the fault of the hearers as of the teachers. I will assure him: As soon as the words of the Lord become fire in his mouth, the hearers become wood, and criticism is at an end, and feeling comes and savor comes, be it unto life or unto death. From that time the preacher is in earnest, and laughter is forbidden by the hearers themselves.” Zinzendorf, S. 13, 14.

6. On Jeremiah 5:15 sqq. “The prophet takes his direction from God’s unchangeable calendar, as it was composed by Moses: Deuteronomy 28:49. Therefore he could well prognosticate how it would terminate with his disobedient people. It is of use, that we diligently peruse such an ever-enduring calendar, and ever have it before our eyes. For it is more certain than all other prognostications can be.” Cramer.

7. On Jeremiah 5:21-22. “Hear, ye mad people, that have no understanding! Will ye not fear me? This is a glorious discovery of the omnipotence and majesty of God. If, however, men see one, they see all; but they have no ears to hear until the whole is changed. But that men are so secure and think not of Him who allows them to live so securely, this is indeed an insane business.” Zinzendorf, S. 202.

8. On Jeremiah 5:24. “O Prayer of Manasseh, as often as thou put-test bread into thy mouth, reflect, that God by this means of nourishment would bring thee to Himself. Cling not also to carnal bread, but let thy immortal soul be satisfied by God.” Starke.

9. [On Jeremiah 5:26. “This passage is worthy of special note: for God’s paternal favor does not so continually shine forth in our daily sustenance, but that many clouds intercept our view. Hence it Isaiah, that ungodly men think that the years are now barren, and then fruitful through mere chance. We indeed see nothing so regulated in every respect in the world, that the goodness of God can be seen without clouds and obstructions: but we do not consider whence this confusion proceeds, even because we obstruct God’s access to us, so that His beneficence does not reach us. We throw heaven and earth into confusion by our sins. For were we in right order as to our obedience to God, doubtless all the elements would be conformable, and we should thus observe in the world an angelic harmony. But as our lusts tumultuate against God, as we stir up war daily, and provoke Him by our pride, perverseness and obstinacy, it must needs be that all things, above and below, should be in disorder, that the heavens should at one time appear cloudy, and that continuous rains should at another time destroy the produce of the earth, and that nothing should be unmixed and unstained in the world. This confusion then, in all the elements, is to be ascribed to our sins: and this is what is meant by the prophet. Though indeed the reproof was then addressed to the Jews, we may yet gather hence a lesson of general instruction.” Calvin.—S. R. A.]

10. On Jeremiah 5:28. Zinzendorf remarks on the words “and they prosper” that the chief cause of the condemnation of the rich man ( Luke 6:19 sqq.) was that he was prospered in all things in this world. He consequently received his good things in this life and fared sumptuously every day. Comp. Psalm 37:35; Luke 6:25; James 5:1 sqq.

11. On Jeremiah 5:28. “It would be better for one to have the Turkish emperor with all his army for an enemy than a poor widow with her fatherless orphans. For the widow’s tears are water which rises above all the mountains and then falls again and washes away all her enemies into hell.” Luther. Comp. Wisd35:18–21.

12. On Jeremiah 5:31. “My people like it so. Like sought, like found. The people wish to have false preachers and get them, and a blind man leads the blind until both fall into the ditch, Luke 6:39.” Cramer.—“How will it be at last? We finally become as accustomed to disorder as disorderly people, and the more everything goes to ruin, the less concerned are we. There Isaiah, perhaps, however, still an uncompromising servant or old friend of our Father, who is constantly repeating the little word to us: How will it be? How will it end at last? This is the peculiar office of the teacher, and nobody likes to hear him.” Zinzendorf, S. 203.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. On Jeremiah 5:3. Lord, thine eyes look for faith. Why does God impose faith as the only condition of salvation? 1. Because faith gives the greatest glory to God2. Because it is at the same time the easiest and most difficult exercise of the human heart. For (a) to believe, i. e., to accept God’s grace as a free gift, every one Isaiah, and must be, able to do. (b) He who can do it, has vanquished himself at the one point and won all.

2. [On Jeremiah 5:4. “All sin proceeds from some misapprehension of God. (1) Skeptical humor as to God’s particular Providence, and inspection over all events. (2) Disbelief that He is concerned about the moral good or evil actions of men. (3) Abuse of the doctrine of God’s foreordination, and (4) of His mercy. But (1) God’s mercy will not interfere with His justice. (2) The execution will be no less severe than the threatening. (3) God will not accept less than He requires in the Gospel.” Dr. S. Clarke.—S. R. A.]

3. On Jeremiah 5:11. Obstinate unbelief1. Its nature: it denies God and therefore despises (a) God’s word, (b) those who proclaim it2. Its punishment: the tables are turned; (a) the unbeliever, before fire, now becomes wood, (b) the word of God, before regarded as wood, becomes fire.

4. On Jeremiah 5:19. Why doth the Lord our God all these things to us? Three answers to this one question: 1. John 13:7, What I do, thou knowest not now, etc. 2. Matthew 20:15, Is it not lawful for me to do what I will? etc. 3. James 1:12. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, etc. Florey, 1863.

5. On Jeremiah 5:21; Jeremiah 5:24. Of the fear of God1. Motives from without, (a) God’s displays of power, (b) His displays of grace2. Inner conditions: (a) That we open our eyes and ears, (b) that we allow ourselves to be impelled by that which we see and hear.

6. On Jeremiah 5:24. (Harvest [Thanksgiving] sermon). The harvest-blessing: 1. From whom it comes2. To whom it leads.

7. On Jeremiah 5:24. It is the Lord who faithfully guards the harvest forces. This truth calls for1. humility and trust in the sowing of earthly seed; 2. confidence in working in this world; 3. hope in the interment of bodies in the earth. V. d. Trenk. Gesetz und Zeugniss (Law and Testimony), Apr1860, S. 226.

8. On Jeremiah 5:24. The call which the present year’s harvest makes on the hearts of men. It Isaiah, Fear the Lord. For I, without Him all labor and toil is in vain; 2. He does not allow Himself to be interfered with in His government; 3. He gives and blesses without respect to our deserts and in spite of our sins. Florey, 1863.

9. On Jeremiah 5:30-31. A cry of warning in a period of universal apostasy1. The condition of the people is shocking and abominable, for (a) the leaders of the people misguide them, (b) the people wish to be misled2. The consequences correspond to the guilt (comp. Jeremiah 5:25; Jeremiah 5:14 sqq, Jeremiah 5:6).

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 5:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/jeremiah-5.html. 1857-84.

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