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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Jeremiah 11

 

 

Verse 1

Jeremiah 11:1. The word that came to Jeremiah, &c. — At what time the prophecy, contained in this and the following chapter, was communicated to the prophet, is not expressed; but Blaney and many others assign it to the latter part of the reign of Josiah,” when the people, who, in the eighteenth year of that prince, had solemnly engaged to perform the obligations of the divine covenant, may be supposed to have relapsed, in course of time, into their former disregard and neglect. The prophet, therefore, is sent to recall them to their duty, by proclaiming the terms of the covenant, and rebuking them sharply for their hereditary disobedience.”


Verses 2-5

Jeremiah 11:2-5. Hear ye the words of this covenant — God speaks here chiefly to Jeremiah, but seems, at the same time, to address, together with him, all those pious persons who were like-minded with him, and who reproved the wicked manners of the people. The covenant here spoken of was the covenant of the law of God, delivered by Moses, to which the people had frequently promised obedience. And speak unto the men of Judah, &c. — Lay the tenor of the covenant before them; and say, Cursed be the man that obeyeth not, &c. — Deuteronomy 27:26, it is, Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them: and all the people shall say, Amen. The people’s saying Amen, testified their assent, and made the law a covenant; but they had, besides this, formally and explicitly covenanted with God, Exodus 24:3-7, with religious rites and ceremonies, used in stipulations, and afterward consented that God should punish those that violated that covenant, Deuteronomy 27:26. Which I commanded, &c. — Which law, (that you by your restipulation made a formal covenant,) I, who am the Lord, and so have a sovereign power to lay laws upon my creatures, commanded your fathers; in the day that I brought them from the iron furnace — And thus obliged them to obedience before I laid my law upon them. The use of the iron furnace being to melt and purify metals, it was a proper representation of that state of sore affliction in which the people of God were for many ages in Egypt. Saying, Obey my voice, &c. — For which kindness I required no more of them but a gentle service to me, in obeying my voice, as to the things of this law which I gave them in charge; so shall ye be my people, &c. — Nor did I only lay my commands upon them, but also encouraged them to obedience, by my gracious promise, that if they would obey they should be a people whom I would peculiarly protect and bless. That I may, or, rather, might (for he refers to the time past) perform the oath, &c. — As if he had said, I required their obedience for their own good: for I had sworn to their fathers, that I would give their posterity a land abounding with plenty of all good things, upon condition of their obedience. I have performed that oath; I have brought them into such a land, and showed myself faithful to them. Then answered I, So be it, O Lord — God having ended his speech, the prophet says, Amen, as God had commanded, Deuteronomy 27:26; either asserting the truth of what God had said, or expressing his desire that the people would do according to their covenant, or even assenting to the curse as just and reasonable.


Verses 6-8

Jeremiah 11:6-8. Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, &c. — That all may hear, for all are concerned; saying, Hear ye the words, &c., and do them — Let it be thy work to call upon this people, not only to hear, but to do the things which I have commanded them, and which they have engaged to do. For I earnestly protested — Hebrew, in protesting I protested; a way of speaking by which the Hebrews expressed the seriousness and earnestness wherewith any thing was done: by protesting, he means the same with charging and solemnly enjoining, with promises annexed to obedience, and threatenings denounced in case of disobedience. This, God says, he had done with a great deal of patience and diligence, even from the time that this people were brought by him out of the land of Egypt to the present period. Yet they obeyed not — And, because they were resolved not to be subject to God’s commandments, they would not so much as incline their ears to them, but walked every one in the imagination of his evil heart, following their own inventions; and each one acting as his fancy or humour led him, both in their devotions and in their conversations. Therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant — That is, all the threatenings contained in it. Observe, reader, the words of God’s covenant shall not fall to the ground. If we do not by our obedience qualify ourselves for the blessings of it, we shall, by our disobedience, bring ourselves under the curses of it.


Verses 9-11

Jeremiah 11:9-11. And the Lord said, A conspiracy is found, &c. — Namely, by him whose eye is upon the hidden works of darkness. There is a combination formed among them against God and religion, a dangerous design to overthrow the government of Jehovah, and to bring in counterfeit deities. In other words, All sorts of people have been alike disobedient, as if they had conspired together to break my law. They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers — They made some steps toward a reformation in the former part of the reign of Josiah, but now they have agreed to turn back to their former idolatries. Therefore behold, I will bring evil upon them, &c. — The evil of punishment for the evil of sin, which they shall not be able to escape by any evasion whatsoever. Let us remember, those who will not submit to God’s government, shall not be able to escape his wrath. Evil pursues sinners, and entangles them in snares, out of which they cannot extricate themselves. And though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken — God will not hear them crying to him in their adversity, who refuse to hear him speaking to them in their prosperity.


Verses 12-14

Jeremiah 11:12-14. Then shall the cities of Judah cry unto the gods, &c. — “When great calamities threaten men, their fears suggest all possible ways of seeking for succour. Thus, when the Jews found themselves forsaken of God, they betook themselves to idols, but found all such applications vain, and to no purpose: see 2 Chronicles 28:23. For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, &c. — See note on Jeremiah 2:28. Ye have set up altars to that shameful thing — Hebrew, בשׁת, bosheth, shame, so called, because it was what they had cause to be ashamed of, and what would certainly bring them to shame and confusion. See note on Jeremiah 3:24. Therefore pray not thou for this people — See note on Jeremiah 7:16.


Verse 15

Jeremiah 11:15. What hath my beloved to do in my house, &c. — “Why doth this, my chosen and peculiar people, as they love to call themselves, make their appearance before me in my house, since they have gone a whoring after several idols of the nations round about them, and thereby have disowned me, and broken the marriage contract that was between us? See note on Jeremiah 2:2. God calls the Jews his beloved people, because they called themselves so, and because they were still beloved for their fathers’ sake, Romans 11:18; and he would not cast them off utterly, for the sake of the covenant he had made with their progenitors.” — Lowth. And the holy flesh is passed from thee — “The flesh of thy sacrifices, which thou offerest up to me as an atonement for thy sins, does not at all profit thee, being rendered unacceptable to me through thy many and great provocations, in the commission of which thou continuest without remorse.” — Lowth. But the words are rendered by some, The flesh of my sanctuary shall pass from thee, and may mean, that the parts of the victims, which by the Mosaic law were the portion of the priests, should not be given to them, since the temple would be destroyed. According to this interpretation the prophet must be considered as addressing the priests, of whom there were, without doubt, many in Jerusalem. When thou doest evil, thou rejoicest — Thou gloriest in thy wickedness. Or, at a time when thou offendest most against my laws, thou exultest, and behavest as if thou didst every thing that is right.


Verse 16-17

Jeremiah 11:16-17. The Lord hath called thy name, A green olive-tree — Perhaps Jeremiah here alludes to Hosea 11:7, where Israel is compared to an olive-tree. The Jewish nation, which, in its flourishing state, is often compared by the sacred writers to a vine, is also sometimes compared to an olive-tree, chiefly because of the fruits of holiness and righteousness which God might justly have expected from them, after all the care and pains he had bestowed upon them to make them fruitful. Fair, and of a goodly fruit — Amiable and serviceable, pleasant to the eye, and good for yielding food. With the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled a fire upon it, &c. — The words קול המולה, here rendered the noise of a great tumult, occur Ezekiel 1:24, and are there explained to be כקיל מחנה, like the voice of a host. Here they undoubtedly signify the confused murmur, noise, and tumult of the Chaldean army, coming to desolate Jerusalem and its dependances with fire and sword, described under the image of an olive-tree, whose branches are cut down that they may be burned, or which is burned as it stands; its branches, or lofty boughs, as דליותיוmore properly signifies, meaning the priests and princes. For the Lord that planted thee — And expected fruit from thee in vain; hath pronounced evil against thee — Hath passed a condemnatory sentence upon thee, and marked thee out for destruction. For the evil of the house of Israel and the house of Judah — The evil of whose heinous sins shall now be followed with the evil of most dreadful punishments.


Verse 18-19

Jeremiah 11:18-19. And the Lord hath given me knowledge of it, &c. — This relates to the ill designs which the men of Anathoth had contrived against the prophet, which he here saith God had revealed to him. See the following verses. But I was like a lamb or an ox, &c. — A proverbial speech, expressing a false security, or insensibility of danger. Dr. Waterland, in agreement with the Vulgate, Bochart, and Houbigant, reads this clause, But I was like a gentle lamb; and Blaney, For I was like a tame lamb that is led to the slaughter. But Lowth justly observes, we may very well admit of the common translation. For the word יאלוŠhere used, certainly frequently signifies an ox, and the disjunctive particle, supplied by or, is elsewhere often understood, though not expressed. The meaning here is, that the prophet would have met with a fate similar to that of a slaughtered lamb or ox, if God had not revealed to him the designs of his enemies. Many commentators suppose that Jeremiah here speaks of his own sufferings as figurative of those of the Messiah. “All the churches agree,” says St. Jerome, “that these and the following words respect Jesus Christ and his passion. It was against his life that they formed their designs: he was the true lamb, meek and innocent. Jeremiah is here a figure of the divine Saviour; he here suffers from his brethren, and represents, in his person, him who was a man of grief, and tried by all sorts of afflictions.”

Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof — Let us not only put an end to his prophesying, but to his life. The Hebrew is literally, Let us destroy the tree (or the stock) with the bread thereof; and bread, it must be observed, is sometimes used for the corn of which bread is made, as Jeremiah 5:17. The meaning then is, Let us destroy the prophet and his doctrine. We have no other mention of this conspiracy but this here. It is, however, very plain, both from this verse and what follows, that the men of Anathoth (which was Jeremiah’s own town) were offended at his prophesying, and had conspired to kill him.


Verse 20

Jeremiah 11:20. But, O Lord, thou judgest righteously — It is matter of comfort to us, when men deal unjustly with us, that we have a God to go to, who doth and will plead the cause of injured innocence, and appear against the injurious. God’s justice, which is a terror to the wicked, is a comfort to the godly. That triest the reins and the heart — That perfectly knowest what is in man, that discernest his most secret thoughts, desires, and designs. Let me see thy vengeance on them — That is, do justice between me and them in such a way as thou pleasest. “When men continue implacable in their malice,” says Lowth, “we may lawfully expect and desire that God will plead our cause, and judge us according to our righteousness. For the bringing wicked men to condign punishment tends both to the manifestation of God’s glory and the good government of the world. And to pray against our enemies in this sense, namely, not for the satisfying our private resentments, but the setting forth of God’s justice, is not contrary to the spirit of Christianity. So St. Paul prayed against Alexander the copper-smith, 2 Timothy 4:14.” It must be observed, however, that, according to the Hebrew text here, the words are merely a prediction; מהם אראה נקמתן, being literally, I shall see thy vengeance on them; that is, I foresee it, and predict it, though I lament they should have given occasion for it.


Verse 21

Jeremiah 11:21. Thus saith the Lord of the men that seek thy life — That are combined to kill thee; saying, Prophesy not in the name of the Lord

The meaning is, that those men of Anathoth threatened that they would kill him if he did not cease to prophesy such things as he did in the name of the Lord, namely, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the desolation of Judea, and the carrying away of the people into captivity. For if he had spoken falsely in the name of the Lord, and promised them peace and prosperity, they would have heard him prophesy gladly: they were thus exasperated at him, and opposed his prophesying, because he told them those truths which they had no mind to hear. This passage sufficiently shows that Jeremiah is to be understood in the literal sense here, which, however, does not by any means forbid our considering him in this instance as a type of Christ, and prefiguring, by his sufferings, those of the Redeemer of mankind. It manifests also the usage which the prophets generally met with from their own countrymen, who became their enemies because they told them the truth. The people of their own towns, even their friends and relations, could not bear to hear the solemn warnings which they gave them, and the prediction of those judgments which were coming upon them for their sins.


Verse 22-23

Jeremiah 11:22-23. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will punish them — Hebrew, פקד עליהם, I will visit, namely, this their wicked conduct, upon them; I will inquire into it, and reckon with them for it. The young men shall die by the sword — Though they be young priests, not men of war, their sacred office shall be no protection to them. Their sons and their daughters shall die by famine — Which is a more grievous death than that by the sword, Lamentations 4:9. Thus two of God’s four sore judgments would overwhelm their town in destruction, which should be so entire that there should be no remnant of them — None to be the seed of another generation: they sought Jeremiah’s life, and therefore their lives shall be taken: they wished to destroy him, root and branch, that his name might be no more remembered, and therefore there shall be no remnant of them: and herein the Lord is righteous. Thus evil would be brought upon them, even the year of their visitation — And that would be evil sufficient, a recompense according to their deserts. Such is the consequence of opposing the truth and cause of God, and his servants in the execution of their office! Such is the deplorable condition of those that have the prayers of good ministers and good people against them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 11:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/jeremiah-11.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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