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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Jeremiah 3

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. III.

God's great mercy in Judah's vile whoredom. Judah is worse than Israel. The promises of the Gospel to the penitent. Israel reproved, and called by God, maketh a solemn confession of sin.

Before Christ 628.


Verse 2

Jeremiah 3:2. High-places, &c.— See Proverbs 7:8-10 and the Observations, p. 52. The fondness of the people for idolatry is compared to the wantonness of a harlot, who lies in wait for men as for her prey; or as the Arabian hides himself in the desert, to strip the unwary traveller. Mr. Harmer has cited from a manuscript of Sir John Chardin the following lively description of the attention and eagerness of the Arabs in watching for passengers, whom they may spoil. "Thus the Arabs wait for caravans with the most violent avidity, looking about them on all sides, raising themselves up on their horses, running here and there to see if they cannot perceive any smoke, or dust, or tracks on the ground, or any other marks of people passing along." Harmer's Observations, vol. 1 Chronicles 2 obs. 7.


Verse 3

Jeremiah 3:3. Therefore the showers have been withholden The general import of this passage is, that though God had begun in some degree to chastise his people (as he threatened, Leviticus 26:19. Deuteronomy 28:23.) with a view to their reformation, his chastisement had not produced the desired effect; for they continued as abandoned as before, without shewing the least sign of shame or remorse. By the showers we are to understand what is otherwise called the former or first rain, being the first that falls in autumn after a long summer's drought, which is usually terminated in Judea and the neighbouring countries by heavy showers which last for some days. In Judaea, according to Dr. Shaw, who, as Mr. Harmer well observes, must have learnt it by inquiries from the inhabitants of the country, the beginning of November is the time of the first descent of rain; though in other parts of Syria it happens sooner. The latter rain is that which generally comes about the middle of April; after which it seldom or never rains during the whole summer. And therefore when at the prayer of Samuel the Lord sent thunder and rain in the time of wheat harvest, as we read 1 Samuel 12:17-18 such an unusual phaenomenon, happening immediately according to the prophet's prediction, was justly considered as an authentic sign of his having spoken by the divine authority. But we are not to conclude, as some have done, that between the former and latter rains there was no more rain during the whole winter. The fact is otherwise; for besides what are sometimes called the second rains, which commonly succeed the first after an interval of fine weather for a number of days, the winter months are more or less indiscriminately wet, as may be collected from sundry passages in Scripture, as well as from the accounts of travellers who have been in those parts. However, the former and latter, or, as we may call them, the autumnal and vernal rains are particularly distinguished, because on the regular returns of these the plentiful harvests essentially depend; the former being absolutely requisite for seed-time, and the latter for filling the ears of corn before the harvest comes on. I say, the former for seed-time; for Mr. Harmer very justly reproves those who suppose the former rain not to come till after sowing, to make the seed take root; for the Arabs of Barbary, he says, break up their grounds after the first rains in order to sow wheat; and the sowing of barley, &c. is still later; and at Aleppo too the ploughing does not commence till after the rainy season is come. And we may fairly presume the case to be the same in Judea; since after the long dry weather the parched ground would naturally require some previous moistening, before it could be put in fit order for receiving the seed. But not only the crops of grain must suffer by the suspension or failure of either the first or latter rains, or of both; but by the uncommon lengthening of the summer drought the pasturage would fail for the cattle, and the fountains and reservoirs, or cisterns of waters, whence the people of that country had their chief or only supply, would be exhausted and dried up; so that there would be at least as much danger of perishing by thirst as by famine. See Harmer's Observations, vol. 1 Chronicles 1 concerning the weather in the holy land.


Verse 5

Jeremiah 3:5. Behold, &c.— Behold, thou hadst but spoken, and didst wickedly, and with all thy might. Houbigant renders this whole verse, Shall these things therefore be dissembled, and covered in perpetual silence, after thou hast so often offended, and confirmed thyself in thy wickedness?


Verse 6

Jeremiah 3:6. The Lord said also unto me A new discourse begins at this verse. Jeremiah having convinced the Jews of their infidelity, idolatry, and all sorts of corruption, in the way of pleading, from the second chapter to the present verse; here the Lord, as judge, pronounces the sentence, and exhorts the Jews again to return to him. All this passed in the 18th year of Josiah, when the Jews were again plunged into the greatest irregularities. Backsliding Israel, means the ten tribes. See Calmet.


Verse 8

Jeremiah 3:8. And I saw, &c.— And I saw when on account of the adultery which backsliding Israel had committed, &c. Houbigant renders the words, I saw, in the third person; Nay, though she saw, that l had put away backsliding Israel, for all the adulteries, &c.


Verse 11

Jeremiah 3:11. The backsliding Israel hath justified herself Backsliding Israel hath appeared just in comparison of perfidious Judah. The crimes of the latter greatly surpassed those of the former. See Ezekiel 16:51.


Verse 12

Jeremiah 3:12. Go, and proclaim, &c.— The sin of the ten tribes being attended with more favourable circumstances than that of Judah, the prophet is here commanded to call them to repentance, with promises of pardon; and accordingly is ordered to direct his speech northward; that is to say toward Assyria and the country beyond the Euphrates, whither the ten tribes were carried away captive. Instead of, I will not cause, &c. Houbigant reads, I will not turn my face from you.


Verse 14

Jeremiah 3:14. Turn,—for I am married, &c.— Turn—and though I have rejected you, I will take you one of a city, and two of a tribe, or country: that is to say, "I will receive you, though there should be but one from a city willing to return, and two for a province, or tribe." These prophesies were accomplished in the letter, after the edict of Cyrus, when several of the Israelites returned to Palestine, but only by little and little, and as it were one by one. Spiritually, these promises were fulfilled by the conversion of the Jews to the Gospel, when God gave them pastors, Jeremiah 3:15 who fed them with true evangelical knowledge. Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, are the pastors referred to in the letter, after the captivity.


Verse 16

Jeremiah 3:16. Neither shall that be done any more There can be no doubt to any reader of this and the subsequent verses, that, however they may refer, in their primary sense, to the restoration of the Jews after the Babylonish captivity, they have their full and perfect completion only in the abolition of the law, and the conversion of Jews and Gentiles to the faith of Christ; whereby both are made one, fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. See Ephesians 2:14; Ephesians 2:22.


Verse 19

Jeremiah 3:19. But I said, &c.— And when I said, How shall I place thee among sons, and give unto thee the land of desire, the inheritance of the glory of the hosts of nations? Then said I, Thou shalt call me, My Father; and thou shalt not turn aside from following me. The paranomasia is a figure that the Hebrew writers much delight in. But by the land of desire, and the glory of the hosts of nations, the Christian church, and the privileges of the Gospel-covenant, are here figuratively designed. And the conditions of adoption into the former, and of enjoying the latter, are expressly stated by Christ and his apostles to be the same as are here prescribed; namely, the profession and possession of the true faith, and uniform obedience for the time to come. Thou shalt call me, My Father; and thou shalt not turn aside from following me.


Verse 21

Jeremiah 3:21. For they have perverted For that they have perverted their way, and had forgotten, &c.


Verse 23

Jeremiah 3:23. Truly in vain, &c.— Certainty there is nothing in the hills but a lie, in the mountains but vanity. Houb. This refers to the idols, and the high places where they were worshipped. Shame, in the next verse, בשׁת bosheth, signifies the confusion arising from the worship of idols. See ch. Jeremiah 11:13 and Hosea 10:6.


Verse 25

Jeremiah 3:25. We lie down in our shame "God has justly abandoned us to our confusion: he has permitted, that the worship of those idols which we have adored, should serve only to throw us into a condition deplorable as death; into captivity, exile, and oppression." See Calmet.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, When for our sin we deserve to be abandoned, our God is merciful, and not willing that any should perish, as here most eminently appears.

1. Their iniquities were great, numberless, and aggravated. Like the most infamous prostitute, thou hast played the harlot with many lovers, multiplying their idols as their cities, chap. Jeremiah 11:13 and not a high place was in the land where their spiritual adulteries had not been committed. Nay, they had courted others to join them, as a vile prostitute sits by the way, soliciting the traveller; or as the Arabian robber, lying in wait for his prey. Brazen against reproof, they blushed at none of their abominations; but, as if trying how wicked they could be, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest; they glorified in their wickedness, and studied to provoke God to the uttermost. Note; (1.) Lewdness indulged by degrees banishes shame; and, this last relict of virtue lost, there is no hope of recovery. (2.) The thief who lies in wait for our purse is innocent, compared with the tempter, who, by leading us into sin, would rob us of our souls. (3.) They are advanced to the summit of wickedness, who give an unbounded loose to all their appetites, and know no restraint from sin but the want of ability.

2. God would be perfectly justified in giving them up to destruction. The law was express in case of an adulteress divorced, that she could no more be restored to her husband's bed, for the land would have been polluted thereby. God might, therefore, well treat them in the same manner, by an utter rejection; especially after he had in vain chastised them, by withholding their rain in its season; and instead of repenting they continued hardened under his judgments. Note; (1.) If sinners had to do with man instead of God, all reconciliation must be despaired of. (2.) When the heart is stubborn under the rod of correction, it is much to be feared the stroke of final judgment is near.

3. Notwithstanding all that was past, God invites them to return, and directs them in the way. Return again to me, saith the Lord, which contains a gracious intimation that he was yet ready to receive them. And the chief of sinners may be assured, whenever they in penitence cry to him, that he will yet speak pardon to them; and therefore wilt thou not from this time cry unto me? after such long and treacherous departures, it is high time at last, though late, to begin; and now is the accepted time, when the invitations of mercy are pleading, and without delay to be embraced. And lest, confounded at their guilt, they should not know what to say, God puts words in their mouth, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth; as returning prodigals, unworthy to be called children, yet hoping to find in God a merciful father; and as those who, since they have left him, have ever erred and wandered to and fro in misery, and therefore desire to be taken under his care, and henceforward, as in the days of youth, to be guided by his will and word. Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? No; he is God, and not man; and as his majesty is, such is his mercy to all that will return unto him. Note; (1.) If a sense of God's grace does not engage the sinner's heart to return, nothing can. (2.) They who begin to be sensible of their departures from God, will be importunate on their knees, to be restored to his forfeited favours. (3.) Whatever fears unbelief may suggest, God is a father, whose tender compassions fail not; and we may confidently trust in his mercy, if we will but return unto him.

2nd, Josiah heartily laboured after the reformation of the people; and the prophet, with his sermons, seconded his pious design; but we find that the labours of both were ineffectual. The kingdom of Judah was become apostate as the kingdom of Israel, and must shortly share her fate.

1. The sin and ruin of backsliding Israel are observed. The prophet, in the history of that kingdom, had seen their miserable end about ninety years before. They first revolted from David's successors, and then left God's worship for idolatry; not only in Dan and Bethel, but on every mountain and under every green tree their spiritual adulteries were committed. In vain the prophets warned, in vain the patience of God waited, in vain were all his gracious invitations to return; they persisted in their impenitence, and that produced their ruin: God gave them a divorce; thrust them out of his protection, and then they were quickly enslaved, and became a prey to their enemies. Note; Backsliders shall sooner or later be filled with their own ways, and rue their own choice.

2. Judah took no warning by the judgment. She is called her treacherous sister, sprung from the same stock of Jacob, and, though affecting to cleave to God's temple and worship, false and faithless in her professions. Instead of being awed or reformed by her sister's ruin, she plunged into the same sins, and played the harlot also. As abominable as ever Israel had been, she defiled the land, and with such base gods as stocks and stones committed adultery. Yea, notwithstanding the efforts made by the gracious monarch Josiah, and those who assisted him in the work, though for a time the people outwardly appeared reformed, their hearts were as unrenewed as ever, and their professions utterly hypocritical. Note; (1.) Appearances may impose upon men, but God trieth the heart. (2.) Hypocrisy is among the greatest sins, and the falsehearted professor may expect to meet an avenging God, as much as the abandoned profligate. (3.) They who will not take warning by others' falls, are hastening to their own ruin.

3. God justifies backsliding Israel more than treacherous Judah. The latter had greater means, greater warnings, and made greater professions, therefore their guilt was more aggravated. This does not excuse Israel, but it adds to Judah's iniquities. Note; The more we have received from God of mercies and means, the heavier will be our judgment if we have neglected and abused them.

3rdly, Seldom do the prophets proclaim any singular mercies to the Jewish people, but they intersperse some glorious promises of that mercy of all mercies, the coming of the Redeemer, to set up his church universally in the world, to be the light of the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel. We have,

1. An invitation to Israel to return. This must be proclaimed towards the north, where now they were captives: Return, thou backsliding Israel, Jeremiah 3:12 and again, turn, O backsliding children, Jeremiah 3:14.—he is merciful, and therefore there is hope. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, and what less can be enjoined? yea, how can we do otherwise, when we reflect confounded on the past? that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, which relation to him aggravates their guilt; and every penitent sinner desires never to extenuate his sins, but to behold them in all their malignity; and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, committing idolatry as the vilest of prostitutes. Thus our particular sin must be confessed; the times place, circumstances, reflected upon with shame and horror: and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord; and such rebellion against the divine law, and rejection of God's warnings, call for deepest humiliation.

2. The great and precious promises made them to engage their return, which have a particular relation to their deliverance from captivity, when many of the ten tribes joined those of Judah and Benjamin, and embraced the proclamation of Cyrus; but they look farther, and are to be extended to all the Israel of God in Gospel-times, to all who accept of the offers of Gospel-grace, and are in consequence collected into the church of Christ.

[1.] God's anger shall remove, in consequence of their sins being forgiven, on their repentance. Note; The most powerful means to engage the soul to repent, is the promise of pardon.

[2.] They should on their penitent return be taken into the same endeared relation to God as before, for I am married unto you. Note; God not only forgives, but in some sense forgets the sins of his penitent people: they are in respect to guilt as if they had never been committed.

[3.] God will bring them to Zion, into the Gospel-church. I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, a precious number would accept of proffered mercy—of Gospel-grace.

[4.] God will give them pastors after his own heart, to feed them with knowledge and understanding; and under such gracious ministrations the souls of the faithful will grow in grace and in meetness for glory. Note; (1.) They are no pastors who intrude into the ministry without a divine call, but wolves in sheep's cloathing. (2.) Christ's true ministers resemble their master in zeal, charity, and labour; the same mind is in them, and by their fruits ye shall know them. (3.) God's word is the food with which Christ's flock must be fed; and every pastor must be a wise householder, thoroughly acquainted with these sacred stores, and skilful to produce what is most suited to the variety of the wants of those to whom he ministers.

[5.] The typical and ceremonial institutions shall be all abolished. Christ, who is the sum and substance of them, being come, the ark, which was of old their glory, should be no more esteemed or remembered, when the church should be increased, and the Messiah's kingdom be set up.

[6.] The church of God, adorned with his presence and the accession of the Gentiles, would be more glorious, and more resorted to, than the temple with its Shechinah, and Jerusalem in the most frequented solemnities. They shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, where his glory eminently appears, and his government is with delight obeyed; and all the nations shall be gathered into it from the Gentile lands; neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart, being effectually turned from idols to serve the living and true God. Note; Our hearts are evil, very evil; yea, the imaginations of them only evil, till, by divine grace renewed, God gives a new heart, and puts a right spirit within us.

[7.] All enmity between Israel and Judah shall cease. They shall be united in affection, and become one people; and this was the case after their return from Babylon, and prefigured the union of Jews and Gentiles, and that perfect harmony which shall subsist between them when joined in the same body, of which Christ is the living Head.

3. Though on their part they were utterly unworthy of these mercies, yet God directs them what to plead for, and will accept it on their return. How shall I put thee among the children? so undeserving as they were of the relation, and of all the great blessings provided, of a pleasant land, and goodly heritage of the hosts of nations who possessed it, till God cast them out, to make room for his people. Of such favours they might well despair; but he proposes to them a way for overcoming the objections drawn from their unworthiness, consistent with his own glory. Thou shalt call me, My Father, returning in faith to him, through the Son of his love, and shalt not turn away from me, but approve henceforward their fidelity unshaken. Note; (1.) When we consider what we are by nature, and what we have been in practice, we may well wonder how it is possible that God should ever put us among his children. (2.) When by faith we truly turn to God, the vilest sinners and the foulest backsliders shall be advanced to the transcendant dignity of being counted the sons of God.

4thly, According to God's gracious invitation, we have Israel's penitent return. Like an adulterous wife, who had eloped from her husband, so had they departed from God; but now they begin to be convinced of their guilt and danger, and lament them.

1. They openly and aloud bewail their iniquities, on those high places before the scene of their abominations, and with tears in prayer acknowledge that they have perverted their way, and forgotten the Lord their God. Note; (1.) When do we so much need that our head should be waters, and our eyes a fountain of tears, as when we remember our past rebellions against, and ingratitude towards the blessed God?

(2.) Forgetfulness of God is at the root of all our sins. (3.) When the sinner is driven to a throne of grace, to unbosom his bitter anguish, he will ever find a God that heareth prayer.

2. God graciously invites them to come to him, backsliding children as they had been, and promises on their return to heal their backslidings and restore them again to his grace and favour. Note; (1.) God is more willing to hear than we to pray; and not a tear falls from the eye of his penitents, but it is noted in his book. (2.) The sinner's backslidings are then healed, when God pardons the past, and by his grace renews the heart, and stamps his image on the soul.

3. Genuine penitents earnestly and instantly accept his call, and echo back, Behold we come unto thee, without delay, without reserve; for thou art the Lord our God; yea, they will soon be enabled to add, late our offended but now our reconciled God, in whose favour we have a sure interest, to whose service we devote ourselves, and on whom alone our dependance is placed. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: their idol-gods and human-confidences they now renounce, convinced of their vanity and insufficiency. Truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel: out of him there is no salvation; in him there is all sufficiency to save to the uttermost; and as our God we may be assured of his power and grace to interpose on our behalf. While thus they express their confidence in him, they own their sin and shame, especially their idolatry, which they and their fathers had committed, and the dreadful consequences of which they felt to their confusion, in the curse of God upon all the labour of their hands, on their families and possessions; and own that the visitation was altogether righteous, because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God. Note; (1.) Penitent sinners ever take shame and confusion of face to themselves, and justify God in his judgments. (2.) The sense of our own great unworthiness must not discourage us from exercising faith on the divine promises. (3.) There is a salvation wrought out for sinners, by which the most desperate may still find mercy through a Redeemer, and a reconciled God. (4.) When we return to Christ, we must renounce all other confidences, and make mention of his strength and righteousness only.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 3:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jeremiah-3.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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