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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Jeremiah 12

 

 

Verse 1

1. Righteous art thou, etc. — A true theistic faith, clinging to God amid difficulty and darkness.

Let me talk, etc. — The marginal rendering is better, let me reason the case with thee. He would bring his human weakness and his sore need to God, and plead for relief.

Happy — Safe, undisturbed, unpunished.


Verses 1-6

COMPLAINT AT THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED, Jeremiah 12:1-6.

The opening verses of this chapter connect closely with the preceding. The language represents the attitude of Jeremiah’s mind when confronted with persecution and personal danger. Deserted and persecuted by those who Should be his friends, in that loneliness of spirit which is the necessary experience of every reformer, he betakes himself to God. His trial and complaint are such as speak forth in Psalm xxxiv, xlix, lxxiii, and in the book of Job. When we consider that the sanctions of the Mosaic law were largely, though not entirely, limited to this world, we can well understand how that temptation which has always been a severe and bitter one to good men should have been peculiarly so to him whose only reward seemed to be abandonment and temporal ruin. So completely was the heart of the prophet in sympathy with the divine indignation against the impiety of the wicked, that he is amazed at the slowness of God’s judgments.


Verse 3

3. Thou, O Lord, knowest me — A solemn appeal to the heart-searching God, not in the spirit of Phariseeism, but with a clear consciousness of thorough honesty. The fact that God is omniscient is terrible to the sinner, but a source of ineffably precious consolation and strength to the Christian.

Pull them out — Literally, tear them out. The same word is used in Jeremiah 10:20, of the breaking of the cords of the tent, and in Ezekiel 17:9, of the tearing up of roots. No more vigorous word could have been used in this place.


Verse 4

4. How long shall the land mourn — In the second verse the prophet intimates his temptation growing out of the prosperity of the wicked. And yet here he speaks of the whole land as if lying under the shadow of a universal curse. But there is here no incongruity. An individual may be wicked and prosperous, but when wickedness and corruption prevail there is general misery. In the aggregate, the amount of practical righteousness in any community will accurately measure the amount of well-being in the same community.


Verse 5

5. If… they have wearied thee — In this beautiful verse Jehovah rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience. It consists of two proverbial sayings, unlike in form and specific import, but alike relevant to the object of the address. The present trials of Jeremiah at Anathoth are a mere running with foot-men, but there will soon be a contending with horses. And if he can be tranquil and truthful only in a land of peace, where there is no difficulty and no danger, how can he tread the jungly banks of the Jordan, where is the lair of ravenous beasts? In this God foreshadows the prophet’s swiftly-coming trials. See Jeremiah 26:8-9; Jeremiah 32:2; Jeremiah 38:8. What be was then experiencing was but the beginning of sorrows — merely an ordinary trial as compared with the appalling calamities before him.

Swelling of Jordan — Literally, pride of Jordan. The same phrase is used in Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44, and in Zechariah 11:3, in all of which places it is mentioned as the haunt of lions. Hence it cannot mean, as the Authorized Version has it, the “swelling,” or inundation, “of Jordan,” but rather the jungly thicket on its banks.


Verse 6

6. Even thy brethren — Mentioned by way of emphatic specification, thus showing to Jeremiah how bitter was the experience before him, not only of loneliness and desolation, but even of persecution and personal danger.


Verse 7

ISRAEL’S CONSPIRACY PUNISHED, Jeremiah 12:7-13.

7. The whole passage (Jeremiah 12:7-17) is characterized by an obvious unity, and is throughout the language of Jehovah. Its connexion with what precedes is general rather than particular. The personal trials of Jeremiah had been foreshadowed, and here is set forth the general state of things out of which these trials would come.

I have forsaken — These and the following perfects are used prophetically. It is done only in the divine purpose — not actually executed.

House… heritage… dearly beloved — All refer to the same subject, Judah. Language is too weak to carry the burden of God’s yearning tenderness for his people.

Into the hand — Literally, the palm. The hand is the symbol of power; the palm of passive receptiveness.


Verse 8

8. As a lion — Fierce and uncontrollable, roaring against him with rage and blasphemy.


Verse 9

9. A speckled bird, etc. — The first two clauses in this verse are in the original questions, but they involve real affirmations. The fact that a strange-looking bird is sure to be set upon by all the others is appropriated by the prophet as an instrument of expression and illustration. Then comes the summons to all the wild beasts to gather round Judah and devour her.


Verse 10

10. Many pastors — Rather, shepherds. Pastor, in the sense of shepherd, is never found in any book of the Old Testament except Jeremiah. The enclosure of the vineyard is broken down, letting in the shepherds with their flocks to browse upon the tender vines.


Verse 11

11. The rhetorical effect of the previous verse is heightened and intensified in this. They have made it desolate… desolate it mourneth unto me… desolate is the whole land, for no one layeth it to heart.


Verse 12

12. No flesh… peace — See Genesis 6:12. The term “flesh” is here used in the same way, but with narrower application.


Verse 13

13. Sown wheat… reap thorns — Apparently an aphorism for coming to the opposite of what is aimed at.

Revenues — Produce, the old meaning of this word.


Verse 14

PARDON AND RESTORATION, Jeremiah 12:14-17.

14. Mine evil neighbours — Such as the Philistines, Syrians, Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, etc.; all who at any time had become the spoilers of God’s heritage.


Verse 15

15. After that I have plucked — Sharing in Israel’s calamity, they shall also share in Israel’s mercy. I will return, etc. — I will again have compassion, a very common Hebraism.


Verse 16

16. Learn the ways of my people — That is, adopt the worship of Jehovah. As they led God’s people away into the worship of Baalim, so they shall be led by Israel into “the ways” of Jehovah, and thus be built up with his “people” into a spiritual unity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jeremiah 12:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/jeremiah-12.html. 1874-1909.

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