Jeremiah 23:29
Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
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(29) Is not my word like as a fire? . . .—The prophet speaks out of the depths of his own experience. The true prophetic word burns in the heart of a man, and will not be restrained (Jeremiah 5:14; Jeremiah 20:9; Psalm 39:3), and when uttered it consumes the evil, and purifies the good. It will burn up the chaff of the utterances of the false prophets. (Comp. 1Corinthians 3:12-13.) As the hammer breaks the rock, so it shatters the pride and stubbornness of man, is mighty to the pulling down of strongholds (2Corinthians 10:4), and the heart of him who hears it as it should be heard is broken and contrite. What these words paint in the language of poetry, St. Paul describes without imagery in 1Corinthians 14:24-25. (Comp. also Hebrews 4:12.)

23:23-32 Men cannot be hidden from God's all-seeing eye. Will they never see what judgments they prepare for themselves? Let them consider what a vast difference there is between these prophecies and those delivered by the true prophets of the Lord. Let them not call their foolish dreams Divine oracles. The promises of peace these prophets make are no more to be compared to God's promises than chaff to wheat. The unhumbled heart of man is like a rock; if not melted by the word of God as a fire, it will be broken to pieces by it as a hammer. How can they be long safe, or at all easy, who have a God of almighty power against them? The word of God is no smooth, lulling, deceitful message. And by its faithfulness it may certainly be distinguished from false doctrines.Like as a fire - God's word is the great purifier which destroys all that is false and aves, only the genuine metal. Compare Hebrews 4:12.

Like a hammer ... - God's word rouses and strengthens the conscience and crushes within the heart everything that is evil.

29. As the "fire" consumes the "chaff," [Jer 23:28], so "My word" will consume the false prophets (Mt 3:12; Heb 4:12). "My word" which is "wheat" [Jer 23:28], that is, food to the true prophet and his hearers, is a consuming "fire," and a crushing "hammer" (Mt 21:44) to false prophets and their followers (2Co 2:16). The Word of the false prophets may be known by its promising men peace in sin. "My word," on the contrary, burns and breaks the hard-hearted (Jer 20:9). The "hammer" symbolizes destructive power (Jer 50:23; Na 2:1, Margin). Full of life and efficacy, John 6:63 Hebrews 4:12;

like a fire that warmeth, and healeth, and melteth, and consumeth the dross;

and like a hammer that breaketh the flints, so my word breaketh hard hearts. Others think that the word is here compared to fire, and to a hammer, because of the certain effect that it should have upon those that would not obey it, to burn them up like fire, and break them in pieces like a hammer, and so think this text well expounded by the apostle, 2 Corinthians 2:16. Certain it is that God’s word is like fire in both senses; no words of men have an effect and efficacy like God’s words; nothing but that taketh hold upon the conscience, and hath such an effect upon the hearts of men; no words shall so certainly and infallibly be justified and made good.

Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord,.... The legal part of it is as fire; it is called a "fiery law", Deuteronomy 33:2; like fire, it is quick and piercing, and penetrating into the hearts and consciences of men; and works wrath there, and raises a fearful expectation of fiery indignation; it threatens with everlasting fire; it sentences men to the fire of hell; and the righteous Judge, in the execution of it, will be a consuming fire to wicked men. The Gospel part of the word is like fire, on account of the light the entrance of it gives to sinners; by which they see their own impurity, impotence, and the insufficiency of their own righteousness, and the way of life and salvation by Christ; and by the light of this fire saints are directed in their walk and conversation; and by it immoralities, errors, and superstition, are detected: also on account of the heat of it; it is the means of a vital heat to sinners, the savour of life to them; and is warming and comforting to saints, and causes their hearts to burn within them; it inflames them with love to God, Christ, and one another, and with zeal for truth and the interest of a Redeemer; though it has a scorching and tormenting heat to wicked men, and fills them with burning malice and envy, Revelation 11:5; and, through the corruption of human nature, is the occasion of contention and discord, for which reason Christ calls it fire, Luke 12:49; and indeed it has different effects on different objects, as fire, which hardens some things and softens others; see 2 Corinthians 2:16; moreover, it may be compared to fire for its purifying, separating, and trying nature: as fire purifies gold and silver, and separates the dross, and tries the metal, and shows it what it is; so the Gospel tries men's principles, and discovers what they are, and separates one from another: and also for its consuming nature; it opposes, weakens, and burns up the worst in man, his lusts and corruptions, which it teaches him to deny; and the best in man, all his holiness and righteousness he depended upon; and it burns up the chaff of false doctrine and human inventions before mentioned.

and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? to which the heart of man may be compared, being hardened by sin, confirmed in it; destitute of spiritual life; stupid and senseless; stubborn and inflexible; on which no impressions are made, and is impenitent and inflexible; see Zechariah 7:12; now the word of the Lord, in the hand of the Spirit, is a means of breaking such hard hearts, and taking away the Obduracy and hardness of them; there is a legal contrition of it, through the law part of the word, by which there is a knowledge of sin, and the soul is wounded with a sense of it, and sore broken, but without any view of pardon, righteousness, and salvation by Christ; and there is an evangelical contrition or brokenness of heart, through the Gospel part of the word, by means of which the stony heart is not only broken, but melted and dissolved into true evangelical repentance for sin, through the discoveries of a Saviour bruised and broken for its sin, and through a view of free and full pardon by his blood, and justification by his righteousness. Now the word is only an instrument; it is not the efficient cause of all this; as a hammer is but an instrument, and a passive one, can do nothing of itself; it must be taken up and used by a powerful hand, or it can do no execution; what is a hammer without a hand? so the Gospel is only an instrument in the hand of, he Lord; but when he takes it into his own hand, and strikes with it, it will break the hardest heart in pieces, and make a stony heart a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:26.

Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
29. This v. supplies a further test of a genuine prophetic utterance, viz. penetration and power.

like as fire] Cp. Jeremiah 5:14 and note there. The conception is that “of the prophetic word as endowed with God’s living energy and securing its own fulfilment” (Peake).

Verse 29. - Is not my word like as a fire? As in vers. 19, 20, so here, the prophet contrasts the message of the false prophets with that of the true. The former flatter their hearers with promises of peace; the latter speak a stern but potent word, which burns like a fire, and crushes like a hammer. Observe, the prophet does not define the activity of the fire as he does that of the hammer; for the fire has a twofold effect - protection to God's friends and destruction to his enemies. On the figure of the hammer, comp. Jeremiah 1:23; 51:20. Jeremiah 23:29Jeremiah 23:23-32, in continuation, an intimation that God knows and will punish the lying practices of these prophets. - Jeremiah 23:23. "Am I then a God near at hand, saith Jahveh, and not a God afar off? Jeremiah 23:24. Or can any hide himself in secret, that I cannot see him? saith Jahveh. Do not I will the heaven and the earth? saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:25. I have heard what the prophets say, that prophesy falsehood in my name, saying: I have dreamed, I have dreamed. Jeremiah 23:26. How long? Have they it in their mind, the prophets of the deceit of their heart, Jeremiah 23:27. Do they think to make my people forget my name by their dreams which they tell one to the other, as their fathers forgot my name by Baal? Jeremiah 23:28. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word in truth. What is the straw to the corn? saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 23:29. Is not thus my word - as fire, saith Jahveh, and as a hammer that dasheth the rock in pieces? Jeremiah 23:30. Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets that steal my words one from the other. Jeremiah 23:31. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith Jahveh, that take their tongues and say: God's word. Jeremiah 23:32. Behold, I am against the prophets that prophesy lying dreams, saith Jahve, and tell them, and lead my people astray with their lies and their boasting, whom yet I have not sent nor commanded them, and they bring no good to this people, saith Jahveh."

The force of the question: Am I a God at hand, not afar off? is seen from what follows. Far and near are here in their local, not their temporal signification. A god near at hand is one whose domain and whose knowledge do not extend far; a God afar off, one who sees and works into the far distance. The question, which has an affirmative force, is explained by the statement of Jeremiah 23:24 : I fill heaven and earth. Hitz. insists on understanding "near at hand" of temporal nearness, after Deuteronomy 32:17 : a God who is not far hence, a newly appeared God; and he supposes that, since in the east, from of old, knowledge is that which is known by experience, therefore the greatness of one's knowledge depends on one's advancement in years (Job 15:7, Job 15:10; Job 12:12, etc.); and God, he says, is the Ancient of days, Daniel 7:9. But this line of thought is wholly foreign to the present passage. It is not wealth of knowledge as the result of long life or old age that God claims for Himself in Jeremiah 23:24, but the power of seeing into that which is hidden so that none can conceal himself from Him, or omniscience. The design with which God here dwells on His omniscience and omnipresence too (cf. 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1) is shown in Jeremiah 23:25. The false prophets went so far with their lying predictions, that it might appear as if God did not hear or see their words and deeds. The Lord exposes this delusion by calling His omniscience to mind in the words: I have heard how they prophesy falsehood in my name and say, I have dreamed, i.e., a dream sent by God, have had a revelation in dreams, whereas according to Jeremiah 23:26 the dream was the deceit of their heart - "spun out of their own heart" (Hitz.). Jeremiah 23:26 is variously interpreted. Hitz. supposes that the interrogative ה (in הישׁ) is made subordinate in the clause, and that the question is expressed with a double interrogative. He translates: How long still is there anything left in the heart of the prophets? as much as to say: how long have they materials for this? But there is a total want of illustrations in point for this subordination and doubling of the interrogative; and the force given to the ישׁ is quite arbitrary, since we should have had some intimation of what it was that was present in their hearts. Even the repetition of the interrogative particles is unexplained, and the connecting of ישׁ with a participle, instead of with the infinitive with ל, cannot be defended by means of passages where החל is joined with an adjective and the idea "to be" has to be supplied. L. de Dieu, followed by Seb. Schmidt, Chr. B. Mich., Ros., Maur., Umbr., Graf, was right in taking "How long" by itself as an aposiopesis: how long, sc. shall this go on? and in beginning a new question with הישׁ, a question continued and completed by the further question: "Do they think," etc., Jeremiah 23:27. Is it in the heart of the prophets, i.e., have the prophets a mind to prophesy falsehood? do they mean to make men forget my name? Against holding Jeremiah 23:27 as a resumption of the question there is no well-founded objection. Ng. affirms that after החשׁבים we must in that case have here הם as recapitulation of the subject; but that is rendered unnecessary by the subject's being contained in the immediately preceding words. The conjecture propounded by Ng., to change הישׁ into האשׁ: how long still is the fire in the heart of the prophets? needs no refutation. To make to forget the name of the Lord is: so to banish the Lord, as seen in His government and works, from the people's heart, that He is no longer feared and honoured. By their dreams which they relate one to the other, i.e., not one prophet to the other, but the prophet to his fellow-man amongst the people. בּבּעל, because of the Baal, whom their fathers made their god, cf. Judges 3:7; 1 Samuel 12:9. - These lies the prophets ought to cease. Jeremiah 23:28. Each is to speak what he has, what is given him. He that has a dream is to tell the dream, and he that has God's word should tell it. Dream as opposed to word of the Lord is an ordinary dream, the fiction of one's own heart; not a dream-revelation given by God, which the pseudo-prophets represented their dreams to be. These dreams are as different from God's word as straw is from corn. This clause is supported, Jeremiah 23:29, by a statement of the nature of God's word. It is thus (כּה), namely, as fire and as a hammer that smashes the rocks. The sense of these words is not this: the word of God is strong enough by itself, needs no human addition, or: it will burn as fire the straw of the man's word mixed with it. There is here no question of the mixing of God's word with man's word. The false prophets did not mingle the two, but gave out their man's word for God's. Nor, by laying stress on the indwelling power of the word of God, does Jeremiah merely give his hearers a characteristic by which they may distinguish genuine prophecy; he seeks besides to make them know that the word of the Lord which he proclaims will make an end of the lying prophets' work. Thus understood, Jeremiah 23:29 forms a stepping-stone to the threatenings uttered in Jeremiah 23:30-32 against the lying prophets. The comparison to fire does not refer to the reflex influence which the word exerts on the speaker, so as that we should with Rashi and Ros. cf. Jeremiah 20:9; the fire comes before us as that which consumes all man's work that will not stand the test; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:12. The comparison to a hammer which smashes the rock shows the power of God, which overcomes all that is earthly, even what is firmest and hardest; cf. Hebrews 4:12. Its effect and accomplishment nothing can hinder.

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