Jeremiah 23
Pulpit Commentary
Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.
Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.
Verse 2. - The Lord God of Israel; strictly, Jehovah the God of Israel. This national title of Jehovah suggests, in such a connection, that the crime of the kings is nothing short of sacrilege. Ye have scattered, etc.; i.e. been the cause of their scattering, Have not visited them. "To visit" often, by a natural association of ideas, means "to give attention to." By an equally natural association, it means "to fall upon, to punish." Hence, in the next clause, I will visit upon you. We have the same combination of meanings in Zechariah 10:3.
And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
Verse 3. - Parallel passage, Ezekiel 34:12-15. I will gather the remnant;. For the ill usage of foreign oppressors has supplemented that of home tyrants, so that only a "remnant" is left. And they shall be fruitful and increase. The fertility of the Jewish race in modern times has been a frequent subject of observation, and supplies the best comment upon Jeremiah s prophecy.
And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.
Verse 4. - And I will set up shepherds; e.g. rulers, not necessarily kings (see on next verse). Which shall feed them. For the evil shepherds "fed themselves, and fed not my flock" (Ezekiel 34:8). And they shall fear no more. Ezekiel again contributes an essential feature to the description. The neglect of the shepherds left the flock exposed to the ravages of wild beasts (Ezekiel 34:8). Neither shall they be lacking. A speaking phrase. Too many of the sheep had fallen down precipices or been carried off by lions. Yet the context rather favors a slight and palaeographically natural emendation of Hitzig, "Neither shall they be terrified." The Septuagint omits the word altogether, which favors the supposition that they read as Hitzig would read, for they are apt to condense by omitting synonyms.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
Verses 5, 6. - (Comp. the parallel passage, Jeremiah 33:15, 16.) Verse 5. - Behold, the days come. The use of the analogous phrase, "And it shall come to pass in that day," would lead us to suppose that this verse describes a fresh stage in the progress of events, as if the faithful shepherds (ver. 4) were to precede the "righteous Branch" (ver. 5). Such a view, however, is not very plausible, for the Messtab, according to prophecy, is to appear in the darkest of times. The prophet simply means to impress upon us the greatness of the revelation which he is about to communicate. I will raise unto David. The promised Messiah, then, is certainly to be of the family of David (comp. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:1; Micah 5:2). A righteous Branch; rather, a righteous Plant: the root means "to bud, or sprout." This is the first time in which the title the Plant is unmistakably applied to the Messianic King (possibly, but less probably, to the Messianic kings). It indicates that this great personage stands in connection with the divinely ordained and ancient royal family, but that he is in some way unique, and far surpasses his human ancestors. He "springs forth;" therefore he is not a sort of meteoric appearance, without any natural home among men, but rather the blossom of the Jewish nation, the embodiment of its highest qualities. And yet there is something extraordinary about him, for it is needful that Jehovah himself should "raise" this Plant from the almost worn-out stock of David. Note that the word rendered here in the Authorized Version "Branch" is not the same as that in the parallel passage in Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1). It is, however, the word employed in Isaiah 4:2, which is taken by many, especially the elder interpreters (but with very doubtful justice), to be a prophecy of the Messiah. It is also the word used by Zechariah (Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12), as a proper name of the Messiah, which is one strong reason for rejecting the view mentioned above that the word rendered "the Branch," or "the Plant," is to be taken collectively as equivalent to "branches," or rather "plants" (the article is not expressed in the Hebrew). In short, this passage and the prophecies referred to in Jeremiah are exceptions to the general Old Testament usage of the Hebrew word (cemakh), which is elsewhere a collective term equivalent to "plantation." It is true that in ver. 4 "shepherds," in the plural, are spoken of, but there is no reason why this title should be confined to kings - it may as fairly be extended to the chief rulers under a king as the term "king" itself (see on Jeremiah 17:20); and true, further, that ill Jeremiah 33:17 a continuous succession is promised of Davidic heirs to the throne, but this is not decisive in favor of the collective meaning, any more than Isaiah's later prophecy that "the [reigning Davidic] king shall reign in righteousness" disproves the strictly Messianic reference of his earlier promise in Isaiah 11:1. All prophecy is conditional; there may have been moral reasons why a continuance of the Davidic dynasty was held out by Jeremiah at one time as a possible prospect. (It is, however, extremely probable that Jeremiah 33:14-26 is the work of some other inspired writer; see ad loc.) The thirty-fourth chapter of Ezekiel, which is so closely parallel to this section, appears to interpret the prophecy of a single Messianic king (Ezekiel 34:23). And a King shall reign; rather, and he shall reign as king; i.e. he shall be the realized ideal of an Israelitish king - a second David. And prosper; or, and deal wisely. There is the same doubt as to the rendering of the verb in Isaiah 52:13 a. The radical idea is that of wisdom, and the analogy of Isaiah 11:2 favors the alternative rendering here. Shall execute judgment; in contrast to the neglectful conduct of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:3).
In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Verse 6. - Israel shall dwell safely. In the parallel passage (Jeremiah 33:16) we read "Jerusalem," and there can hardly be a doubt that "Jerusalem" ought to be restored here. This is not the-only instance in which, by mistake, the scribe has written "Israel" instead of "Jerusalem" (see Jeremiah 32:30, 32; Jeremiah 51:49; Zephaniah 3:14; Zechariah 12:1). In Zechariah 1:19 the scribe discovered his mistake, and wrote the right word, "Jerusalem," after the wrong one, "Israel," but without canceling the latter (Gratz, 'Monatsschrift,' 1880, pp. 97-101). And this is his name whereby he shall be called. There is a various reading, which may be rendered either, whereby they shall call (him, or her), or, which they shall proclaim, supported by the Peshito, Targum, Vulgate, and a few manuscripts (St. Jerome, too, mentions this reading). There is also a more important difference among the commentators as to the person who was to bear the name. The older Christian interpreters contended with all their might for the view that the name belonged to the Messiah, partly on real philological grounds, partly with the illegitimate theological object of obtaining a proof-text for the orthodox doctrine of the person of the Messiah and (in the case of Protestant writers) of justification. It is much to the credit of Hengstenberg that he sets this object aside, and while maintaining the Messianic reference of the pronoun interprets the name with a single eye to the requirements of the context, "He by whom and under whom Jehovah will be our righteousness." The objection is that in the parallel passage (Jeremiah 33:16) Jeremiah assigns the name "Jehovah-Tsidkenu," not to the Messiah, but to Jerusalem. The prophet must be allowed to be his best interpreter, so that we must, it would seem, at any rate, reject the Messianic reference. But then how are we to explain the pronoun? It is right to refer the parallel pronoun in Jeremiah 33:16 to "Jerusalem," because the pronoun there is feminine, and evidently refers to a city, but it is not natural in our passage to explain "his name" of "Israel," seeing that the subject of the noun in the parallel line is, not Israel, but the Messiah. is the text here correct? A comparison of the parallel psalms Psalms 14 and Psalms 53, and of the corresponding chapters in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, will show how easily errors made their way into duplicate copies of the same passage. Granting that we have such duplicate copies of this prophecy in Jeremiah, there can be no doubt which is the more original; the form of Jeremiah 23:6 has a difficulty from which Jeremiah 33:16 is free - a difficulty of interpretation and a difficulty also of grammar. For, as Ewald has already pointed out ('Hebrew Grammar,' § 249 b), the contracted suffix is very rarely attached to the simple imperfect, and the clear style in which this section is written justifies us in regarding any unusual form with suspicion. "Israel" thus was probably written by mistake for "Jerusalem," and this error soon led to others - first, the omission of "her," and then the prefixing of "his name" for clearness, and (on the part of the authors of the points) the mispointing of the verb (so as to include in the form the pronoun "him"). It is some confirmation of this view that there are several other passages in which the words "Israel" and "Jerusalem" appear to have been confounded (see preceding note). Read, therefore, as in Jeremiah 33:16, And this is the name wherewith she shall be called. THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS; Hebrew, Yahveh (Jehovah) Tsidkenu. The name is formed on the analogy of other symbolic names, such as El-elohe-Israel (Genesis 33:20), Jehovah-Nisei (Exodus 17:15 ), and especially Jehovah-Shammah (Ezekiel 48:35), also a name of Jerusalem. These names are, in fact, sentences; Jehovah-Shammah, for instance, means "The Lord (is) there;" and the name in the present verse, "The Lord (is) our Righteousness" (Hengstenberg's view mentioned above seems less natural). It is singular that Zedekiah's name should come so near to that announced by the prophet. But there is still a difference between them. Zedekiah must mean "The Lord (is) righteousness," i.e. is ever faithful to his revealed principles of action. But Jehovah-Tsidkenu may be correctly paraphrased, "The Lord is the author of our prosperity," or, more strictly, "of the justification of our claims in the sight of our enemies" (comp. Isaiah 45:24; Isaiah 50:8; Isaiah 54:17; Isaiah 58:8; Isaiah 62:1, 2). Similar applications of forensic language are familiar, e.g. "When they speak with their enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:5).
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
Verses 7, 8. - This is another of Jeremiah's repetitions (see Jeremiah 16:14, 15). Either the Septuagint translator or the copyist of the Hebrew manuscript which he used appears to have thought that the passage might, therefore, be dispensed with. In the Septuagint it is placed at the end of the chapter (being possibly supplied from another Hebrew manuscript), and the form given in this version to the close of ver. 6 (Ἰωσεδὲκ ἐν τοῖς προφηταῖς, combining the opening words of ver. 9) shows that ver. 9 followed immediately upon ver. 6 in the Hebrew manuscript.
But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.
Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.
Verses 9-40. - These verses form a complete prophecy, the title of which Jeremiah himself supplies in the words, "Concerning the (false) prophets" (see below); comp. Jeremiah 46:2; Jeremiah 48:1; Jeremiah 49:1, 7, 23, 28. It is true the rendering of the Authorized Version (ver. 9), Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets, is not purely arbitrary; it is favored by the exegetical tradition represented by the Hebrew accents. But it is not probable that two entirely different causes should be given for the prophet's deep emotion (see the latter part of the verse). Besides, "breaking of the heart" is nowhere a sign of anger (as Authorized Version would suggest), but either of grief (see on Jeremiah 8:20, or, as the context implies here, physical disturbance at the solemn message of Jehovah (comp. Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 20:9). All my bones shake. It is a very uncommon verb, occurring only twice elsewhere (Genesis 1:2; Deuteronomy 32:11, in Piel). The words of his holiness; co, his words of holiness; i.e. his holy words, the words of the Holy One on the unholy doings of the false prophets.
For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.
Verse 10. - The land is full of adulterers. The false prophets connive at flagrant immoralities, one of which is mentioned as a typical sin. As to the nature of the adultery, see note on Jeremiah 5:7. Because of swearing; rather, because of the curse; the curse, namely, with which God punishes the guilty earth (comp. Zechariah 5:3; Daniel 9:11; and especially Isaiah 24:6, where in the original there is a paronomasia very similar to that here). The land mourneth; a figurative expression, suggested partly by the assonance of the word for "curse." Drought is what is meant (comp. Jeremiah 12:4; Jeremiah 14:1, 2). The pleasant places of the wilderness; rather, the pastures of the prairie-land ("wilderness" suggests ideas very alien to the context). Their course; literally, their running (comp. Jeremiah 8:6). The subject is "the inhabitants of the land." Their force is not right; rather, their might (or, heroism) is untruth. They are "mighty men" only in telling untruths (comp. Jeremiah 9:3; Isaiah 5:22).
For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.
Verse 11. - Both prophet and priest are profane; i.e. are unholy, disobeying the Divine commands (see on Jeremiah 5:7). The same two important classes specified as in Jeremiah 6:13. Yea, in my house, etc. Evidently some sin specially incongruous with its locality is referred to, either idolatry (comp. Jeremiah 7:30) or the totemistic worship of figures of animals (Ezekiel 8:10, 11). Comp. note on Jeremiah 5:7.
Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD.
Verse 12. - Their way shall be unto them as slippery ways, etc.; rather, slippery places. The passage has a manifest affinity with Psalm 35:6 (in one of the Jeremiahizing psalms; see on Jeremiah 18:19, 20). They shall be driven on; or, as Ewald, taking over the last word of the preceding clause, they shall be thrust into the darkness. This involves a reminiscence, probable enough, of Isaiah 8:22 b. It is against the accentual tradition, but improves the rhythmical derision of the verse. If we ask who "thrusts" them, Psalm 35:5 supplies the answer - it is not merely external circumstances, but "the Angel of Jehovah," i.e. Jehovah himself. As Bishop Hall says, "God wounds us by many instruments, but with one hand." I will bring evil upon them, etc. Favorite expressions of Jeremiah (comp. Jeremiah 11:23).
And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.
Verses 13, 14. - The prophets of Samaria were no doubt guilty enough, but their offences dwindled by the side of the "horrible" transgressions of those of the southern kingdom. The prophet apparently means, not only that the former, having fewer spiritual advantages, were less responsible than the latter, but also that they had not violated the moral code so conspicuously. Verse 13. - I have seen folly; rather, absurdity or unseemliness; literally, that which is unsavory (comp. Job 6:6). The word occurs with a similar reference to Jehovah in Job 1:22; Job 24:12. To "prophesy by Baal" was "absurd," "unseemly," because Baal was a "non-entity" (Isaiah's word for an idol). In Baal; rather, by, or by means of, Baal (see on Jeremiah 2:8).
I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
Verse 14. - I have seen also, etc.; rather, But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen. Horrible; as in Jeremiah 5:30. They commit adultery, etc.; literally, the committing adultery and the walking in lies - a much more forcible way of putting it. They are all of them; rather, They have become all of them; vie. either the prophets or the people in general. The inhabitants thereof; viz. of Jerusalem.
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.
Verse 15. - On the punishment here threatened, see note on Jeremiah 9:15.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
Verses 16-22. - A warning addressed to the people against the false prophecies (comp. Ezekiel 13.). Verse 16. - They make you vain; i.e. fill you with vain imaginations. A similar phrase occurs in Jeremiah 2:5, on which see note. A vision of their own heart; the heart being the center of the intellectual as well as of the moral life, according to the Hebrew conception.
They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
Verse 17. - Unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said. The Septuagint and the Syriac render the same text (the consonants are alone the text) with different vowels, thus: "Unto those who despise the word of the Lord." In favor of this it may be urged that the phrase, "The Lord hath said," is nowhere else used in this abrupt way to introduce a real or supposed revelation, and Hitzig and Graf accordingly accept it. Ye shall have peace; as Jeremiah 6:14. After the imagination; rather, in the stubbornness (see on Jeremiah 3:17).
For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?
Verse 18. - For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord; rather, in the council. This verse is connected with ver. 16; it gives the reason why the false prophets were not to be listened to. None of them had been admitted to the secret council of the Lord; the interrogation is here a form of denial. "To stand in the council" is not the same as "to sit" (Psalm 1:1); the latter phrase implies taking an active part in the consultations. It is specially applicable to the true prophets, according to ver. 22, and this, as we gather from other passages, m a twofold sense. Sometimes the prophets had visions, in which their inner eye was granted a sight of Jehovah in consultation with his trusted servants (Isaiah 6:1, comp. 8; 1 Kings 22:19); and the words of Eliphaz, "Weft thou listening in the council of God?" (Job 15:8), appear to be descriptive of a similar experience. But the phrase may also be used in a wider sense of entirely unecstatic revelations. Amos says (Amos 3:7), "Surely the Lord Jehovah will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret counsel unto his servants the prophets; ' and a psalmist extends the term "secret counsel" to the communion which God grants to the pious in general (Psalm 25:14; comp. Proverbs 3:32). Thus there is no hard and-fast line between the experiences of the prophets and those of humbler believers. In so far as the latter are "disciples of Jehovah" (Isaiah 54:13), they too may be truly said to "stand," at least in the doorway, "in the council of Jehovah;" just as a well-known collect inherited from the Latin Church beseeches that "by God's holy inspiration we may think those things that he good." Who hath marked his word? A Jewish tradition, represented by the marginal notes in the Hebrew Bible, has taken offence at this variation in the expression, and would correct the reading to "my word." But such changes of person are of frequent occurrence, and we know that the prophets were thoroughly assured that the word which they spoke was not theirs, but that of him who sent them.
Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.
Verses 19, 20. - These two verses seem to be connected with ver. 17. The false prophets say, "Ye shall have peace." How different the message of the true! (A duplicate of these verses occurs in Jeremiah 30:23, 24.) Verse 19. - A whirlwind of the Lord, etc.; rather, A storm of the Lord, even fury, is gone forth, and a whirling storm - upon the head of the wicked shall it whirl. The hurricane has already broken out; it will soon reach Jerusalem. This seems to be the force of Jeremiah's expressive figure.
The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.
Verse 20. - The anger of the Lord. The prophet's interpretation of the image. It is the judicial anger of Jehovah, personified as Divine manifestations so often are (hence "shall not return"). The form of the verse reminds us of Isaiah 55:11. In the latter days; rather, in future days, as Dr. Henderson rightly renders. It seems better to restrict the term "latter days" to the Messianic period ("the coming age," Matthew 12:32), to which, in fact, it is often applied (e.g. Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5). The phrase in itself simply means "in the sequel of the days," i.e. in the future; its Messianic reference, when this exists, is inferred solely from the context. In the passage before us, and in Deuteronomy 4:30, 30:29, there can be no intention of pointing to the Messianic age. Precisely the same phrase occurs in an Assyrian inscription, where its meaning is clear from the context (aria akhrat yumi irib, "For a sequel of days - i.e., for a future time - I deposited"). In the present case it is no distant period to which the prophet refers, for he continues, Ye shall consider it, etc., or rather, ye shall understand it clearly, viz. that the calamities which will have come upon you are the Divine judgment upon your sins.
I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
Verses 21, 22. - In vers. 17-20 Jeremiah has shown that these cannot be true prophets, because their message is diametrically opposed to the true revelation. He now proves it from the absence of any moral effect from their preaching.
But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?
Verses 23-32. - Jehovah has observed and will punish the false pretensions of the prophets. Verses 23, 24. - Am I a God at hand, etc.? ("At hand" equivalent to "near.") Eliphaz may again assist us with an illustration. "And thou sayest " - he is expostulating with Job - "What doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud? thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; yea, he walketh upon the vault of heaven" (Job 22:13, 14). It might seem, from the preponderance of the false prophets ever the true, as if Jehovah were unaware of the mischief. Not so; Jehovah is omnipresent.
Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.
I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.
Verse 25. - I have dreamed. Jeremiah mentions it as one of the marks of a false prophet that he appealed to his dreams (comp. Jeremiah 29:8); true prophecy contented itself with less ambiguous media of communication with the unseen world. It may be objected that Abraham (Genesis 15:12), at any rate, and Abimelech (Genesis 20:3) received Divine revelations in dreams; but these were not officially prophets. Nathan and the contemporaries of the author of Job had messages from God by night, but these are called, not dreams, but visions (2 Samuel 7:14, comp. 17; Job 4:13). Deuteronomy (and this is one of its striking points of agreement with Jeremiah) expressly describes a false prophet as "a dreamer of dreams" (Deuteronomy 13:1; comp. 1 Samuel 28:6). Two passages in the Old Testament seem inconsistent with this discouragement of dreams as a medium of revelation - Numbers 12:6, where the Lord is said to make himself known to prophets by visions and dreams, and Joel 2:28, where the prophetic dreams of the old men are one of the features of a Messianic description; but it is noteworthy that the first of these refers to the primitive period of Israel's history, and the second to the distant Messianic age. In its classical period prophecy kept itself sedulously aloof from a field on which it had such compromising companionship (comp. Ecclesiastes 5:7).
How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
Verse 26. - How long shall this be in the heart, etc.? i.e. how long shall this be their purpose, viz. to prophesy lies? But this rendering leaves out of account a second interrogative which in the Hebrew follows "how long." It is better to translate this difficult passage, with De Dieu and many moderns, thus: "How long (quousque durabit haec ipsorum impudentia)? Is it in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies, and the prophets of the deceit of their own heart; are they thinking (I say) to cause my people to forget," etc.? On this view, ver. 27 resumes the question interrupted in ver. 26.
Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.
Verse 27. - Every man to his neighbor. Not merely one prophet to another prophet, for it is "my people" whom they cause to forget my Name (comp. ver. 32), but the prophet to his fellow man. Have forgotten my name for Baal; or, forgot my name through Baal.
The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.
Verse 28. - Let him tell a dream; rather, let him tell it as a dream; let him tell his dreams, if he will, but not intermix them with Divine revelations. Jeremiah, then, does not deny that there is a measure of truth in what these prophets say; he only demands a distinct declaration that their dreams are but dreams, and not equal in authority to the Divine word. For, as he continues, What is the chaff to the wheat? What right have you to mix the worthless chaff with the pure, winnowed grain? How, he implies, can such an adulterated message produce the designed effect of a prophetic revelation? (St. Paul has a somewhat similar figure, 1 Corinthians 3:10-13.) So Naegelsbach. Keil, however, denies that there is any thought of an adulteration of the Divine word by the "false prophets." According to him, the question in this verse is simply meant to emphasize the contrast between the false, dream-born prophecy of Jeremiah's opponents and the true revelations. How can the false prophecy pretend to be the true? They are as different as chaff and wheat. Both views are admissible. Naegelsbach introduces a new element by suggesting the intermixture of false and true in the utterances of the "false prophets;" but his view is not inconsistent with what the prophet has stated before, and it is favored by ver. 30 and by the command, Let him speak my word faithfully; i.e. in its genuine form; comp. Jeremiah 2:21, "A faithful or trustworthy [i.e. a genuine] seed;" also, for the general sense, 2 Corinthians 2:17.
Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
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.
Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.
Verses 30-32. - The punishment solemnly introduced by a three times repeated, Behold, I am against, etc., corresponding to three several features of the conduct of the false prophets. First we are told that the prophets steal my words every one from his neighbor. The latter part of the phrase reminds us of ver. 27, but the neighbor in this case must mean, at any rate primarily, a fellow-prophet, one who has really received a revelation at first-hand from Jehovah. The "false prophets," not trusting to their "dreams" alone, listen greedily to the discourses of men like Jeremiah, not with a view to spiritual profit, but to making their own utterances more effective. We must remember that they lived by their prophesying (Micah 3:5).
Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.
Verse 31. - That use their tongues; literally, that take their tongue, like a workman's tool - as if prophecy could be turned out to order. And say, He saith. The word rendered "he saith" is one which the prophets habitually used to affirm the revealed character of their teaching. It is the participle of the verb rendered "say." Adopting a Miltonic verb, we might render, and oracle oracles." The "false prophets" adopt the same forms as the true; but they are to them only forms.
Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.
Verse 32. - That prophesy false dreams (see on ver. 25). By their lightness. The word is an uncommon one, and implies arrogance or boastfulness (comp. Zephaniah 3:4); the root means "to bubble over." Therefore they shall not profit; rather, and they cannot profit.
And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD.
Verses 33-40. - The abuse of a consecrated phrase. The prophets were accustomed to apply the term massa to their prophetic declarations in the sense of "oracle," or "utterance" - a sense derived from the use of the cognate verb for "to lift up the voice," i.e. to pronounce clearly and distinctly. But the word massa was also in common use for "load, burden," and hence the "false prophets" applied the term derisively to Jeremiah's discourses. "Rightly does he call his word a massa; it is not merely a solemn utterance, but a heavy burden; as De Wette puts it, not merely a Weissagung, but a Wehsagung. The passage is important as indicating the sense in which the true prophets understood the term. It should be added that the term mused is prefixed to at least four Biblical passages which, not being of threatening import, do not admit of being entitled "burdens" (Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; Proverbs 30:1; Proverbs 31:1; comp. Lamentations 2:14). How remarkable is the line adopted by Jeremiah 1 He simply abandons the use Of the term massa, consecrated as it was by the practice of inspired men! Better to adopt a new phrase, than to run the risk of misunderstanding or, even worse, profanity. Verse 33. - What burden? etc. The Hebrew text, as usually read, is extremely difficult; the Authorized Version is entirely unjustifiable. It is just possible to explain, with Ewald, "As to this question, What is the burden? the true meaning of the word is that," etc. But how harsh and artificial! By a change in the grouping of the consonants (which alone constitute the text), we may read, Ye are the burden. So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Hitzig, Graf, Payne Smith. We must in this case continue, and I will cast you off, as the same verb is to be rendered in Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 12:7. Instead of carrying you with the long-suffering of a father (Deuteronomy 1:31; Isaiah 46:3, 4; Isaiah 63:9; Psalm 28:9), I will east you off as a troublesome load (Isaiah 1:14).
And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house.
Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken?
Verse 35. - What hath the Lord answered? i.e. a simpler phraseology is to be used, Jehovah hath answered, saying, or, Jehovah hath spoken, according as a definite question had been put before the prophet or not.
And the burden of the LORD shall ye mention no more: for every man's word shall be his burden; for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the LORD of hosts our God.
Verse 36. - And the burden of the Lord, etc.; i.e. ye shall no longer use the word massa at all. Every man's word shall be his burden; rather, the burden to every man shall be his word; i.e. his derisive use of the word massa shall be a burden which shall crush him to the ground. Ye have perverted; i.e. have turned them round, and put them into a ridiculous light" (Payne Smith).
Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the LORD answered thee? and, What hath the LORD spoken?
But since ye say, The burden of the LORD; therefore thus saith the LORD; Because ye say this word, The burden of the LORD, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the LORD;
Verse 38. - But since ye say, etc.; rather, But if ye say, etc. In case the false prophets disobey, and persist in using the old expression, the threatening already uttered shall come into operation.
Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence:
Verse 39. - I, even I, will utterly forget you; rather, I will even take you up, and east you off. This involves a slight difference in the pronunciation of the text from that adopted by the Massoretes, but is adopted by the Septuagint, Peshito, Vulgate, a few manuscripts, and most critics; it is, in fact, almost required by the figure which fills the verse. And cast you out of my presence. "And cast you" is not in the Hebrew; nor is it necessary to supply the words, if the preceding clauses be rightly translated.
And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.
Verse 40. - With this verse, comp. Jeremiah 20:11.

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