See you not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?…
First, glance at the circumstances and conduct of the Jewish people, which gave rise to the language of the text. During the days of Jeremiah, and of all the later prophets, they appear to have sunk into the very depths of national degeneracy. The sanctions of the Divine authority, and the terrors of Divine indignation, were equally disregarded with the promises and protection of the Most High. The prophet would have awakened them to a sense of their criminality and danger; but in vain. He interceded in secret for the reversal of that righteous sentence by which they were doomed to prove the folly and misery of their own ways; but this also was without effect. While his voice was still tremulously pleading for their forgiveness, and the saint and patriot blended in every gushing tear, and every irrepressible emotion, — the mandate of almighty justice, tempted too far and wearied of forbearance, imposed an awful interdict — "Pray not thou for this people," etc. How happy that no such solemn prohibition rests upon ourselves; but that we may pour forth our utmost fervour in supplicating for mercy upon those who are ready to perish! How unspeakable the happiness of reflecting, too, that we have an Advocate on high, whose plea can never be thus silenced. What was the particular nature of their idolatry at this season we know not, — or by what offerings they sought to propitiate and honour that mysterious divinity which they worshipped as "the queen of heaven"; but that it was a service accompanied with whatever was fitted to inflame the jealousy and provoke the retribution of the God of Israel, the tenor of this book and of their subsequent calamities suffers us not to question. But there is one reflection forced upon our minds by the mention of this subject, which is perpetually arising in the perusal of these sacred documents, — how inveterate and how wonderful is the depravity of the human intellect, as well as the corruption of the human heart! How great, too, is the compassion, of God! — how impressive and encouraging the illustration of His long-suffering! "He remembered that they were but dust," etc. This is the compassion and long-suffering which we are called every day to recognise, amidst provocations and unfaithfulness which would have wearied out all other grace but the grace of Omnipotence, and which no might could restrain itself from punishing but that which upholds the mountains and which grasps the thunderbolt. Its very power alone is our security. We cannot meditate upon these facts without one other suggestion, — how great is the necessity for continued zeal and diligence, on the part of good men, to counteract to the uttermost the evils, not only of their own hearts and conduct, but of those among whom they dwell The condition of men at large forces itself on our notice, as one of universal calamity and peril, — "Seest thou not what they do?" Let us suppose the spectator one from a distant region, an inhabitant of one of the remoter provinces of intellectual being, — acquainted with the character, and reposing with joyful confidence in the presiding power, of the Creator, — but unread in the history of man. He has heard of redemption, and is desirous to explore it; but he knows not yet the state of those for whom it was designed. And he is permitted this momentary inspection of the human system, that he may gather from it the elements of heavenly truth, and "the manifold wisdom of God." Alas! how perplexed and intricate would all appear! What number. less anomalies, difficulties, and causes of shame and wonder, would everywhere astonish and overwhelm him! For what end would such a system seem to have been constructed, or wherefore still upheld, or tending to what result, or interpretative of what purposes, or susceptible of resolution into its contradictory phenomena by what reconciling and all-commanding principles, or calculated to excite what other sentiment except the melancholy apostrophe, "Wherefore hast Thou made all men in vain!" Descending from the contemplation of the whole, he would consider each several particular with the intensity of interest which that stupendous but appalling spectacle had summoned into being. And first, he would probably be arrested with the secular condition of mankind, and their extreme differences in the nature and degrees of social happiness. The effect would be as painful as the scene was intricate. He would shrink and tremble, as if within the boundaries of chaos, or the empire of darkness and of blind misrule. He would next consider their religious state. And now, what would be the agitation of his feelings, or in what explanation of such strange appearances could he find or seek relief? Here, he would sicken at the sight of gross and grovelling idolatries; there, at the bewildering glare of cruel yet invincible delusions; and elsewhere, at the reveries and dreamy visions of a spurious philosophy, neutralising at once every claim of human duty, and every attribute of God. Nothing would seem to him so terrible as our exposure to the jealousy and wrath of our Creator; nor anything so unfathomable as the mystery of His compassion. Outraged, defied, forgotten; His being denied by some, His noblest characters mocked, falsified, contemned by others; His best gifts perverted to the vilest purposes, His gentle inflictions misinterpreted or impiously repelled, His forbearance converted into an argument to set aside His veracity, His glorious mad terrible name, eve where it is not unknown, employed only to add force to blasphemy, or emphasis to imprecation and falsehood: — what could the stranger anticipate but the kindling up of His fury, while its flame should burn unto the lowest hell! Thus prepared — how would he dart his eager eye toward the scenes of men's future and everlasting habitation! To what, he would ask himself, can all be hastening onwards? Where must this pilgrimage of sin and folly end? Conceive now of the surprise and the delight with which he would hear of the means provided for the restoration of men. That astonished spectator is no creation merely of the fancy. Many "a watcher," and many "a holy one," looks down upon the scene, and wonders. All that environs us is revealed, in a light of which we are strangely unconscious, to innumerable witnesses. We walk ourselves, at every step, beneath their gaze. And it is their judgment, not ours, respecting the dependencies and results of moral action, which shall be confirmed in the decisions of the last day.
(R. S. M'All, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
WEB: Don't you see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?