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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
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CHAPTER 2

Jer 2:1-37. Expostulation with the Jews, Reminding Them of Their Former Devotedness, and God's Consequent Favor, and a Denunciation of God's Coming Judgments for Their Idolatry.

Probably in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah (Jer 1:2; compare Jer 3:6, "also … in … days of Josiah"). The warning not to rely as they did on Egypt (Jer 2:18), was in accordance with Josiah's policy, who took part with Assyria and Babylon against Egypt (2Ki 23:29). Jeremiah, doubtless, supported the reformation begun by Josiah, in the previous year (the twelfth of his reign), and fully carried out in the eighteenth.

2. cry—proclaim.

Jerusalem—the headquarters and center of their idolatry; therefore addressed first.

thee—rather, "I remember in regard to thee" [Henderson]; "for thee" [Maurer].

kindness of thy youth—not so much Israel's kindness towards God, as the kindness which Israel experienced from God in their early history (compare Eze 16:8, 22, 60; 23:3, 8, 19; Ho 2:15). For Israel from the first showed perversity rather than kindness towards God (compare Ex 14:11, 12; 15:24; 32:1-7, &c.). The greater were God's favors to them from the first, the fouler was their ingratitude in forsaking Him (Jer 2:3, 5, &c.).

espousals—the intervals between Israel's betrothal to God at the exodus from Egypt, and the formal execution of the marriage contract at Sinai. Ewald takes the "kindness" and "love" to be Israel's towards God at first (Ex 19:8; 24:3; 35:20-29; 36:5; Jos 24:16-17). But compare De 32:16, 17; Eze 16:5, 6, 15, 22 ("days of thy youth") implies that the love here meant was on God's side, not Israel's.

thou wentest after me in … wilderness—the next act of God's love, His leading them in the desert without needing any strange god, such as they since worshipped, to help Him (De 2:7; 32:12). Jer 2:6 shows it is God's "leading" of them, not their following after God in the wilderness, which is implied.

3. holiness unto the Lord—that is, was consecrated to the service of Jehovah (Ex 19:5, 6). They thus answered to the motto on their high priest's breastplate, "Holiness to the Lord" (De 7:6; 14:2, 21).

first-fruits of his increase—that is, of Jehovah's produce. As the first-fruits of the whole produce of the land were devoted to God (Ex 23:19; Nu 18:12, 13), so Israel was devoted to Him as the first-fruit and representative nation among all nations. So the spiritual Israel (Jas 1:18; Re 14:4).

devour—carrying on the image of first-fruits which were eaten before the Lord by the priests as the Lord's representatives; all who ate (injured) Jehovah's first-fruits (Israel), contracted guilt: for example, Amalek, the Amorites, &c., were extirpated for their guilt towards Israel.

shall come—rather, "came."

4. Jacob … Israel—the whole nation.

families—(See on Jer 1:15). Hear God's word not only collectively, but individually (Zec 12:12-14).

5. iniquitywrong done to them (Isa 5:4; Mic 6:3; compare De 32:4).

walked after vanity—contrasted with "walkest after me in the wilderness" (Jer 2:2): then I was their guide in the barren desert; now they take idols as their guides.

vanity … vain—An idol is not only vain (impotent and empty), but vanity itself. Its worshippers acquire its character, becoming vain as it is (De 7:26; Ps 115:8). A people's character never rises above that of its gods, which are its "better nature" [Bacon] (2Ki 17:15; Jon 2:8).

6. Neither said they, Where, &c.—The very words which God uses (Isa 63:9, 11, 13), when, as it were, reminding Himself of His former acts of love to Israel as a ground for interposing in their behalf again. When they would not say, Where is Jehovah, &c., God Himself at last said it for them (compare see on Jer 2:2).

deserts … pits—The desert between Mount Sinai and Palestine abounds in chasms and pits, in which beasts of burden often sink down to the knees. "Shadow of death" refers to the darkness of the caverns amidst the rocky precipices (De 8:15; 32:10).

7. plentiful—literally, "a land of Carmel," or "well-cultivated land": a garden land, in contrast to the "land of deserts" (Jer 2:6).

defiled—by idolatries (Jud 2:10-17; Ps 78:58, 59; 106:38).

you … ye—change to the second person from the third, "they" (Jer 2:6), in order to bring home the guilt to the living generation.

8. The three leading classes, whose very office under the theocracy was to lead the people to God, disowned Him in the same language as the nation at large, "Where is the Lord?" (See Jer 2:6).

priests—whose office it was to expound the law (Mal 2:6, 7).

handle—are occupied with the law as the subject of their profession.

pastors—civil, not religious: princes (Jer 3:15), whose duty it was to tend their people.

prophets—who should have reclaimed the people from their apostasy, encouraged them in it by pretended oracles from Baal, the Phœnician false god.

by Baal—in his name and by his authority (compare Jer 11:21).

walked after things … not profit—answering to, "walked after vanity," that is, idols (Jer 2:5; compare Jer 2:11; Hab 2:18).

9. yet plead—namely, by inflicting still further judgments on you.

children's children—Three manuscripts and Jerome omit "children's"; they seem to have thought it unsuitable to read "children's children," when "children" had not preceded. But it is designedly so written, to intimate that the final judgment on the nation would be suspended for many generations [Horsley]. (Compare Eze 20:35, 36; Mic 6:2).

10. pass over the isles—rather, "cross over to the isles."

Chittim … Kedar—that is, the heathen nations, west and east. Go where you will, you cannot find an instance of any heathen nation forsaking their own for other gods. Israel alone does this. Yet the heathen gods are false gods; whereas Israel, in forsaking Me for other gods, forsake their "glory" for unprofitable idols.

Chittim—Cyprus, colonized by Phœnicians, who built in it the city of Citium, the modern Chitti. Then the term came to be applied to all maritime coasts of the Mediterranean, especially Greece (Nu 24:24; Isa 23:1; Da 11:30).

Kedar—descended from Ishmael; the Bedouins and Arabs, east of Palestine.

11. glory—Jehovah, the glory of Israel (Ps 106:20; Ro 1:23). The Shekinah, or cloud resting on the sanctuary, was the symbol of "the glory of the Lord" (1Ki 8:11; compare Ro 9:4). The golden calf was intended as an image of the true God (compare Ex 32:4, 5), yet it is called an "idol" (Ac 7:41). It (like Roman Catholic images) was a violation of the second commandment, as the heathen multiplying of gods is a violation of the first.

not profit—(Jer 2:8).

12. Impassioned personification (Isa 1:2).

horribly afraid—rather, be horrified."

be … very desolate—rather, "be exceedingly aghast" at the monstrous spectacle. Literally, "to be dried up," or "devastated," (places devastated have such an unsightly look) [Maurer].

13. two evils—not merely one evil, like the idolaters who know no better; besides simple idolatry, My people add the sin of forsaking the true God whom they have known; the heathen, though having the sin of idolatry, are free from the further sin of changing the true God for idols (Jer 2:11).

forsaken me—The Hebrew collocation brings out the only living God into more prominent contrast with idol nonentities. "Me they have forsaken, the Fountain," &c. (Jer 17:13; Ps 36:9; Joh 4:14).

broken cisterns—tanks for rain water, common in the East, where wells are scarce. The tanks not only cannot give forth an ever-flowing fresh supply as fountains can, but cannot even retain the water poured into them; the stonework within being broken, the earth drinks up the collected water. So, in general, all earthly, compared with heavenly, means of satisfying man's highest wants (Isa 55:1, 2; compare Lu 12:33).

14. is he a homeborn slave—No. "Israel is Jehovah's son, even His first-born" (Ex 4:22). Jer 2:16, 18, 36, and the absence of any express contrast of the two parts of the nation are against Eichorn's view, that the prophet proposes to Judah, as yet spared, the case of Israel (the ten tribes) which had been carried away by Assyria as a warning of what they might expect if they should still put their trust in Egypt. "Were Israel's ten tribes of meaner birth than Judah? Certainly not. If, then, the former fell before Assyria, what can Judah hope from Egypt against Assyria? … Israel" is rather here the whole of the remnant still left in their own land, that is, Judah. "How comes it to pass that the nation which once was under God's special protection (Jer 2:3) is now left at the mercy of the foe as a worthless slave?" The prophet sees this event as if present, though it was still future to Judah (Jer 2:19).

15. lions—the Babylonian princes (Jer 4:7; compare Am 3:4). The disaster from the Babylonians in the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign, and again three years later when, relying on Egypt, he revolted from Nebuchadnezzar, is here referred to (Jer 46:2; 2Ki 24:1, 2).

16. Noph … TahapanesMemphis, capital of Lower Egypt, on the west bank of the Nile, near the pyramids of Gizeh, opposite the site of modern Cairo. Daphne, on the Tanitic branch of the Nile, near Pelusium, on the frontier of Egypt towards Palestine. Isa 30:4 contracts it, Hanes. These two cities, one the capital, the other that with which the Jews came most in contact, stand for the whole of Egypt. Tahapanes takes its name from a goddess, Tphnet [Champollion]. Memphis is from Man-nofri, "the abode of good men"; written in Hebrew, Moph (Ho 9:6), or Noph. The reference is to the coming invasion of Judah by Pharaoh-necho of Egypt, on his return from the Euphrates, when he deposed Jehoahaz and levied a heavy tribute on the land (2Ki 23:33-35). Josiah's death in battle with the same Pharaoh is probably included (2Ki 23:29, 30).

have broken—rather, shall feed down the crown, &c., that is, affect with the greatest ignominy, such as baldness was regarded in the East (Jer 48:37; 2Ki 2:23). Instead of "also," translate, "even" the Egyptians, in whom thou dost trust, shall miserably disappoint thy expectation [Maurer]. Jehoiakim was twice leagued with them (2Ki 23:34, 35): when he received the crown from them, and when he revolted from Nebuchadnezzar (2Ki 24:1, 2, 7). The Chaldeans, having become masters of Asia, threatened Egypt. Judea, situated between the contending powers, was thus exposed to the inroads of the one or other of the hostile armies; and unfortunately, except in Josiah's reign, took side with Egypt, contrary to God's warnings.

17. Literally, "Has not thy forsaking the Lord … procured this (calamity) to thee?" So the Septuagint: the Masoretic accents make "this" the subject of the verb, leaving the object to be understood. "Has not this procured (it, that is, the impending calamity) unto thee, that hast forsaken?" &c. (Jer 4:18).

led—(De 32:10).

the way—The article expresses the right way, the way of the Lord: namely, the moral training which they enjoyed in the Mosaic covenant.

18. now—used in a reasoning sense, not of time.

the way of Egypt—What hast thou to do with the way, that is, with going down to Egypt; or what … with going to Assyria?

drink … waters—that is, to seek reinvigorating aid from them; so Jer 2:13, 36; compare "waters," meaning numerous forces (Isa 8:7).

Sihor—that is, the black river, in Greek, Melas ("black"), the Nile: so called from the black deposit or soil it leaves after the inundation (Isa 23:3). The Septuagint identifies it with Gihon, one of the rivers of Paradise.

the riverEuphrates, called by pre-eminence, the river; figurative for the Assyrian power. In 625 B.C., the seventeenth year of Josiah, and the fourth of Jeremiah's office, the kingdom of Assyria fell before Babylon, therefore Assyria is here put for Babylon its successor: so in 2Ki 23:29; La 5:6. There was doubtless a league between Judea and Assyria (that is, Babylon), which caused Josiah to march against Pharaoh-necho of Egypt when that king went against Babylon: the evil consequences of this league are foretold in this verse and Jer 2:36.

19. correct … reprove—rather, in the severer sense, "chastise … punish" [Maurer].

backslidings—"apostasies"; plural, to express the number and variety of their defections. The very confederacies they entered into were the occasion of their overthrow (Pr 1:31; Isa 3:9; Ho 5:5).

know … seeimperative for futures: Thou shalt know and see to thy cost.

my fear—rather, "the fear of Me."

20. I—the Hebrew should be pointed as the second person feminine, a form common in Jeremiah: "Thou hast broken," &c. So the Septuagint, and the sense requires it.

thy yoke … bands—the yoke and bands which I laid on thee, My laws (Jer 5:5).

transgress—so the Keri, and many manuscripts read. But the Septuagint and most authorities read, "I will not serve," that is, obey. The sense of English Version is, "I broke thy yoke (in Egypt)," &c., "and (at that time) thou saidst, I will not transgress; whereas thou hast (since then) wandered (from Me)" (Ex 19:8).

hill … green tree—the scene of idolatries (De 12:2; Isa 57:5, 7).

wanderest—rather, "thou hast bowed down thyself" (for the act of adultery: figurative of shameless idolatry, Ex 34:15, 16; compare Job 31:10).

21. The same image as in De 32:32; Ps 80:8, 9; Isa 5:1, &c.

unto me—with respect to Me.

22. nitre—not what is now so called, namely, saltpeter; but the natron of Egypt, a mineral alkali, an incrustation at the bottom of the lakes, after the summer heat has evaporated the water: used for washing (compare Job 9:30; Pr 25:20).

soap—potash, the carbonate of which is obtained impure from burning different plants, especially the kali of Egypt and Arabia. Mixed with oil it was used for washing.

marked—deeply ingrained, indelibly marked; the Hebrew, catham, being equivalent to cathab. Others translate, "is treasured up," from the Arabic. Maurer from a Syriac root, "is polluted."

23. (Pr 30:12).

Baalim—plural, to express manifold excellency: compare Elohim.

see—consider.

the valley—namely, of Hinnom, or Tophet, south and east of Jerusalem: rendered infamous by the human sacrifices to Moloch in it (compare Jer 19:2, 6, 13, 14; 32:35; see on Isa 30:33).

thou art—omit. The substantive that follows in this verse (and also that in Jer 2:24) is in apposition with the preceding "thou."

dromedary—rather, a "young she-camel."

traversing—literally, "enfolding"; making its ways complicated by wandering hither and thither, lusting after the male. Compare as to the Jews' spiritual lust, Ho 2:6, 7.

24. (Jer 14:6; Job 39:5). "A wild ass," agreeing with "thou" (Jer 2:23).

at her pleasure—rather, "in her ardor," namely, in pursuit of a male, sniffing the wind to ascertain where one is to be found [Maurer].

occasion—either from a Hebrew root, "to meet"; "her meeting (with the male for sexual intercourse), who can avert it?" Or better from an Arabic root: "her heat (sexual impulse), who can allay it?" [Maurer].

all they—whichever of the males desire her company [Horsley].

will not weary themselves—have no need to weary themselves in searching for her.

her month—in the season of the year when her sexual impulse is strongest, she puts herself in the way of the males, so that they have no difficulty in finding her.

25. Withhold, &c.—that is, abstain from incontinence; figuratively for idolatry [Houbigant].

unshod, &c.—do not run so violently in pursuing lovers, as to wear out thy shoes: do not "thirst" so incontinently after sexual intercourse. Hitzig thinks the reference is to penances performed barefoot to idols, and the thirst occasioned by loud and continued invocations to them.

no hope—(Jer 18:12; Isa 57:10). "It is hopeless," that is, I am desperately resolved to go on in my own course.

strangers—that is, laying aside the metaphor, "strange gods" (Jer 3:13; De 32:16).

26. is ashamed—is put to shame.

thief—(Joh 10:1).

Israel—that is, Judah (Jer 2:28).

27. Thou art my father—(Contrast Jer 3:4; Isa 64:8).

in … trouble they will say—namely, to God (Ps 78:34; Isa 26:16). Trouble often brings men to their senses (Lu 15:16-18).

28. But—God sends them to the gods for whom they forsook Him, to see if they can help them (De 32:37, 38; Jud 10:14).

according to the number of thy cities—Besides national deities, each city had its tutelary god (Jer 11:13).

29. plead with me—that is, contend with Me for afflicting you (Jer 2:23, 35).

30. (Jer 5:3; 6:29; Isa 1:5; 9:13).

your children—that is, your people, you.

your … sword … devoured … prophets—(2Ch 36:16; Ne 9:26; Mt 23:29, 31).

31. The Hebrew collocation is, "O, the generation, ye," that is, "O ye who now live." The generation needed only to be named, to call its degeneracy to view, so palpable was it.

wilderness—in which all the necessaries of life are wanting. On the contrary, Jehovah was a never-failing source of supply for all Israel's wants in the wilderness, and afterwards in Canaan.

darkness—literally, "darkness of Jehovah," the strongest Hebrew term for "darkness; the densest darkness"; compare "land of the shadow of death" (Jer 2:6).

We are lords—that is, We are our own masters. We will worship what gods we like (Ps 12:4; 82:6). But it is better to translate from a different Hebrew root: "We ramble at large," without restraint pursuing our idolatrous lusts.

32. Oriental women greatly pride themselves on their ornaments (compare Isa 61:10).

attire—girdles for the breast.

forgotten me—(Jer 13:25; Ho 8:14).

33. Why trimmestMaurer translates, "How skilfully thou dost prepare thy way," &c. But see 2Ki 9:30. "Trimmest" best suits the image of one decking herself as a harlot.

way—course of life.

therefore—accordingly. Or else, "nay, thou hast even," &c.

also … wicked oneseven the wicked harlots, that is, (laying aside the metaphor) even the Gentiles who are wicked, thou teachest to be still more so [Grotius].

34. Also—not only art thou polluted with idolatry, but also with the guilt of shedding innocent blood [Maurer]. Rosenmuller not so well translates, "even in thy skirts," &c.; that is, there is no part of thee (not even thy skirts) that is not stained with innocent blood (Jer 19:4; 2Ki 21:16; Ps 106:38). See as to innocent blood shed, not as here in honor of idols, but of prophets for having reproved them (Jer 2:30; Jer 26:20-23).

souls—that is, persons.

search—I did not need to "search deep" to find proof of thy guilt; for it was "upon all these" thy skirts. Not in deep caverns didst thou perpetrate these atrocities, but openly in the vale of Hinnom and within the precincts of the temple.

35. (Jer 2:23, 29).

36. gaddest—runnest to and fro, now seeking help from Assyria (2Ch 28:16-21), now from Egypt (Jer 37:7, 8; Isa 30:3).

37. him—Egypt.

hands upon … head—expressive of mourning (2Sa 13:19).

in them—in those stays in which thou trustest.

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