Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chs. Jeremiah 11:1 to Jeremiah 12:6. Exhortation to observe the Deuteronomic Law. Warning of coming judgements in general and on Anathoth in particular
On the date of the earlier (Jeremiah 11:1-8) and later part (Jeremiah 11:18 to Jeremiah 12:6) of the section two views are held, (i) that it belongs to Jehoiakim’s reign, and may best be placed between the address in the Temple courts (chs. Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 9:22, Jeremiah 10:17-25) and the battle at Carchemish (b.c. 605), and (ii) that it was delivered soon after the discovery of the book generally held to be some part of our Deuteronomy, and thus in immediate connexion with Josiah’s reforms (b.c. 621). In favour of (i) it is argued (a) that it is not certain that the reference here is to the newly discovered law book, (b) that Josiah’s drastic measures of reform rendered such advocacy needless, (c) that Jeremiah was at the earlier date too young to have become a conspicuous mark for unpopularity, (d) that there are other indications in his prophecies that he had realised the superficial character of the reforming legislation, and thus would not feel much enthusiasm on its behalf. In favour of (ii) the following points may be noticed, (a) Apart from the sacrificial or priestly element, with which (see Jeremiah 7:22, Jeremiah 8:8) he might be in but slight sympathy, the main positions of the Deuteronomic Law, its insistence on monotheism and the love of God, its abhorrence of idolatry and of heathen abominations were precisely the matters on which he most earnestly insisted. (b) The earlier date supplies an explanation of his kinsmen’s antagonism. Anathoth was the seat of priestly families descended from Abiathar, who had been dismissed from the Jerusalem priesthood in Solomon’s time (1 Kings 2:27). These would naturally be filled with bitter indignation against one of their kin supporting reforms which, by the abolition of country sites of sacrificial worship, conferred a monopoly upon the rival descendants of Zadok concentrated in the neighbouring capital. (c) The secrecy of the plots against Jeremiah rather implies a time when he had not yet become generally unpopular, and so fits in with the reign of Josiah. The balance of probability seems to incline to the former view. See further in introd. note on Jeremiah 11:18-23.
The section may be subdivided as follows.
(i) Jeremiah 11:1-5. Jeremiah is bidden to insist on the covenant made at the Exodus, on the observance of which the possession of Canaan was conditional; and the prophet solemnly assents. (ii) Jeremiah 11:6-8. He is sent on a mission through the streets of Jerusalem and cities of Judah generally, solemnly to remind the people of God’s demand for obedience, of their past neglect of His words, and of the penalties which ensued. (iii) 9–14. Israel, like their forefathers, have again fallen away from Jehovah and conspired to violate the covenant by their idolatrous ways; therefore Jehovah will refuse to heed their cry for deliverance from just punishment from which their gods are powerless to save them. Their idolatries are so widespread and shameless that the prophet’s intercessions would be in vain. (iv) Jeremiah 11:15-17. What business in the Temple have the unholy in life? Do they suppose that hypocritical service will atone for immorality? Israel is as an olive tree, once fair, but now blasted by the storm. (v) Jeremiah 11:18-23. The prophet complains that, while he was innocent and unsuspecting, his kinsmen at Anathoth were secretly plotting his death. When they disclose their designs by threats, he is empowered to declare that death by sword and famine shall befall them. (vi) ch. 12, Jeremiah 11:1-6. Jeremiah’s appeal for a solution of the problem how it is that the wicked and treacherous live secure and prosper. He, as Jehovah knows, is innocent in heart. May destruction overtake the ungodly! Their sins have brought desolation on the land, and they boast that they will outlive the prophet, and so falsify his forecast. The Lord, replying in figurative language, asks how, if he is impatient at what he has hitherto had to undergo, he will endure the hostility of his own family. Let him not trust fair words.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
And say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant,3. Cursed be the man that heareth not] Cp. Deuteronomy 27:15-26, especially the last v.
the words of this covenant] Cp. for the expression Deuteronomy 29:1; Deuteronomy 29:9.
Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God:4. in the day, etc.] Cp. Jeremiah 7:23.
the iron furnace] The place where iron is smelted represents figuratively the scene of the affliction. See for the expression Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51; and cp. Isaiah 48:10.
and do them] probably introduced by mistake from Jeremiah 11:6.
That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. Then answered I, and said, So be it, O LORD.5. your fathers] Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as ancestors of those who entered upon the enjoyment of the land.
flowing with milk and honey] For the expression cp. Jeremiah 32:22; Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17, and elsewhere.
Then the LORD said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them.6–8. See summary at commencement of section. Gi. omits these three vv. But Jeremiah 11:6 is needed, in order to account for the hostility roused at Anathoth by Jeremiah’s mission. Jeremiah 11:7-8 on the other hand are omitted by LXX, and may well have been inserted here from the parallel passage, Jeremiah 7:23 f.
For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day that I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice.7. rising early] Cp. ch. Jeremiah 7:13.
Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not.8. stubbornness] Cp. ch. Jeremiah 3:17.
And the LORD said unto me, A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.9. They have silently agreed to apostatize.
9–14. See summary at commencement of section.
9–17. Judah has fallen back into apostasy. It is now clear that Josiah’s reforms have had no lasting results. The passage may therefore be placed in Jehoiakim’s reign.
They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.10. The Northern kingdom’s apostasy and consequent punishment were already of long standing. Now Judah has followed their example in faithlessness to Jehovah, and has “turned back” after an interval of well doing under Josiah’s reforms.
Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.11–13. Gi. from considerations of style makes these vv. the work of a later hand. The last two vv. much resemble ch. Jeremiah 2:27 f.
Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods unto whom they offer incense: but they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble.
For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal.
Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble.14. Therefore pray not thou] Cp. ch. Jeremiah 7:16.
What hath my beloved to do in mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh is passed from thee? when thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest.15. The MT. is not really intelligible. It can be approximately corrected from LXX (as in the mg.). Gi. (so Du. and Erbt), quotes Irenaeus (IV. 32), who has adipes, fat pieces, a rendering which can be obtained by a fairly easy change in the consonants of the word in MT. The Hebrew noun which he thus adopts is used several times (e.g. Leviticus 8:26) of the fat of sacrifices. The weak part of the LXX reading lies in the last clause, where, although the sense given by them is better, the rendering involves considerable change in the Hebrew.
my beloved] Judah; so ch. Jeremiah 12:7.
15–17. See summary at commencement of section.
The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.16. Here also there are probably corruptions in MT., but R.V. gives the general sense.
called thy name] acknowledged thee to be worthy of comparison with.
green] spreading, luxuriant. The Hebrew word does not in itself denote colour. For the figure cp. Psalm 52:8; Hosea 14:6.
tumult] lit. roaring, i.e. of the tempest.
For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.17. Considered by Co., Du. and others, owing to its style, to be due to a later hand.
And the LORD hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou shewedst me their doings.18–23. See summary at commencement of section, and for the date of Jeremiah 11:18 to Jeremiah 12:6 see introd. notes on the section. The abruptness with which the mention of the plots against Jeremiah is here introduced suggests either that some introductory words have fallen out, or, better (with Co.), that we should transpose these vv. with Jeremiah 12:1-6. In this way “it” and “their” of Jeremiah 11:18 will be explained by Jeremiah 12:6, and the Lord’s warning in the latter v. will fit in with Jeremiah 11:18.
But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.19. The prophet no more expected harm from his kindred than does the pet lamb from the family with which it lives (cp. 2 Samuel 12:3).
gentle] A.V. “an ox” represents the Hebrew word identical in form indeed with one so rendered in Psalm 144:14 (where, however, the sense is dubious), but here the meaning is familiar, domesticated (cp. the rendering “companion” in Psalm 55:13). It is rendered “friends” in Jeremiah 13:21.
fruit] mg. Heb. bread. So the LXX read, but it is tempting to omit (with Hitzig, and Dr.) one Hebrew consonant, and so obtain the much needed improvement “sap.” Thus we shall get the meaning to be, not the words which came from Jeremiah, as fruit from a tree, but his vigorous youth.
But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.20. that triest the reins and the heart] The reins (kidneys) were held to be the seat of the feelings, the heart that of the understanding. Cp. Jeremiah 5:21. Du. points out that here first in the Bible it is clearly set forth that Jehovah is cognisant of men’s thoughts. Cp. chs. Jeremiah 17:10 and Jeremiah 20:12.
unto thee have I revealed] upon thee have I rolled is the rendering proposed by some. That of the E.VV. however keeps closer to the original.
Therefore thus saith the LORD of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the LORD, that thou die not by our hand:
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will punish them: the young men shall die by the sword; their sons and their daughters shall die by famine:22. punish] lit. as mg. visit upon.
And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.23. even the year] or, as mg. in the year.