Jeremiah 15:19
Therefore thus said the LORD, If you return, then will I bring you again, and you shall stand before me: and if you take forth the precious from the vile, you shall be as my mouth: let them return to you; but return not you to them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) Therefore thus saith the Lord . . .—The Divine voice within makes answer to the passionate complaint. The prophet also needs, not less than the people, to “return” to his true mind, to repent of his murmurings and distrust. Upon that condition only can he again “stand before” the Lord in the full sense of that word, and minister to Him as a prophet-priest (comp. 1Kings 17:1; 1Kings 18:15; 2Kings 3:14). He has to distinguish between “the precious and the vile,” between the gold and the dross, between a righteous zeal and the despondent bitterness which is its spurious counterfeit, not in the people only to whom he speaks but in himself. Above all he must beware of being tempted by his sense of failure, to return to the people in the temper of one who tunes his voice according to the time. Rather must they “return” to him and rise to his level, both “returning” to Jehovah.

Jeremiah 15:19-21. Therefore thus saith the Lord — In these verses we have God’s gracious answer to the preceding expostulation. Though the prophet betrayed much human frailty in his address, yet God vouchsafed to answer him with good and comfortable words, for he knows our frame. If thou return — Namely, from thy diffidence and distrust in my providence and promises; then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me — I will restore thee to the former favour thou hadst with me, and thou shalt be my prophet, to reveal my mind to the people. And if thou take the precious from the vile — If thou separate the precious truths of God from the vile fancies of men; or rather, if thou preach so as to distinguish good and bad men from each other, encouraging the good, and reproving the wicked, then I will continue thee as my prophet, to speak in my name; and thou wilt answer the character of a true prophet, whose office it is to utter the words that God puts into his mouth, without adding thereto, or diminishing from them. Let them return unto thee, &c. — He here charges the prophet to keep his ground, and not to go over to wicked men, but to use his endeavour to reduce them to that obedience which he yielded to God. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced wall — Which the storm batters and beats violently upon, but cannot shake; and they shall fight against thee — They will still continue their opposition; but they shall not prevail — Namely, to drive thee from off thy work, or to cut thee off from the land of the living. For I am with thee to save thee — And I have wisdom and power enough to deal with the most formidable enemy. I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked — The wicked Jews; and out of the hand of the terrible — The power of the terrible Chaldeans, into whose hands thou shalt come, but shalt be preserved from any harm by the workings of my providence in thy favour. 15:15-21 It is matter of comfort that we have a God, to whose knowledge of all things we may appeal. Jeremiah pleads with God for mercy and relief against his enemies, persecutors, and slanderers. It will be a comfort to God's ministers, when men despise them, if they have the testimony of their own consciences. But he complains, that he found little pleasure in his work. Some good people lose much of the pleasantness of religion by the fretfulness and uneasiness of their natural temper, which they indulge. The Lord called the prophet to cease from his distrust, and to return to his work. If he attended thereto, he might be assured the Lord would deliver him from his enemies. Those who are with God, and faithful to him, he will deliver from trouble or carry through it. Many things appear frightful, which do not at all hurt a real believer in Christ.Jeremiah had questioned God's righteousness (see Jeremiah 12:1 note); he is told, "If thou return," if thou repent thee of thy doubts, and think only of thy duty, "then will I bring thee again, then will I cause thee again to stand before Me." To stand before a person means to be his chief officer or vicegerent. It implies therefore the restoration of Jeremiah to the prophetic office.

If thou take forth the precious from the vile - i. e., if thou cause the precious metal to come forth from the dross. Jeremiah was to separate in himself what was divine and holy from the dross of human passion. Let him abandon this mistrust, this sensitiveness, this idea that God did not deal righteously with him, and then "he shall be as God's mouth, i. e., as the organ by which God speaks.

Let them return ... - Rather, "they shall return unto thee, but thou shalt not return unto them." A flattering prophet perishes with the people whom his soft speeches have confirmed in their sin: but the truthful speaking of God's word saves both.

19. God's reply to Jeremiah.

return … bring … again—Jeremiah, by his impatient language, had left his proper posture towards God; God saith, "If thou wilt return (to thy former patient discharge of thy prophetic function) I will bring thee back" to thy former position: in the Hebrew there is a play of words, "return … turn again" (Jer 8:4; 4:1).

stand before me—minister acceptably to Me (De 10:8; 1Ki 17:1; 18:15).

take … precious from … vile—image from metals: "If thou wilt separate what is precious in thee (the divine graces imparted) from what is vile (thy natural corruptions, impatience, and hasty words), thou shall be as My mouth": my mouthpiece (Ex 4:16).

return not thou unto them—Let not them lead you into their profane ways (as Jeremiah had spoken irreverently, Jer 15:18), but lead thou them to the ways of godliness (Jer 15:16, 17). Eze 22:26 accords with the other interpretation, which, however, does not so well suit the context, "If thou wilt separate from the promiscuous mass the better ones, and lead them to conversion by faithful warnings," &c.

If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: at the first reading of these words, one would take them to be a promise of God to restore this people to their former state, if they would reform; but upon a more wise and diligent consideration of what follows, both in this and in the following verse, they seem rather God’s words unto the prophet, rebuking his diffidence and distrust in God, and promising him, that if he did return from that his diffidence and distrust in God’s promise and providence, he would restore him to the former favour he had had with him, and he should be his prophet to reveal his mind to the people. And if he would separate the precious truths of God from the vile conceits of men, or rather preach so as to distinguish good and bad men one from another, then God would continue him as his prophet, to speak in his name unto the people.

Let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them: he chargeth the prophet to keep his ground, and not to go over unto wicked men, but to use his endeavour to reduce them to that obedience which he yielded to him. Therefore thus saith the Lord, if thou return,.... From thine unbelief, diffidence, and impenitence, and repent of them; expressed in the preceding verses:

then will I bring thee again; or, "restore thee (s)"; pardon his sin, and return him to his post and place, to his office and ministry in it, and confirm and establish him therein:

and thou shalt stand before me; not only as a petitioner for the people; see Jeremiah 15:1, but as a servant of the Lord, attending to his word, and waiting his orders, and ready to execute them. It denotes his stability in his office:

and if thou wilt take forth the precious from the vile; take precious truths, comparable to gold, silver, and precious stones; truths more valuable and desirable than thousands of gold and silver, from those doctrines which are worthless and contemptible, comparable to wood, hay, and stubble, and everything that is mean and vile; these faithful ministers should separate one from the other, and not mix and blend them together: or precious souls, truly gracious ones, who are precious in the sight of God, are redeemed by Christ, by his precious blood, and are adorned with the graces of the Spirit; these are to be distinguished from the vile, from sinners impenitent and unbelieving, that live in sin, in defiance of the law, and in contempt of the Gospel; a difference is to be made between them; delivering out comfortable words to the one, and denouncing severe threatenings to the other; doing the reverse of the false prophets, Ezekiel 13:22,

thou shalt be as my mouth; to the people; speak what I command thee, and whatsoever thou sayest shall be as if I had spoken it myself:

let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them; this is said of the people of the Jews, to whom the prophet was sent; and the sense is, that he should not at all comply with them, or conform to their humours, or flatter and sooth them in their sins, as the false prophets did; but if they returned to him, attended on his ministry, received his words and messages, and agreed and conformed to him, and followed his directions and example, it would be very well; but otherwise he was not in the least to give way to them, or go into any sinful compliance with them, either with respect to doctrine or practice,

(s) "restituam te", Tigurine version.

Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou shalt {s} return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou shalt separate the {t} precious from the vile, thou shalt be {u} as my mouth: let them return {x} to thee; but return not thou to them.

(s) If you forget these carnal considerations and faithfully execute your charge.

(t) That is, seek to win the good from the bad.

(u) That is, as my mouth has pronounced, Jer 1:18 and as here follows in Jer 15:20.

(x) Do not conform yourself to their wickedness, but let them follow your godly example.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
19. If thou return] If thou wilt dismiss thy doubts and thy tone of reproach and distrust, which is virtually apostasy from Me.

mayest stand before me] mayest be My minister. The phrase is a common one in this sense, e.g. 1 Kings 18:15; 2 Kings 3:14 : cp. Proverbs 22:29. But see also on Jeremiah 15:1.

if thou take forth the precious from the vile] i.e. if that which comes forth from thy lips (cp. the expression in Jeremiah 17:16) be choice, and wholly separate from the common. “Vile” is a misleading translation. It should be common, i.e. of no account.

my mouth] My mouth-piece, spokesman. Cp. Exodus 4:16.

they shall, etc.] Du. rejects this last part of the v., as an unsuitable play on the word “return” at the beginning of the v., as well as because the despisers of Jehovah’s words had no intention of returning to the prophet.

19–21. See summary at commencement of section.Verse 19. - If thou return, etc. Most commentators regard these words as containing a gentle rebuke to Jeremiah for his doubts respecting God's care of him. It may be questioned, however, whether such passing doubts could be described as a turning away from Jehovah. If the word "return" is to be interpreted in a spiritual sense, we must surely conclude that the people is addressed (comp. Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 4:1). But this does not agree with the context. Hence Gratz's view seems very plausible, that the reference is to the proposal that Jeremiah should place himself under the protection of Gedaliah (comp. Jeremiah 40:5, "Go back also to Gedaliah," etc.). Then will I bring thee again; viz. into the right relation to me, so as to be my minister (Keil). But by altering one of the vowel-points (which form no part of the text), on the authority of the Septuagint, we get a more satisfactory sense, I will give thee a settled place. The verb must in any case be coupled with the following one. Jeremiah longs for a quiet home, only as supplying the conditions of prophetic activity. Thou shalt stand before me. The phrase is taken from the wont of slaves to stand in their masters' presence, waiting for commands. It is also applied to courtiers (Proverbs 22:29) and royal councilors (1 Kings 12:6), to angels (Luke 1:19) and to prophets (1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 3:14). Jeremiah was by God's will to find a new and important mission to the Jews with Gedaliah. If thou take forth the precious from the vile, etc. The metaphor is derived from metallurgy (comp. Jeremiah 6:27-30). The prophet is compared to a smelter. By the fervor of his inspired exhortations, he seeks to draw away from the mass of unbelievers all those who are spiritually capable of better things. The "vine-dressers and husbandmen," whom Nebuzar-adan had left after the capture of Jerusalem, though outwardly "the poor of the laud," might yet be ennobled by the word and example of Jeremiah. [Some explain "the precious" and "the vile" differently, taking the former to be the pure Word of God (comp. Psalm 12:6; Proverbs 30:5), the latter the base, human elements which are apt to be mixed with the Divine message (comp. Jeremiah 23:28). But was it not the very fidelity of Jeremiah which exposed him to the persecutions of which he has been complaining? Others suppose an inward purification of Jeremiah himself to be intended, "the vile" being those human infirmities of which he had just given evidence, as opposed to "the precious," i.e. the spiritual impulses which come from above. But is not such an explanation too evangelical, too Pauline, for this context?] Thou shalt be as my mouth. For devoting himself to this possible "mustard seed" of a better and holier people, the prophet should be rewarded

(1) by close prophetic intercourse with his God, and

(2), as the next clause states, by a moral victory over his opponents. "Mouth" for "prophet," as Exodus 4:16 (comp. Exodus 7:1). Let them return unto thee, etc.; rather, they shall return unto thee, but thou shalt not return unto them. They shall come over to thy side, and thou shalt not need to make humiliating advances to them. With this Jeremiah 15:13 and Jeremiah 15:14 are thus connected: This time of evil and tribulation (Jeremiah 15:10) will not last long. Their enemies will carry off the people's substance and treasures as their booty into a strange land. These verses are to be taken, with Umbr., as a declaration from the mouth of the Lord to His guilt-burdened people. This appears from the contents of the verses. The immediate transition from the address to the prophet to that to the people is to be explained by the fact, that both the prophet's complaint, Jeremiah 15:10, and God's answer, Jeremiah 15:11-13, have a full bearing on the people; the prophet's complaint at the attacks on the part of the people serving to force them to a sense of their obstinacy against the Lord, and God's answer to the complaint, that the prophet's announcement will come true, and that he will then be justified, serving to crush their sullen doggedness. The connection of thought in Jeremiah 15:13 and Jeremiah 15:14 is thus: The people that so assaults thee, by reason of thy threatening judgment, will not break the iron might of the Chaldeans, but will by them be overwhelmed. It will come about as thou hast declared to them in my name; their substance and their treasures will I give as booty to the Chaldeans. לא equals בּלא מחיר, Isaiah 55:1, not for purchase-money, i.e., freely. As God sells His people for nought, i.e., gives them up to their enemies (cf. Isaiah 52:3; Psalm 44:13), so here He threatens to deliver up their treasures to the enemy as a booty, and for nought. When Graf says that this last thought has no sufficient meaning, his reasons therefor do not appear. Nor is there anything "peculiar," or such as could throw suspicion on the passage, in the juxtaposition of the two qualifying phrases: and that for all thy sins, and in all thy borders. The latter phrase bears unmistakeably on the treasures, not on the sins. "Cause...to bring it," lit., I cause them (the treasures) to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not, i.e., I cause the enemies to bring them, etc. Hitz. and Graf erroneously: I carry thine enemies away into a land; which affords no suitable sense. The grounding clause: for hire, etc., is taken from Deuteronomy 32:22, to show that the threatening of judgment contained in Moses' song is about to come upon degenerate Judah. "Against you it is kindled" apply the words to Jeremiah's contemporaries.

(Note: Jeremiah 15:11-14 are pronounced spurious by Hitz., Graf, and Ng., on the ground that Jeremiah 15:13 and Jeremiah 15:14 are a mere quotation, corrupted in the text, from Jeremiah 17:3-4, and that all the three verses destroy the connection, containing an address to the people that does not at all fit into the context. But the interruption of the continuity could at most prove that the verses had got into a wrong place, as is supposed by Ew., who transposes them, and puts them next to Jeremiah 15:9. But for this change in place there are no sufficient grounds, since, as our exposition of them shows, the verses in question can be very well understood in the place which they at present occupy. The other allegation, that Jeremiah 15:13 and Jeremiah 15:14 are a quotation, corrupted in text, from Jeremiah 17:3-4, is totally without proof. In Jeremiah 17:3-4 we have simply the central thoughts of the present passage repeated, but modified to suit their new context, after the manner characteristic of Jeremiah. The genuineness of the verses is supported by the testimony of the lxx, which has them here, while it omits them in Jeremiah 17:3-4; and by the fact, that it is inconceivable they should have been interpolated as a gloss in a wholly unsuitable place. For those who impugn the genuineness have not even made the attempt to show the possibility or probability of such a gloss arising.)

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