Jeremiah 3:20
Surely as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, said the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Surely as a wife . . .—In the midst of the bright vision of the future there comes unbidden the thought of the dark present: the faithless wife is not yet restored to her true friend and husband. Her guilt must be again pressed home upon her, so as to lead her to repentance.

Jeremiah 3:20-21. Surely, as a wife treacherously departeth, &c. — This may be rendered, As a woman is not faithful to her husband, or, her friend, as the Hebrew רעהsignifies. Here God returns to the carnal Israelites; so that the Jewish doctors seem to be right in calling the spirit of prophecy an abrupt spirit. So have you dealt treacherously with me — God, by thus reminding the Israelites of what they had formerly been, endeavours to bring them to repentance and new obedience for the time to come. A voice was heard, &c. — Here the prophet, foreseeing that some of them would at length be brought to true repentance for all their misdoings, represents them as bewailing themselves upon the high places, the scenes of their former idolatries. Compare Jeremiah 31:9; Jeremiah 50:4; Zechariah 12:10. Or, as some think, he alludes to the usual practice of praying upon the tops of houses in great calamities, Isaiah 15:3; and Isaiah 22:1; Jeremiah 7:29. For they have perverted their way — This is that which they lament: for this they bemoan themselves. They have forgotten the Lord their God — Of this they were now sensible, and for this they were humbled, as being the first step toward their apostacy. Observe well, reader, 1st, Sin is the perverting of our way; it is turning aside to crooked paths, and perverting that which is right. By it we embarrass ourselves, and bring ourselves into trouble and misery. 2d, Forgetting the Lord our God is at the bottom of all sin: if men would remember God, and their obligations to him, and consider that his eye is upon them, they would not transgress as they do. 3d, Prayers and tears well become those whose consciences tell them that they have perverted their way and forgotten their God.3:12-20 See God's readiness to pardon sin, and the blessings reserved for gospel times. These words were proclaimed toward the north; to Israel, the ten tribes, captive in Assyria. They are directed how to return. If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive them. These promises are fully to come to pass in the bringing back the Jews in after-ages. God will graciously receive those that return to him; and by his grace, he takes them out from among the rest. The ark of the covenant was not found after the captivity. The whole of that dispensation was to be done away, which took place after the multitude of believers had been greatly increased by the conversion of the Gentiles, and of the Israelites scattered among them. A happy state of the church is foretold. He can teach all to call him Father; but without thorough change of heart and life, no man can be a child of God, and we have no security for not departing from Him.Surely as - Rather: "Just as." 20. Surely—rather, "But."

husband—literally, "friend."

God hereby telling her what she had formerly been, endeavours to engage her to what she ought to be, namely, considering her former unfaithfulness in time past, how she ought to carry it for the future. See 1 Peter 4:3. Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband,.... Or, "her friend" (i); who loves her, takes care of her, and provides for her, and goes after another man, and cohabits with him; which is a violation of the marriage covenant, and acting a base and treacherous part unto him to whom she is married

so have you dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord; who was their Father, friend, and husband; who loved them and distinguished them from all other people, by a variety of blessings and privileges; and yet they departed from his commandments and ordinances, and held the traditions of the elders, and taught for doctrines the commandments of men, and rejected the Messiah, and still continue in their disbelief of him, and hatred to him; and therefore it need not be wondered at that he should make any difficulty about their adoption and inheritance; and a marvellous thing it must be to take such persons, and put them openly among his children, and give them a right and meetness for the goodly inheritance.

(i) "ab amico suo", Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "a socio suo", Cocceius.

Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her {t} husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD.

(t) The Hebrew word signifies a friend or companion, and here may be taken for a husband, as it is used also in Ho 3:1.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. O house of Israel] Israel as including Judah.Verse 20. - Surely. The word acquires an adversative sense from the context, as in Isaiah 53:4, and is virtually equivalent to "but surely." From her husband; literally, from her friend or companion. The choice of the word seems to indicate the inner hollowness of the married life. The woman only sees in her husband the companion, behind whoso back she can follow her own inclinations. An indispensable element of the return is: Acknowledge thy guilt, thine offence, for grievously hast thou offended; thou art fallen away (פּשׁע), and תּפזּרי את־דּרכיך, lit., hast scattered thy ways for strangers; i.e., hither and thither, on many a track, hast thou run after the strange gods: cf. Jeremiah 2:23.

The repeated call שׁוּבוּ, Jeremiah 3:14, is, like that in Jeremiah 3:12, addressed to Israel in the narrower sense, not to the whole covenant people or to Judah. The "backsliding sons" are "the backsliding Israel" of Jeremiah 3:7, Jeremiah 3:8, Jeremiah 3:11., and of Jeremiah 3:22. In Jeremiah 3:18 also Judah is mentioned only as it is in connection with Israel. בּעלתּי בכם, here and in Jeremiah 31:32, is variously explained. There is no evidence for the meaning loathe, despise, which Ges. and Diet. in the Lex., following the example of Jos. Kimchi, Pococke, A Schultens, and others, attribute to the word בּעל; against this, cf. Hgstb. Christol. ii. p. 375; nor is the sig. "rule" certified (lxx διότι ἐγὼ κατακυριεύσω ὑμῶν); it cannot be proved from Isaiah 26:13. בּעל means only, own, possess; whence come the meanings, take to wife, have oneself married, which are to be maintained here and in Jeremiah 31:32. In this view Jerome translates, quia ego vir vester; Luther, denn ich will euch mir vertrauen; Hgstb., denn ich traue euch mir an;-the reception anew of the people being given under the figure of a new marriage. This acceptation is, however, not suitable to the perf. בּעלתּי, for this, even if taken prophetically, cannot refer to a renewal of marriage which is to take place in the future. The perf. can be referred only to the marriage of Israel at the conclusion of the covenant on Sinai, and must be translated accordingly: I am your husband, or: I have wedded you to me. This is demanded by the grounding כּי; for the summons to repent cannot give as its motive some future act of God, but must point to that covenant relationship founded in the past, which, though suspended for a time, was not wholly broken up.

(Note: Calvin gives it rightly: "Dixerat enim, se dedisse libellum repudii h. e. quasi publicis tabulis se testatum fuisse, nihil amplius sibi esse conjunctionis cum populo illo. Nam exilium erat instar divortii. Jam dicit: Ego sum maritus vester. Nam etiamsi ego tam graviter laesus a vobis fuerim, quia fefellistis fidem mihi datam, tamen maneo in proposito, ut sim bovis maritus;...et perinde ac si mihi semper fidem praestitissetis, iterum assuman vos, inqiut.")

The promise of what God will do if Israel repents is given only from ולקחתּי (with ו consec.) onwards. The words, I take you, one out of a city, two out of a race, are not with Kimchi to be so turned: if even a single Israelite dwelt in a heathen city; but thus: if from amongst the inhabitants of a city there returns to me but one, and if out of a whole race there return but two, I will gather even these few and bring them to Zion. Quite aside from the point is Hitz.'s remark, that in Micah 5:1, too, a city is called אלף, and is equivalent to משׁפּחה. The numbers one and two themselves show us that משׁפּחה is a larger community than the inhabitants of one town, i.e., that it indicates the great subdivisions into which the tribes of Israel were distributed. The thought, then, is this: Though but so small a number obey the call to repent, yet the Lord will save even these; He will exclude from salvation no one who is willing to return, but will increase the small number of the saved to a great nation. This promise is not only not contradictory of those which declare the restoration of Israel as a whole; but it is rather a pledge that God will forget no one who is willing to be saved, and shows the greatness of the divine compassion.

As to the historical reference, it is manifest that the promise cannot be limited, as it is by Theodrt. and Grot., to the return from the Assyrian and Babylonian exile; and although the majority of commentators take it so, it can as little be solely referred to the Messianic times or to the time of the consummation of the kingdom of God. The fulfilment is accomplished gradually. It begins with the end of the Babylonian exile, in so far as at that time individual members of the ten tribes may have returned into the land of their fathers; it is continued in Messianic times during the lives of the apostles, by the reception, on the part of the Israelites, of the salvation that had appeared in Christ; it is carried on throughout the whole history of the Church, and attains its completion in the final conversion of Israel. This Messianic reference of the words is here the ruling one. This we may see from "bring you to Zion," which is intelligible only when we look on Zion as the seat of the kingdom of God; and yet more clearly is it seen from the further promise, Jeremiah 3:15-17, I will give you shepherds according to my heart, etc. By shepherds we are not to understand prophets and priests, but the civil authorities, rulers, princes, kings (cf. Jeremiah 2:8, Jeremiah 2:26). This may not only be gathered from the parallel passage, Jeremiah 23:4, but is found in the כּלבּי, which is an unmistakeable allusion to 1 Samuel 13:14, where David is spoken of as a man whom Jahveh has sought out for Himself after His heart (כּלבבו), and has set to be prince over His people. They will feed you דּעה . Both these words are used adverbially. דּעה is a noun, and השׂכּיל an infin.: deal wisely, possess, and show wisdom; the latter is as noun generally השׂכּל , Daniel 1:17; Proverbs 1:3; Proverbs 21:16, but is found also as infin. absol. Jeremiah 9:23. A direct contrast to these shepherds is found in the earlier kings, whom Israel had itself appointed according to the desire of its heart, of whom the Lord said by Hosea, They have set up kings (to themselves), but not by me (Hosea 8:4); kings who seduced the people of God to apostasy, and encouraged them in it. "In the whole of the long series of Israelitish rulers we find no Jehoshaphat, no Hezekiah, no Josiah; and quite as might have been expected, for the foundation of the throne of Israel was insurrection" (Hgstb.). But if Israel will return to the Lord, He will give it rulers according to His heart, like David (cf. Ezekiel 34:23; Hosea 3:5), who did wisely (משׂכּיל ) in all his ways, and with whom Jahveh was (1 Samuel 18:14.; cf. 1 Kings 2:3). The knowledge and wisdom consists in the keeping and doing of the law of God, Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 29:8. As regards form, the promise attaches itself to the circumstances of the earlier times, and is not to be understood of particular historical rulers in the period after the exile; it means simply that the Lord will give to Israel, when it is converted to Him, good and faithful governors who will rule over it in the spirit of David. But the Davidic dynasty culminates in the kingship of the Messiah, who is indeed named David by the prophets; cf. Jeremiah 22:4.

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