Jeremiah 12


This chapter is connected with the foregoing. The prophet

expostulates with God concerning the ways of Providence in

permitting the wicked to prosper, 1-4.

It is intimated to him that he must endure still greater

trials, 5,

from his false and deceitful brethren, 6;

but that still heavier judgments awaited the nation for their

crimes, 7-13.

That God, however, would at length have compassion on them;

restore them to their land; and turn his judgments against

those that oppressed them, if not prevented by their becoming

converts to the true religion, 14-17.


Verse 1. Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee] The

prophet was grieved at the prosperity of the wicked; and he

wonders how, consistently with God's righteousness, vice should

often be in affluence, and piety in suffering and poverty. He

knows that God is righteous, that every thing is done well; but he

wishes to inquire how these apparently unequal and undeserved lots

take place. On this subject he wishes to reason with God, that he

may receive instruction.

Verse 2. Thou art near in their mouth] They have no sincerity:

they have something of the form of religion, but nothing of its


Verse 3. But thou, O Lord, knowest me] I know that the very

secrets of my heart are known to thee; and I am glad of it, for

thou knowest that my heart is towards thee-is upright and


Verse 4. How long shall the land mourn] These hypocrites and

open sinners are a curse to the country; pull them out, Lord, that

the land may be delivered of that which is the cause of its


Verse 5. If thou hast run with the footmen] If the smallest

evils to which thou art exposed cause thee to make so many bitter

complaints, how wilt thou feel when, in the course of thy

prophetic ministry, thou shalt be exposed to much greater, from

enemies much more powerful? Footmen may here be the symbol of

common evil events; horsemen, of evils much more terrible. If

thou have sunk under small difficulties, what wilt thou do when

great ones come?

And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst] I believe

the meaning is this, "If in a country now enjoying peace thou

scarcely thinkest thyself in safety, what wilt thou do in the

swellings of Jordan? in the time when the enemy, like an

overflowing torrent, shall deluge every part of the land?"

The overflowing of Jordan, which generally happened in harvest,

drove the lions and other beasts of prey from their coverts among

the bushes that lined its banks; who, spreading themselves through

the country, made terrible havoc, slaying men, and carrying off

the cattle.

Perhaps by footmen may be meant the Philistines, Edomites, &c.,

whose armies were composed principally of infantry; and by the

horses, the Chaldeans, who had abundance of cavalry and chariots

in their army. But still the words are proverbial, and the above

is their meaning.

Verse 6. For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father]

Thou hast none to depend on but God: even thy brethren will betray

thee when they have it in their power.

Believe them not] Do not trust to them; do not commit thyself to

them; they are in heart thy enemies, and will betray thee.

Verse 7. I have forsaken mine house] I have abandoned my temple.

I have given the dearly beloved of my soul] The people once in

covenant with me, and inexpressibly dear to me while faithful.

Into the hand of her enemies.] This was a condition in the

covenant I made with them; If they forsook me, they were to be

abandoned to their enemies, and cast out of the good land I gave

to their fathers.

Verse 8. Mine heritage is unto me as a lion] The people are

enraged against me; they roar like a furious lion against their

God. They have proceeded to the most open acts of the most

flagrant iniquity.

Verse 9. Is unto me as a speckled bird] A bird of divers

colours. This is a people who have corrupted the worship of the

true God with heathenish rites and ceremonies; therefore, the

different nations, (see Jer 12:10,) whose gods and forms of

worship they have adopted, shall come and spoil them. As far as

you have followed the surrounding nations in their worship, so far

shall they prevail over your state. Every one shall take that

which is his own; and wherever he finds his own gods, he will

consider the land consecrated to them, and take it as his

property, because those very gods are the objects of his worship.

The fable of the daw and borrowed plumes is no mean illustration

of this passage.

Dahler translates the whole verse thus:-

Birds of prey! inundate with blood my heritage.

Birds of prey! come against her from all sides.

Run together in crowds, ye savage beasts!

Come to the carnage!

Verse 10. Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard] My people have

had many kinds of enemies which have fed upon their richest

pastures; the Philistines, the Moabites, Ammonites, Assyrians,

Egyptians. and now the Chaldeans.

Verse 11. No man layeth it to heart.] Notwithstanding all these

desolations, from which the land every where mourns, and which are

so plainly the consequences of the people's crimes, no man layeth

it to heart, or considereth that these are God's judgments; and

that the only way to have them removed is to repent of their sins,

and turn to God with all their hearts.

Verse 12. The sword of the Lord shall devour] It is the sword of

the Lord that has devoured, and will devour: this is what no man

layeth to heart. They think these things come in the course of


Verse 13. They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns] All their

projects shall fail: none of their enterprises shall succeed. They

are enemies to God, and therefore cannot have his blessing.

Verse 14. Against all mine evil neighbours] All the neighbouring

nations who have united in desolating Judea shall be desolated in

their turn: they also are wicked, and they shall be punished. If I

make them executors of my justice, it is to them no proof of my

approbation. God often uses one wicked nation to scourge another;

and afterwards scourges the scourger by some other scourge. In

some places a felon who was condemned to be hanged is made the

common hangman for the county; he himself being still under the

sentence of death,-

Till soon some trusty brother of the trade

Shall do for him what he has done for others.

Verse 15. I will return, and have compassion on them] This is a

promise of restoration from the captivity, and an intimation also

that some of their enemies would turn to the true God with them;

learn the ways of his people; that is, would abjure idols, and

take Jehovah for their God; and be built in the midst of his

people, that is, Jew and Gentile forming one Church of the Most


Verse 17. I will-destroy that nation] Several of them did not

obey, and are destroyed. Of the Moabites, Ammonites, and

Chaldeans, not one vestige remains. The sixteenth verse is

supposed to be a promise of the conversion of the Gentiles. See

Eph 2:13-22.

From the thirteenth verse to the end is a different discourse,

and Dahler supposes it to have been delivered in the seventh or

eighth year of the reign of Jehoiakim.

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