Jeremiah 23


Sequel of the discourse which commenced in the preceding

chapter. The prophet denounces vengeance against the pastors of

Israel who have scattered and destroyed the flock of the Lord,

1, 2.

He concludes with gracious promises of deliverance from the

Babylonish captivity, and of better times under the Messiah,

when the converts to Christianity, who are the true Israel of

God, shadowed forth by the old dispensation, shall be

delivered, by the glorious light of the Gospel, from worse than

Chaldean bondage, from the captivity of sin and death. But this

prophecy will not have its fullest accomplishment till that

period arrives which is fixed in the Divine counsel for the

restoration of Israel and Judah from their various dispersions,

of which their deliverance from the Chaldean domination was a

type, when Jesus the Christ, the righteous Branch, the Root and

Offspring of David, and the only legitimate Heir to the throne,

shall take unto himself his great power, and reign gloriously

over the whole house of Jacob, 3-8.

At the ninth verse a new discourse commences. Jeremiah

expresses his horror at the great wickedness of the priests and

prophets of Judah, and declares that the Divine vengeance is

hanging over them. He exhorts the people not to listen to their

false promises, 9-22;

and predicts the utter ruin that shall fall upon all pretenders

to inspiration, 23-32,

as well as upon all scoffers at true prophecy, 33-40.


Verse 1. Wo be unto the pastors] There shall a curse fall on the

kings, princes, priests, and prophets; who, by their vicious

conduct and example, have brought desolation upon the people.

Verse 2. Ye have scattered my flock] The bad government both in

Church and State was a principal cause of the people's profligacy.

Verse 5. I will raise unto David a righteous Branch] As there

has been no age, from the Babylonish captivity to the destruction

of Jerusalem by the Romans, in which such a state of prosperity

existed, and no king or governor who could answer at all to the

character here given, the passage has been understood to refer to

our blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, who was a branch out of the stem

of Jesse; a righteous king; by the power of his Spirit and

influence of his religion reigning, prospering, and executing

judgment and justice in the earth.

Verse 6. In his days Judah shall be saved] The real Jew is not

one who has his circumcision in the flesh, but in the spirit. The

real Israel are true believers in Christ Jesus; and the genuine

Jerusalem is the Church of the first-born, and made free, with

all her children, from the bondage of sin, Satan, death, and hell.

All these exist only in the days of the Messiah. All that went

before were the types or significators of these glorious Gospel


And this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR

RIGHTEOUSNESS.] I shall give the Hebrew text of this important

passage: vezeh shemo asher yikreo

Yehovah tsidkenu, which the Septuagint translate as follows, και

τουτοτοονομααυτονοκαλεσειαυτονκυριοςιωσεδεκ, "And this is

his name which the Lord shall call him Josedek."

Dahler translates the text thus:-

Et voici le nom dont on l'appellera:

L'Eternel, Auteur de notre felicite.

"And this is the name by which he shall be called; The Lord, the

Author of our happiness."

Dr. Blayney seems to follow the Septuagint; he translates thus,

"And this is the name by which Jehovah shall call him, OUR


In my old MS. Bible, the first English translation ever made, it

is thus:-And this is the name that thei schul clepen him: oure

rigtwise Lord.

Coverdale's, the first complete English translation of the

Scriptures ever printed, (1535,) has given it thus:-And this is

the name that they shall call him: even the Lorde oure rightuous


Matthews (1549) and Becke (1549) follow Coverdale literally;

but our present translation of the clause is borrowed from

Cardmarden, (Rouen, 1566,) "Even the Lord our righteousness."

Dr. Blayney thus accounts for his translation:-"Literally,

according to the Hebrew idiom,-'And this is his name by which

Jehovah shall call, Our Righteousness;' a phrase exactly the same

as, 'And Jehovah shall call him so;' which implies that God would

make him such as he called him, that is, our Righteousness, or the

author and means of our salvation and acceptance. So that by the

same metonymy Christ is said to 'have been made of God unto us

wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,'

1Co 1:30.

"I doubt not that some persons will be offended with me for

depriving them, by this translation, of a favourite argument for

proving the Divinity of our Saviour from the Old Testament. But I

cannot help it; I have done it with no ill design, but purely

because I think, and am morally sure, that the text, as it stands,

will not properly admit of any other construction. The Septuagint

have so translated before me, in an age when there could not

possibly be any bias or prejudice either for or against the

fore-mentioned doctrine, a doctrine which draws its devisive

proofs from the New Testament only."

Dahler paraphrases,-"This Prince shall be surnamed by his

people, 'The Lord, the author of our happiness.' The people shall

feel themselves happy under him; and shall express their gratitude

to him."

I am satisfied that both the translation from Cardmarden

downwards, and the meaning put on these words, are incorrect. I

prefer the translation of Blayney to all others; and that it

speaks any thing about the imputed righteousness of Christ, cannot

possibly be proved by any man who understands the original text.

As to those who put the sense of their creed upon the words, they

must be content to stand out of the list of Hebrew critics. I

believe Jesus to be Jehovah; but I doubt much whether this text

calls him so. No doctrine so vitally important should be rested on

an interpretation so dubious and unsupported by the text. That all

our righteousness, holiness, and goodness, as well as the whole of

our salvation, come by HIM, from HIM, and through HIM, is fully

evident from the Scriptures; but this is not one of the passages

that support this most important truth. See Clarke on Jer 33:16.

Verse 7. The Lord liveth which brought up]

See Clarke on Jer 16:14; "Jer 16:15".

Verse 9. Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets]

The first word of this clause is lannebiim, which we

incorporate with the whole clause, and translate, "Because of the

prophets." But as a new prophecy begins here, it is evident that

the word is the title to this prophecy; and is thus distinguished

both by Blayney and Dahler, CONCERNING THE PROPHETS. This

discourse was delivered probably in the reign of Jehoiakim.

All my bones shake] He was terrified even by his own message,

and shocked at the profanity of the false prophets.

Verse 10. The land is full of adulterers] Of idolaters. Of

persons who break their faith to ME, as an impure wife does to her


The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up] He speaks

here, most probably, in reference to dearth. Profane oaths, false

swearing, evil courses, violence, &c., had provoked God to send

this among other judgments; see Jer 23:19.

Verse 11. In my house] They had even introduced idolatry into

the Temple of God!

Verse 13. I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria] This was

not to be wondered at, for their religion was a system of


Verse 14. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem] That

is, the prophets of Jerusalem, while professing a pure faith, have

followed the ways, and become as corrupt as the prophets of


They are all of them unto me as Sodom] Incorrigible, brutish

sinners, who will as surely be destroyed as Sodom and Gomorrah


Verse 16. Hearken not unto the words of the prophets] That is,

of those who promise you safety, without requiring you to forsake

your sins and turn unto the Lord; see Jer 23:17.

Verse 18. Who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord] Who of them

has ever received a word of prophecy from me? My word is not in


Verse 19. Behold, a whirlwind] The simoom: the hot pestilential

wind blowing from the south, frequently mentioned or referred to

in the sacred writings; see Jer 23:10.

Verse 20. In the latter days ye shall consider it] I give you

warning: and this punishment which I now threaten shall surely

take place; a short time will determine it; ye shall not escape.

Verse 21. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran] Not to

save souls, but to profit themselves.

I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.] They never

received the word at my mouth; yet they went, publishing their own

deceits, and pretending them to be revelations from God. The

churches which have legal emoluments are ever in danger of being

overrun and ruined by worldly and self-interested priests.

Verse 23. Am I a God at hand,-and not a God afar off?] You act

as if you thought I could not see you! Am I not omnipresent? Do

not I fill the heavens and the earth? Jer 23:24.

Verse 27. By their dreams] Dreams were anciently reputed as a

species of inspiration; see Nu 12:6; 1Sa 28:6; Joe 3:1;

Da 7:1. In the Book of

Genesis we find many examples; and although many mistook the

workings of their own vain imaginations in sleep for revelations

from God, yet he has often revealed himself in this way: but such

dreams were easily distinguished from the others. They were always

such as had no connexion with the gratification of the flesh; they

were such as contained warnings against sin, and excitements to

holiness; they were always consecutive-well connected, with a

proper beginning and ending; such as possessed the intellect

more than the imagination. Of such dreams the Lord says,

(Jer 23:28:)

The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream-permit him

to show what he has thus received from the Lord: but let him tell

it as a dream, and speak my word faithfully, lest he may have been


Verse 28. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.] Do

not mingle these equivocal matters with positive revelations. Do

not consider a dream, even from a prophet, as that positive

inspiration which my prophets receive when their reason, judgment,

and spiritual feelings are all in full and in regular exercise.

Mix none of your own devices with my doctrines.

Verse 29. Is not my word like as a fire?] It enlightens, warms,

and penetrates every part. When it is communicated to the true

prophet, it is like a fire shut up in his bones; he cannot retain

it, he must publish it: and when published, it is like a hammer

that breaks the rock in pieces; it is ever accompanied by a Divine

power, that causes both sinner and saint to feel its weight and


In the original words there is something singular:

halo coh debari kaesh, "Is not thus my word like

fire?" I suspect, with Dr. Blayney, that coh, thus, was

formerly written coach, strength or power; and so it was

understood by the Targumist: "Are not all my words strong, like

fire?" and probably the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews read

it thus, and had it in view when he wrote: "For the word of God is

quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,"

Heb 4:12. This admitted, the text would read, "Is not my word

powerful, like fire?" or, "Is not the power of my word like fire?"

But however we understand the words, let us take heed lest we

think, as some have thought and affirmed, that the sacred writings

are quite sufficient of themselves to enlighten, convince, and

convert the soul, and that there is no need of the Holy Spirit.

Fire itself must be applied by an agent in order to produce its

effects; and surely the hammer cannot break the rock in pieces,

unless wielded by an able workman. And it is God's Spirit alone

that can thus apply it; for we find it frequently read and frequently

spoken, without producing any salutary effects. And by this very

thing the true preachers of the word of God may be distinguished

from the false, non-commissioned ones; those who run, though they

are not sent, Jer 23:21. The word of him who has his commission

from heaven shall be as a fire and as a hammer; sinners shall be

convinced and converted to God by it. But the others, though they

steal the word from their neighbour-borrow or pilfer a good

sermon, yet they do not profit the people at all, because God did

not send them, Jer 23:32; for the

power of God does not in their ministry accompany the word.

There may be an allusion to the practice in some mining

countries, of roasting stones containing ore, before they are

subjected to the hammer, in order to pulverize them. In Cornwall I

have seen them roast the tin stones in the fire, before they

placed them under the action of the hammers in the stamp mill. The

fire separated the arsenic from the ore, and then they were easily

reduced to powder by the hammers of the mill; afterwards, washing

the mass with water, the grains of tin sank to the bottom, while

the lighter parts went off with the water, and thus the metal was

procured clean and pure. If this be the allusion, it is very


Verse 30. I am against the prophets] Three cases are mentioned

here which excited God's disapprobation: 1. The prophets who stole

the word from their neighbour; who associated with the true

prophets, got some intelligence from them, and then went and

published it as a revelation which themselves had received,

Jer 23:30. 2. The prophets who used their

tongues; hallokechim leshonam, who lick or smooth

with their tongues-gave their own counsels as Divine revelations,

flattering them in their sins, and promising peace, when God had

not spoken; and prefaced them, "Thus saith the Lord," Jer 23:31.

3. The prophets who made up false stories, which they termed

prophecies, revealed to them in dreams; and thus caused the people

to err, Jer 23:32.

Verse 33. What is the burden of the Lord?] The word massa,

here used, signifies burden, oracle, prophetic discourse; and is

used by almost every prophet. But the persons in the text appear

to have been mockers. "Where is this burden of the Lord?"-"What is

the burden now?" To this insolent question the prophet answers in

the following verses.

I will even forsake you] I will punish the prophet, the priest

and the people, that speak thus, Jer 23:34. Here are


Verse 36. Every man's word shall be his burden] Ye say that all

God's messages are burdens, and to you they shall be such:

whereas, had you used them as you ought, they would have been

blessings to you.

For ye have perverted the words of the living God] And thus have

sinned against your own souls.

Verse 39. I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you and

the city] Dr. Blayney translates:-I will both take you up

altogether, and will cast you off together with the city. Ye are a

burden to me: but I will take you up, and then cast you off. I

will do with you as a man weary with his burden will do; cast it

off his shoulders, and bear it no more.

Verse 40. I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you] And

this reproach of having rebelled against so good a God, and

rejected so powerful a Saviour, follows them to this day through

all their dispersions, in every part of the habitable earth. The

word of the Lord cannot fail.

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