Jeremiah 3

CHAPTER III

The first five verses of this chapter allude to the subject of

the last; and contain earnest exhortations to repentance, with

gracious promises of pardon, notwithstanding every aggravation

of guilt, 1-5.

At the sixth verse a new section of prophecy commences, opening

with a complaint against Judah for having exceeded in guilt her

sister Israel, already cast off for her idolatry, 6-11.

She is cast off, but not forever; for to this same Israel,

whose place of captivity (Assyria) lay to the north of Judea,

pardon is promised on her repentance, together with a

restoration to the Church of God, along with her sister Judah,

in the latter days, 12-20.

The prophet foretells the sorrow and repentance of the children

of Israel under the Gospel dispensation, 21.

God renews his gracious promises, 22;

and they again confess their sins. In this confession their not

deigning to name the idol Baal, the source of their calamities,

but calling him in the abstract shame, or a thing of shame, is

a nice touch of the perusal extremely beautiful and natural,

22-25.

NOTES ON CHAP. III

Verse 1. If a man put away his wife] It was ever understood, by

the law and practice of the country, that if a woman were divorced

by her husband, and became the wife of another man, the first

husband could never take her again. Now Israel had been married

unto the Lord; joined in solemn covenant to him to worship and

serve him only. Israel turned from following him, and became

idolatrous. On this ground, considering idolatry as a spiritual

whoredom, and the precept and practice of the law to illustrate

this case, Israel could never more be restored to the Divine

favour: but God, this first husband, in the plenitude of his

mercy, is willing to receive this adulterous spouse, if she will

abandon her idolatries and return unto him. And this and the

following chapters are spent in affectionate remonstrances and

loving exhortations addressed to these sinful people, to make them

sensible of their own sin, and God's tender mercy in offering to

receive them again into favour.

Verse 2. As the Arabian in the wilderness] They were as fully

intent on the practice of their idolatry as the Arab in the desert

is in lying in wait to plunder the caravans. Where they have not

cover to lie in ambush, they scatter themselves about, and run

hither and thither, raising themselves up on their saddles to see

if they can discover, by smoke, dust, or other token, the approach

of any travellers.

Verse 3. There hath been no latter rain] The former rain, which

prepared the earth for tillage, fell in the beginning of November,

or a little sooner; and the latter rain fell in the middle of

April, after which there was scarcely any rain during the

summer.

Verse 4. Wilt thou not-cry unto me, My father] Wilt thou not

allow me to be thy Creator and Preserver, and cease thus to

acknowledge idols? See on Jer 2:27.

Verse 5. Will he reserve his anger for ever?] Why should not

wrath be continued against thee, as thou continuest transgression

against the Lord?

Verse 6. The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the

king] This is a new discourse, and is supposed to have been

delivered after the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah. Here

the prophet shows the people of Judah the transgressions,

idolatry, obstinacy, and punishment of their brethren, the ten

tribes, whom he calls to return to the Lord, with the most

gracious promises of restoration to their own country, their

reunion with their brethren of Judah, and every degree of

prosperity in consequence. He takes occasion also to show the Jews

how much more culpable they were than the Israelites, because they

practiced the same iniquities while they had the punishment and

ruin of the others before their eyes. He therefore exhorts them to

return to God with all their hearts, that they might not fall into

the same condemnation. See the following verses.

Verse 7. And I said] By the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Hosea,

Amos, &c.; for all these prophesied to that rebellious people,

and exhorted them to return to the Lord.

Verse 8. I had put her away] Given them up into the hands of the

Assyrians.

Verse 9. The lightness of her whoredom] The grossness of her

idolatry: worshipping objects the most degrading, with rites the

most impure.

Verse 11. Backsliding Israel hath justified herself more] She

was less offensive in my eyes, and more excusable, than

treacherous Judah. So it is said, Lu 18:14, the humbled

publican went down to his house justified rather than the

boasting Pharisee. The one was more to be pitied than the other,

and more likely to receive the mercy of God.

Verse 12. Proclaim these words toward the north] The countries

where the ten tribes were then in captivity, Mesopotamia, Assyria,

Media, &c., see 2Ki 17:6; these lay

north of Judea. How tender and compassionate are the

exhortations in this and the following verses! Could these people

believe that God had sent the prophet and yet prefer the land of

their bondage to the blessings of freedom in their own country,

and the approbation of their God?

Verse 14. I will take you one of a city, and two of a family] If

there should be but one of a city left, or one willing to return,

and two only of a whole tribe, yet will I receive these, and bring

them back from captivity into their own land. I have heard these

words most sinfully applied to show the nature of a fancied

eternal decree of election, that has appointed in several cases

one only out of a whole city, and two out of a whole family, to be

eternally saved, leaving the rest, according to the decree of

reprobation, to perish everlastingly! And yet these persons, who

spoke thus of the Fountain of eternal goodness and mercy,

professed to believe in Him who by the grace of God tasted death

for every man.

Verse 15. I will give you pastors according to mine heart] The

pastor means either the king or the prophet; and the pastors here

promised may be either kings or prophets, or both. These shall be

according to God's own heart; they shall be of his own choosing

and shall be qualified by himself: and in consequence they shall

feed the people with knowledge, deah, that Divine truth

concerning the true God and the best interests of man, which was

essentially necessary to their salvation; and understanding

haskeil, the full interpretation of every point, that in

receiving the truth they might become wise, holy, and happy.

Verse 16. The ark of the covenant of the Lord] This symbol of

the Divine presence, given to the Jews as a token and pledge of

God's dwelling among them, shall be no longer necessary, and shall

no longer exist; for in the days of the Messiah, to which this

promise seems to relate, God's worship shall not be confined

either to one place or to one people. The temple of God shall be

among men, and every where God be adored through Christ Jesus.

Neither shall that be done any more.] The ark shall be no more

established, nor carried from place to place, nor shall men go to

visit it. All its ceremonies and importance shall cease; and, if

lost, shall never be rebuilt.

Verse 17. They shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord] The

new Jerusalem, the universal Church of Christ, shall be God's

throne: and wherever he is acknowledged as the Lamb of God who

takes away the sin of the world, there God sits on his throne, and

holds his court.

Verse 18. The house of Judah shall walk with the house of

Israel] That is, in those days in which the Jews shall be

brought in with the fulness of the Gentiles.

Out of the land of the north] From Chaldea. This prophecy has

two aspects: one refers to the return from the Babylonish

captivity; the other, to the glorious days of Christianity. But

the words may refer to that gathering together of the Jews, not

only from Chaldea, but from the countries of their dispersion over

the face of the whole earth, and uniting them in the Christian

Church.

Verse 19. How shalt I put thee among the children] As if he had

said, How can ye be accounted a holy seed, who are polluted? How

can ye be united to the people of God, who walk in the path of

sinners? How can ye be taken to heaven, who are unholy within, and

unrighteous without?

And I said, Thou shalt call me, My father] This is the answer to

the above question. They could not be put among the children

unless they became legal members of the heavenly family: and they

could not become members of this family unless they abandoned

idolatry, and took the Lord for their portion. Nor could they be

continued in the privileges of the heavenly family, unless they no

more turned away from their heavenly Father.

Verse 21. A voice was heard upon the high places] Here the

Israelites are represented as assembled together to bewail their

idolatry and to implore mercy. While thus engaged, they hear the

gracious call of Jehovah-

Verse 22. Return, ye backsliding children] This they gladly

receive, and with one voice make their confession to him: "Behold,

we come unto thee, for thou art Jehovah our God;" and thence to

the end of the chapter, show the reasons why they return unto God.

1. Because he is the true God. 2. Because the idols did not profit

them: they could give no help in time of trouble. 3. Because it is

the prerogative of God alone to give salvation. 4. Because they

had no kind of prosperity since they had abandoned the worship of

their Maker. And this was not only their case, but it was the case

of their forefathers, who all suffered in consequence of their

idolatry and disobedience. 5. These reasons are concluded with a

hearty confession of sin, at the thought of which they are

confounded; for the remembrance of their sin was grievous to

them, and the burden was intolerable. This confession ended, God

appears in the next chapter with gracious promises, and proper

directions how they are to return, and how to conduct themselves

in future.

Verse 24. For shame hath devoured] The word shame, here and in

Jer 11:13; Ho 9:10, is supposed to signify Baal, the idol

which they worshipped. That thing or shame which has brought you

into contempt, confusion, and ruin. Sooner or later every sinner

must be ashamed of his conduct; next, confounded; and, lastly,

ruined by it, unless by true faith and hearty repentance he

returns to the Lord.

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