Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
In the prophecies contained in Jer. 2-6, we have, probably, the records of Jeremiah's earlier ministrations during the comparatively uneventful years of Josiah's reign. The great object of the prophet's mission was to urge upon the people the necessity of making use of that final opportunity of repentance then given them. If personal amendment followed upon the king's reforms Judah might yet be saved. We have then in these chapters such portions of Jeremiah's earlier teaching, published during Josiah's reign, as were deemed fit also for the Church's use in all time.
The prophecy Jer. 2:1-3:5 consists of three parts, of which the first Jer 2:1-13 contains an appeal from God to all Israel, i. e., the whole twelve tribes, proving to them His past love, and that their desertion of Him was without ground or reason. In the second Jer 2:14-28 the prophet shows that Israel's calamities were entirely the result of her apostasy. In the last Jer. 2:29-3:5 we see Judah imitating Samaria's sin, and hardening itself against correction.
Moreover - literally, And. Notice the connection between Jeremiah's call and first prophecy.
Up to this time Jeremiah had lived at Anathoth, he is now to make Jerusalem the scene of his ministrations.
I remember ... - Or, I have remembered for thee the grace "of thy youth, the love of thine espousals," thy going "after me in the wilderness" in an unsown land. Jeremiah contrasts the present unfriendly relations between Yahweh and His people with their past love. Israel, as often elsewhere, is represented as a young bride Eze 16:8; Hos 2:20; Joe 1:8. The walking after God in the wilderness was an act of love on Israel's part. Israel did leave Egypt at Moses' bidding, and at Sinai was solemnly espoused to Yahweh.
Render: "Israel" is an offering consecrated to Yahweh, His firstfruits of increase. The firstfruits were God's consecrated property, His portion of the whole harvest. Pagan, i. e., unconsecrated, nations must not meddle with Israel, because it is the nation consecrated to God. If they do, they will bring such guilt upon themselves as those incur who eat the first-fruits Lev 22:10, Lev 22:16.
Modern researches have shown that this description applies only to limited portions of the route of the Israelites through the Sinaitic peninsula.
A plentiful country - literally, "a land of the Carmel," a Carmel land (see Kg1 18:19, note; Isa 29:17, note).
The guilt of this idolatry is ascribed to the four ruling classes:
(a) The accusation brought against the priests is indifference.
(b) "They that handle the law" belonged also to the priestly class Deu 33:10. Their offence was that "they knew not God." Compare Mic 3:11.
(c) The third class are "the pastors" or shepherds, that is the temporal rulers. Their crime is disobedience.
(d) The fourth class are "the prophets." It was their business to press the moral and spiritual truths of the law home to the hearts of the people: but they drew their inspiration from Baal, the Sun-god. Upon the corruption of the prophetic order at this time, see the Jer 14:13 note.
Things that do not profit - Here idols, which are not merely unreal, but injurious. See Sa1 12:21; Isa 44:9.
Plead - The word used by the plaintiff setting forth his accusation in a law-court (see Job 33:13 note).
With you - The present generation, who by joining in Manasseh's apostasy have openly violated Yahweh's covenant. The fathers made the nation what it now is, the children will receive it such as the present generation are now making it to be, and God will judge it according as the collective working of the past, the present, and the future tends to good or to evil.
Kedar signifies the whole East, and the isles of Chittim (Isa 23:12 note) the West. If then you traverse all lands from west to east, it will be impossible to find any nation guilty of such apostasy as that committed by Israel.
A nation - A Gentile nation, in strong antithesis to people, the appellation of Israel.
Their glory - Though the worship of the one true God is a nation's greatest glory, yet it is irksome because it puts a constraint on human passions.
That which doth not profit - Israel had exchanged the prosperity which was God's reward of obedience for the calamities which resulted from idol-worship.
Be astonished - The King James Version uses this word as equivalent "to be stupefied."
Desolate - Or, "be dry." In horror at Israel's conduct the heavens shrivel and dry up.
The pagan are guilty of but one sin - idolatry; the covenant-people commit two - they abandon the true God; they serve idols.
Fountain - Not a spring or natural fountain, but a tank or reservoir dug in the ground (see Jer 6:7), and chiefly intended for storing living waters, i. e., those of springs and rivulets. The cistern was used for storing up rain-water only, and therefore the quantity it contained was limited.
It was Israel's glory to be Yahweh's servant Jer 30:10, and slaves born in the house were more prized than those bought with money as being more faithful Gen 14:14. Cannot Yahweh guard His own household? How happens it that a member of so powerful a family is spoiled? In the next verse the prophet gives the reason. Israel is a runaway slave, who has deserted the family to which he belongs by right of birth, and thereby brought upon himself trouble and misery.
Upon him - Rather, against him. Israel has run away from his master's house, but only to find himself exposed to the beasts of prey in the wilderness.
They made his land waste - The prophet points to the actual results of Israel's until the multiplication of wild beasts rendered human life unsafe Kg2 17:25, but the Assyrian invasions had reduced Judaea to almost as sad a state.
Burned - Others render, "leveled to the ground."
Noph, i. e., Napata, a town situated in the extreme south of Egypt. Some take it to be Memphis (see Isa 19:13 note).
Tahapanes - Daphne Pelusii, a bordertown toward Palestine.
Have broken the crown of thy head - literally, shall depasture the crown of thy head; i. e., make it bald; baldness was accounted by the Jews a sign of disgrace Kg2 2:23, and also a mark of mourning Isa 15:2; Isa 22:12. The Egyptians in slaying Josiah, and capturing Jerusalem, brought ruin, disgrace, and sorrow upon the Jews.
The way - Either, the journey through the wilderness, or the way of holiness.
Sihor - The Nile. To lean upon Egypt was a violation of the principles of theocracy.
The two rivers are the two empires, and to drink their waters is to adopt their principles and religion. Compare also Isa 8:6-7.
Correct thee - Or, "chastise thee." Alliances with foreign powers shall bring trouble and not safety.
Transgress - Rather, as in marg. If the "yoke" and "bands" refer to the slavery in Egypt from which Yahweh freed Israel, the sense is - "For of old time I Yahweh broke thy yoke, I burst thy bands," not that thou mightest be free to do thy own will, but that thou mightest serve me: "and thou saidst, I will not serve."
When ... - "For ... under every leafy tree thou" layest thyself down as a harlot. The verb indicates the eagerness with which she prostrates herself before the objects of her idolatrous worship.
A noble vine - Properly, a Sorek vine (see Isa 5:2), which produced a red wine Pro 23:31, and had a lasting reputation Gen 49:11.
A right seed - literally, "a seed of truth," i. e., true, genuine seed, not mixed with weeds, nor with seed of an inferior quality. Compare Mat 13:24.
How then art thou turned - Or, "How then" hast thou changed thyself "unto me" (i. e., to my hurt or vexation) "into the degenerate" branches "of a strange vine?" The stock, which was God's planting, was genuine, and of the noblest sort: the wonder was how such a stock could produce shoots of a totally different kind Deu 32:32.
Nitre - Or, natron, a mineral alkali, found in the Nile valley, where it effloresces upon the rocks and surfaces of the dykes, and in old time was carefully collected, and used to make lye for washing (see Pro 25:20).
Sope - A vegetable alkali, now called "potash," because obtained from the ashes of plants. Its combination with oils, etc., to form soap was not known to the Hebrews until long after Jeremiah's time, but they used the lye, formed by passing water through the ashes. Thus then, though Israel use both mineral and vegetable alkalies, the most powerful detergents known, yet will she be unable to wash away the stains of her apostasy.
Thine iniquity is marked - i. e., as a stain.
In their defense of themselves (compare Jer 2:35), the people probably appealed to the maintenance of the daily sacrifice, and the Mosaic ritual: and even more confidently perhaps to Josiah's splendid restoration of the temple, and to the suppression of the open worship of Baal. All such pleas availed little as long as the rites of Moloch were still privately practiced.
Thy way in the valley - i. e., of Hinnom (see Kg2 23:10 note). From the time of Ahaz it had been the seat of the worship of Moloch, and the prophet more than once identifies Moloch with Baal. "Way" is put metaphorically for "conduct, doings."
Traversing - Interlacing her ways. The word describes the tangled mazes of the dromedary's course, as she runs here and there in the heat of her passion.
A wild donkey used to the wilderness - The type of an untamed and reckless nature.
Snuffeth up the wind - The wind brings with it the scent of the male. Israel does not wait until temptation comes of itself, but looks out for any and every incentive to idolatry.
Occasion ... month - i. e., the pairing season.
God the true husband exhorts Israel not to run barefoot, and with parched throat, like a shameless adulteress, after strangers.
There is no hope - i. e., It is in vain.
"Stone" being feminine in Hebrew is here represented as the mother.
Arise, and save us - Whether it be idolatry or infidelity, it satisfies only in tranquil and prosperous times. No sooner does trouble come, than the deep conviction of the existence of a God, which is the witness for Him in our heart, resumes its authority, and man prays.
A question of bitter irony. Things are made for some use. Now is the time for thy deities to prove themselves real by being useful. When every city has its special deity, surely among so many there might be found one able to help his worshippers.
O Judah - Hereto the argument had been addressed to Israel: suddenly the prophet charges Judah with the habitual practice of idolatry, and points to the conclusion, that as Jerusalem has been guilty of Samaria's sin, it must suffer Samaria's punishment.
Your own sword hath detoured your prophets - An allusion probably to Manasseh Kg2 21:16. Death was the usual fate of the true prophet Neh 9:26; Mat 23:37.
Or, "O generation" that ye are! An exclamation Of indignation at their hardened resistance to God.
A land of darkness - This word is written in Hebrew with two accents, as being a compound, signifying not merely darkness, but the darkness of Yahweh, i. e., very great darkness.
We are lords - Others render it: We rove about, wander about at our will, go where we like.
A bride treasures all her life the girdle, which first indicated that she was a married woman, just as brides now treasure the wedding ring; but Israel, Yahweh's bride Jer 2:2, cherishes no fond memorials of past affection.
Why trimmest thou thy way - literally, "Why makest thou thy way good," a phrase used here of the pains taken by the Jews to learn the idolatries of foreign nations.
The wicked ones ... - Or, "therefore thou hast taught" thy ways wickednesses."
I have not found it ... - Rather, thou didst not find them breaking into thy house. The meaning is, that these poor innocents had committed no crime: they were not thieves caught in the act, whom the Law permitted men to slay Exo 22:2, and therefore Israel in killing them was guilty of murder. The one crime here of theft is put for crime generally.
Upon all these - Or, because of all this. Thou killedst the poor innocents, not for any crime, but because of this thy lust for idolatry.
Because I am innocent - Rather, But "I am innocent," or, "I am acquitted." Those blood-stains cannot be upon my skirts, because now, in king Josiah's days, the idolatry of Manasseh has been put away.
Shall turn from me - Or, has turned away "from me."
Plead - Or, enter into judgment.
To change thy way - The rival parties at Jerusalem looked one to Assyria, the other to Egypt, for safety. As one or other for the time prevailed, the nation "changed its way," sending its embassies now eastward to Nineveh, now westward to Memphis.
Thou also ... - literally, also of Egypt "shalt thou be ashamed." This was literally fulfilled by the failure of the attempt to raise the siege of Jerusalem Jer 37:5.
From him - From it, from this Egypt, which though fem. as a land, yet as a people may be used as a masc. (compare Jer 46:8). Now that Nineveh is trembling before the armies of Cyaxares and Nabopalassar, thou hastenest to Egypt, hoping to rest upon her strength: but thou shalt retrace thy steps, with thy hands clasped upon thy head, disgraced and discarded.
Confidences - Those in whom thou confidest.
In them - literally, "with respect to them."