Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Some divide Jer. 12 into three extracts Jer 12:1-7, Jer 12:14-17 from discourses of Jeremiah not preserved at length; others regard it as a connected discourse occasioned by a drought in the days of Josiah (compare Jer 12:4); others see in the "evil neighbors" Jer 12:14, an allusion to the bands of Syrians etc., who infested the land after Jehoiakim's revolt from Nebuchadnezzar. More probably the outburst of expostulation Jer 12:1-4 was occasioned by the plot of the men of Anathoth, and upon it the rest follows naturally.
Yet let me talk ... - Rather, yet will I speak with thee on a matter of right. This sense is well given in the margin. The prophet acknowledges the general righteousness of God's dealings, but cannot reconcile with it the properity of the conspirators of Anathoth This difficulty was often present to the minds of the saints of the Old Testament, see Job 21:7 ff; Ps. 37; Ps. 73.
Happy - Rather, secure, tranquil.
Their veins - i. e., their heart. The reins were regarded by the Jews as the seat of the affections.
Thou hast seen me ... - Rather, "Thou seest me and triest mine heart" at all times, and knowest the sincerity of its devotion" toward Thee."
Pull them out - The original is used Jer 10:20 of the rending asunder of the cords of the tent, and Eze 17:9 of the tearing up of roots. Jeremiah does not doubt God's justice, or the ultimate punishment of the wicked, but he wants it administered in a summary way.
Prepare - literally, "sanctify," i. e., devote.
The Hebrew divides this verse differently. "How long shall the land mourn, and the herb of the whole field wither? Because of the wickedness of them that dwell therein cattle and fowl have ceased to be: for he will not see, say they, our latter end." The people mock the prophet, saying, In spite of all his threatenings we shall outlive him.
Jeremiah complained that at a time of great general misery powerful men throve upon the ruin of others: even the innocent cattle and fowl suffered with the rest. To him it seemed that all this might have been cured by some signal display of divine justice. If God, instead of dealing with men by general and slow-working laws, would tear (out some of the worst offenders from among the rest, the land might yet be saved.
Yahweh rebukes Jeremiah's impatience, showing him by two proverbial sayings, that there were still greater trials of faith in store for him. Prosperous wickedness is after all a mere ordinary trial, a mere "running with the footmen;" he will have to exert far greater powers of endurance.
And if in the land ... - Rather, "and in a land of peace thou art secure; but how wilt thou do amid the pride of Jordan?" if thou canst feel safe only where things are tranquil, what wilt thou do in the hour of danger? The "pride of Jordan" is taken to, mean the luxuriant thickets along its banks, famous as the haunt of lions (compare Jer 49:19; Jer 50:44; Zac 11:3). What will the prophet do when he has to tread the tangled maze of a jungle with the lions roaring round him?
Called a multitude - Rather, "called aloud." Compare Jer 4:5. In all this Jeremiah was the type of Christ (compare Zac 13:6; Mar 3:21; Joh 7:5).
Yahweh shows that the downfall of the nation was occasioned by no want of love on His part, but by the nation's conduct.
Left - More correctly, cast away.
Judah has not merely refused obedience, but become intractable and fierce, like an untamed lion. It has roared against God with open blasphemy. As His favor is life, so is His hatred death, i. e., Jerusalem's punishment shall be as if inflicted by one that hated her.
Rather, "Is My heritage unto Me as a speckled bird? Are the birds upon her round about? Come, assemble all the wild beasts: bring them to devour her." By "a speckled" or parti-colored "bird" is probably meant some kind of vulture.
Nebuchadnezzar and his confederate kings trampled Judah under foot, as heedless of the ruin they were inflicting as the shepherds would be who led their flocks to browse in spring upon the tender shoots of the vine.
Desolate - The force of the protest lies in this word. Thrice the prophet uses it.
Layeth it to heart - Rather, laid it "to heart." The desolate land must put up its silent cry to God, because the people had refused to see the signs of the coming retribution.
Through - in. Even these remote scaurs do not escape, polluted as they had been by the nation's idolatries.
Shall devour - Or, devoureth. These hosts of war come as Yahweh's sword.
No flesh shall have peace - "Flesh" in Gen 6:3 means mankind as sinners; here, Judah. "Peace" in Hebrew has the wider signification of "welfare, happiness." Hence, their salutation in life was, "Peace be to thee," and in death "In Peace" was engraved upon their sepulchres.
Shall reap ... shall not profit - Rather, have reaped ... have profited nothing. The force of the proverb is that all their labors had ended only in disappointment.
And they shall be ashamed of your revenues - Or, yea, be ashamed of your produce - the produce of the fields.
The prophet addresses the spoilers.
Evil neighbors - The Syrians, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and Philistines, who at all times took advantage of Judah's weakness. The special mercy to Judah was the prelude to mercy to the whole Gentile world.
The accomplishment of this blessing depends upon both Judah and the Gentiles reversing their past conduct. Then shall the believing Gentile be admitted within the fold of the true, because spiritual, Israel - Christ's Church.