Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Causes which Called Down the Judgment Pronounced: The Total Corruption of the People. - Chr. B. Mich. has excellently summed up thus the contents of this chapter: Deus judicia sua, quae cap. IV praedixerat, justificat ostendens, se quamvis invitum, tamen non aliter posse quam punire Judaeos propter praefractam ipsorum malitiam. The train of thought in this chapter is the following: God would pardon if there were to be found in Jerusalem but one who practised righteousness and strove to keep good faith; but high and low have forsaken God and His law, and serve the false gods. This the Lord must punish (Jer 5:1-9). Judah, like Israel, disowns the Lord, and despises the words of His prophets; therefore the Lord must affirm His word by deeds of judgment (Jer 5:10-18). Because they serve the gods of strangers, He will throw them into bondage to strange peoples, that they may learn to fear Him as the Almighty God and Lord of the world, who withholds His benefits from them because their sins keep them far from Him (Jer 5:19-25); for wickedness and crime have acquired a frightful predominance (Jer 5:26-31).
By reason of the universal godlessness and moral corruption the Lord cannot pardon. - Jer 5:1. "Range through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek upon her thoroughfares, if ye find any, if any doth judgment, seeketh after faithfulness, and I will pardon her. Jer 5:2. And if they say, 'As Jahveh liveth,' then in this they swear falsely. Jer 5:3. Jahveh, are not Thine yes upon faithfulness? Thou smitest them, an they are not pained; thou consumest them, they will take no correction; they make their face harder than rock, they will not turn. Jer 5:4. And I thought, It is but the baser sort, they are foolish; for they know not the way of Jahveh, the judgment of their God. Jer 5:5. I will get me then to the great, and will speak with them, for they know the way of Jahveh, the judgment of their God; yet together have they broken the yoke, burst the bonds. Jer 5:6. Therefore a lion out of the wood smiteth them, a wolf of the deserts spoileth them, a leopard lieth in wait against their cities: every one that goeth out thence is torn in pieces; because many are their transgressions, many their backslidings. Jer 5:7. Wherefore should I pardon thee? thy sons have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods. I caused them to sear, but they committed adultery, and crowd into the house of the harlot. Jer 5:8. Like well-fed horses, they are roaming about; each neigheth after the other's wife. Jer 5:9. Shall I not punish this? saith Jahveh; or shall not my soul be avenged on such a people as this?"
The thought of Jer 5:1, that in Jerusalem there is not to be found one solitary soul who concerns himself about uprightness and sincerity, does not, though rhetorically expressed, contain any rhetorical hyperbole or exaggeration such as may have arisen from the prophet's righteous indignation, or have been inferred from the severity of the expected judgment (Hitz.); it gives but the simple truth, as is seen when we consider that it is not Jeremiah who speaks according to the best of his judgment, but God, the searcher of hearts. Before the all-seeing eye of God no man is pure and good. They are all gone astray, and there is none that doeth good, Psa 14:2-3. And if anywhere the fear of God is the ruling principle, yet when the look falls on the mighty hosts of the wicked, even the human eye loses sight of the small company of the godly, since they are in no case to exert an influence on the moral standing of the whole mass. "If ye find any" is defined by, "if there is a worker of right;" and the doing of right or judgment is made more complete by "that seeketh faithfulness," the doing of right or judgment is made more complete by "that seeketh faithfulness," the doing being given as the outcome of the disposition. אמוּנה is not truth (אמת), but sincerity and good faith. On this state of affairs, cf. Hos 4:1; Mic 7:2; Isa 64:5. The pledge that God would pardon Jerusalem if He found but one righteous man in it, recalls Abraham's dealing with God on behalf of Sodom, Gen 18:23. In support of what has been said, it is added in Jer 5:2, that they even abuse God's name for lying purposes; cf. Lev 19:12. Making oath by the life of Jahveh is not looked on here as a confession of faith in the Lord, giving thus as the sense, that even their worship of God was but the work of the lips, not of the heart (Ros.); but the solemn appeal to the living God for the purpose of setting the impress of truth on the face of a life, is brought forward as evidence that there is none that strives after sincerity. the antithesis forced in here by Hitz. and Graf is foreign to text and context both, viz., that between swearing by Jahveh and by the false gods, or any other indifferent name. The emphasis lies on swearing לשׁקר, as opposed to swearing in the way demanded by God, בּאמת וּבמשׁפּט וּבצדקה, Jer 4:2. לכן, therein, i.e., yet even in this, or nevertheless.
The eye of the Lord is directed towards faithfulness, which is not to be found in Jerusalem (Jer 5:1), ל showing the direction toward person or thing, as in Psa 33:18, where ל alternates with אל. Hitz. is wrong in translating: are not thine eyes faithful, i.e., directed according to faithfulness; a sense quite unsuitable here, since the matter in hand is not the character or direction of the eye of God, but that on which God looks. But because God desired sincerity, and there was none in the people of Jerusalem, He has smitten them, chastised them, but they felt no pain (חלוּ from חלה, the tone being drawn back by reason of the '); the chastisement made no impression. Thou consumedst them, exterminatedst them, i.e., "Thou hast utterly exterminated multitudes and swarms of them" (Hitz.), but they refused to receive correction; cf. Jer 2:30. They made their face harder than rock, i.e., hardened themselves by obstinately setting the divine chastisements at naught; cf. Eze 3:7-8.
This total want of good faith and uprightness is found not only in the lower orders of the populace, amongst the mean and ignorant rabble, but in the higher ranks of the educated. This is rhetorically put in this shape, that Jeremiah, believing that only the common people are so deeply sunk in immorality, turns to the great to speak to them, and amongst them discovers a thorough-going renunciation of the law of God. דּלּים, weak, are the mean and poor of the people, who live from hand to mouth in rudeness and ignorance, their anxieties bent on food and clothing (cf. Jer 39:10; Jer 40:7). These do foolishly (נואלוּ as in Num 12:11), from want of religious training. They know not the way of Jahveh, i.e., the way, the manner of life, prescribed to men by God in His word; cf. Kg2 21:22; Psa 25:9, etc. The judgment of their God, i.e., that which God demanded as right and lawful, Kg2 17:26, etc. The great, i.e., the wealthy, distinguished, and educated. Yet even these have broken the yoke of the law, i.e., have emancipated themselves from obedience to the law (Hitz.); cf. Jer 2:20. Therefore they must be visited with punishment.
This verse is neither a threatening of future punishments, nor is to be taken figuratively (lion, bear, leopard, as figures for dreadful enemies). The change from the perf. הכּם to the imperf. ישׁדדם and יטּרף tells against the future construction, showing as it does that the verbs are used aoristically of chastisements which have partly already taken place, which may be partly yet to come. And the figurative explanation of the beasts of prey by hostile peoples - found so early as the Chald. - is not in the least called for by the text; nor is it easy to reconcile it with the specification of various kinds of wild beasts. The words are a case of the threatening of the law in Lev 26:22, that God will chasten the transgressors of His law by sending beasts of prey which shall rob them of their children. Cf. with the promise, that if they keep His commandments, He will destroy the wild beasts out of the land. Cf. also the fact given in Kg2 17:25, that God sent lions amongst the heathen colonists who had been transplanted into the depopulated kingdom of the ten tribes, lions which slew some of them, because they served not Jahveh. The true conception of the words is confirmed by Eze 14:15, when in like manner the sending of evil (ravening) beasts is mentioned as an example of God's punishments. הכּה, smite, is a standing expression for the lion's way of striking down his prey with his paws; cf. Kg1 20:36. זאב ערבות is not wolf of the evening, as Chald. Syr., Hitz. explain it, following Hab 1:8 and Zep 3:3; for ערבות is not the plural of ערב, but of ערבה, steppe: the wolf that lives in the steppe, and thence makes its raids on inhabited spots. The reference of the words to place is suggested plainly by the parallel, the lion out of the wood. The leopard (panther) watches, i.e., lies lurking in wait against their cities, to tear those that come out. The panther is wont to lie in wait for his prey, and to spring suddenly out on it; cf. Hos 13:7. With "because many are thy transgressions," cf. Jer 30:14.
Since these chastisements have profited nothing God cannot pardon the people. This is the meaning of the question in Jer 5:7, אי לזאת, wherefore should I then pardon? not, should I then pardon for this? for אי by itself does not stand for ה interrog., but is set before the pronom. demonstr. to give it the force of an interrogative adjective; cf. Ew. 326, a. The Cheth. אסלוחest obsoletum adeoque genuinum (Ros.); the Keri substitutes the usual form. To justify the question with a negative answer implied, the people's fall into idolatry is again set up before it in strong colours. Thy sons (the sons of the daughter of Zion, i.e., of the national congregation, and so the individual members of the nation; cf. Lev 19:18) have forsaken me, and swear by them that are not gods, i.e., the idols; cf. Jer 2:11. For אשׁבּיע אותם, I caused them to swear, the old translators have אשׂבּיע , I filled them to the full, and so it is read in many codd. and edd. This reading is preferred by most of the ancient commentators, and they appeal for a parallel to Jer 5:28, and Deu 32:15 ("when Jeshurun waxed fat, he kicked"), Hos 13:6; Neh 9:25, etc., where apostasy from God is chidden as a consequence of superfluity of earthly goods. So Luther: "and now that I have filled them full, they committed adultery." Now possibly it is just the recollection of the passages cited that has suggested the reading אשׂביע. The apodosis, they committed adultery, forms no antithesis to filling full. Adultery presupposes a marriage vow, or troth plighted by an oath. God caused Israel to swear fidelity when He made the covenant with it at Sinai, Ex 24. This oath Israel repeated at each renewal of the covenant, and last under Josiah: Kg2 23:3; Ch2 34:31. Hence we must not wholly restrict the searing to the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai, nor wholly to the renewal of it under Josiah. We must refer it to both acts, or rather to the solemnity at Sinai, together with all solemn renewals of it in after times; while at the same time the reference to the renewal under Josiah, this being still fresh in memory, may have been the foremost. We must not confine the reference of ינאפוּ to spiritual adultery (= a fall away from Jahveh into idolatry); the context, especially the next clause, and yet more unmistakeably Jer 5:8, refers to carnal uncleanness. This too was a breach of the covenant, since in taking it the people bound itself not only to be faithful to God, but to keep and follow all the laws of His covenant. That the words, crowd into the house of the harlot, i.e., go thither in crowds, are to be taken of carnal uncleanness, may be gathered from Jer 5:8: each neighs after the wife of his neighbour. Fornication is denounced as a desecration of the name of the Lord in Amo 2:7. The first clause of Jer 5:8 suggests a comparison: well-fed horses are they, i.e., they resemble such. On the lechery of horses, see on Eze 23:20. The Cheth. מוזנים is partic. Hoph. of זוּן, in Aram. feed, fatten, here most suitable. The Keri מיזנים would be the partic. Pu. from יזן, the meaning of which is doubtful, given arbitrarily by Kimchi and others as armati sc. membro genitali. משׁכּים, too, is derived from משׁך, and given by Jerome sensu obscaeno: trahentes sc. genitalia; but משׁכּים cannot come from משׁך, משׁכּים being the only possible form in that case. Nor does trahentes, "draught-horses" (Hitz.), give a sense at all in point for the comparison. A better view is that of those who follow Simonis, in holding it to be partic. Hiph. of שׁכה, in Aethiop. oberravit, vagatus est. The participle is not to be joined with "horses" as a second qualifying word, but to be taken with היוּ, the periphrastic form being chosen to indicate the enduring chronic character of the roaming.
Such abandoned behaviour the Lord must punish.
In spite of the feeling of security fostered by the false prophets, the Lord will make good His word, and cause the land and kingdom to be laid waste by a barbarous people. - Jer 5:10. "Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy, but make not a full end: tear away her tendrils; for they are not Jahveh's. Jer 5:11. For faithless to me is the house of Israel become and the house of Judah, saith Jahveh. Jer 5:12. They deny Jahveh, and say, He is not; and evil shall not come upon us, and sword and famine we shall not see. Jer 5:13. And the prophets shall become wind, and he that speaketh is not in them: so may it happen unto them. Jer 5:14. Therefore thus saith Jahveh the God of hosts: Because ye speak this word, behold, I make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them. Jer 5:15. Behold, I bring upon you a nation from far, house of Israel, saith Jahveh, a people that is strong, a people that is from of old, a people whose speech thou knowest not, and understandest not what it saith. Jer 5:16. Its quiver is as an open grave, they are all mighty men. Jer 5:17. It shall eat up thy harvest and thy bread; they shall eat up thy sons and thy daughters; it shall eat up thy flocks and thy cattle, eat up thy vine and thy fig-tree; it shall break down thy fenced cities, wherein thou trustest, with the sword. Jer 5:18. But yet in those days, saith Jahveh, I will not make a full end with you."
To give emphasis to the threat, that the Lord will avenge Himself on such a people, we have immediately following, in Jer 5:10, the summons given to the enemy to subdue the land.עלוּ בשׁרותיה is variously explained. The old translators took שׁרות to mean walls; but the second clause, tear away the tendrils, seems not to suit this well. And then this word occurs but once again, and with the meaning "caravan," while walls are שׁוּרות in Job 24:11. But this reason is not strong enough to throw any doubt on the rendering: walls, supported as it is by the old versions. The form שׁרות from שׁוּר is contracted from a form שׁורים, constructed analogously to שׁורות. The second clause would be unsuitable to the first only in the case that walls were to mean exclusively town walls or fortifications. But this is not the case. Even if the suffix here referred to Jerusalem, mentioned in Jer 5:1, which is very doubtful, still then the city would be looked on not in the light of a stronghold, but only as representative of the kingdom or of the theocracy. Probably, however, the suffix refers to the daughter of Zion as seat of the kingdom of God, and the idea of a vineyard was in the prophet's mind (cf. Jer 2:21), under which figure Isaiah (Isa 5:1-7) set forth the kingdom of God founded on Mount Zion; so that under walls, the walls of the vineyard are to be thought of. Elsewhere, indeed, these are called גּדרות (also in Jer 49:3), but only where the figure of a vineyard is further developed, or at least is brought more plainly and prominently forward. Here, again, where the enemy is summoned to go upon the walls, this figure is mixed up with that of a city; and so the word שׂרות, as indicating walls of any kind, seems most fitting. Graf has overthrown, as being unfounded, Hitz.'s assertion, that עלה signified only, to go up against a thing; and that accuracy and elegance required that the destruction should be of the walls, not of the vineyard itself. עלה c. בּ means also: to go up upon a thing, e.g., Psa 24:3; Deu 5:5; and the verb שׁחתוּ stands quite absolutely, so that it cannot be restricted to the walls. "And destruction can only take place when, by scaling the walls, entrance has been obtained into that which is to be destroyed, be it city or vineyard." We therefore adhere to the sig. walls, especially since the other translations attempted by Ew. and Hitz. are wholly without foundation. Hitz. will have us read שׂרותיה, and take this as plural of שׁורה; next he supposes a row of vines to be intended, but he obtains this sense only by arbitrarily appending the idea of vines. Ew. endeavours, from the Aram. and Arab., to vindicate for the word the meaning: clusters of blossom, and so to obtain for the whole the translation: push in amidst the blossom-spikes. A singular figure truly, which in no way harmonizes with עלוּ ב. "Destroy" is restricted by the following "but make not," etc.; see on Jer 4:27. On "tear away her tendrils," cf. Isa 18:5. The spoilers are not to root up the vine itself, but to remove the tendrils, which do not belong to Jahveh. Spurious members of the nation are meant, those who have degenerated out of their kind.
The reasons of this command are given in Jer 5:11., by a renewed exposure of the people's apostasy. The house of Israel and the house of Judah are become faithless. On this cf. Jer 3:6. The mention of Israel along with Judah gives point to the threatening, since judgment has already been executed upon Israel. Judah has equalled Israel in faithlessness, and so a like fate will be its lot. Judah shows its faithlessness by denying the Lord, by saying לא הוּא. This Ew. translates: not so, after the οὐκ ἔστι ταῦτα of the lxx; but he is certainly wrong in this. Even though הוּא may be used in place of the neuter, yet it cannot be so used in this connection, after the preceding כּחשׁוּ ביהוה. Better to take it: He is not, as the fools speak in Psa 14:1 : there is no God, i.e., go on in their lives as if God were not. "Jahveh is not" is therefore in other words: there exists not a God such as Jahveh is preached to us, who is to visit His people with sore punishments. This view is not open to the objection, quod pro lubitu supplent, which Ros. raises against the interpretation: non est is, qualem prophetae describunt. For we take הוּא not as is qualem, but as est sc. Jahveh; and we explain the meaning of Jahveh only in that reference in which He is disowned by these men, namely, as God who visits His people with punishments. In this character He was preached by the prophets. This appears from what is further said by these disowners of God: evil or mischief will not come on us. To a saying of this kind they could have been provoked only by threatenings of punishments. The prophets were not indeed the first to announce judgments; Moses in the law threatened transgressors with the sorest punishments. But the context, the threatening against the false prophets in Jer 5:13, suggests that here we are to think of announcements by the prophets. Doubtless the false prophets assured the people: evil shall not come upon you, in opposition to the true prophets, who threatened the sinful race with the judgments of God. Such prophets are to become wind, sc. with their utterances. הדּבּר is not a noun: the word, but a verb, with the article instead of the relative pronoun, as in Josh. 1:24; Ch1 26:28, and often: He who speaks is not in them, i.e., in them there is none other speaker than themselves; the Spirit of God is not in them. אין, "there is none," is stronger than לא, meaning: they speak out of their own hearts. The threat, so be it unto them, may be most simply referred to the first clause: they become wind. Let the emptiness of their prophecies fall on their own heads, so that they themselves may come to nought.
But the people is to have proof of the truth of the word of the Lord. Because it, despising the threatening of punishment, says: Misfortune shall not light upon us, the Lord will make the word in the mouth of Jeremiah a fire, and the people wood, that the fire may consume it. On this figure, cf. Isa 1:31; Isa 10:17. Jer 5:15. explain this, and announce the inroad of a dreadful enemy that is to lay waste the land and consume the people. "A people from far," as in Jer 4:16. Judah is called "house of Israel," not so much because it is what remains of Israel, but because, after the captivity of the ten tribes, Judah regarded itself as the only true Israel or people of God. Further description of the hostile people is intended to show its formidable power, and to inspire dread. איתן, enduring, firm, strong; cf. Gen 49:24; Mic 6:2. מעולם, dating from eternity, i.e., very ancient, not of recent origin, but become mighty in immemorial antiquity. A people speaking a language unfamiliar to the Jews, to comprehend whom is impossible, i.e., barbarous; cf. Deu 28:49. Further (Jer 5:16), it is a race of very heroes, fully furnished with deadly weapons. J. D. Mich. took objection to the figure, "its quiver is as an open grave;" but his conjecture שׂפתו put nothing better in place of it. The link of comparison is this: as an open grave is filled with dead men, so the quiver of this enemy is filled with deadly missiles.
This people will devour the harvest and the bread, the children, the cattle, and the best fruits of the land. Devour, here as often, in the wider sense, destroy; cf. e.g., Jer 3:24 and Jer 10:25, where the first half of the present verse is compressed into the words: they ate up Jacob. We need not wait to refute Hitz.'s absurd remark, that the author imagined the enemy, the assumed Scythians, to be cannibals. In the second half of the verse the words, "the fenced cities wherein thou trustest,"are a reminiscence of Deu 28:52; and hence we may see, that while our prophet is describing the enemy in Jer 5:15-18, Moses' threatening, Deu 28:49-52, was in his mind. רשׁשׁ, break in pieces, as in Mal 1:4. With the sword, i.e., by force of arms; the sword, as principal weapon, being named, instead of the entire apparatus of war. In Jer 5:18 the restriction of Jer 5:10 (cf. Jer 4:27) is repeated, and with it the threatening of judgment is rounded off.
This calamity Judah is preparing for itself by its obduracy and excess of wickedness. - Jer 5:19. "And if ye then shall say, Wherefore hath Jahveh our God done all this unto us? then say to them, Like as ye have forsaken me and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours. Jer 5:20. Declare this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in Judah, saying, Jer 5:21. Hear now this, foolish people without understanding, that have eyes and see not, have ears and hear not. Jer 5:22. Me will ye not fear, saith Jahve, nor tremble before me? who have set the sand for a bound to the sea, an everlasting boundary that it passes not, and its waves toss themselves and cannot, and roar and pass not over. Jer 5:23. But this people hath a stubborn and rebellious heart; they turned away and went. Jer 5:24. And said not in their heart: Let us now fear Jahveh our God, who giveth rain, the early rain and the late rain, in its season; who keepeth for us the appointed weeks of the harvest. Jer 5:25. Your iniquities have turned away these, and your sins have withholden the good from you. Jer 5:26. For among my people are found wicked men; they lie in wait as fowlers stoop; they set a trap, they catch men. Jer 5:27. As a cage full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit; therefore are they become great and rich. Jer 5:28. They are grown fat and sleek, they go beyond bound in wickedness; the cause they try not, the cause of the orphans, that they might have prosperity; and the right of the needy they judge not. Jer 5:29. Shall I not punish this? saith Jahveh; shall not my soul be avenged on such a people as this? Jer 5:30. The appalling and horrible is done in the land. Jer 5:31. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule under their lead, and my people loves it so. But what will ye do in the end thereof."
The thought of Jer 5:19, that the people, by its apostasy, draws down this judgment on itself, forms the transition from the threat of punishment to the reproof of sins. The penalty corresponds to the sin. Because Judah in its own land serves the gods of foreigners, so it must serve strangers in a foreign land.
The reproof of sins is introduced by an apostrophe to the hardened race. The exhortation, "Publish this," is addressed to all the prophet's hearers who have the welfare of the people at heart. "This," in Jer 5:20 and Jer 5:21, refers to the chiding statement from Jer 5:23 onwards, that the people fears not God. The form of address, people foolish and without understanding (cf. Jer 4:22; Hos 7:11), is made cutting, in order, if possible, to bring the people yet to their senses. The following clauses, "they have eyes," etc., depict spiritual blindness and deafness, as in Eze 12:22; cf. Deu 29:3. Blindness is shown in that they see not the government of God's almighty power in nature; deafness, in that they hear not the voice of God in His word. They have no fear even of the God whose power has in the sand set an impassable barrier for the mighty waves of the sea. "Me" is put first for emphasis. The waves beat against their appointed barrier, but are not able, sc. to pass it.
But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; it bows not beneath the almighty hand of God. "Stubborn and rebellious," joined as in Deu 21:18, Deu 21:20. Hence the following סרוּ is not to be taken from סרר: they defy (Hitz.), but from סוּר: they turn away and go off, and consider not that they owe their daily bread to the Lord. Neither does God's power move the obdurate people to the fear of Him, nor do the proofs of His love make any impression. They do not consider that God gives them the rain which lends the land its fruitfulness, so that at the fixed time they may gather in the harvest. The ו cop. before יורה is rejected by the Masoretes in the Keri as out of place, since גּשׁם is not any special rain, co-ordinate to the early and late rain (Hitz.), or because they had Deu 11:14; Joe 2:23 before them. But in this they failed to notice that the ו before יורה and that before מלקושׁ are correlative, having the force of et - et. שׁבעת is stat. constr. from שׁבעת, weeks, and to it חקּות is co-ordinated in place of an adjective, so that קציר is dependent on two co-ordinate stat. constr., as in Jer 46:9, Jer 46:11; Zep 2:6. But the sense is not, the weeks, the statutes, of the harvest, i.e., the fixed and regulated phenomena which regulate the harvest (Graf), but, appointed weeks of harvest. The seven weeks between the second day of the passover and the feast of harvest, or of weeks, Exo 23:16; Exo 34:22; Deu 16:9., are what is here meant. We must reject the rendering, "oath as to the harvest-time" (L. de Dieu, J. D. Mich., and Ew.), since Scripture knows nothing of oaths taken by God as to the time of harvest; in Gen 8:22 there is no word of an oath.
The people has by its sins brought about the withdrawal of these blessings (the withholding of rain, etc.). הטּוּ, turned away, as in Amo 5:12; Mal 3:5. "These," i.e., the blessings mentioned in Jer 5:24. The second clause repeats the same thing. The good, i.e., which God in His goodness bestowed on them.
This is established in Jer 5:26. by bringing home to the people their besetting sins. In (amidst) the people are found notorious sinners. ישׁוּר in indefinite generality: they spy about, lie in wait; cf. Hos 13:7. The singular is chosen because the act described is not undertaken in company, but by individuals. שׁך from שׁכך, bend down, stoop, as bird-catchers hide behind the extended nets till the birds have gone in, so as then to draw them tight. "They set;" not the fowlers, but the wicked ones. משׁחית, destroyer (Exo 12:23, and often), or destruction (Ezek. 21:36); here, by virtue of the context, a trap which brings destruction. The men they catch are the poor, the needy, and the just; cf. Jer 5:28 and Isa 29:21. The figure of bird-catching leads to a cognate one, by which are set forth the gains of the wicked or the produce of their labours. As a cage is filled with captured birds, so the houses of the wicked are filled with deceit, i.e., possessions obtained by deceit, through which they attain to credit, power, and wealth. Graf has overthrown Hitz.'s note, that we must understand by מרמה, not riches obtained by deceit, but he means and instruments of deceit; and this on account of the following: therefore they enrich themselves. But, as Graf shows, it is not the possession of these appliances, but of the goods acquired by deceit, that has made these people great and rich, "as the birds that fill the cage are not a means for capture, but property got by cunning." כּלוּב, cage, is not strictly a bird-cage, but a bird-trap woven of willows (Amo 8:1), with a lid to shut down, by means of which birds were caught.
Through the luxurious living their wealth makes possible to them, they are grown fat and sleek. עשׁתוּ, in graphic description, is joined asynd. to the preceding verb. It is explained by recent comm. of fat bodies, become glossy, in keeping with the noun עשׁת, which in Sol 5:14 expresses the glitter of ivory; for the meaning cogitare, think, meditate, which עשׁת bears in Chald., yields no sense available here. The next clause is variously explained. גּם points to another, yet worse kind of behaviour. It is not possible to defend the translation: they overflow with evil speeches, or swell out with evil things (Umbr., Ew.), since עבר c. accus. does not mean to overflow with a thing. Yet more arbitrary is the assumption of a change of the subject: (their) evil speeches overflow. The only possible subject to the verb is the wicked ones, with whom the context deals before and after. דּברי־רע are not words of wickedness = what may be called wickedness, but things of wickedness, wicked things. דּברי serves to distribute the idea of רע into the particular cases into which it falls, as in Psa 65:4; Psa 105:27, and elsewhere, where it is commonly held to be pleonastic. Hitz. expounds truly: the individual wickednesses in which the abstract idea of wicked manifests itself. Sense: they go beyond all that can be conceived as evil, i.e., the bounds of evil or wickedness. The cause they plead not, namely, the case of the orphans. ויצליחוּ, imperf. c. ו consec.: that so they might have prosperity. Hitz. regards the wicked men as the subject, and explains the words thus: such justice would indeed be a necessary condition of their success. But that the wicked could attain to prosperity by seizing every opportunity of defending the rights of the fatherless is too weak a thought, coming after what has preceded, and besides it does not fit the case of those who go beyond all bounds in wickedness. Ew. and Graf translate: that they (the wicked) might make good the rightful cause (of the orphan), help the poor man to his rights. But even if הצליח seems in Ch2 7:11; Dan 8:25, to have the signif. carry through, make good, yet in these passages the sig. carry through with success is fundamental; there, as here, this will not suit, הצליח being in any case applicable only to doubtful and difficult causes - a thought foreign to the present context. Blame is attached to the wicked, not because they do not defend the orphan's doubtful pleas, but because they give no heed at all to the orphan's rights. We therefore hold with Raschi that the orphans are subject to this verb: that the orphans might have had prosperity. The plural is explained when we note that יתום is perfectly general, and may be taken as collective. The accusation in this verse shows further that the prophet had the godless rulers and judges of the people in his eye.
Jer 5:29 is a refrain-like repetition of Jer 5:9. - The Jer 5:30 and Jer 5:31 are, as Hitz. rightly says, "a sort of epimetrum added after the conclusion in Jer 5:29," in which the already described moral depravity is briefly characterized, and is asserted of all ranks of the people. Appalling and horrible things happen in the land; cf. Jer 2:12; Jer 23:14; Jer 18:13; Hos 6:10. The prophets prophesy with falsehood, בּשּׁקר, as in Jer 20:6; Jer 29:9; more fully בּשׁמי לשׁקר, Jer 23:25; Jer 27:15. The priests rule על, at their (the prophets') hands, i.e., under their guidance or direction; cf. Ch1 25:2., Ch2 23:18; not: go by their side (Ges., Dietr.), for רדה is not: go, march on, but: trample down. My people loves it so, yields willingly to such a lead; cf. Amo 4:5. What will ye do לאחריתהּ, as to the end of this conduct? The suff. faem. with neuter force. The end thereof will be the judgment; will ye be able to turn it away?