Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The gathering again of the flock, scattered by the evil shepherds, by meant of the righteous branch from the stock of David. - Jer 23:1. "Woe to shepherds that destroy and scatter the flock of my pasturing! saith Jahveh. Jer 23:2. Therefore thus saith Jahveh, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds that feed my people: Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and not visited them; behold, I will visit on you the evil of your doings, saith Jahveh. Jer 23:3. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all lands whither I have driven them, and bring them back to their pasture, that they may be fruitful and increase; Jer 23:4. And will raise up over them shepherds that shall feed them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor be lacking, saith Jahveh. Jer 23:5. Behold, days come, saith Jahveh, that I raise up unto David a righteous branch, that shall reign as king, and deal wisely, and do right and justice in the land. Jer 23:6. In his days Judah shall have welfare, and Israel dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called: Jahveh our Righteousness. Jer 23:7. Therefore, behold, days come, saith Jahveh, that they shall no more say: By the life of Jahveh who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt, Jer 23:8. But: By the life of Jahveh who brought up and led forth the seed of the house of Israel out of the land towards midnight, and out of all the lands whither I had driven them, and they shall dwell in their own land."
This portion is the conclusion of the prophecy concerning the shepherds of Israel, Jer 22. In Jer 23:1 and Jer 23:2 what has been foretold concerning the last kings of Judah is condensed into one general sentence, so as thus to form a point of connection for the declaration of salvation which follows at Jer 23:3, consisting in the gathering again of the people, neglected and scattered by the evil shepherds, by means of the righteous branch of David. The Lord cries woe upon the shepherds. רעים without article, because the matter concerns all evil shepherds, and is not applied till Jer 23:2 to the evil rulers of Judah. Venema rightly says: Generale vae pastoribus malis praemittitur, quod mox ad pastores Judae applicatur. It is so clear from the context as to have been generally admitted by recent comm., that by shepherds are meant not merely the false prophets and priests, nor even these along with the kings; cf. on Jer 3:15; Jer 25:34., and Ezek 34. The flock of my pasturing, in other words, the flock, which I feed; for מרעית sig. both the feeding (cf. Hos 13:6) and the place where the flock feeds, cf. Jer 25:36; Psa 74:1. Israel is called the flock of Jahveh's pasturing inasmuch as He exerts a special care over it. The flock bad shepherds, the ungodly monarchs on the throne of David, have brought to ruin and scattered. The scattering is in Jer 23:2, cf. with Jer 23:3, called a driving out into the lands; but the "destroying" must be discovered from the train of thought, for the clause: ye have not visited them (Jer 23:2), intimates merely their neglect of the sheep committed to their charge. What the "destroying" more especially is, we may gather from the conduct of King Jehoiakim, described in Jer 22:13.; it consists in oppression, violence, and the shedding of innocent blood; cf. Eze 34:2-3. With לכן, Jer 23:2, is made the application of the general sentence, Jer 23:1, to the shepherds of Israel. Because they are such as have scattered, driven away, and not visited the flock of the Lord, therefore He will punish in them the wickedness of their doings. In the לא פקדתּם אתם is summed up all that the rulers have omitted to do for the flock committed to their care; cf. the specification of what they have not done, Eze 34:4. It was their duty, as Ven. truly says, to see ut vera religio, pabulum populi spiritual, recte et rite exerceretur. Instead of this, they have, by introducing idolatry, directly encouraged ungodliness, and the immorality which flows therefrom. Here in "ye have not visited them" we have the negative moment made prominent, so that in Jer 23:3 may follow what the Lord will do for His scattered flock. Cf. the further expansion of this promise in Eze 34:12. We must note "I have driven them," since in Jer 23:2 it was said that the bad shepherds had driven the flock away. The one does not exclude the other. By their corrupting the people, the wicked shepherds had occasioned the driving out; and this God has inflicted on the people as punishment. But the people, too, had their share in the guilt; but to this attention is not here directed, since the question deals only with the shepherds.
When the Lord shall gather His people out of the dispersion, then will He raise up shepherds over them who will so feed them that they shall no longer need to fear or to be dismayed before enemies who might be strong enough to subjugate, slay, and carry them captive. The figurative expressions are founded on the idea that the sheep, when they are neglected by the shepherds, are torn and devoured by wild beasts; cf. Eze 34:8. They shall not be lacking; cf. for נפקד with this force, Sa1 25:7; in substance = not be lost. לא יפּקדוּ is chosen with a view to לא פקדתּם אתם (Jer 23:2): because the shepherds did not take charge of the sheep, therefore the sheep are scattered and lost. Hereafter this shall happen no more. The question as to how this promise is to be accomplished is answered by Jer 23:5 and Jer 23:6. The substance of these verses is indeed introduced by the phrase: behold, days come, as something new and important, but not as something not to happen till after the things foretold in Jer 23:4. According to Jeremiah's usage throughout, that phrase does not indicate any progress in time as compared with what precedes, but draws attention to the weightiness of what is to be announced. There is also a suggestion of "the contrast between the hope and the existing condition of affairs, which does not itself justify that hope. However gloomy the present is, yet there is a time coming" (Hgstb.). The promise: I make to arise (raise up) to David a righteous branch, rests upon the promise, Sa2 7:12; Ch1 17:12 : I raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons-which the Lord will hereafter fulfil to David. Graf tries to show by many, but not tenable arguments, that צמח has here a collective force. That he is wrong, we may see from the passages Zac 3:8 and Zac 6:12, where the same "branch" foretold by Jeremiah is called the man whose name is צמח; and even without this we may discover the same from the context of the present passage, both from "He shall reign as king," and still more from: they shall call his name Jahveh Tsidkenu. Neither of these sayings can be spoken of a series of kings. Besides, we have the passages Jer 30:9 and Eze 34:23., Eze 37:24, where the servant to be raised up to David by Jahveh is called "my servant David." Although then צמח has a collective force when it means a plant of the field, it by no means follows that "it has always a collective force" in its transferred spiritual signification. And the passage, Jer 33:17, where the promise is explained by: David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of Israel (cf. Jer 33:21), does not prove that the branch of David is a collective grouping together of all David's future posterity, but only that this one branch of David shall possess the throne for ever, and not, like mortal men, for a series of years only; Sa2 7:16. צמח denotes the Messiah, and this title is formed from צמח, Isa 4:2 (see Del. on this passage). Nor does the mention of shepherds in the plural, Jer 23:4, at all oppose this. An untenable rendering of the sense is: first I will raise up unto you shepherds, then the Messiah; or: better shepherds, inprimis unum, Messiam (Chr. B. Mich.). The two promises are not so to be joined. First we have the raising up of good shepherds, in contrast to the evil shepherds that have destroyed the people; then the promise is further explained to the effect that these good shepherds shall be raised up to David in the "righteous branch," i.e., in the promised "seed" of his sons. The good shepherds are contrasted with the evil shepherds, but are then summed up in the person of the Messiah, as being comprised therein. The relation of the good shepherds to the righteous branch is not so, that the latter is the most pre-eminent of the former, but that in that one branch of David the people should have given to them all the good shepherds needed for their deliverance. The Messiah does not correspond to the series of David's earthly posterity that sit upon his throne, in that He too, as second David, will also have a long series of descendants upon His throne; but in that His kingdom, His dominion, lasts for ever. In the parallel passage, Jer 33:15, where the contrast to the evil shepherds is omitted, we therefore hear only of the one branch of David; so in Ezek 34, where only the one good shepherd, the servant of the Lord, David, stands in contrast to the evil shepherds (Jer 23:23). Hence neither must we seek the fulfilment of our prophecy in the elevation of the Maccabees, who were not even of the race of David, nor understand, as Grot., Zerubbabel to be the righteous branch, but the Messiah, as was rightly understood by the Chald. He is צדּיק in contrast to the then reigning members of the house of David, and as He who will do right and justice in His realm; cf. Jer 22:15, where the same is said of Josiah as contrasted with his ungodly son Jehoiakim. מלך is subjoined to מלך to bespeak His rule as kingship in the fullest sense of the word. Regnabit rex, i.e., magnifice regnabit, ut non tantum appareant aliquae reliquiae pristinae dignitatis, sed ut rex floreat et vigeat et obtineat perfectionem, qualis fuit sub Davide et Salomone ac multo praestantior (Calv.). השׂכּיל, deal prudently, rule wisely, as in Jer 3:15, not: be fortunate, prosperous. Here the context demands the former rendering, the only one justified by usage, since the doing of right and justice is mentioned as the fruit and result of the השׂכיל. These words, too, point back to David, of whom it is in Sa2 8:15 said, that he as king did right and justice to all his people.
Jer 23:6 exhibits the welfare which the "branch" will, by His wise and just rule, secure for the people. Judah shall be blessed with welfare (נושׁע), and Israel dwell safely; that blessing will come into fulfilment which Moses set before the people's view in Deu 33:28. יהוּדה as the totality of the inhabitants is construed as feminine, as in Jer 3:7; Jer 14:2, etc. Israel denotes the ten tribes. Under the just sceptre of the Messiah, all Israel will reach the destiny designed for it by the Lord, will, as God's people, attain to full dignity and glory.
This is the name by which they shall call Him, the branch of David: Jahveh our Righteousness. The suffix in יקראו refers to "righteous branch." Instead of the 3 pers. sing. יקרא with the suffix ו, some codd. have the plur. יקראוּ. This some polemical authors, such as Raim., Martini, Galatin, hold to be the true reading; and they affirmed the other had proceeded from the Jews, with the design of explaining away the deity of the Messiah. The Jews translated, they said: This is the name whereby Jahveh will call him: Our Righteousness; which is indeed the rendering of R. Saad. Gaon apud Aben Ezra, and of Menasse ben Israel. But this rendering is rejected by most Jewish comm. as being at variance with the accents, so that the impugned reading could not well have been invented by the Jews for polemical purposes. יקראו is attested by most codd., and is rendered by the lxx, so that the sense can be none other than: they will call the righteous branch of David "Jahveh our Righteousness." Most comm., including even Hitz., admit that the suffix refers to צמח, the principal person in both verses. Only Ew., Graf, and Ng. seek to refer it to Israel, because in Jer 33:16 the same name is given to Jerusalem. But the passage cited does not prove the case. To call any one by a name universally denotes in the prophetic usage: to set him forth as that which the name expresses; so here: the branch of David will manifest Himself to the people of Israel as Jahve Tsidkenu. This name is variously expounded. The older Christian comm. understand that the Messiah is here called Jehovah, and must therefore be true God, and that He is called our righteousness, inasmuch as He justifies us by His merit.
(Note: Thus the Vulg. renders: Dominus justus noster; and even Calv. says: Quicunque sine contentione et amarulentia judicant, facile vident, idem nomen competer in Christum, quatenus est Deus, sicuti nomen filii Davidis respectu humanae naturae ei tribuitur. - Omnibus aequis et moderatis hoc constabit, Christum hic insigniri duplici elogio, ut in eo nobis commendet propheta tam deitatis gloriam, quam veritatem humanae naturae; and by the righteousness he understands justification by the merits of Christ.)
But the rabbinical interpreters, headed by the Chald., take the name to be an abbreviation of a sentence; so e.g., Kimchi: Israel vocabit Messiam hoc nomine, quia ejus temporibus Domini justitia nobis firma, jugis et non recedet. They appeal to Jer 33:17 and to other passages, such as Exo 17:15, where Moses calls the altar "Jahveh my Banner," and Gen 33:20, where Jacob gives to the altar built by him the name El elohe Jisrael. Hgstb. has rightly pronounced for this interpretation. The passages cited show who in such names an entire sentence is conveyed. "Jahveh my Banner" is as much as to say: This altar is dedicated to Jahveh my banner, or to the Almighty, the God of Israel. So all names compounded of Jahveh; e.g., Jehoshua = Jahveh salvation, brief for: he to whom Jahveh vouchsafes salvation. So Tsidkijahu = Jahve's righteousness, for: he to whom Jahveh deals righteousness. To this corresponds Jahveh Tsidkenu: he by whom Jahveh deals righteousness. We are bound to take the name thus by the parallel passage, Jer 33:16, where the same name is given to Jerusalem, to convey the thought, that by the Messiah the Lord will make Jerusalem the city of Righteousness, will give His righteousness to it, will adorn and glorify it therewith.
צדקנוּ is not to be referred, as it is by the ancient Church comm., to justification through the forgiveness of sins. With this we have not here to do, but with personal righteousness, which consists in deliverance from all unrighteousness, and which is bound up with blessedness. Actual righteousness has indeed the forgiveness of sins for its foundation, and in this respect justification is not to be wholly excluded; but this latter is here subordinate to actual righteousness, which the Messiah secures for Israel by the righteousness of His reign. The unrighteousness of the former kings has brought Israel and Judah to corruption and ruin; the righteousness of the branch to be hereafter raised up to David will remove all the ruin and mischief from Judah, and procure for them the righteousness and blessedness which is of God. - "What Jeremiah," as is well remarked by Hgstb., "sums up in the name Jehovah Tsidkenu, Ezekiel expands at length in the parallel Eze 34:25-31 : the Lord concludes with them a covenant of peace; rich blessings fall to their lot; He breaks their yoke, frees them from bondage; they do not become the heathen's prey." These divine blessings are also to be conferred upon the people by means of the righteous branch. What the ancient Church comm. found in the name was true as to the substance. For as no man is perfectly righteous, so no mere earthly king can impart to the people the righteousness of Jahveh in the full sense of the term; only He who is endowed with the righteousness of God. In so far the Godhead of this King is contained implicite in the name; only we must not understand that he that bore the name is called Jahveh. But that righteousness, as the sum of all blessing, is set before the people's view, we may gather from the context, especially from Jer 23:7 and Jer 23:8, where it is said that the blessings to be conferred will outshine all former manifestations of God's grace. This is the sense of both verses, which, save in the matter of a trifling change in Jer 23:8, are verbally repeated from Jer 16:14 and Jer 16:15, where they have already been expounded.
(Note: The lxx have omitted both these verses here, and have placed them at the end of the chapter, after Jer 23:40; but by their contents they do not at all belong to that, whereas after Jer 23:6 they are very much in place, as even Hitz. admits. In the text of the lxx handed down, Jer 23:6 ends with the words: ̓Ιωσεδὲκ ἐν τοῖς προφήταις; and ̓Ιωσεδὲκ may be said to correspond to יהוה צדקנוּ, and ἐν τοῖς προφήταις to לנּביאים, Jer 23:9. Hitz. and Gr. therefore infer that Jer 23:7 and Jer 23:8 were wanting also in the Heb. text used by the translator, and that they must have been added by way of supplement, most probably from another MS. This inference is thought to find support in the assumption that, because the Greek MSS have no point between ̓Ιωσεδὲκ and ἐν τοῦς προφήταις, therefore the Alexandrian translator must have joined these words together so as to make one - meaningless - sentence. A thoroughly uncritical conclusion, which could be defended only if the Alex. translators had punctuated their Greek text as we have it punctuated in our printed editions. And if a later reader of the lxx had added the verses from the Hebrew text, then he would certainly have intercalated them at the spot where they stood in the original, i.e., between Jer 23:6 and Jer 23:9. Their displacement to a position after Jer 23:40 is to be explained from the fact that in Jer 16:14 and Jer 16:15 they immediately follow a threatening: and is manifestly the work of the translator himself, who omitted them after Jer 23:6, understanding them as of threatening import, because a threatening seemed to him to be out of place after Jer 23:6.)
Against the False Prophets. - Next to the kings, the pseudo-prophets, who flattered the people's carnal longings, have done most to contribute to the fall of the realm. Therefore Jeremiah passes directly from his discourse against the wicked kings to rebuking the false prophets; and if we may presume from the main substance, the latter discourse belongs to the same time as the former. It begins
With a description of the pernicious practices of these persons. - Jer 23:9. "Concerning the prophets. Broken is mine heart within me; all my bones totter. I am become like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of Jahveh and because of His holy words. Jer 23:10. For of adulterers the land is full, for because of the curse the land withereth, the pastures of the wilderness dry up; and their course is become evil, and their strength not right. Jer 23:11. For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in mine house found I their wickedness, saith Jahveh. Jer 23:12. Therefore their way shall be to them as slippery places in darkness, they shall be thrown down and fall therein; for I bring evil upon them, the year of their visitation, saith Jahveh. Jer 23:13. In the prophets of Samaria saw I folly; they prophesied in the name of Baal, and led my people Israel astray. Jer 23:14. But in the prophets of Jerusalem saw I an horrible thing, committing adultery and walking in falsehood, and they strengthen the hands of the wicked, that none returneth from his wickedness. They are all become to me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. Jer 23:15. Therefore thus saith Jahveh of hosts concerning the prophets: Behold, I feed them with wormwood, and give them to drink water of bitterness; for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth over all the land."
"Concerning the prophets" is the heading, as in Jer 46:2; Jer 48:1; Jer 49:1, Jer 49:7, Jer 49:23, Jer 49:28; and corresponds to the woe uttered against the wicked shepherds, Jer 23:1. It refers to the entire portion vv. 9-40, which is thus distinguished from the oracles concerning the kings, Jer 21:1-14 and 22. It might indeed be joined, according to the accents, with what follows: because of the prophets is my heart broken; but as the cause of Jeremiah's deep agitation is given at the end of the second half-verse: because of Jahveh, etc., it is not likely the seer would in one sentence have given two different and quite separate reasons. The brokenness of his heart denotes the profoundest inward emotion yet not despondency by reason of sin and misery, like "a broken heart" in Psa 34:19; Psa 51:19, etc., but because of God's wrath at the impious lives of the pseudo-prophets. This has overcome him, and this he must publish. This wrath had broken his heart and seized on all his bones, so that they nervelessly tremble, and he resembles a drunken man who can no longer stand firm on his feet. He feels himself inwardly quite downcast; he not only feels the horrors of the judgment that is to befall the false prophets and corrupt priests who lead the people astray, but knows well the dreadful sufferings the people too will have to endure. The verb רחף occurs only twice in the Piel besides in the present passage; in Gen 1:2, of the Spirit of God that in the beginning of creation brooded over the waters of the earth, and Deu 32:11, of the eagle that flutters over her young - in Arabic rchf, to be soft. The root meaning of the word is doubtless: to be flaccid; here accordingly, to totter, to sway to and fro. "Because of Jahveh" is more fully explained by "because of the words of His holiness," i.e., the words which God as holy has made known to him regarding the unholy ongoings of the pseudo-prophets. - From Jer 23:10 onwards come the sayings of God which have so terribly agitated the prophet. The land is full of adulterers. Adultery in the literal sense is mentioned by way of example, as a reckless transgression of God's commands, then much in vogue, whereby the moral foundations of the kingdom were broken up. In Jer 23:14 the prophets are said to commit adultery and walk in lying, cf. Jer 29:23 and Jer 5:7. By reason of this vice a curse lies on the land, under which it is withering away. The clause "for because of the curse," etc., is not to be taken as parenthesis (Ng.), but as co-ordinate with the previous clause, giving the second, or rather the chief ground, why Jeremiah is so deeply distressed. The reason of this is not so much the prevailing moral corruption, as the curse lying on the land because of the moral corruption of its inhabitants. אלה is not perjury (Chald., Rashi, Kimchi), but the curse wherewith God punishes the transgression of His covenant laws, cf. Jer 11:3, Jer 11:8, Deu 28:15., Jer 29:19. The words are modelled after Isa 24:4.; and הארץ is not the population, but the land itself, which suffers under God's curse, and which is visited with drought; cf. Jer 12:4. The next words point to drought. נאות מדבּר as in Jer 9:9. By ותּהי the further description of the people's depravity is attached to the first clause of the verse. Their course is become evil; their running or racing, i.e., the aim and endeavour of the ungodly. The suffix on this word מרוּצתם refers not to "adulterers," but ad sensum to the inhabitants of the land. Their strength is not-right, i.e., they are strong, valiant in wrong; cf. Jer 9:2. For - so goes Jer 23:11 - both prophets and priests, who should lead the people in the right way, are profane, and desecrate by their wickedness even the house of God, presumably by idolatry; cf. Jer 32:34. There is no reason for thinking here, as Hitz. does, of adultery practised in the temple.
For this the Lord will punish them. Their way shall be to them as slippery places in darkness. This threatening is after the manner of Psa 35:6, where חשׁך are joined, changed by Jeremiah to the words in the text. The passage cited shows that we may not separate בּאפלה from חלקלקּות, as Ew. does, to join it to the following ידּחוּ. Their way shall resemble slippery places in the dark, when one may readily slip and fall. Besides, they are to be thrust, pushed, so that they must fall on the slippery path (ידּחוּ from דּחח = דּחה, Psa 35:5; "therein" to be referred to "their way"). The clause: "for I bring evil," etc., is formed after Jer 11:23.
To display the vileness of the prophets, these are parallelized with the prophets of Samaria. The latter did foolishly (תּפלה, prop. of that which is unsalted, insipid, Job 6:6, hence irrational, insulsum), since they prophesied, being inspired by Baal the no-god, and by such prophesying led the people into error; cf. Kg1 18:19. Much more horrible is the conduct of the prophets of Jerusalem, who commit adultery, walk in lying, and strengthen the wicked in their wickedness, not merely by their delusive pretences (cf. Jer 23:17, Jer 6:14; Jer 14:13), but also by their immoral lives, so that no one turns from his wickedness, cf. Eze 13:22. לבלתּי is here and in Jer 27:18, as in ex. 20:20, construed, contrary to the usage everywhere else, not with the infin., but with the verb. fin. As the prophets, instead of converting the wicked, only confirmed them in their sins, therefore all the inhabitants of Judah or Jerusalem are become as corrupt as Sodom and Gomorrah. "They all" are not the prophets, but the inhabitants of Judah or Jerusalem; and "the inhabitants thereof" are those of the capital, cf. Deu 32:32; Isa 1:10. On the seducers the Lord will therefore inflict punishment, because impiousness has gone forth from them over the whole land. With the punishment threatened in Jer 23:15, cf. Jer 9:14.
Warning against the lying prophecies of the prophets. - Jer 23:16. "Thus saith Jahveh of hosts: Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you! They deceive you; a vision of their heart they speak, not out of the mouth of Jahveh. Jer 23:17. They say still unto my despisers: 'Jahveh hath spoken: Peace shall ye have;' and unto every one that walketh in the stubbornness of his heart they say: 'There shall no evil come upon you.' Jer 23:18. For who hath stood in Jahveh's counsel, that he might have seen and heard His word? who hath marked my word and heard it? Jer 23:19. Behold a tempest from Jahveh, fury goeth forth, and eddying whirlwind shall hurl itself upon the head of the wicked. Jer 23:20. The anger of God shall not turn till He have done and till He have performed the thoughts of His heart. At the end of the days shall ye be well aware of this. Jer 23:21. I have not sent the prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. Jer 23:22. But if they had stood in my counsel, they would publish my words to my people and bring them back from their evil way and from the evil of their doings."
The warning against these prophets is founded in Jer 23:16 on the fact that they give out the thoughts of their own hearts to be divine revelation, and promise peace and prosperity to all stiff-necked sinners. מהבּלים, lit., they make you vain, i.e., make you to yield yourselves to vain delusion, seduce you to false confidence. This they do by their speaking visions, i.e., revelations of their heart, not what God has spoken, revealed to them. As an illustration of this, Jer 23:17 tells that they prophesy continued peace or well-being to the despisers of God. The infin. abs. אמור after the verb. fin. intimates the duration or repetition of the thing. דּבּר יהוה are words of the false prophets, with which they give out that their prophesyings are God's word. Since we nowhere else find sayings of Jahveh introduced by דּבּר יהוה, but usually by 'כּה אמר י, the lxx have taken offence at that formula, and, reading דבר, join the words with למנאצי: τοῖς ἀπωθουμένοις τὸν λόγον κυρίου. To this reading Hitz. and Gr. give the preference over the Masoretic; but they have not noticed that they thus get an unsuitable sense. For דבר יהוה in prophetic language never denotes the Mosaic law or the "moral law" (Hitz.), but the word of God published by the prophets. By their view of "word of Jahveh" they would here obtain the self-inconsistent thought: to the despisers of divine revelation they proclaim as revelation. The Masoretic reading is clearly right; and Jeremiah chose the unusual introductory formula to distinguish the language of the pseudo-prophets from that of the true prophets of the Lord. וכל־הלך ב' is prefixed absolutely: and as concerning every one that walks...they say, for: and to every one...they say. On the "stubbornness of their heart," see on Jer 3:17. With the speech of the false prophets, cf. Jer 14:13 and Jer 6:14. - In Jer 23:18 a more comprehensive reason is given to show that these prophets are not publishing God's decrees. The question: Who hath stood? has negative force = None hath stood. By this Jeremiah does not deny the possibility of this universally, but only of the false prophets (Hitz.). This limitation of the words is suggested by the context. To the true prophets the Lord reveals His סוד, Amo 3:7. ויראוישׁמע are not to be taken jussively: let him see and hear (Hitz.), for the foregoing interrogation is not a conditional clause introducing a command. The imperfects with ו are clauses of consequence or design, and after a preceding perfect should be rendered in English by the conditional of the pluperfect. Seeing the word of God refers to prophetic vision. The second question is appended without at all conveying any inference from what precedes; and in it the second verb (with ו consec.) is simply a strengthening of the first: who hath hearkened to my word and heard it? The Masoretes have quite unnecessarily changed the Chet. דּברי .tehC into דּברו. In the graphic representation of the prophets, the transition to the direct speech of God, and conversely, is no unusual thing. The change of ויּשׁמע into ישׁמע, unnecessary and even improper as it is, is preferred by Graf and Ng., inasmuch as they take the interrogative מי in both clauses in the sense of quisquis and understand the verse thus: He who has but stood in the counsel of the Lord, let him see and hear His word (i.e., he must see and hear His word); and he that hath marked my word, let him publish it (i.e., he must publish it). This exposition becomes only then necessary, if we leave the context out of view and regard the question as being to the effect that no one has stood in God's counsel - which Jeremiah could not mean. Not to speak of the change of the text necessary for carrying it through, this view does not even give a suitable sense. If the clause: He that has stood in the counsel of the Lord, he must proclaim His word, is to be regarded as having a demonstrative force, then the principal idea must be supplied, thus namely: "and it is impossible that it should be favourable to those who despise it." In Jer 23:19 Jeremiah publishes a real word of the Lord, which sounds very differently from the words of the false prophets. A tempest from Jahveh will burst over the heads of the evil-doers, and the wrath of God will not cease until it has accomplished the divine decree. "A tempest from Jahveh" is defined by "fury" in apposition as being a manifestation of God's wrath; and the whole first clause is further expanded in the second part of the verse. The tempest from Jahveh goes forth, i.e., breaks out, and as whirling tornado or eddying whirlwind bursts over the head of the wicked. יחוּל is to be taken in accordance with מתחולל: twist, whirl, cf. Sa2 3:29. "The thoughts of His heart" must not be limited to what God has decreed de interitu populi (Calv.); it comprehends God's whole redemptive plan in His people's regard-not merely the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah, but also the purification of the people by means of judgments and the final glorification of His kingdom. To this future the next clause points: at the end of the days ye shall have clear knowledge of this. "The end of the days" is not merely the completion of the period in which we now are (Hitz., Gr. Ng., etc.), but, as universally, the end of the times, i.e., the Messianic future, the last period of the world's history which opens at the close of the present aeon; see on Gen 49:1; Num 24:14, etc. התבּונן is strengthened by בּינה yb dene: attain to insight, come to clearer knowledge.
From the word of the Lord proclaimed in Jer 23:19. it appears that the prophets who prophesy peace or well-being to the despisers of God are not sent and inspired by God. If they had stood in the counsel of God, and so had truly learnt God's word, they must have published it and turned the people from its evil way. This completely proves the statement of Jer 23:16, that the preachers of peace deceive the people. Then follows -
Jer 23:23-32, in continuation, an intimation that God knows and will punish the lying practices of these prophets. - Jer 23:23. "Am I then a God near at hand, saith Jahveh, and not a God afar off? Jer 23:24. Or can any hide himself in secret, that I cannot see him? saith Jahveh. Do not I will the heaven and the earth? saith Jahveh. Jer 23:25. I have heard what the prophets say, that prophesy falsehood in my name, saying: I have dreamed, I have dreamed. Jer 23:26. How long? Have they it in their mind, the prophets of the deceit of their heart, Jer 23:27. Do they think to make my people forget my name by their dreams which they tell one to the other, as their fathers forgot my name by Baal? Jer 23:28. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word in truth. What is the straw to the corn? saith Jahveh. Jer 23:29. Is not thus my word - as fire, saith Jahveh, and as a hammer that dasheth the rock in pieces? Jer 23:30. Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets that steal my words one from the other. Jer 23:31. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith Jahveh, that take their tongues and say: God's word. Jer 23:32. Behold, I am against the prophets that prophesy lying dreams, saith Jahve, and tell them, and lead my people astray with their lies and their boasting, whom yet I have not sent nor commanded them, and they bring no good to this people, saith Jahveh."
The force of the question: Am I a God at hand, not afar off? is seen from what follows. Far and near are here in their local, not their temporal signification. A god near at hand is one whose domain and whose knowledge do not extend far; a God afar off, one who sees and works into the far distance. The question, which has an affirmative force, is explained by the statement of Jer 23:24 : I fill heaven and earth. Hitz. insists on understanding "near at hand" of temporal nearness, after Deu 32:17 : a God who is not far hence, a newly appeared God; and he supposes that, since in the east, from of old, knowledge is that which is known by experience, therefore the greatness of one's knowledge depends on one's advancement in years (Job 15:7, Job 15:10; Job 12:12, etc.); and God, he says, is the Ancient of days, Dan 7:9. But this line of thought is wholly foreign to the present passage. It is not wealth of knowledge as the result of long life or old age that God claims for Himself in Jer 23:24, but the power of seeing into that which is hidden so that none can conceal himself from Him, or omniscience. The design with which God here dwells on His omniscience and omnipresence too (cf. Kg1 8:27; Isa 66:1) is shown in Jer 23:25. The false prophets went so far with their lying predictions, that it might appear as if God did not hear or see their words and deeds. The Lord exposes this delusion by calling His omniscience to mind in the words: I have heard how they prophesy falsehood in my name and say, I have dreamed, i.e., a dream sent by God, have had a revelation in dreams, whereas according to Jer 23:26 the dream was the deceit of their heart - "spun out of their own heart" (Hitz.). Jer 23:26 is variously interpreted. Hitz. supposes that the interrogative ה (in הישׁ) is made subordinate in the clause, and that the question is expressed with a double interrogative. He translates: How long still is there anything left in the heart of the prophets? as much as to say: how long have they materials for this? But there is a total want of illustrations in point for this subordination and doubling of the interrogative; and the force given to the ישׁ is quite arbitrary, since we should have had some intimation of what it was that was present in their hearts. Even the repetition of the interrogative particles is unexplained, and the connecting of ישׁ with a participle, instead of with the infinitive with ל, cannot be defended by means of passages where החל is joined with an adjective and the idea "to be" has to be supplied. L. de Dieu, followed by Seb. Schmidt, Chr. B. Mich., Ros., Maur., Umbr., Graf, was right in taking "How long" by itself as an aposiopesis: how long, sc. shall this go on? and in beginning a new question with הישׁ, a question continued and completed by the further question: "Do they think," etc., Jer 23:27. Is it in the heart of the prophets, i.e., have the prophets a mind to prophesy falsehood? do they mean to make men forget my name? Against holding Jer 23:27 as a resumption of the question there is no well-founded objection. Ng. affirms that after החשׁבים we must in that case have here הם as recapitulation of the subject; but that is rendered unnecessary by the subject's being contained in the immediately preceding words. The conjecture propounded by Ng., to change הישׁ into האשׁ: how long still is the fire in the heart of the prophets? needs no refutation. To make to forget the name of the Lord is: so to banish the Lord, as seen in His government and works, from the people's heart, that He is no longer feared and honoured. By their dreams which they relate one to the other, i.e., not one prophet to the other, but the prophet to his fellow-man amongst the people. בּבּעל, because of the Baal, whom their fathers made their god, cf. Jdg 3:7; Sa1 12:9. - These lies the prophets ought to cease. Jer 23:28. Each is to speak what he has, what is given him. He that has a dream is to tell the dream, and he that has God's word should tell it. Dream as opposed to word of the Lord is an ordinary dream, the fiction of one's own heart; not a dream-revelation given by God, which the pseudo-prophets represented their dreams to be. These dreams are as different from God's word as straw is from corn. This clause is supported, Jer 23:29, by a statement of the nature of God's word. It is thus (כּה), namely, as fire and as a hammer that smashes the rocks. The sense of these words is not this: the word of God is strong enough by itself, needs no human addition, or: it will burn as fire the straw of the man's word mixed with it. There is here no question of the mixing of God's word with man's word. The false prophets did not mingle the two, but gave out their man's word for God's. Nor, by laying stress on the indwelling power of the word of God, does Jeremiah merely give his hearers a characteristic by which they may distinguish genuine prophecy; he seeks besides to make them know that the word of the Lord which he proclaims will make an end of the lying prophets' work. Thus understood, Jer 23:29 forms a stepping-stone to the threatenings uttered in Jer 23:30-32 against the lying prophets. The comparison to fire does not refer to the reflex influence which the word exerts on the speaker, so as that we should with Rashi and Ros. cf. Jer 20:9; the fire comes before us as that which consumes all man's work that will not stand the test; cf. Co1 3:12. The comparison to a hammer which smashes the rock shows the power of God, which overcomes all that is earthly, even what is firmest and hardest; cf. Heb 4:12. Its effect and accomplishment nothing can hinder.
Threatening of punishment. לכן does not connect with Jer 23:29, but with the main idea of the previous verses, the conduct of the false prophets there exposed. הנני על, behold, I will be against them, will come upon them as an enemy; cf. Eze 5:8. The practice of these prophets is characterized in three ways, yet without marking out three classes of unworthy men. One habit of theirs is that of stealing the word of God one from another. Not inspired of God themselves, they tried to appropriate words of God from other prophets in order to give their own utterances the character of divine oracles. Another is: they take their tongues and say, God's word, i.e., they use their tongues to speak pretended words from God. The verb ינאמוּ occurs only here; elsewhere only the participle נאם, and that almost always joined with יהוה in the sig. effatum Domini; here without it, but in the same sense. The root meaning of נאם is disputed. Connected etymologically with נהם, המה, it doubtlessly denotes originally, that which is whispered, Jahveh's secret confidential communication; but it is constantly used, not for the word of God as silently inspired by God, but as softly uttered by the prophet. The meaning is not: their prophesying is "mere wagging of the tongue, talk according to their own caprice" (Graf); but: they give out their sayings for God's, whereas God speaks neither to nor by them. Finally, their third way of doing consists in feigning revelations by means of dreams, which are but deceptive dreams. At this point the discourse falls back on the description in Jer 23:26. The words "and lead my people astray" refer to all their three ways of acting before characterized. פּחזוּת is their boasting of revelations from God. Then comes
A rebuke of their mockery at Jeremiah's threatening predictions. - Jer 23:33. "And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest ask thee, saying: What is the burden of Jahveh? then say to them: What the burden is - now I will cast you off, saith Jahveh. Jer 23:34. And the prophet, the priest, and the people that shall say: burden of Jahveh, on that man will I visit it and on his house. Jer 23:35. Thus shall ye say each to the other, and each to his brother: What hath Jahveh answered, and what hath Jahveh spoken? Jer 23:36. But burden of Jahveh shall ye mention no more, for a burden to every one shall his own word be; and ye wrest the words of the living God Jahveh of hosts, our God. Jer 23:37. Thus shalt thou say to the prophet: What hath Jahveh answered thee, and what hath He spoken? Jer 23:38. But if ye say: burden of Jahveh, therefore thus saith Jahveh: Because ye say this word: burden of Jahveh, and yet I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say: burden of Jahveh; Jer 23:39. Therefore, behold, I will utterly forget you, and cast away from my face you and this city that I gave you and your fathers, Jer 23:40. And will lay upon you everlasting reproach, and everlasting, never-to-be-forgotten disgrace."
The word משּׂא, from נשׂא, lift up, bear, sig. burden, and, like the phrase: lift up the voice, means a saying of weighty or dread import. The word has the latter sig. in the headings to the prophecies of threatening character; see on Nah 1:1, where this meaning of the word in the headings is asserted, and the widespread opinion that it means effatum is refuted. Jeremiah's adversaries - as appears from these verses - used the word "burden" of his prophetic sayings by way of mockery, meaning burdensome prophecies, in order to throw ridicule on the prophet's speeches, by them regarded as offensive. Thus if the people, or a prophet, or a priest ask: What is the burden of Jahveh, i.e., how runs it, or what does it contain? he is to answer: The Lord saith: I will cast you off, i.e., disburden myself of you, as it were - the idea of "burden" being kept up in the answer to the question. The article on the word prophet is used to show that the word is used generally of the class of prophets at large. The את in the answering clause is nota accus., the following phrase being designedly repeated from the question; and hence the unusual combination את־מה. The sense is: as regards the question what the burden is, I will cast you away. There is no reason to alter the text to fit the lxx translation: ὑμεῖς ἐστὲ τὸ λῆμμα, or Vulg.: vos estis onus, as Cappell., J. D. Mich., Hitz., Gr., etc., do. The lxx rendering is based, not on another reading, but on another division of the words, viz., אתם המשׂא. - In Jer 23:34 the meaning of this answer is more fully explained. On every one that uses the word "burden" in this sneering way God will avenge the sneer, and not only on his person, but on his house, his family as well. In Jer 23:35 they are told how they are to speak of prophecy. Jer 23:36. They are no longer to make use of the phrase "burden of Jahveh," "for the burden shall his word be to each one," i.e., the word "burden" will be to each who uses it a burden that crushes him down. "And ye wrest," etc., is part of the reason for what is said: and ye have = for ye have wrested the words of the living God. The clause is properly a corollary which tells what happens when they use the forbidden word.
In case they, in spite of the prohibition, persist in the use of the forbidden word, i.e., to not cease their mockery of God's word, then the punishment set forth in Jer 23:33 is certainly to come on them. In the threat אתכם נשׁיתי there is a manifestly designed word-play on משּׂא. lxx, Vulg., Syr. have therefore rendered as if from נשׂיתי נשׂא (or נשׂאתי) instead: ἐγὼ λαμβάνω, ego tollam vos portans. One cod. gives נשׂא, and Ew., Hitz., Graf, Ng., etc., hold this reading to be right; but hardly with justice. The Chald. has expressed the reading of the text in its ארטושׁ יתכון מרטשׁ, et relinquam vos relinquendo. And the form נשׁיתי is explained only by reading נשׁא (נשׁה); not by נשׂא, for this verb keeps its א everywhere, save with the one exception of נשׂוּי, Psa 32:1, formed after the parallel כסוּי. The assertion that the reading in the text gives no good sense is unfounded. I will utterly forget you is much more in keeping than: I will utterly lift you up, carry you forth. - With Jer 23:40, cf. Jer 20:11.