Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
While Jeremiah was still in confinement in the court of the prison belonging to the palace (see Jer 32:2), the word of the Lord came to him the second time. This word of God is attached by שׁנית to the promise of Jer 32. It followed, too, not long, perhaps, after the other, which it further serves to confirm. - After the command to call on Him, that He might make known to him great and hidden things (Jer 33:2, Jer 33:3), the Lord announces that, although Jerusalem shall be destroyed by the Chaldeans, He shall yet restore it, bring back the captives of Judah and Israel, purify the city from its iniquities, and make it the glory and praise of all the people of the earth (Jer 33:4-9), so that in it and in the whole land joy will again prevail (Jer 33:10-13). Then the Lord promises the restoration of the kingdom through the righteous sprout of David - of the priesthood, too, and sacrificial worship (Jer 33:14-18); He promises also the everlasting duration of these two ordinances of grace (Jer 33:19-22), because His covenant with the seed of Jacob and David shall be as enduring as the natural ordinance of day and night, and the laws of heaven and earth (Jer 33:23-26). - The promises thus fall into two parts. First, there is proclaimed the restoration of the people and kingdom to a new and glorious state of prosperity (Jer 33:4-13); then the re-establishment of the monarchy and the priesthood to a new and permanent condition (Jer 33:14-26). In the first part, the promise given in Jer 32:36-44 is further carried out; in the second, the future form of the kingdom is more plainly depicted.
Introduction. - Jer 33:2. "Thus saith Jahveh who makes it, Jahveh who forms it in order to establish it, Jahveh is His name: Jer 33:3. Call on me and I will answer thee, and tell thee great and hidden things which thou knowest not." The reference of the suffixes in עשׂהּ, אותהּ, and הכינהּ is evident from the contents of the propositions: the Lord does what He says, and forms what He wants to make, in order to accomplish it, i.e., He completes what He has spoken and determined on. יצר, to frame, namely, in the mind, as if to think out, just as in Jer 18:11 : the expression is parallel with חשׁב; in this sense also we find Isa 46:11. הכין, to establish, realize what has been determined on, prepare, is also found in Isa 9:6; Isa 40:20, but more frequently in Jeremiah (Jer 10:12; Jer 51:12, Jer 51:15), and pretty often in the Old Testament generally. On the phrase "Jahveh is His name," cf. Jer 31:35. The idea contained in Jer 33:2 reminds us of similar expressions of Isaiah, as in Isa 22:11; Isa 37:26; Isa 46:11, etc.; but this similarity offers no foundation for the doubts of Movers and Hitzig regarding the genuineness of this verse. The same holds as regards Jer 33:3. The first proposition occurs frequently in the Psalms, e.g., Jer 4:4; Jer 28:1; Jer 30:9, also in Jer 7:27; Jer 11:14; but קתא with אל is unusual in Isaiah. The words בּצרות לא are certainly an imitation of נצרות ולא ידעתּם, Isa 48:6; but they are modified, in the manner peculiar to Jeremiah, by the change of נצרות into בצרות. The combination גּדלות וּבצרות noit is elsewhere used only of the strong cities of the Canaanites, Deu 1:28; Deu 9:1; Jos 14:12, cf. Num 13:28; here בּצרות is transferred to things which lie beyond the limits of human power to discover, and become known to men only through divine revelation. There is no good reason for Ewald's change of בצרות in accordance with Isa 48:6. - On the contents of these verses Hengstenberg remarks: "It may seem strange that, though in the opening part the prophet is promised a revelation of greater, unknown things, for which he is to call on God, yet the succeeding announcement contains scarcely anything remarkable or peculiar." Graf also adds the remark of Hitzig, that the command to pray, addressed to Jeremiah, cannot have the effect of keeping us from the conclusion that the verses are an addition by a later hand. Ngelsbach replies that the mode of expression presents nothing specially unlike Jeremiah, and that what is most calculated to give the impression of being unlike Jeremiah's, namely, this introduction in itself, and especially the peculiar turn of Jer 33:3, "Call unto me," etc., is occasioned by the prayer of the prophet, Jer 32:16-25. To this prayer the prophet had received an answer, Jer 32:36-44; but he is here admonished to approach the Lord more frequently with such a request. The God who has the power to execute as well as make decrees is quite prepared to give him an insight into His great thoughts regarding the future; and of this a proof is at once given. Thus, Jer 33:1-3 must be viewed as the connecting link between Jer 32; 33.
Yet these remarks are not sufficient to silence the objections set forth against the genuineness of Jer 33:2, Jer 33:3; for the specializing title of our chapter, in Jer 33:1, is opposed to the close connection which Ngelsbach maintains between Jer 32; 33. The fact that, in Jer 32, Jeremiah addresses the Lord in prayer for further revelation regarding the purchase of the field, as commanded, and that he receives the information he desired regarding it, gives no occasion for warning to the prophet, to betake himself more frequently to God for disclosures regarding His purposes of salvation. And Ngelsbach has quite evaded the objection that Jeremiah does not obey the injunction. Moreover, the succeeding revelation made in vv. 4-26 is not of the nature of a "proof," for it does not contain a single great leading feature in God's purposes as regards the future. - Hengstenberg also points out the difficulty, "that the Scripture everywhere refuses to recognise a dead knowledge as true knowledge, and that the hope of restoration has an obstacle in the natural man, who strives to obscure and to extinguish it; that, consequently, the promise of restoration is always new, and the word of God always great and grand;" but what he adduces for the solution of the difficulty contained in the command, "Call on me, and I will show thee great and unknown things," is insufficient for his purpose. The objection which expositors have taken to these verses has arisen from an improper application of them; the words קרא אלי have been understood as referring to the request that God should give some revelation regarding the future, or His purposes of deliverance, and ענה as referring to the communication of His purposes for increasing our knowledge of them. But "to call on God" rather signifies to pray to God, i.e., to beseech Him for protection, or help, or deliverance in time of need, cf. Psa 3:5; Psa 28:1; Psa 30:9; Psa 55:17, etc.; and to "answer" is the reply of God made when He actually vouchsafes the aid sought for; cf. e.g., Psa 55:17, "I call on God, and Jahveh answers me (saves me);" Psa 4:2, Psa 4:4; Psa 18:7; Psa 27:7, etc. Consequently, also, "to make known" (הגּיד) is no mere communication of knowledge regarding great and unknown things, no mere letting them be known, but a making known by deeds. The words עשׂהּ and יוצר אותהּ, ascribed to the Lord, suggest and require that the words should be thus understood. With the incorrect reference of these words to knowing and making known there is connected the further error, that the command, "Call unto me," is directed to the person of the prophet, and gives an admonition for his behaviour towards God, for which the text affords on foundation whatever; for it does not run: "Thus saith Jahveh to me" (אלי), and the insertion of this אלי is unwarranted, and inconsistent with the use of כּי which introduces the announcement. Hitzig, Graf, and others have passed by this כּי without remark; and what Ngelsbach says about it is connected with his view, already refuted, as to the essential unity of Jer 32; 33. Lastly, Ewald has enclosed Jer 33:3 within parentheses, and considers that the introductory formula of Jer 33:2 is resumed in Jer 33:4 : "Yea, thus saith Jahveh." This is a conclusion hastily formed by one who is in difficulty, for Jer 33:3 has not the nature of a parenthesis. If we allow the arbitrary addition "to me" after the words, "Thus saith the Lord," Jer 33:2, and if we take the words in their simplest sense - the invocation of the Lord as a call to God for help in need - then Jer 33:2, Jer 33:3 do not contain a mere prelude to the revelation which follows, but an exhortation to the people to betake themselves to the Lord their God in their calamity, when He will make known to them things unattainable by human discernment; for (כּי, Jer 33:4) He announces, in reference to the ruined houses of the city, that He will repair their injuries.
Repair of the injuries and renewal of the prosperity of Jerusalem and Judah. - Jer 33:4. "For thus saith Jahveh, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah, which are broken down because of the besiegers' mounds and because of the sword, Jer 33:5. While they come to fight with the Chaldeans, and to fill them with the corpses of men, whom I have slain in my wrath and in my fury, and for all whose wickedness I have hidden my face from this city: Jer 33:6. Behold, I will apply a bandage to it and a remedy, and will heal them, and will reveal to them abundance of peace and truth. Jer 33:7. And I will turn again the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel, and will build them up as at the first. Jer 33:8. And I will purify them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against me, and will pardon all their iniquities, by which they have sinned and have transgressed against me. Jer 33:9. And it (the city) shall become to me a name of joy, a praise, and an honour among all the people of the earth that shall hear all the good which I do them, and shall tremble and quake because of all the good and because of all the prosperity that I show to it. Jer 33:10. Thus saith Jahveh: Again shall there be heard in this place-of which ye say, 'It is desolate, without man and without beast,'-in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, which are laid waste, without men, and without inhabitants, and without beasts, Jer 33:11. The voice of gladness and the voice of joy, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, 'Praise Jahveh of hosts, for Jahveh is good, for His mercy is for ever,' who bring thank-offerings into the house of Jahveh. For I will turn again the captivity of the land, as in the beginning, saith Jahveh. Jer 33:12. Thus saith Jahveh of hosts: In this place, which is laid waste, without man and beast, and in all its cities, there will yet be pasture-ground for shepherds making their flocks lie down in. Jer 33:13. In the cities of the hill-country, in the cities of the plain, and in the cities of the south, in the land of Benjamin, and in the environs of Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, the flock shall yet pass under the hand of one who counts them, saith Jahveh."
With Jer 33:4 begins the statement concerning the great and incomprehensible things which the Lord will make known to His people; it is introduced by כּי, which marks the ground or reason - so far as the mere statement of these things gives reason for the promise of them. The word of the Lord does not follow till Jer 33:6 and onwards. In Jer 33:4 and Jer 33:5 are mentioned those whom the word concerns - the houses of Jerusalem (Jer 33:4), and the people that defend the city (Jer 33:5). Corresponding to this order, there comes first the promise to the city (Jer 33:6), and then to the people. Along with the houses of the city are specially named also the houses of the kings of Judah; not, perhaps, as Hitzig thinks, because these, being built of stone, afforded a more suitable material for the declared object - for that these alone were built of stone is an unfounded supposition - but in order to show that no house or palace is spared to defend the city. "Which are broken down" refers to the houses, not only of the kings, but also of the city. They are broken, pulled down, according to Isa 22:10, in order to fortify the walls of the city against the attacks of the enemy, partly to strengthen them, partly to repair the damage caused by the battering-rams directed against them. This gives the following meaning to the expression אל־הסּללות ואל־החרב: in order to work against the mounds, i.e., the earthworks erected by the enemy, and against the sword. The sword is named as being the chief weapon, instead of all the instruments of war which the enemy employs for reducing the city; cf. Eze 26:9. It is against the laws of grammar to understand נתשׁים as referring to the destruction of the enemy by the siege material; for, on such a supposition, אל־ would require to designate the efficient cause, i.e., to stand for מפּני (cf. Jer 4:26), but neither אל־ nor על can mean this. - The first half of Jer 33:5 is difficult, especially בּאים, which the lxx have omitted, and which Movers and Hitzig would expunge, with the absurd remark, that it has come here from Jer 31:38; this is an easy and frivolous method of setting aside difficulties. All other ancient translations have read בּאים, and have attempted to point out how its genuineness is ascertained on critical grounds.
(Note: The different attempts to solve the difficulty by conjectures are of such a nature as scarcely to deserve mention. Ewald would change החרב בּאים into החרבים otni , "that are broken down opposite the earthworks and the cannons." But the plural of חרב is חרבות, Eze 26:21, and cannot possibly mean cannons. E. Meier would read החריב בּאים, "and for the destruction of those who are pressing in." Then בּאים must be the enemy who are pressing in; but how does this agree with what follows, "in order to fight with the Chaldeans"? Lastly, Ngelsbach would change את־ הכּשׂדּיםinto על־ירוּשׁלים, to obtain the idea that the earthworks and the sword come for the purpose of contending against Jerusalem (!).)
To connect בּאים closely with what precedes is impossible; and to understand it as referring to the houses, quae dirutae adhibentur ad dimicandum cum Chaldaeis (C. B. Michaelis), is incompatible with the idea contained in בּוא. Still more inadmissible is the view of L. de Dieu, Venema, Schnurrer, Dahler, and Rosenmller: venientibus ad oppugnandum cum Chaldaeis; according to this view, אּת־כּשׂדּים must be the nominative or subject to להלּחם את־הכּשׂדּים בּאים can only signify, "to contend with the Chaldeans" (against them); cf. Jer 32:5. According to this view, only the Jews can be the subject of בּאים. "They come to make war with the Chaldeans, and to fill them (the houses) with the dead bodies of men, whom I (the Lord) slay in my wrath." The subject is not named, since it is evident from the whole scope of the sentence what is meant. We take the verse as a predication regarding the issues of the conflict - but without a copula; or, as a statement added parenthetically, so that the participle may be rendered, "while they come," or, "get ready, to fight." בּוא, used of the approach of an enemy (cf. Dan 1:1), is here employed with regard to the advance of the Jews to battle against the besiegers of the city. The second infinitival clause, "to fill them," represents the issue of the struggle as contemplated by the Jews, in order to express most strongly its utter fruitlessness; while the relative clauses, "whom I have slain," etc., bring out the reasons for the evil consequences. Substantially, the statement in Jer 33:5 is parallel to that in Jer 33:4, so that we might supply the preposition על (ועל): "and concerning those who come to fight," etc. Through the attachment of this second predication to the first by means of the participle, the expression has become obscured. In the last clause, אשׁר is to be connected with על־רעתם.
In view of the destruction of Jerusalem now beginning, the Lord promises, Jer 33:6, "I will apply to it (the city) a bandage (see Jer 30:17) and a remedy," i.e., a bandage which brings healing, "and heal them" (the inhabitants); for, although the suffix in רפאתים might be referred to the houses, yet the following clause shows that it points to the inhabitants. Hitzig takes גּלּיתי in the meaning of גּלל, "I roll to them like a stream," and appeals to Amo 5:24; Isa 48:18; Isa 66:12, where the fulness of prosperity is compared to a stream, and the waves of the sea; but this use of גּלה is as uncertain here as in Jer 11:20. We keep, then, to the well-established sense of revealing, making known (cf. Psa 98:2, where it is parallel with הודיע), without any reference to the figure of sealed treasure-chambers (Deu 28:12), but with the accessory notion of the unfolding of the prosperity before all nations (Jer 33:9), as in Psa 98:2. עתרת is here to be taken as a noun, "fulness, wealth," from עתר, an Aramaizing form for עשׁר, to be rich (Eze 35:13). שׁלום ואמת does not mean "prosperity and stability," but "peace and truth;" but this is not to be toned down to "true peace," i.e., real, enduring happiness (Ngelsbach). אמת is the truth of God, i.e., His faithfulness in His promises and covenants, as in Psa 85:11-12, where mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, are specified as the gracious benefits with which the Lord blesses His people.
The attainment of this prosperity consists in the change of the wretchedness and misery of Judah and Israel (the whole covenant people) into permanent happiness, and their being built up - i.e., the firm establishment of their civil prosperity through the secure possession and enjoyment of the good things of the land - as in the beginning, i.e., the time previous to the rending of the state through the falling away of the people into idolatry; cf. Isa 1:26; Kg1 13:6. For השׁיב את see Jer 32:44.
This prosperity gains stability and permanence through the people's being cleansed from their sins by their being forgiven, which, according to Jer 31:34, will form the basis of the new covenant. Regarding the anomalous form לכול for לכל־ rof לכול mro, Hitzig supposes that in the scriptio continua a transcriber wished to keep the two datives לך לעונותיהם separate by inserting the ו. But the form כּוּלּם, Jer 31:34, is equally irregular, except that there the insertion of the ו may be explained in this, or in some similar way.
In consequence of the renovation of Israel externally and internally, Jerusalem will become to the Lord a name of delight, i.e., a name which affords joy, delight. שׁם here signifies, not fame, but a name. But the name, as always in Scripture, is the expression of the essential nature; the meaning therefore is, "she will develope into a city over which men will rejoice, whenever her name is mentioned." On the following words, "for praise and for glory," i.e., for a subject of praise, etc., cf. Jer 13:11. לכל־גּויי, "to all," or "among all nations." How far Jerusalem becomes such is shown by the succeeding clauses: "who shall hear...and tremble and quake because of the good," i.e., not from fear "because they are seized with terror through these proofs of the wonderful power of God in contrast with the helplessness of their idols, and through the feeling of their miserable and destitute condition as contrasted with the happiness and prosperity of the people of Israel" (Graf). Against this usual view of the words, it has already been remarked in the Berleburger Bible, that it does not agree with what precedes, viz., with the statement that Jerusalem shall become a name of joy to all nations. Moreover, פּחד and רגז, in the sense of fear and terror, are construed with מפּני or מן; here, they signify to shake and tremble for joy, like פּחד in Isa 60:5, cf. Hos 3:5, i.e., as it is expressed in the Berleburger Bible, "not with a slavish fear, but with the filial fear of penitents, which will also draw and drive them to the reconciled God in Christ, with holy fear and trembling." Calvin had previously recognised this Messianic idea, and fitly elucidated the words thus: haec duo inter se conjuncta, nempe pavor et tremor, qui nos humiliet coram Deo, et fiducia quae nos erigat, ut audeamus familiariter ad ipsum accedere. אותם may be for אתּם, cf. Jer 1:16; but probably עשׂה is construed with a double accusative, as in Isa 42:16.
The prosperity which the Lord designs to procure for His people, is, Jer 33:10-13, further described in two strophes (Jer 33:10-11 and Jer 33:12-13); in Jer 33:10, Jer 33:11, the joyous life of men. In the land now laid waste, gladness and joy shall once more prevail, and God will be praised for this. The description, "it is desolate," etc., does not imply the burning of Jerusalem, Jer 52:12., but only the desolation which began about the end of the siege. "In this place" means "in this land;" this is apparent from the more detailed statement, "in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem." "The voice of gladness," etc., forms the subject of the verb ישּׁמע. On the expression see Jer 7:34; Jer 16:9; Jer 25:10. There is here added: "the voice of those who say, 'Praise the Lord,' " etc. - the usual liturgic formula in thanksgiving to God; cf. Ch2 5:13; Ch2 7:3; Ezr 3:11; Psa 106:1. תּודה, praise and thanks in word and deed; see Jer 17:26. On אשׁיב את־שׁבוּת see Jer 32:44. The rendering, "I shall bring back the captives of the land" (here as in Jer 33:7), is both grammatically indefensible, and further, unsuitable: (a) inappropriate, on account of כּבראשׁנה, for no previous restoration of captives had taken place; the leading of the people out of Egypt is never represented as a bringing back from captivity. And (b) it is grammatically untenable, because restoration to Canaan is expressed either by אל־הארץ הביא, after Deu 30:5; or by השׁיב, with the mention of the place (); cf. Jer 16:15; Jer 24:6; Jer 32:37, etc.
In the land which is now laid waste, and emptied of men and beasts, shepherds, with their flocks, shall again move about and lie down. "This place," is specified by the mention of the several parts of the land, as in Jer 32:44; Jer 17:26. על־ידי מונה, at the hands, i.e., under the guidance, of him who counts them, viz., the shepherd, who counted the sheep when he took them out to the pasture as well as when he brought them back into the fold; cf. Virgil, Ecl. iii. 34.
The re-establishment of the Davidic monarchy and of the Levitical priesthood. - Jer 33:14. "Behold, days are coming, saith Jahveh, when I will perform the good word which I have spoken to the house of Israel, and concerning the house of Judah. Jer 33:15. In those days and at that time will I cause to sprout unto David a sprout of righteousness, and he shall do judgment and righteousness in the land. Jer 33:16. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely; and this is how she shall be called, 'Jahveh our righteousness.' Jer 33:17. For thus saith Jahveh: David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel. Jer 33:18. Nor shall the Levitical priests want a man before me to offer a burnt-offering, to burn a meat-offering, or to perform sacrifice every day.
Jer 33:19. "And the word of Jahveh came unto Jeremiah, saying: Jer 33:20. Thus saith Jahveh, If ye shall be able to break my covenant (with) the day and my covenant (with) the night, so that there shall not be day and night in their proper time, Jer 33:21. Then also shall my covenant with David my servant be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign upon his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, my ministers. Jer 33:22. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites who serve me.
Jer 33:23. "And the word of Jahveh came to Jeremiah, saying: Jer 33:24. Hast thou not seen what this people have spoken, saying, 'The two families which the Lord hath chosen, these He hath rejected?' and my people they have despised, so that they are no longer a nation before them. Jer 33:25. Thus saith Jahveh: If my covenant with day and night doth not exist, if I have not appointed the laws of heaven and earth, Jer 33:26. Then also will I reject the seed of Jacob and David my servant, so as not to take any of his seed as rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will turn their captivity, and take pity on them."
Jer 33:14-18 contain the promise of the restoration of the monarchy and the priesthood. Jer 33:19-26 further present two special messages from God, in the form of supplements, which guarantee the eternal continuance of these institutions.
(Note: The portion contained within Jer 33:14-26 is wanting in the lxx; for this reason, and chiefly because of the promise of the eternal duration, not merely of the royal house of David, but also of the Levitical priests, and their innumerable increase, J. D. Michaelis and Jahn have considered it spurious. To these must be added Movers, who takes Jer 33:18, Jer 33:21-25 as later interpolations, and Hitzig, who treats the whole passage as a series of separate additions made in a later age. On the other side, Kueper, Wichelhaus, and Hengstenberg (Christology, vol. ii. pp. 459-461 of Clark's Translation) have shown the utter worthlessness of these reasons, and Graf also has defended the genuineness of the passage. So too has Ewald, who says (Propheten, ii. 269), "Nothing can be so preposterous and unreasonable as to find in this passage, Jer 33:19-26, or in Jer 30-33 generally, additions by a later prophet.")
The promise in Jer 33:14-16 has already been given in substance in Jer 23:5-6, and in our verses it is only formally extended, and thereby made more prominent. In Jer 33:14 it is designated as the establishment, i.e., the realization, of the good word which the Lord has spoken concerning Israel and Judah. "The good word" is, according to Deu 28:1-14, the blessing which the Lord has promised to His people if they obey His commands; cf. Kg1 8:56. Here also must "the good word" be taken in the same general meaning; for our verse forms the transition from the promise of the restoration and blessing of Israel in the future (Jer 33:6-13) to the special promise of the renewal and completion of the Davidic monarchy (Jer 33:15.). In Jer 29:10, on the contrary, "the good word" is specially referred, by the following infinitival clause, to the deliverance of the people from Babylon. But it is unlikely that "the good word" refers to the "sprout" of David, which is expressly promised in Jer 23:5., and repeated here, Jer 33:15.; for here a like promise to the Levites follows, while there is none in Jer 23, and it is here so closely linked with the promise regarding David, that it must be viewed as a portion of the "good word." In the change from אל to על in Jer 33:14, we must not, with Hengstenberg, seek a real difference; for in Jeremiah these prepositions often interchange without any difference of meaning, as in Jer 11:2; Jer 18:11; Jer 23:35, etc. The blessing promised to the people in the "good word" culminates in the promise, Jer 33:15., that the Lord will cause a righteous sprout to spring up for David. On the meaning of this promise, see the remarks on Jer 23:5-6. The difference made in the repetition of that promise is really unimportant. אצמיח instead of הקמתי does not change the sense. הצמיח, to cause to sprout of grow, corresponds to the figure of the צמח, under which the Messiah is represented in both passages. צמח צדקה is only a more sonorous expression for צמח צדּיק. The words "He shall rule as king and deal wisely," which in Jer 23:5 bring into prominence the contrast between the kingdom of the Messiah and that of the godless shepherd of the people, were unnecessary for the connection of our passage. Besides, in Jer 23:6 Israel is named together with Judah, instead of which, we have here, in Jer 33:16, Jerusalem; accordingly, the name "Jahveh Tsidkenu" is referred to Jerusalem, while in Jer 23:6 it is predicated of the sprout of David. The mention of Jerusalem instead of Israel is connected with the general scope of our prophecy, viz., to comfort the covenant people over the destruction of Jerusalem (Jer 33:4.). But that, through the mention simply of Judah and its capital, the ten tribes are not to be excluded from participation in the coming prosperity, may be seen even from Jer 33:14, where "the good word" is referred to Israel and Judah, and still more plainly from Jer 33:24, Jer 33:26, where this promise is made sure to the whole seed of Israel. The transference of the name Jahveh Tsidkenu from the sprout of David to the city of Jerusalem is connected with the fact, that the name only expresses what the Messiah will bring to the people (see Jer 23:6); the righteousness which He works in and on Jerusalem may, without changing the substance of the thought, be attributed to Jerusalem itself, inasmuch as Jerusalem reflects the righteousness which is bestowed on her by the Messiah.
This promise is, Jer 33:17, further confirmed by the renewal of that which the Lord had given King David, through Nathan the prophet, Sa2 7:12-16, and that, too, in the form in which David himself had expressed it in his address to Solomon, shortly before his death, Kg1 2:4, and in which Solomon had repeated it, Kg1 8:25 and Kg1 9:5. The formula לא יכּרת וגו, "there never will be cut off from David one sitting," etc., has the meaning, David will never want a descendant to occupy his throne; or, the posterity of David will possess the kingdom for ever. A temporary loss of the throne is not thereby excluded, but only such a permanent loss as would be caused by the family of David becoming extinct, or by the kingdom in Israel either passing over to some other family, or in some way or other coming to an end; see on Kg1 2:4. - The very same promise is given to the Levitical priests, i.e., the priests of the tribe or family of Levi (כּהנים as in Deu 17:9, Deu 17:18; Deu 18:1, etc.). They shall never want one to bring and prepare an offering before the Lord. Burnt-offering, meat-offering, and sin-offering are the three species of sacrifice which were to be brought, according to the law, as in Jer 17:26. By means of the apposition "the Levites," the priests are designated as the legitimate priesthood, established as such in virtue of God's choice of the tribe of Levi, in contrast with priests such as Jeroboam appointed, out of the common people, for the worship set up by him. Not only shall Israel have priests, but priests out of the tribe of Levi, which was chosen by God for the sacerdotal office, as the medium of communicating His gracious gifts. The designation of the priests as "the Levites" corresponds, accordingly, to the kings of the family of David. Such a view explains this addition to our passage, to which critics such as Hitzig have taken objection. The Davidic kingdom and the Levitical priesthood were the two pillars and bases of the Old Testament theocracy, on which its existence and continuance depended. The priesthood formed the medium of approach for the people into divine favour. The kingdom assured them of the divine guidance.
(Note: Continebatur autem salus populi duabus istis partibus. Nam, sine rege, erant veluti corpus truncum aut mutilum; sine sacerdote mera erat dissipatio. Nam sacerdos erat quasi medius inter Deum et populum, rex autem representabat Dei personam. - Calvin.)
Both of these pillars were broken with the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple; the theocracy the appeared to have ceased to exist. At this time, when the kingdom, with its ordinances of justice and of grace, bestowed by God, was being dissolved, the Lord, in order to keep His people from despair, declares that these two institutions, in accordance with His promise, shall not fall to the ground, but shall stand for ever. By this, God's own people received a pledge for the re-establishment and renovation of the kingdom of God. Such is the object of this promise. - As to the kind and mode of reinstitution of both of these ordinances, which were abolished when the state came to ruin, the prophecy now before us gives no explanation; but in the emphatic confirmation of the prophecy which follows, we find brief indications which clearly show that the restoration spoken of will not be a reinstitution of the old form which is now perishing, but a renovation of it, in its essential features, to a permanent existence.
The confirmations of these promises, which follow them in Jer 33:19-26, are each introduced by separate headings, perhaps not merely to render them more prominent, but because the Lord revealed them separately to the prophet; but it by no means follows from this that they are later additions, without any connection. Jer 33:20. "If ye shall break my covenant with the day,...then also will my covenant with David...be broken." This if betokens the impossible; man cannot alter the arrangement in nature for the regular alternation of day and night. היום and הלּילה are in apposition to בּריתי, "my covenant the day - the night," for "my covenant with regard to the day and the night, which is this, that day and night shall return at their appointed times." The ו before לבלתּי is explanatory. יומם־ולילה are adverbs, "day and night," for "the regular alternation of day and night." These divine arrangements in nature are called a covenant; because God, after the flood, gave a pledge that they should uninterruptedly continue, in a covenant made with the human race; cf. Gen 9:9 with Gen 8:22. As this covenant of nature cannot be broken by men, so also the covenant of grace of the Lord with David and the Levites cannot be broken, i.e., annulled. The covenant with David consisted in the promise that his kingdom should endure for ever (see Jer 33:17); that with the Levites, in the eternal possession of the right to the priesthood. The institution of the priesthood is certainly not represented in the law as a covenant; it consisted merely in the choice of Aaron and his sons as priests by God, Exo 28:1. But, inasmuch as they were thereby brought into a peculiar relation to the Lord, and thus had vouchsafed to them not merely privileges and promises, but also had laid on them duties, the fulfilment of which was a condition of receiving the privileges, this relation might be called a covenant; and indeed, in Num 25:11., the promise given to Phinehas, that he should have the priesthood as an eternal possession, is called a covenant of peace and an eternal covenant of priesthood. This promise concerned the whole priesthood in the person of Phinehas, and the Levites also, inasmuch as the Levites were given to the priests; hence there is mention made in Mal 2:4, Mal 2:8, of a covenant with Levi. In this prophecy, too, mention is made of the priests alone. The general idea contained in the words "the Levites," placed first, is more clearly defined by the apposition "the priests," and restricted to the priests of the tribe of Levi.
In order to make still more impressive the pledge given, that the covenant with David and the Levitical priesthood can never be broken, the Lord adds the promise of a numerous increase of the seed of David and the Levites. אשׁר as correlative to כּן stands for כּאשׁר; for in the accusative lies the general reference to place, time, kind, and manner; cf. Ew. 360 a, 333 a. The comparison with the innumerable host of stars and the immeasurable quantity of the sand reminds us of the patriarchal promises, Gen 15:5; Gen 22:17. In this way, the promises that apply to all Israel are specially referred to the family of David and the Levites ("the Levites," Jer 33:22, is abbreviated from "the Levites, the priests," Jer 33:21). This transference, however, is not a mere hyperbole which misses the mark; for, as Jahn observes, an immense increase of the royal and priestly families would only have been a burden on the people (Graf). The import of the words of the verse is simply that the Lord purposes to fulfil the promise of His blessing, made to the patriarchs in favour of their whole posterity, in the shape of a numerous increase; but this promise will now be specially applied to the posterity of David and to the priests, so that there shall never be wanting descendants of David to occupy the throne, nor Levites to perform the service of the Lord. The question is not about a "change of the whole of Israel into the family of David and the tribe of Levi" (Hengstenberg); and if the increase of the family of David and the Levites correspond in multitude with the number of all the people of Israel, this increase cannot be a burden on the people. But the question, whether this promise is to be understood literally, of the increase of the ordinary descendants of David and the Levites, or spiritually, of their spiritual posterity, cannot be decided, as Hengstenberg and Ngelsbach think, by referring to the words of the Lord in Exo 19:6, that all Israel shall be a kingdom of priests, and to the prophetic passages, Isa 66:6, Isa 66:23., according to which the whole people shall be priests to God, while Levites also shall be taken from among the heathen. For this prophecy does not treat of the final glory of the people of God, but only of the innumerable increase of those who shall attain membership in the family of David and the Levitical priests. The question that has been raised is rather to be decided in accordance with the general promises regarding the increase of Israel; and in conformity with these, we answer that it will not result from the countless increase of the descendants of Jacob according to the flesh, but from the incorporation, among the people of God, of the heathen who return to the God of Israel. As the God-fearing among the heathen will be raised, for their piety, to be the children of Abraham, and according to the promise, Isa 66:20., even Levitical priests taken from among them, so shall the increase placed in prospect before the descendants of David and Levi be realized by the reception of the heathen into the royal and sacerdotal privileges of the people of God under the new covenant.
This view of our verse is confirmed by the additional proof given of the promised restoration of Israel, Jer 33:23-26; for here there is assurance given to the seed of Jacob and David, and therefore to all Israel, that they shall be kept as the people of God. The occasion of this renewed confirmation was the allegation by the people, that the Lord had rejected the two families, i.e., Israel and Judah (cf. Jer 31:27, Jer 31:31; Jer 32:20), called, Isa 8:14, the two houses of Israel. With such words they despised the people of the Lord, as being no longer a people before them, i.e., in their eyes, in their opinion. That those who spoke thus were Jews, who, on the fall of the kingdom of Judah, despaired of the continuance of God's election of Israel, is so very evident, that Hengstenberg may well find it difficult to understand how several modern commentators could think of heathens - Egyptians (Schnurrer), Chaldeans (Jahn), Samaritans (Movers), or neighbours of the Jews and of Ezekiel on the Chebar (Hitzig). The verdict pronounced on what these people said, "they despise, or contemn, my people," at once relieves us from any need for making such assumptions, as soon as we assign the full and proper force to the expression "my people" = the people of Jahveh. Just as in this passage, so too in Jer 29:32, "this people" is interchanged with "my people" as a designation of the Jews. Moreover, as Graf correctly says, the expression "this people" nowhere occurs in the prophets of the exile as applied to the heathen; on the contrary, it is very frequently employed by Jeremiah to designate the people of Judah in their estrangement from the Lord: Jer 4:10; Jer 5:14, Jer 5:23; Jer 6:19; Jer 7:33; Jer 8:5; Jer 9:14; Jer 13:10; Jer 14:10; Jer 15:1, Jer 15:20, and often elsewhere. "My people," on the other hand, marks Judah and Israel as the people of God. In contrast with such contempt of the people of God, the Lord announces, "If my covenant with day and night does not stand, if I have not appointed the laws of heaven and earth, then neither shall I cast away the seed of Jacob." The לא is repeated a second time before the verb. Others take the two antecedent clauses as one: "If I have not made my covenant with day and night, the laws of heaven and earth." This construction also is possible; the sense remains unchanged. בּריתי יומם ולילה is imitated from Jer 33:20. "The laws of heaven and earth" are the whole order of nature; cf. Jer 31:35. The establishment, institution of the order of nature, is a work of divine omnipotence. This omnipotence has founded the covenant of grace with Israel, and pledged its continuance, despite the present destruction of the kingdom of Judah and the temporary rejection of the guilty people. But this covenant of grace includes not merely the choosing of David, but also the choosing of the seed of Jacob, the people of Israel, on the ground of which David was chosen to be the ruler over Israel. Israel will therefore continue to exist, and that, too, as a nation which will have rulers out of the seed of David, the servant of the Lord. "The mention of the three patriarchs recalls to mind the whole series of the promises made to them" (Hengstenberg). The plural משׁלים does not, certainly, refer directly to the promise made regarding the sprout of David, the Messiah, but at the same time does not stand in contradiction with it; for the revival and continued existence of the Davidic rule in Israel culminates in the Messiah. On כּי cf. Jer 31:23; Jer 30:3, Jer 30:18, and the explanations on Jer 32:44. The Qeri אשׁיב rests on Jer 33:11, but is unnecessary; for אשׁוּב makes good enough sense, and corresponds better to ורחמתּים, in so far as it exactly follows the fundamental passage, Deu 30:3, where רחם is joined with שׁוּב את־שׁבוּת.