Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 11.
God’s covenant, Jeremiah 11:1-7. Their disobedience, Jeremiah 11:8-10. Evils to come on them, Jeremiah 11:11-17, and on the men of Anathoth, for conspiring to kill Jeremiah, Jeremiah 11:18-23.
What time and in what manner this revelation came from God to the prophet is not expressed, whether it were in the days of Josiah or Jehoiakim.
Hear ye the words of this covenant: God speaking in the plural number, not hear thou, but hear ye, makes some conjecture that this was a charge given to some other prophets, either, Zephaniah (if it were in Josiah’s time, Zephaniah 1:1) or Uriah (if it were in the time of Jehoiakim). The term
this also manifests that the book of the law was before Jeremiah’s time, for all conclude that the covenant here spoken of was the covenant of the law of God, delivered by Moses, to which the people more than once promised obedience.
In Deuteronomy 27:26, it is, Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen. The people’s saying Amen testified their assent, and made the law a covenant; but they had besides formally and explicitly covenanted with God, Exodus 24:3,7, with religious rites and ceremonies used in stipulations, and afterwards consented that God should punish those that violated that covenant, Deuteronomy 27:26.
Which I commanded your fathers, which law (that you by your restipulation made a formal covenant) I that am the Lord, and so had a sovereign power to lay laws upon my creatures, commanded your fathers, in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace; and obliged them to obedience before I laid my law upon them, by bringing them out of the land of Egypt, from the furnace wherein iron is melted, which may either be taken literally (probably that was a piece of their work in Egypt) or metaphorically, serving at iron furnaces being a very hard and servile labour.
Saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you; for which kindness I required no more of them but a gentler service to me, in obeying my voice as to the things of this law which I gave them in charge.
So shall ye be my people, and I will be your God; nor did I only lay my commands upon them, but I also encouraged them to the obedience of it, by my gracious promise, that if they would, they should be a people, I would bless, protect, and defend, and bear the name of my people, and I would be their God to own and bless them.
I required their obedience for their own good; I had sworn to their fathers that I would give their posterity a land abounding with plenty of all good things, the best and choicest things, upon supposition of their obedience. I have performed that oath, I have brought them into such a land, and showed myself faithful to them. So be it, O Lord: God having ended his speech, the prophet saith, Amen, either asserting the truth of what God had said, or wishing that the people would do according to their covenant, or assenting to the curse according as God had commanded, Deuteronomy 27:26.
Let it be thy work to call upon this people, not only to hear, but to do, the words which I have commanded them, and they have engaged to do.
In protesting I protested, a usual way in the Hebrew, by which they express the seriousness and vehemency of an action. By protesting he meaneth the same with charging and commanding, with promises annexed to obedience, and threatenings denounced in case of disobedience. This God saith he had done with a great deal of patience and diligence, even from the time that this people were brought by him out of the land of Egypt.
But had not hearkened unto his counsels, but every one had walked after the imaginations of his own heart. A phrase by which sin is often expressed in holy writ, Deuteronomy 29:19 Jeremiah 3:17 7:24 9:14 13:10 16:12 18:12 23:17. The imaginations of man’s heart are only evil, Genesis 6:5 8:21. Hence holiness is set out by the notion of self-denying, not pleasing ourselves, mortifying our members, &c. For this God threateneth to bring upon them all his words of threatening annexed to the covenant of the law.
All sorts of people, whether of the city or country, have done alike, as if they had conspired together to break my law, and to provoke me to wrath, they are all alike and act alike. The thing is manifest, it is not done secretly, nor is it done rashly, but upon a conspiracy, upon counsel and deliberation.
They are turned back from me, or they are turned back from their own better courses in the time of David, to the sins of their forefathers that worshipped the golden calf, or the many idols which they worshipped in the time of the judges. They are all alike, both the ten tribes, which were
the house of Israel, and the two tribes, which made the kingdom of Judah, they have all broken the covenant which I made with their forefathers.
Evil upon them which they shall not be able to escape; a judgment from which they shall by no means be delivered, by any counsels of their own, or assistance of their friends and allies.
And though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them; and though prayer to me hath been their usual course in such cases, and I have delivered them, yet I will no more hear them, though they cry unto me, Proverbs 1:28,29 Zec 7:11,13. God will not hear them crying to him in their adversity, who refuse to hear him speaking to them in their prosperity.
Shall here signifieth will, and might as well have been so translated, denoting the hardness of the hearts of this people, whom affliction would not reduce to God; or rather the indicative mood is here put for the imperative, and the sense, Let
the cities of Judah, & c., and the phrase taken ironically. So it agreeth with God’s answer to the people crying to him, Jude 10:14, and what this prophet had before said, Jeremiah 2:28. But, saith the prophet, they shall do them no good, then they shall understand their vanity in their superstition and idolatry, that they have bestowed a divine homage upon lies and vanities, and things able to do them no good, nor at all to profit them.
Not that they had just so many idols as were cities in Judah, or altars as were streets in Jerusalem; the meaning is, they had very many, and that the people who lived in every city and street were guilty. What he calls their shame, or the shameful thing, is afterwards expounded Baal, called a shameful thing, because it was what they had reason to be ashamed of, and what would certainly bring them to shame and confusion.
Baal signifieth lord, and was a common name given to more idols than one; the Phoenicians used the name Baal, the Chaldeans Bell. God, Hosea 2:16, forbade his people to call him by this name, because so abused to idolatry. Many think that the sun was what the Phoenicians worshipped under this name; some say Saturn was he. Manasseh, who preceded Josiah, reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them, 2 Chronicles 33:3. Learned men say that the Asians called the same idol Baal, whom those of Europe called Jupiter. It is not improbable which learned men judge, that the heathens acknowledging one Supreme Being, worshipped him in several creatures; some mistaking the sun, moon, and stars to be he, others other things; these they called Baalim, lords, as they called the principal god Baal. The heathens’ idolatry seems to be their worshipping God in creatures, and paying a divine homage to creatures, the sun, moon, and stars, and other far inferior to them, not believing that those creatures were the Divine Being, but that the Divine Being was in them, and from them would hear their supplicants, and do them good; which, though the heathens might a little be excused in, having no Scriptures showing them the nature of the true God, and how he would be worshipped; yet in the Jews was inexcusable, they having the oracles of God committed to them, which both showed them the true nature of God, and let them know that no creature could be any similitude or representation of him; and that his will was, that they should pay their homage to him without any similitudes or representations exciting them to that homage, fit for nothing but to beget in the minds of people false conceptions and apprehensions of the Divine Being, which is merely spiritual; notwithstanding which direction from the Divine law, the Jews, after the manner of the heathens, would pay their homage to God before the sun, moon, and stars, and before images made with hands, and make altars to such creatures and images, which was the idolatry God complains of, and of which he declares a greater abhorrence than almost of any other sin. It is likely that Baal here mentioned was the sun, because it was near Manasseh’s times, who thus highly offended God; and it is probable that though Josiah had begun a famous reformation. yet a great deal of this leaven was left in the common people; besides that the sins of Manasseh, 2 Kings 23:26, are reckoned up as the special proximate cause of this wrath of God against Judah.
Once before, and we shall find once after this, Jeremiah 14:11, God forbiddeth the prophet to pray for this people; hence ariseth a question how the prophet is excused from sin, in praying for them after this prohibition, especially when God had assured him that he would not hear.
1. God (say some) sometimes forbiddeth prayers for persons and people to stir them up to more fervent prayer.
2. We find the like done by Moses, Exodus 32:10, and 1 Samuel 15:35 16:1. Others say,
3. That we must not understand these words as an absolute prohibition to Jeremiah, but for the terrifying of the people.
4. God speaks only of a temporal evil, and willeth Jeremiah not to be too positive in his prayers for them, that they might be delivered from that; but he might pray for the pardon of their sins, and their deliverance from the eternal vengeance of God.
5. He might not pray for the obstinate part of this people, but for the elect of God amongst them.
Some make these words the words of the prophet, declaring that God (whom they suppose here called the beloved) was about to forsake the temple. Others make them the words of God, speaking of his prophet, whom he calleth his beloved; or rather, speaking of his people, whom he calleth his beloved, upon the account of his ancient union with them, and marriage to them; this seemeth most probable, and agreeth both with Jeremiah 7:9,10, and also with the usual confidence of the Jews, because of the temple of the Lord, and their formal services of God in it. My people, saith God, though I was formerly their Husband, yet have wrought lewdness with many, that is, committed idolatry with many idols; and now what have they to do more in my house, than a base strumpet which hath turned a whore hath to do in the house of her husband?
And the holy flesh is passed from thee: some by this phrase understand that God would own them no more as a holy people. Others that their circumcision was become uncircumcision. Others more probably understand it of the flesh of the sacrifices they were wont to offer; either they had been remiss in offering the sacrifices God had commanded them; or (which is more probable) the flesh of their sacrifices, being set before idols, as well as before him who was the only true God, became polluted, and was abomination to the Lord. The learned author of our English Annotations notes, that the words may very fairly be translated, and the holy flesh they shall pass away from thee; so the words import a threatening, that because they had polluted and profaned the sacrifices, God would make their sacrifices to cease.
When thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest: and this the Lord would rather do against them, because they were not only evil, but gloried in their wickedness, or at least were full of mirth and jollity as if they had done no iniquity.
That is, the Lord fixed thee when he brought thee first into Canaan, in a beautiful flourishing state and condition, so as thou wert in a capacity both to have done thyself much good, and to have brought him much glory, like a beautiful fair olive tree, fit to bear fair and goodly fruit. But thou hast so behaved thyself, that the Lord is altering the course of his providence to thee, he that planted thee is about to pluck thee up. God is about to kindle a fire which will burn thee up, and to break thy branches. There is nothing more usual in prophetical writings than to have things yet to come expressed as if past, because of the certainty of them; they being what shall as certainly be as if already done.
This verse expounds what was metaphorically expressed in the former verse, viz. that God had declared his will to his prophet; that he would destroy his people, the blame of which must lie upon themselves, for they had by idolatry most highly provoked him, and had therein done against themselves, as indeed all sinning is but an acting against ourselves. God is invulnerable, we cannot hurt him, though we may provoke his justice to take vengeance upon us for our iniquities. And the prophet tells them that the Lord that planted them would do this, thereby hinting to them both his power to do it, and also that they had no reason to be confident, that because God had made them, he would not destroy them; or because he had planted them in that good land, therefore he would not pluck them up and throw them out of it: see Isaiah 27:11.
This may be understood either more generally, as relating to all the wicked actions of his countrymen, to obviate their saying, How comest thou to know our doings? or else (which seemeth most probable) more specially, with relation to that conspiracy against him which is mentioned in the following verses.
We have no other mention of this conspiracy in holy writ, but it is plain, both from this verse and what followeth to the end of this chapter, that the men of Anathoth (which was Jeremiah’s own town) were offended at his prophesying so sharp things against the land of Judah, and had threatened to kill him if he would not leave off that style, and had conspired to that purpose, some think to mix poison with his meat, others by starving of him, others think by beating of him, into which variety of sense they interpret that phrase in this verse,
Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof; but the sense is plain, Let us not only put an end to his prophesying, but to his being also;
let us cut him off some way or other,
that his name may no more be remembered. Of this the prophet saith he was as ignorant as an ox or a lamb that is brought to the slaughter-house, that knoweth nothing what design is against its life.
The prophet appealeth to God, and appealeth to him as one that knew both the innocency of his heart toward them, and the malice of their hearts toward him, and used to deal out justice impartially, and committeth his cause unto God, (as we are commanded, 1 Peter 2:23) and desires that God would avenge him, and that he might see the
vengeance; which words some learned interpreters think spoken not without some passion and mixture of human frailty. Others, not as a prayer so much as a prophecy. Others, not out of a desire of private revenge, but out of a pure zeal for the glory of God, whose prophet he was, and servant, in the delivery of those prophecies that were so ungrateful to them.
The prayers of God’s prophets, though they may sometimes have too much passion and human infirmity mixed with them, yet are heard of God, and many times answered in righteousness by terrible things, as to those against whom they are directed. The same thing they designed to do against the prophet God threateneth to do against them, utterly to consume them, so as no remembrance of them should remain.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 11". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24