1 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
2 Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.
3 Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord.
God recalls his relationship with his people how they were kind in their youth, how they loved the contract of future marriage to the Lord, how they followed him in the wilderness after coming out of Egypt. Israel, he says, was holiness, and very special to the LORD. He protected them and brought evil upon any who offended them. He truly cared for his people and loved them.
4 Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel:
5 Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?
6 Neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?
7 And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.
God addresses his people who he had made a covenant with in the past and tells them starting with a pointed question that the problem is not him but it's them. Their fathers have gone far from the LORD and walked or followed vanity and became vain. They didn't ask a crucial question, where is the LORD? The one that brought them out of slavery in Egypt and led them through deserts and pits and drought and the shadow of death, and gave them an inheritance in a plentiful land. God is saying that he did good things for them but they defiled the land and made the inheritance he gave them an abomination.
8 The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.
Again no one asked the crucial question, where is the LORD? Their prophets even prophesied in the name of other gods and followed things that do not have value.
9 Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the Lord, and with your children's children will I plead.
God says that he will still plead with them. He is still willing to try to make this relationship work. With them and the generations that come after them of his people. But it is also saying that he is opening a court case against them. Bringing charges against them.
10 For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing.
11 Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.
12 Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord.
YAHWEH illustrates his point by saying that if you look to the furthest nations west the isles of Chittim, or look at the furthest nations east Kedar, and see if they have ever changed their gods, which are not really gods, they have not. But his people have changed their God for something of no value, for idols.
This is not a natural thing to do and so the heavens are astonished and afraid and desolate. Think of it like a sports fans team, do they change their team? It's not normal. But that is exactly what the LORD's people have done.
13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
The two things that God's people have done are: They have forsaken the source of life and love or fountain of living waters, and worshiped instead false gods and humans that can hold no water, or life or love.
14 Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? why is he spoiled?
God points out that they should act like his people, but instead they are acting like servants and slaves. They are spoiled by their enemies. God would have protected them but they have forsaken him, time and time again.
15 The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant.
This reference to the young lions is both literal and allegorical. They represent the armies of the north and they burn Israel's cities so that they is no one left. But also actual young lions roar and make the land wast after it is destroyed.
16 Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head.
17 Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way?
18 And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?
Noph was the capital of lower Egypt and Tahapanes represents the Egyptians generally. They broke the crown of his people's head through Pharaoh Necho who killed the king of Judah, Josiah, at Megiddo, and placed puppet rulers on the throne deposing Jehoahaz.
His people have brought destruction on themselves because they have forsaken the Lord thy God, (the word thy here signifies a covenant relationship with Israel's God,) after he led them.
God then asks why his people will turn to Egypt for help and drink from the Nile, why trust in Egypt or Pharaoh, who has broken the crown of their head? Why would you put your trust in an enemy and go to them for help? The same goes for Assyria, the ruling power at this time, though their influence was quickly fading. Why will YAHWEH's people turn to another nation for help and trust or drink from their waters, but they will not trust or ask for help from the source or fountain of living waters, their God. The river signifies the king of Assyria and is a word link to Isaiah.
19 Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts.
20 For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot.
21 Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?
22 For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God.
It is Israel's own fault and they are punished. They bring it upon themselves. They will see just how evil and bitter the correction is after you forsake the covenant relationship with God and do not respect him. Also the name LORD GOD of hosts or of armies is used showing that God is in control of the nations.
In the past God delivered his people from slavery and bondage and they promised they would not transgress his law. That's how the King James sounds anyways. In the original Hebrew though it is says, you broke off your yoke, you burst your bands, and said, I will not work!
Everywhere they go they play the harlot. They cheat on him with other gods and rulers of nations. This also alludes to the fertility cults that was common practice in Jerusalem and Judah.
He the LORD planted them with nobility as a vine, something that bears fruit, with the choicest seed. But they have become like strange aliens to him. Even if they use lots of soap to clean themselves their guilt is marked or seen by God.
23 How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways;
24 A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.
25 Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.
The LORD's people are in a state of delusion. They may say they have not gone after other gods, but their deeds say otherwise. Are are compared to a lustful she-camel in heat who is seeking out a mate and is easy to find. It's like they are going barefoot and thirsty, but they basically say, we can't help ourselves, we have to go after other gods.
26 As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets.
27 Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.
28 But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.
29 Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the Lord.
Just like a thief feels distressed or humiliated when they are caught so are his people, especially the leaders. They say to wood, you are my father. To stone, you gave birth to me. But to the LORD they turn their backs and not their faces towards him. When the hour of calamity comes they will cry out to God to arise and save them. But God asks where are the gods or idols that they made for themselves, let them save you in the hour of calamity. Because their gods have become as numerous as the towns of Judah.
Why do they call the LORD to account when they have all rebelled against him.
30 In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.
31 O generation, see ye the word of the Lord. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?
God tried to correct and help them but it didn't do any good. "your own sword hath devoured your prophets," is most likely a reference to king Manasseh who killed prophets who rebuked him. However, the lion is a reference to the King of Babylon, and coupling these two people together in this way, represents that king Manasseh is a 'type' of what the King of Babylon will be like in the latter days or end times. It's an eschatological keyword. Jeremiah was clearly familiar with Isaiah's writings.
God calls on this generation to behold his Word. The questions asked are very rhetorical. Of course he has not been a wilderness to them or a land of darkness, quite the opposite in fact. So why do his people say, we are in charge of ourselves, we won't come to You anymore.
32 Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
33 Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways.
34 Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these.
35 Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned.
Women generally don't go out without putting on make-up or earrings what have you, and a bride never forgets her wedding dress, but the LORD's people have forgotten him for a very long time.
God points out that they are very skilled at seeking love and have taught the worst women among them their ways, it's a reference to the fertility cults and prostitution. Moreover, the blood of the innocent poor is found on their clothes. I like they King James saying it's obvious and not found by secret. The Hebrew expresses the idea that the poor were not caught breaking in and then killed, because then they may be justified in murder.
But his people say they are innocent and God will not punish them. But YAHWEH will bring these charges against them in the court case because they say they have not sinned even after they do all these things he has mentioned.
36 Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria.
37 Yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head: for the Lord hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them.
His people cheapen themselves or sell themselves for no profit by changing their course of following him. And they will be put to shame by trusting in Egypt just as they were put to shame by trusting in the Assyrians for help from their enemies.
They will come out of their land with their hands on their heads in shame because God has rejected the nations they trust and they will not prosper with them.