Jeremiah 3:14 MEANING

Jeremiah 3:14
(14) Turn, O backsliding children.--In his desire to individualise his call to repentance, the prophet drops his parable, or rather combines the sign and the thing signified, with the same assonance as before--turn back, ye children who have turned away.

I am married unto you.--The tender pity of Jehovah leads Him to offer pardon even to the adulterous wife. Jeremiah had learned, in all their fulness, the lessons of Hosea 1-3.

One of a city, and two of a family.--The latter word is the wider in its range of the two--a clan, or tribe, that might embrace many cities. The limitation to the "one" and the "two" is after the manner of Isaiah's reference (Isaiah 1:9) to the "remnant" that should be saved, and reminds of the "ten righteous men" who might have saved the cities of the plain (Genesis 18:32).

Verse 14. - Turn, O backsliding children. There is a play upon words, or rather upon senses, in the original, "Turn, ye turned away ones" (comp. ver. 12). To whom is this addressed? To the Israelites in the narrower sense, for there is nothing to indicate a transition. Long as they have been removed from the paternal hearth, they are still "sons." For I am married unto you. The same Hebrew phrase occurs in Jeremiah 31:32. Its signification has been a subject of dispute. From the supposed necessities of exegesis in Jeremiah 31:32, some (e.g. Pococke and Gesenins) have translated, "for I have rejected you," but the connection requires not "for" but "though," which, however, is an inadmissible rendering; besides, the Hebrew verb in question nowhere has the sense of "reject" elsewhere (yet the Septuagint already has it, virtually at least, in Jeremiah 31:32, q.v.). The literal meaning is for I have been a lord over you, i.e. a husband. Israel is despondent, and fears to return. Jehovah repeats his invitation, assuring Israel that he does not regard the marriage bond as broken. He is still (in spite of ver. 8) the husband, and Israel the bride (comp. Hosea 2; Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 54:6, etc.). One of a city, and two of a family. The promises of God are primarily to communities, but this does not prevent him from devoting the most special care to individuals. "One of a city, and two of a family," even though there should be but one faithful Lot in a city, and two such in a family (larger than a city, a single tribe containing only a few mishpa-khoth, or clans), yet I will admit these few to the promised blessings." Calvin's remark is worth noticing: "Hie locus dignus est observatu, quia ostendit Deus non esse, cur alii alios expectent; deinde etiam si corpus ipsum populi putreseat in suis peccatis, tamen si pauci ad ipsum redeant, se illis etiam fore placabilem." The historical facts to which the prophecy corresponds are variously regarded. Theodoret, Grotius, etc., suppose it to have been fulfilled exclusively in the return from Babylon; St. Jerome and others think rather of the Messianic period. Hengstenberg finds a continuous fulfillment, beginning at the time of Cyrus, when many belonging to the ten tribes joined themselves to the returning Judahites. He finds a further continuation in the times of the Maccabees, and in fact a continually growing fulfillment in preparation for that complete one brought in by Christ, when the premised blessings were poured out upon the whole δωδεκάφυλον (Luke 2:36). "Zion and the holy land were at that time the seat of the kingdom of God, so that the return to the latter was inseparable from the return to the former." Dr. Guthe, however, the latest critical commentator on Jeremiah, thinks that the passage can be explained otherwise, viz." from each city one by one, and from each family two by two." This gives a more obvious explanation; but the ordinary rendering is more natural, and the explanation based upon it is in the highest degree worthy of the Divine subject. The doubt, of course, is whether in the Old Testament a special providence is extended elsewhere so distinctly to the individual. But Jeremiah is pre-eminently an individualizing prophet; he feels the depth and reality of individual as opposed to corporate life as no one else among the prophets. (At any rate, one point is clear, that the prophet foresees that the number of the exiles who return will be but small compared with the increase to be divinely vouchsafed to them; see ver. 16.)

3:12-20 See God's readiness to pardon sin, and the blessings reserved for gospel times. These words were proclaimed toward the north; to Israel, the ten tribes, captive in Assyria. They are directed how to return. If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive them. These promises are fully to come to pass in the bringing back the Jews in after-ages. God will graciously receive those that return to him; and by his grace, he takes them out from among the rest. The ark of the covenant was not found after the captivity. The whole of that dispensation was to be done away, which took place after the multitude of believers had been greatly increased by the conversion of the Gentiles, and of the Israelites scattered among them. A happy state of the church is foretold. He can teach all to call him Father; but without thorough change of heart and life, no man can be a child of God, and we have no security for not departing from Him.Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord,.... All of them were children by national adoption, and some by special grace, and yet "backsliders", O monstrous ingratitude! "backsliders", and yet "children", still the relation continues, O marvellous grace! God's own children may backslide, and often do; either in heart, when love waxes cold, faith declines, zeal wanting; when they get into a carnal sleepy frame of spirit, and have not that quick sense of sin, and of duty, as heretofore: or in practice, when private prayer is restrained; public worship is neglected; get into bad company, and fall into gross sins; all which is owing to the prevalence of indwelling sin, the force of Satan's temptations, and the enticing snares of the world; but God will not leave them, he calls unto them again and again to turn unto him by repentance, and to doing their first works; which calls, at length, through powerful grace, become effectual; see Jeremiah 3:22 and the arguments used to engage to it follow,

for I am married unto you; in a civil sense as a nation, Jeremiah 31:32, and in a spiritual sense to a remnant of them; Christ is the bridegroom, the church is the bride, which he has secretly betrothed to himself in eternity; openly in time, at the conversion of everyone of them; and will more publicly at the last day, when all are gathered in and prepared for him. This relation, as it is a very near one, so it is very astonishing, considering the disparity between the two parties, and it always continues; love, the bond of it, never alters; the covenant, in which this transaction is carried on, is ever sure; and Christ always behaves agreeably to it; wherefore it is base ingratitude to backslide; and reason there is sufficient why his backsliding spouse should return to him. The Septuagint version is, "because I will rule over you." agreeable to which is Jarchi's note,

"because I am your Lord, and it is not for my glory, (or honour) to leave you in the hand of enemies.''

Kimchi's father interprets the word used by "I loath you", or I am weary of you; the reverse of which is the Targum,

"for I am well pleased with you;''

and so the Syriac version, "I delight in you"; which carries in it a much more engaging argument to return, and agrees with what follows:

and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family: or tribe, or country; for sometimes a whole country is called a family, as in Jeremiah 1:15 and here it must design more than a city; for otherwise there are many families in a city; the meaning is, according to Kimchi, that though there may be but one Jew in a city of the Gentiles, or two only in a nation, the Lord would take them from thence; and, according to others, that though one or two, or a few, here and there one of the backsliders, should return to him by true repentance, he would receive them graciously; the smallness of their number would be no objection to him; which is a sense not to be despised: but the phrase seems to denote the distinguishing grace of God to his people; which appears in the choice of them in his Son; the redemption of them by him; and the sanctification of them by his Spirit; and very few are the objects of his grace, as it were one of a city, and two of a tribe; however, they shall none of them be lost, notwithstanding their backslidings, to which they are bent: for it is added,

and I will bring you to Zion; to the church of God here, a Gospel church state, whither to come is the great privilege of the saints, Hebrews 12:22 and to the Zion above, the heavenly state, where all the chosen and ransomed, and sanctified ones, shall come, with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads, Isaiah 35:10 and all as the fruit of distinguishing and efficacious grace.

Courtesy of Open Bible