|<< Jeremiah 9 >>|
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
1Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
Jeremiah 9:1. "Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging-place of wayfarers! then would I leave my people, and go away from them. For they be all adulterers, a crew of faithless ones. Jeremiah 9:2. They bend their tongue like their bow with lying; and not according to faithfulness do they manage in the land, but go on from evil to evil, and me they know not, saith Jahve. Jeremiah 9:3. Beware each of his neighbour, and trust not in any brother; for every brother supplanteth, and every friend goeth slandering. Jeremiah 9:4. And one overreaCheth the other, and truth they speak not; they teach their tongue to speak lies, to deal perversely they weary themselves. Jeremiah 9:5. Thy dwelling is in the midst of deceit; in deceit they refuse to know me, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 9:6. Therefore thus hath spoken Jahveh of hosts: Behold, I will melt them, and try them; for how should I deal in regard to the daughter of my people? Jeremiah 9:7. A deadly arrow is their tongue; they speak deceit; with his mouth one speaketh peace with his neighbour, and inwardly within him he layeth ambush. Jeremiah 9:8. Shall I not visit this upon them? saith Jahveh; or on such a people as this shall not my soul take vengeance?"
Jeremiah would flee into the wilderness, far away from his people; because amidst such a corrupt, false, and cunning people, life had become unbearable, Jeremiah 9:1. מי יתּנני, as in Isaiah 27:4, equivalent to מי יתּן לי, Psalm 55:7 : who would give me equals Oh that I had! The "lodging-place" is not a resting-place under the open sky, but a harbour for travellers - a building (khan) erected on the route of the caravans, as a shelter for travellers. Adultery and faithlessness are mentioned as cardinal sins. The first sin has been rebuked in Jeremiah 5:7, the second is exposed in Jeremiah 9:2-4. בּוגד, faithless either towards God or one's fellow-men; here in the latter sense. The account of the unfaithful conduct is introduced in Jeremiah 9:2 by the imperf. with ו consec., and is carried on in the perf. Manifestations of sin are the issue of a sinful state of heart; the perfects are used to suggest the particular sins as accomplished facts.
In the clause, "they bend," etc., שׁקר is the second object; and "their bow" is in apposition to "their tongue:" they bend their tongue, which is their bow, with lying. For this construction the Hiph. is the proper form, and this is not to be changed into the Kal (as by Hitz., Gr., Ng.). In Job 28:8 the Hiph. is used instead of the Kal in the sense of tread upon, walk upon; here it is used of the treading of the bow to bend it, and lying is looked upon as the arrow with which the bow is stretched or armed for shooting. If the verb be changed into the Kal, we must join שׁקר with קשׁתּם: their lying-bow. For this connection דּרכּך זמּה, Ezekiel 16:27, may be cited; but it gives us the unnatural figure: their tongue as a bow, which is lying. It is neither the tongue nor the bow which is lying, but that which they shoot with their tongue as with a bow. According to faithfulness; ל of the rule, norm, as in Jeremiah 5:3. Not faithfulness to their convictions (Hitz.), but in their behaviour towards their fellow-man. גּבר, be strong, exercise strength, rule, and manage. The prophet has in view the great and mighty who had power in their hands, and who misused it to oppress their inferiors. From evil to evil they go on, i.e., they proceed from one sin to another; but God the Lord they know not, i.e., are determined to know nothing of Him; cf. 1 Samuel 2:12; Job 18:21. Hence each must keep himself on his guard against the other. To express this in the most emphatic manner, Jeremiah gives it the form of a command: Beware each of his neighbour, trust not in a brother; for each seeks to overreach and trip up the other. In the words עקוב יעקב there seems to be an allusion to Jacob's underhand dealing with his brother Esau, Genesis 27:36. On "goes slandering," cf. Jeremiah 6:28, and cf. also the similar description in Micah 7:5-6.
2Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.
3And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.
4Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders.
In Jeremiah 9:4 these sinful ways are exposed in yet stronger words. יהתל, uncontracted form of the imperf. Hiph. of תּלל, trip up, deceive. On the infin. העוה, cf. Ew. 238, e, and Gesen. 75, Rem. 17. They weary themselves out, put themselves to great labour, in order to deal corruptly; נלאה as in Jeremiah 20:9; Isaiah 16:12, elsewhere to be weary of a thing; cf. Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 15:6. - In Jeremiah 9:5 the statement returns to the point at which it commenced: thy sitting (dwelling) is in the midst of deceit. In deceit, i.e., in the state of their mind, directed as it is by deceit and cheating, they refuse to know me, i.e., they are resolved to have nothing to do with the knowledge of God, because in that case they must give up their godless ways.
(Note: The lxx have not understood שׁכתּך dootsr. They have split it up into שׁב תּך, joined שׁב to נלאוּ, and translated, after adding ולא: καὶ ου ̓ διέλιπον τοῦ ἐπιστρέψαι τόκος ἐπὶ τόκῳ (i.e., usury upon usury) καὶ δόλος ἐπὶ δόλω οὐκ ἤθελον εἰδέναι με. Ew. has adopted this construction, and so translates: "have accustomed their tongue to speak lies, to do perversity, are weary of turning again; wrong upon wrong, deceit upon deceit, they are not willing to know me." But this text is not better, but worse, than the Masoretic: for, 1st, the perverse dealing or action is attributed to the tongue; 2nd, the thought, they are weary of turning again, does not suit the context, since the persons described here have never sought to return or repent, and so cannot have become weary of it. For these reasons, neither Hitz. nor Graf has given countenance to the lxx text.)
By reason of this depravity, the Lord must purge His people by sore judgments. He will melt it in the fire of affliction (Isaiah 48:10), to separate the wicked: cf. Isaiah 1:25; Zechariah 13:9; and on בּחן, Jeremiah 6:27. For how should I do, deal? Not: what dreadful judgments shall I inflict (Hitz., Gr.), in which case the grounding כּי would not have its proper force; but: I can do none otherwise than purge. Before the face of, i.e., by reason of, the daughter, because the daughter of my people behaves herself as has been described in Jeremiah 9:2-4, and as is yet to be briefly repeated in Jeremiah 9:7. The lxx have paraphrased מפּני: ἀπὸ προσώπου πονηρίας. This is true to the sense, but it is unfair to argue from it, as Ew., Hitz., Gr. do, that רעת has been dropped out of the Hebrew text and should be restored. - In Jeremiah 9:7 what has been said is recapitulated shortly, and then in Jeremiah 9:8 the necessity of the judgment is shown. חץ שׁוחט, a slaying, slaughtering, i.e., murderous arrow. Instead of this Chet., which gives a good sense, the Keri gives שׁחוּט, which, judging from the Chald. translation, is probably to be translated sharpened. But there is no evidence for this sig., since שׁחוּט occurs only in connection with זהב, 1 Kings 10:16, and means beaten, lit., spread gold. At מרמה דבּר the plural passes into the singular: he (one of them) speaks; cf. Psalm 55:22. ארב for insidious scheming, as in Hosea 7:6. With Jeremiah 9:8 cf. Jeremiah 5:9, Jeremiah 5:29.
5And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity.
6Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the LORD.
7Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will melt them, and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?
8Their tongue is as an arrow shot out; it speaketh deceit: one speaketh peaceably to his neighbour with his mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait.
9Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
The land laid waste, and the people scattered amongst the heathen. - Jeremiah 9:9. "For the mountains I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the pastures of the wilderness a lament; for they are burnt up so that no man passeth over them, neither hear they the voice of the flock; the fowls of the heavens and the cattle are fled, are gone. Jeremiah 9:10. And I make Jerusalem heaps, a dwelling of jackals; and the cities of Judah I make a desolation, without an inhabitant. Jeremiah 9:11. Who is the wise man, that he may understand this? and to whom the mouth of Jahveh hath spoken, that he may declare it? Wherefore doth the land come to ruin, is it burnt up like the wilderness, that none passeth through? Jeremiah 9:12. Jahveh said: Because they forsake my law which I set before them, and have not hearkened unto my voice, neither walked therein, Jeremiah 9:13. But went after the stubbornness of their heart, and after the Baals, which their fathers have taught them. Jeremiah 9:14. Therefore thus hath Jahveh of hosts spoken, the God of Israel: Behold, I feed this people with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink, Jeremiah 9:15. And scatter them among the nations which they knew not, neither they nor their fathers, and send the sword after them, until I have consumed them."
Already in spirit Jeremiah sees God's visitation come upon the land, and in Jeremiah 9:9 and Jeremiah 9:10 he raises a bitter lamentation for the desolation of the country. The mountains and meadows of the steppes or prairies are made so desolate, that neither men nor beasts are to be found there. Mountains and meadows or pastures of the steppes, as contrasted with the cities (Jeremiah 9:10), represent the remoter parts of the country. על is here not local: upon, but causal, concerning equals because of, cf. Jeremiah 4:24., as is usual with (נשׂא נהי )קינה; cf. 2 Samuel 1:17; Amos 5:1; Ezekiel 26:17, etc. נצּתוּ, kindled, burnt up, usually of cities (cf. Jeremiah 2:15), here of a tract of country with the sig. be parched by the glowing heat of the sun, as a result of the interruption of agriculture. מדבּר is steppe, prairie, not suitable for tillage, but well fitted for pasturing cattle, as e.g., the wilderness of Judah; cf. 1 Samuel 17:28. With מבּלי, Jeremiah 9:11, cf. Ezekiel 33:28. Not only have the herds disappeared that used to feed there, but the very birds have flown away, because the parched land no longer furnishes food for them; cf. Jeremiah 4:25. To "are fled," which is used most properly of birds, is added: are gone away, departed, in reference to the cattle.
10For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation, because they are burned up, so that none can pass through them; neither can men hear the voice of the cattle; both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled; they are gone.
Jerusalem is to become stone-heaps, where only jackals dwell. תּנּים is jackals (canis aureus), in Isaiah 13:22 called איּים from their cry; see on Isa. l.c., and Gesen. thes. s. v. מבּלי יושׁב as in Jeremiah 2:15; Jeremiah 4:7. - That such a judgment will pass over Judah every wise man must see well, and every one enlightened by God is to declare it; for universal apostasy from God and His law cannot but bring down punishment. But such wisdom and such spiritual enlightenment is not found in the infatuated people. This is the idea of Jeremiah 9:11-13. The question: Who is the wise man? etc., reminds us of Hosea 14:9, and is used with a negative force: unhappily there is none so wise as to see this. "This" is explained by the clause, Wherefore doth the land, etc.: this, i.e., the reason why the land is going to destruction. The second clause, "and to whom," etc., is dependent on the מי, which is to be repeated in thought: and who is he that, etc. Jeremiah has the false prophets here in view, who, if they were really illumined by God, if they had the word of God, could not but declare to the people their corruptness, and the consequences which must flow from it. But since none is so wise...Jeremiah proposes to them the question in Jeremiah 9:11, and in Jeremiah 9:12 tells the answer as given by God Himself. Because they have forsaken my law, etc. נתן לפני, to set before; as in Deuteronomy 4:8, so here, of the oral inculcation of the law by the prophets. "Walketh therein" refers to the law. The stubbornness of their heart, as in Jeremiah 3:17; Jeremiah 7:24. After the Baals, Jeremiah 2:23. The relative clause, "which their fathers," etc., refers to both clauses of the verse; אשׁר with a neuter sense: which their fathers have taught them.
11And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.
12Who is the wise man, that may understand this? and who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD hath spoken, that he may declare it, for what the land perisheth and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passeth through?
13And the LORD saith, Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;
14But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:
The description of the offence is again followed by the threatening of judgment. To feed with wormwood and give gall to drink is a figure for sore and bitter suffering at the overthrow of the kingdom and in exile. The meaning of the suffix in מאכילם is shown by the apposition: this people. On water of gall see Jeremiah 8:14, and for the use of לענה and ראשׁ together see Deuteronomy 29:17. - 'הפיצותים וגו implies a verbal allusion to the words of Deuteronomy 28:64 and Deuteronomy 28:36, cf. Leviticus 26:33. With this latter passage the second clause: I send the sword after them, has a close affinity. The purport of it is: I send the sword after the fugitives, to pursue them into foreign lands and slay them; cf. Jeremiah 42:16; Jeremiah 44:27. Thus it is indicated that those who fled into Egypt would be reached by the sword there and slain. This does not stand in contradiction to what is said in Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 5:18, etc., to the effect that God will not make an utter end of them (Graf's opinion). This appears from Jeremiah 44:27, where those that flee to Egypt are threatened with destruction by famine and sword עד כּלּותי או, while Jeremiah 44:28 continues: but they that have escaped the sword shall return. Hence we see that the terms of the threatening do not imply the extirpation of the people to the last man, but only the extirpation of all the godless, of this wicked people.
15Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.
16I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them.
Zion laid waste. - Jeremiah 9:16. "Thus hath Jahveh of hosts said: Give heed and call for mourning women, that they may come, and send to the wise women, that they may come, Jeremiah 9:17. And may make haste and strike up a lamentation for us, that our eyes may run down with tears and our eyelids gush out with water. Jeremiah 9:18. For loud lamentation is heard out of Zion: How are we spoiled, sore put to shame! because we have left the land, because they have thrown down our dwellings. Jeremiah 9:19. For year, ye women, the word of Jahve, and let your ear receive the word of His mouth, and teach your daughters lamentation, and let one teach the other the song of mourning! Jeremiah 9:20. For death cometh up by our windows, he entereth into our palaces, to cut off the children from the streets, the young men from the thoroughfares. Jeremiah 9:21. Speak: Thus runs the saying of Jahve: And the carcases of men shall fall as dung upon the field, and as a sheaf behind the shearer, which none gathereth."
In this strophe we have a further account of the execution of the judgment, and a poetical description of the vast harvest death is to have in Zion. The citizens of Zion are called upon to give heed to the state of affairs now in prospect, i.e., the judgment preparing, and are to assemble mourning women that they may strike up a dirge for the dead. התבּונן, to be attentive, give heed to a thing; cf. Jeremiah 2:10. Women cunning in song are to come with speed (תּמהרנה takes the place of an adverb). The form תּבואינה (Psalm 45:16; 1 Samuel 10:7) alternates with תּבואנהּ, the usual form in this verb, e.g., Genesis 30:38; 1 Kings 3:16, etc., in order to produce an alternating form of expression . "For us" Ng. understands of those who call the mourning women, and in it he finds "something unusual," because ordinarily mourners are summoned to lament for those already dead, i.e., others than those who summon them. "But here they are to raise their laments for the very persons who summon them, and for the death of these same, which has yet to happen." There is a misunderstanding at the bottom of this remark. The "for us" is not said of the callers; for these are addressed in the second person. If Ng.'s view were right, it must be "for you," not "for us." True, the lxx has εφ ̓ ὑμᾶς; but Hitz. has rejected this reading as a simplification and weakening expression, and as disturbing the plan. "For us" is used by the people taken collectively, the nation as such, which is to be so sorely afflicted and chastised by death that it is time for the mourning women to raise their dirge, that so the nation may give vent to its grief in tears. We must also take into account, that even although the lamentations were for the dead, they yet chiefly concerned the living, who had been deeply afflicted by the loss of beloved relations; it would not be the dead merely that were mourned for, but the living too, because of their loss. It is this reference that stands here in the foreground, since the purpose of the chanting of dirges is that our eyes may flow with tears, etc. Zion will lament the slain of her people (Jeremiah 8:22), and so the mourning women are to strike up dirges. תּשּׂנה for תּשּׂאנה, as in Ruth 1:14; cf. Ew. 198, b. On the use of ירד and נזל with the accus.: flow down in tears, cf. Gesen. 138, 1, Rem. 2, Ew. 281, b.
17Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come:
18And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters.
Jeremiah 9:18 gives the reason why the mourning women are to be called: Loud lamentation is heard out of Zion. Ew. takes "out of Zion" of the Israelites carried away from their country - a view arbitrary in itself, and incompatible with Jeremiah 9:20. "How are we spoiled!" cf. Jeremiah 4:13; brought utterly to shame, because we have left the land, i.e., have been forced to leave it, and because they (the enemies) have thrown down our dwellings! השׁליך, cast down, overthrow, Job 18:7, cf. Ezekiel 19:12, and of buildings, Daniel 8:11. Kimchi and Hitz., again, take "our dwellings" as subject: our dwellings have cast us out, and appeal to Leviticus 18:25 : The land vomited out its inhabitants. But the figurative style in this passage does not justify us in adopting so unnatural a figure as this, that the dwellings cast out their occupants. Nor could the object be omitted in such a case. The passages, Isaiah 33:9; Micah 2:4, to which Hitz. appeals, are not analogous to the present one. The subject, not expressed, acc. to our view of the passage, is readily suggested by the context and the nature of the case. The "for" in Jeremiah 9:19 gives a second reason for calling the mourning women together. They are to come not only to chant laments for the spoiling of Zion, but that they may train their daughters and other women in the art of dirge-singing, because the number of deaths will be so great that the existing number of mourning women will not be sufficient for the task about to fall on them. This thought is introduced by a command of God, in order to certify that this great harvest of death will without fail be gathered. אזנכם and בּנתיכם have masc. suffixes instead of feminine, the masc. being often thus used as the more general form; cf. Ew. 184, c. In the last clause the verb "teach" is to be supplied from the preceding context.
19For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled! we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land, because our dwellings have cast us out.
20Yet hear the word of the LORD, O ye women, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth, and teach your daughters wailing, and every one her neighbour lamentation.
Death comes in through (in at) the windows, not because the doors are to be thought of as barricaded (Hitz.), but as a thief in the night, i.e., suddenly, in an unexpected way. Perhaps Jeremiah was here thinking of Joel 2:9. And comes into the palaces, i.e., spares no house, but carries off high and low. The second clause is not to be very closely joined with the first, thus: Death comes into the houses and palaces, to sweep the children from off the streets; this would be self-contradictory. We must rather repeat "comes" from the first clause: He comes to sweep off the streets the child at play. That is: In the houses and palaces, as upon the streets and highways, he will seize his prey.
21For death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets.
The numbers of the dead will be so great, that the bodies will be left lying unburied. The concluding touch to this awful picture is introduced by the formula, "Speak: Thus saith the Lord," as a distinct word from God to banish all doubt of the truth of the statement. This formula is interposed parenthetically, so that the main idea of the clause is joined by ו cop. to Jeremiah 9:20. This ו is not to be deleted as a gloss, as it is by Ew. and others, because it is not found in the lxx. With "as dung," cf. Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 16:4. עמיר, prop. a bundle of stalks, grasped by the hand and cut, then equals עמר, sheaf. As a sheaf behind the reaper, which nobody gathers, i.e., which is left to lie unheeded, is not brought by the reaper into the barn. The point of the simile is in the lying unheeded. Strange to say, Graf and Ng. propose to refer the "none gathereth" not to the sheaf of the shearer, but to the dead bodies: whereas the reaper piles the sheaves upon the waggon ad brings them to the threshing-floor, the corpses are left ungathered.
22Speak, Thus saith the LORD, Even the carcases of men shall fall as dung upon the open field, and as the handful after the harvestman, and none shall gather them.
The way of safety. - Jeremiah 9:22. "Thus hath Jahveh said: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength; let not the rich man glory in his riches: Jeremiah 9:23. But let him that glorieth glory in this, in having understanding, and in knowing me, that I am Jahveh, dealing grace, right, and justice upon earth; for therein have I pleasure, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 9:24. Behold, days come, saith Jahveh, that I punish all the circumcised (who are) with foreskin, Jeremiah 9:25. Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the sons of Ammon, Moab and them that have their hair-corners polled, that dwell in the wilderness; for all the heathen are uncircumcised, and the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart."
After having overturned the foundations of the people's false reliance on the temple, or the sacrifices, and in the wisdom of its leaders, Jeremiah finally points out the way that leads to safety. This consists solely in the true knowledge of the Lord who doth grace, right, and justice, and therein hath pleasure. In Jeremiah 9:23 he mentions the delusive objects of confidence on which the children of this world are wont to pride themselves: their own wisdom, strength, and riches. These things do not save from ruin. Safety is secured only by "having understanding and knowing me." These two ideas are so closely connected, that the second may be looked on as giving the nearer definition of the first. The having of understanding must manifest itself in the knowing of the Lord. The two verbs are in the infin. abs., because all that was necessary was to suggest the idea expressed by the verb; cf. Ew. 328, b. The knowledge of God consists in knowing Him as Him who doth grace, right, and justice upon earth. חסד, grace, favour, is the foundation on which right and justice are based; cf. Jeremiah 32:18; Psalm 33:5; Psalm 99:4; Psalm 103:6. He who has attained to this knowledge will seek to practise these virtues towards his fellow-men, because only therein has God pleasure (אלּה pointing back to the objects before mentioned); cf. Jeremiah 22:3; Psalm 11:7; Psalm 37:28. But because the Lord has pleasure in right and justice, He will punish all peoples that do not practise justice.
23Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
The True Wisdom. - It is not a reliance on one's own wisdom and strength that brings well-being, but the knowledge of the Lord and of His dealings in grace and justice (Jeremiah 9:22-25). Idolatry is folly, for the idols are the mere work of men's hands; whereas Jahveh, the Almighty God, is ruler of the world (10:1-16). Israel will be made to understand this by the coming judgment (Jeremiah 9:17-25).
24But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
25Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;
Thus Jeremiah 9:24 and Jeremiah 9:25 are connected with what precedes. The lack of righteousness is indicated by the idea מוּל בּערלה: circumcised with foreskin, i.e., not, circumcised in the foreskin (lxx, Vulg.), but circumcised and yet possessed of the foreskin. It is incorrect to translate: circumcised together with the uncircumcised (Kimchi, de W.). This is not only contrary to the usage of the language, but inconsistent with the context, since in Jeremiah 9:25 uncircumcisedness is predicated of the heathen and of Judah. The expression is an oxymoron, thus: uncircumcised-circumcised (Ew.), intended to gather Jews and heathen into one category. This is shown by the order of the enumeration in Jeremiah 9:24 : Egypt, Judah, Edom, etc.; whence we may see that in this reference the prophet puts Judah on the same footing with the heathen, with the Egyptians, Edomites, etc., and so mentions Judah between Egypt and Edom. From the enumeration Ew. and Ng., following the example of Jerome,
(Note: Jerome writes: multarum ex quadam parte gentium, et maxime quae Judaeae Palaestinaeque confines sunt, usque hodie populi circumciduntur, et praecipue Aegyptii et Idumaei, Ammonitae et Moabitae et omnis regio Saracenorum, quae habitat in solitudine.)
conclude that all the peoples named along with Judah practised circumcision. But neither on exegetical nor on historical grounds can this be confidently asserted. Considered from the exegetical point of view, it is contradictory of the direct statement in Jeremiah 9:25, that all the nations are uncircumcised. We must certainly not take the words כּל־הגּוים as: all these peoples, giving the article then the force of a retrospective demonstrative; still less can they mean "all the other nations" besides those named. "All the nations" are all nations besides Israel. When these are called "uncircumcised," and Israel "uncircumcised in heart," it is as clear as can be that all nations, and so Egyptians, Edomites, etc., are called uncircumcised, i.e., in the flesh; while Israel - the whole house of Israel, i.e., Judah and the other tribes - are set over against the nations in contrast to them as being uncircumcised in heart, i.e., spiritually. From the historical view-point, too, it is impossible to prove that circumcision was in use amongst all the nations mentioned along with Judah. Only of the Egyptians does Herod. ii. 36f., 104, record that they practised circumcision; and if we accept the testimony of all other ancient authors, Herod.'s statement concerns only the priests and those initiated into the mysteries of Egypt, not the Egyptian people as a whole; cf. my Bibl. Archol. i. S. 307f. The only ground for attributing the custom of circumcision to the Moabites and Arabs, is the fact that Esau and Ishmael, the ancestors of these peoples, were circumcised. But the inference drawn therefrom is not supported by historical testimony. Indeed, so far as the Edomites are concerned, Josephus testifies directly the contrary, since in Antt. xiii. 9. 1, he tells us that when John Hyrcanus had conquered this people, he offered them the choice of forsaking their country or adopting circumcision, and that they chose the latter alternative. As to the ancient Arabs, we find in the Ztschr. fr die Kunde des Morgl. iii. S. 230, a notice of the tribe 'Advân, where we are told that the warriors of this tribe consist of uncircumcised young men along with those already circumcised. But this gives us no certain testimony to the universal prevalence of circumcision; for the notice comes from a work in which pre-and post-Mohammedan traditions are confounded. Finally, there is no historical trace of the custom of circumcision amongst the Ammonites and Moabites. קצוּצי פאה here, and Jeremiah 25:23; Jeremiah 49:32 : those polled, cropped at the edges of the beard and sides of the head, are such as have the hair cut from off the temples and the forehead, observing a custom which, according to Herod. iii.8,
(Note: Τῶν τριχῶν τὴν κουρὴν κείρεσθαί φασι, καθάπερ αὐτὸν τὸν Διόνυσον κεκάρθαι, κείρονται δὲ ὑποτρόχαλα περιξηροῦντες τοὺς κροτάφους.)
was usual amongst some of the tribes of the Arabian Desert. The imitation of this practice was forbidden to the Israelites by the law, Leviticus 19:27; from which passage we may see that פאה refers to the head and the beard. Acc. to Jeremiah 49:32, cf. with v. 28, the tribes meant belonged to the Kedarenes, descended according to Genesis 25:13 from Ishmael. In the wilderness, i.e., the Arabian Desert to the east of Palestine. By means of the predicate "uncircumcised in heart," the whole house of Israel, i.e., the whole covenant people, is put in contrast with the heathen. Circumcision involved the obligation to walk blameless before God (Genesis 17:1), and, as sign of the covenant, to keep God's commandments. If this condition was not fulfilled, if the heart remained uncircumcised, Israel lost all pre-eminence over the heathen, and was devoid of all room for glorying in the sight of God, just as the heathen were, who know not God the Lord, who have turned the truth of God into unrighteousness, and in their unrighteousness have become liable to the judgment of God.
26Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.