Avraham ben Yaakov
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 3
Jeremiah chapter 3 verses1-5 are a direct continuation of the section that began in chapter 2 v 29. The conventional chapter break after ch 2 v 37 violates the continuity of this section. In the closing verses of chapter 2 the prophet rebuked the people as a wife who abandoned her first husband to run after lovers (cf. 2:32 and 2:26). Now in ch 3 v 1 the prophet says that normally if a man divorces his wife and she marries another man, she cannot return to her first husband. Yet, as this verse concludes, despite Israel 's having been disloyal, God still says, "Return to Me".
Vv 4-5: God says, "If only you would from now on call me 'my Father.'" (v 4) but (v 5) ".behold you (= Israel ) have spoken" - i.e. Israel has said, "We shall not come back to You any more" (Rashi).
V 6: "And God said to me in the days of Josiah the king." At that time - approximately three quarters of a century after the exile of the Ten Tribes, God instructed Jeremiah to try to bring them back (see v 11). The "backsliding Israel " mentioned in the present verse alludes to the Ten Tribes, and the verse then speaks of their sins prior to their exile (Rashi).
Vv 7-10: God had sent prophets (Amos, Hosea etc.) to the Ten Tribes asking them to repent but they failed to do so and as a result were exiled. Now the prophet castigates their "treacherous sister," namely Judah, who after having witnessed the fate that befell the Ten Tribes, failed to draw the proper conclusion and to repent. The prophet refers to the Ten Tribes as the "backsliding Israel " but uses a far stronger term - "treacherous" - for Judah . This is because when the Ten Tribes rebelled, they were the first and had not seen a previous example of rebels who were punished. Judah , however, had seen what happened to the Ten Tribes yet still did not take heed.
V 11: Israel (the Ten Tribes) is "more righteous" than Judah because they had no previous example to learn from. In V 12 God instructs Jeremiah to go to the "north" - the regions to which the Assyrians exiled the Ten Tribes - in order to bring them back. Some members of the Ten Tribes did indeed return to Jerusalem in the eighteenth year of King Josiah (Rashi on v 12).
Vv 13ff: God promises to restore Israel if they will only be aware of their sins and repent.
V 16: "And it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says HaShem, they shall say no more: The Ark of the Covenant of HaShem." - "What this means is that they will no longer say to one another, Let us go before the Ark to pray there, because there will be so many people that the place will not be able to hold them all and they will not all be able to go there." (Metzudas David). At that time, "wherever they gather, holiness will dwell, and I will dwell in their assembly as if it is the Ark " (Rashi). We may already be seeing the fulfillment of this prophecy if we consider how, with the rapidly increasing numbers of "returnees" in our times, assemblies at the Kotel (Western Wall of the Temple), Rabbi Nachman's gravesite in Uman, that of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in New York etc. are so thronged that many people wonder how they will be able to get near. According to Rashi's comment, God's presence dwells with the people wherever they are assembled for a holy purpose.
V 18: "In those days the House of Judah will go with the House of Israel ." "They will join with them and be added to them to be one kingdom" (Rashi).
Vv 19-25: God does not want to put Israel together with the other "sons" - the heathen nations, and for this reason gave them a beautiful land of their own. God calls on Israel to return and sends the prophet words of confession and repentance to put in their mouths (vv 22ff).
Again and again the prophet repeats his calls to the people to repent.
V 3: The prophet tells the people to learn from farmers who plow their fields in the summer in order to kill the roots of the weeds so that they will not grow and choke the newly planted seeds in the winter. Likewise, the people should improve their behavior before the evil comes upon them. It is no good to sow seeds among weeds - i.e. to cry to God and expect an answer before cleansing oneself of one's own evil.
Vv 4ff: The prophet begins to warn of the evil that will come if the people do not repent.
V 7: "A lion has come up from his thicket" - this refers to Nebuchadnezzar (Megillah 11a).
V 10: "And I said, AHAH O Lord God, You have greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem , saying 'You will have peace'." It was the false prophets who deceived the people, lulling them into complacency with their promises of peace, with the result that the people did not repent, laying themselves open to disastrous consequences.
V 15: "For a voice declares from Dan and announces calamity from Mt Ephraim" - This is the prophetic voice warning Judah that they will go into exile on account of their continuing attachment to the idolatries that were practiced under the Ten Tribes in Dan and on Mt Ephraim (cf. Rashi).
Vv 23-26: "I have seen the land, and behold it was waste and desolate." The words "I have seen" recur four times in these verses. The prophet foretells the coming disaster as if he has already actually seen it.
V 27: "For thus says God: The whole land will be desolate, yet I shall not make a full end" - Despite the grim message of coming calamity, God's compassion is unending and He promises that the calamity will not be total because some of the inhabitants of the land will survive and even though they will go into exile, they will still be able to return and be restored in the future.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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