Jeremiah 3 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Jeremiah 3 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.

"Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers."
A divorced woman is "polluted" when she remarries. The man, of course, remains perfectly clean through it all, even though he was the one who "put her away" in the first place.
Of course the man is unclean also, because he is forbidden to marry as well. This provision, that you cannot remarry the same woman is found in Deut. 24:4. This is to avoid prostitution by using temporary marriages. Muslims are allowed this form of prostitution: they can temporarily wed someone, “consume” the marriage, and divorce, all in 30 minutes. And repeat it the next day. This is an abomination of marriage and clearly forbidden in the Bible. Else people would excuse themselves that they were lawfully married.

2 Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.

"In the ways thou hast sat for them...."
A woman can't even sit anymore without being condemned by God.
The sitting here refers to the practise of whores who sat at the public way, waiting for customers, see an example in Gen. 38:14.

3 Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.

Droughts are punishments from God.
"Thou hadst a whore's forehead."
Jeremiah loves to insult people. His favorite insult is to call someone a whore. In this verse he accuses Jedah of having a "whore's forehead."
Israel had made a covenant with God and God with Israel. As explained before (Jer. 2:20), this covenant was like marriage: a promise to keep true to each other. Under this image, God is the husband, and Israel the wife. But Judah left her husband and went to serve other gods. What would we call such a person?

4 Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?

5 Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.

6 The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.

"Under every tree"
More talk of harlots who have sex under every tree.
See verse 3.

7 And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

"I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce."
God gives Judah "a bill of divorce."
It's not Judah which got the bill of divorce, but her sister Israel. Remember that the kingdom was split into two parts after the death of Solomon? So Israel, the 10 tribes, was given that bill of divorcement and was taken away captive by more powerful nations. But her sister Judah did not take this to heart.

9 And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.

She ... committed adultery with stones and with stocks."
The stones and stocks are the material that was used to make other gods. But Jeremiah observes that it was still just stone and stock.

10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.

11 And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.

12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.

Doesn't the author of the SAB have this verse under the wrong heading? Looking at the context it seems God's anger may be forever, because in this verse it is conditional upon returning: “Return, thou backsliding Israel.”
This verse is a clear indication that God is merciful. All who come to seek him, will found him. But there will come a time when the door is shut, Matthew 25:11-13.

13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD.

Thou ... hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree."
(Jeremiah just can't quit talking about sex under the trees.)
Jeremiah isn't talking about sex, but about sacrificing to idols, which they did under every green treen. Also note that Jeremiah's language is far more restrained than the author of the SAB phrases it

14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.

17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.

Jeremiah prophesies that all nations of the earth will embrace Judaism. This has not happened.
As John Gill explains, Jerusalem cannot mean the city by that name, because it is physically impossible that all nations will be gathered unto it. It seems the author of the SAB has also realised this, and has interpreted this gathering as “embracing Judaism.” But Judaism is not meant here, but the prohet speaks of the days of Christianity. Jerusalem in this verse is the church of Christ. A great many nations and kings have been converted to it, but it will be more largely accomplished and verified in the latter day, Is. 2:2.

18 In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.

19 But I said, How shall I put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of nations? and I said, Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me.

20 Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD.

"As a wife treacherously departeth from her husband ..."
If a woman leaves her husband, she is "treacherous," but a man is blameless when he "puts her away" for no reason.
A man would be treacherous as well of course. The reason that this chapter mentions a woman is because of the symbolism of marriage: the wife is Israel and the husband is God. Because Israel has turned away from God, the emphasis is more on the wife, but there is no verse in the Bible that claims a man is blameless.

21 A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God.

22 Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God.

23 Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.

24 For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.

25 We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.