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Commentary on Jeremiah 23:5-8
by Christopher Wordsworth (Bp of Lincoln)
(OT commentary written 1864-71)
"BEHOLD, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgement and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north-country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land." Jeremiah 23:5-8

This section is appointed by the Church to be read as the Epistle for the Sunday before Advent. That appointment is a very approriate and happy one; for thus we are invited to read what follows as a prophecy of Christ.  And we shall find, on examination, that Jeremiah's words here are like a Christian Creed - declaring the Manhood of the Messiah, His Royalty, Judicial Majesty, and His Saving Power and love as our Redeemer, Justifier, and God.

The ancient Fathers were agreed, that this prophecy was not fulfilled in the return of the Jews under Zerubbabel, but is accomplished by the restoration of all true Israelites in Christ; see S. Jerome, Theodoret, and the excellent exposition of Calovius (Bibl. Illust. p. 424)...

- I will raise unto David a righteous Branch]  Here Christ's Manhood is declared.  It is foretold that He would sprout forth as a Branch from the root of David.  Jeremiah adopts the imagery and language of Isaiah (see Isa. iv. 2), where the Messiah is called "the Branch" (Hebr. tsemach, the same word as here) "of the Lord".  Cp. Isa. xi. 1, "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of jesse, and a Branch" (netser, a sucker) "shall grow up out of his roots;" and see Isa. liii. 2, "He shall grow up as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground."

Against those who allege that the word branch (tsemach) is here used in a collective sense, and signifies the Hebrew People, and not an individual person, it is enough to quote Zechariah's language, which is a comment on this prophecy.  Using this word tsemach, speaking of Christ, he says, "I will bring forth My servant the Branch" (see Zech. iii. 8), and designates Him as "the Man, whose name is the Branch" (Zech. vi. 12).  Cp. Calovius, Bibl. Illust., p. 426 Bp Pearson on the Creed, Art. ii. p. 148.

- and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment]  Here is a prophetic declaration of Christ's royal Majesty and judicial authority.  Cp. Ps. lxxii.2  Isa. ix. 6,7; xi. 1-5.  Zech. vi. 12, 13.  Luke i. 32.

6. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely.]  It is objected by the Jews that this prophecy cannot be applied to Jesus of Nazareth, because in His days Judah was not saved, and Israel did not dwell safely, but the Jewish Nation was delivered into the hands of the Romans.  See Raimundus, Pugio Fidei, Pt. ii. cap. 11.

This objection would have great weight, if, in interpreting the prophecies of the Old Testament, we were the slaves of the letter, and if we applied them to the literal Israel; and this Jewish allegation cannot be refuted by the literal interpreters of Divine Prophecy.

But we know that the Christian Church, which came forth from Jerusalem, is the true Sion (see below, Heb. xii. 22; Rev. xiv. 1; and above, on Isa. ii. 1-3, and lx.--lxii; lxv. 10; lxvi. 10; and Ps. lxxxvii. 5), and that they who believe in Christ, are "children of faithful Abraham," and are "the true Israel of God" (Gal. vi. 16; Rom. ix. 6)

The Priest Zacharias, the father of the Baptist, seems to refer to these words of Jeremiah, when he speaks of Christ, and says, "that we, being delivered from the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear." (Luke i. 74)

- and this is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS]  Here is a clear assertion that He who has been just pre-announced as Very Man of the Seed of David, and as an Eternal King and Righteous judge, and as a Mighty Saviour and Deliverer, is also the LORD, JEHOVAH, Very God; and being Very God as well as Very Man, is OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, in Hebrew JEHOVAH ZIDKENU; a striking contrast to the last King of Judah, Zedekiah (i.e. righteousness of Jehovah), under whom Jerusalem was destroyed.

That these words are to be applied ot the Messiah, and that "the Lord our RIGHTEOUSNESS" is His Name, "is" (says Bp Pearson, on Art. ii. p. 148 note) "the constant interpretation of the Jews, who attribute the name JEHOVAH to the Messiah from this text."  See the Jewish authorities quoted by him, and in Poli Synopsis here, and the Targum here, and Calovius, Bibl. Illust., p. 427, who says ...



7,8. Therefore, behold, the days come]  So wonderful will be the manifestation of the Divine power and love in the restoration of all God's faithful People in CHRIST, that the marvels of the Exodus from Egypt (which was a type of that Restoration: see above, on Exod. xii., Prelim. Note; and on Exod. xiv., Prelim Note; and Ps. cxiv.) will not be remembered in comparison with it.

The deliverances of the Hebrew Nation from Egypt and from Babylon all culminate in the World's Exodus in CHRIST.  See note above, to the Songs of Degrees or Upgoings, Ps cxx., Prelim. Note; pp. 113-116.

That the deliverance here described is only in a subordinate sense the deliverance from Babylon, and that in its full meaning it is the deliverance of the World, both Jew and Gentile, by Christ, and their restoration ot God's favour, and to their heavenly home in Him, is clear from the contrast, and from the parallel passages in the Prophets.  See above, on Isa. xiv. 1; xliii. 5,6; lxii. 1-12; lxv. 17-23; lxvi. 7-14. 18-23; below, on Ezek. xxxiv. 11-31; xxxvi. 21-38; xxxvii. 5-28.  Amos ix. 14.  Zeph. iii. 20.  Zech. xiv. 16-21.