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Jeremiah 12:1 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— Righteous art thou, O Jehovah, when I contend with thee; yet would I reason the cause with thee: wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they at ease that deal very treacherously?
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— Righteous [art] thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of [thy] judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? [wherefore] are all they happy that deal very treacherously?
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— Righteous are You, O LORD, that I would plead [my] case with You; Indeed I would discuss matters of justice with You: Why has the way of the wicked prospered? [Why] are all those who deal in treachery at ease?
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— Righteous [art] thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me speak with thee of [thy] judgments: Why doth the way of the wicked prosper? [why] are they all happy that deal very treacherously?
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— Righteous art thou, Jehovah, when I plead with thee; yet will I speak with thee of [thy] judgments. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? [wherefore] are all they at ease that deal very treacherously?
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— Righteous, art thou, O Yahweh, when I present my pleading unto thee,—Yet, concerning the things that are right, let me speak with thee,—Wherefore, hath, the way of the lawless, prospered? [Wherefore] have all, utter traitors, been at ease?
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— Righteous [art] Thou, O Jehovah, When I plead towards thee, Only, judgments do I speak with Thee, Wherefore did the way of the wicked prosper? At rest have been all treacherous dealers.
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— Thou indeed, O Lord, art just, if I plead with thee, but yet I will speak what is just to thee: Why doth the way of the wicked prosper: why is it well with all them that transgress, and do wickedly?
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— Righteous [art] thou, O LORD, when I pleade with thee: yet let mee talke with thee of [thy] iudgements: Wherefore doeth the way of the wicked prosper? [wherefore] are all they happie that deale very treacherously?
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
— Righteous art thou, O Lord, that I may make my defence to thee, yea, I will speak to thee [of] judgments. Why [is it] that the way of ungodly [men] prospers? [that] all that deal very treacherously are flourishing?
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008) [2] [3]
— Righteous [art] thou, O Yahweh, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of [thy] judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? [wherefore] are all they happy that deal very treacherously?

Strong's Numbers & Hebrew NamesHebrew Old TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
Righteous 6662
{6662} Prime
From H6663; just.
[art] thou, x859
(0859) Complement
A primitive pronoun of the second person; thou and thee, or (plural) ye and you.
O Yhw יָהוֶה, 3068
{3068} Prime
From H1961; (the) self Existent or eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God.
when x3588
(3588) Complement
A primitive particle (the full form of the prepositional prefix) indicating causal relations of all kinds, antecedent or consequent; (by implication) very widely used as a relative conjugation or adverb; often largely modified by other particles annexed.
I plead 7378
{7378} Prime
A primitive root; properly to toss, that is, grapple; mostly figuratively to wrangle, that is, hold a controversy; (by implication) to defend.
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
with x413
(0413) Complement
(Used only in the shortened constructive form (the second form)); a primitive particle, properly denoting motion towards, but occasionally used of a quiescent position, that is, near, with or among; often in general, to.
thee: yet x389
(0389) Complement
Akin to H0403; a particle of affirmation, surely; hence (by limitation) only.
let me talk 1696
{1696} Prime
A primitive root; perhaps properly to arrange; but used figuratively (of words) to speak; rarely (in a destructive sense) to subdue.
<8762> Grammar
Stem - Piel (See H8840)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 2447
with x854
(0854) Complement
Probably from H0579; properly nearness (used only as a preposition or adverb), near; hence generally with, by, at, among, etc.
thee of [thy] judgments: 4941
{4941} Prime
From H8199; properly a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree (human or (particularly) divine law, individual or collectively), including the act, the place, the suit, the crime, and the penalty; abstractly justice, including a particular right, or privilege (statutory or customary), or even a style.
Wherefore x4069
(4069) Complement
From H4100 and the passive participle of H3045; what (is) known?; that is, (by implication), (adverbially) why?.
doth the way 1870
{1870} Prime
From H1869; a road (as trodden); figuratively a course of life or mode of action, often adverbially.
of the wicked 7563
{7563} Prime
From H7561; morally wrong; concretely an (actively) bad person.
prosper? 6743
{6743} Prime
A primitive root; to push forward, in various senses (literally or figuratively, transitively or intransitively).
<8804> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Perfect (See H8816)
Count - 12562
[wherefore] are all x3605
(3605) Complement
From H3634; properly the whole; hence all, any or every (in the singular only, but often in a plural sense).
they happy 7951
{7951} Prime
The second form being used in Job 3:26; a primitive root; to be tranquil, that is, secure or successful.
<8804> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Perfect (See H8816)
Count - 12562
that deal very y899
[0899] Standard
From H0898; a covering, that is, clothing; also treachery or pillage.
treacherously? 898
{0898} Prime
A primitive root; to cover (with a garment); figuratively to act covertly; by implication to pillage.
<8802> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Participle Active (See H8814)
Count - 5386
(0899) Complement
From H0898; a covering, that is, clothing; also treachery or pillage.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

Jeremiah 12:1

_ _ Jeremiah 12:1-17. Continuation of the subject at the close of the eleventh chapter.

_ _ He ventures to expostulate with Jehovah as to the prosperity of the wicked, who had plotted against his life (Jeremiah 12:1-4); in reply he is told that he will have worse to endure, and that from his own relatives (Jeremiah 12:5, Jeremiah 12:6). The heaviest judgments, however, would be inflicted on the faithless people (Jeremiah 12:7-13); and then on the nations co-operating with the Chaldeans against Judah, with, however, a promise of mercy on repentance (Jeremiah 12:14-17).

_ _ (Psalms 51:4).

_ _ let me talk, etc. — only let me reason the case with Thee: inquire of Thee the causes why such wicked men as these plotters against my life prosper (compare Job 12:6; Job 21:7; Psalms 37:1, Psalms 37:35; Psalms 73:3; Malachi 3:15). It is right, when hard thoughts of God’s providence suggest themselves, to fortify our minds by justifying God beforehand (as did Jeremiah), even before we hear the reasons of His dealings.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Jeremiah 12:1-6

_ _ The prophet doubts not but it would be of use to others to know what had passed between God and his soul, what temptations he had been assaulted with and how he had got over them; and therefore he here tells us,

_ _ I. What liberty he humbly took, and was graciously allowed him, to reason with God concerning his judgments, Jeremiah 12:1. He is about to plead with God, not to quarrel with him, or find fault with his proceedings, but to enquire into the meaning of them, that he might more and more see reason to be satisfied in them, and might have wherewith to answer both his own and others' objections against them. The works of the Lord, and the reasons of them, are sought out even of those that have pleasure therein. Psalms 111:2. We may not strive with our Maker, but we may reason with him. The prophet lays down a truth of unquestionable certainty, which he resolves to abide by in managing this argument: Righteous art thou, O Lord! when I plead with thee. Thus he arms himself against the temptation wherewith he was assaulted, to envy the prosperity of the wicked, before he entered into a parley with it. Note, When we are most in the dark concerning the meaning of God's dispensations we must still resolve to keep up right thoughts of God, and must be confident of this, that he never did, nor ever will do, the least wrong to any of his creatures; even when his judgments are unsearchable as a great deep, and altogether unaccountable, yet his righteousness is as conspicuous and immovable as the great mountains, Psalms 36:6. Though sometimes clouds and darkness are round about him, yet justice and judgment are always the habitation of his throne, Psalms 97:2. When we find it hard to understand particular providences we must have recourse to general truths as our first principles, and abide by them; however dark the providence may be, the Lord is righteous; see Psalms 73:1. And we must acknowledge it to him, as the prophet here, even when we plead with him, as those that have no thoughts of contending but of learning, being fully assured that he will be justified when he speaks. Note, However we may see cause for our own information to plead with God, yet it becomes us to own that, whatever he says or does, he is in the right.

_ _ II. What it was in the dispensations of divine Providence that he stumbled at and that he thought would bear a debate. It was that which has been a temptation to many wise and good men, and such a one as they have with difficulty got over. They see the designs and projects of wicked people successful: The way of the wicked prospers; they compass their malicious designs and gain their point. They see their affairs and concerns in a good posture: They are happy, happy as the world can make them, though they deal treacherously, very treacherously, both with God and man. Hypocrites are chiefly meant (as appears, Jeremiah 12:2), who dissemble in their good professions, and depart from their good beginnings and good promises, and in both they deal treacherously, very treacherously. It has been said that men cannot expect to prosper who are unjust and dishonest in their dealings; but these deal treacherously, and yet they are happy. The prophet shows (Jeremiah 12:2) both their prosperity and their abuse of their prosperity. 1. God had been very indulgent to them and they were got beforehand in the world: “They are planted in a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and thou hast planted them! nay, thou didst cast out the heathen to plant them,” Psalms 44:2, Psalms 80:8. Many a tree is planted that yet never grows nor comes to any thing; but they have taken root; their prosperity seems to be confirmed and settled. They take root in the earth, for there they fix themselves, and thence they draw the sap of all their satisfaction. Many trees however take root which yet never come on; but these grow, yea they bring forth fruit; their families are built up, they live high, and spend at a great rate; and all this was owing to the benignity of the divine Providence, which smiled upon them, Psalms 73:7. 2. Thus God had favoured them, though they had dealt treacherously with him: Thou art near in their mouth and far from their reins. This was no uncharitable censure, for he spoke by the Spirit of prophecy, without which it is not safe to charge men with hypocrisy whose appearances are plausible. Observe, (1.) Thought they cared not for thinking of God, nor had any sincere affection to him, yet they could easily persuade themselves to speak of him frequently and with an air of seriousness. Piety from the teeth outward is no difficult thing. Many speak the language of Israel that are not Israelites indeed. (2.) Though they had on all occasions the name of God ready in their mouth, and accustomed themselves to those forms of speech that savoured of piety, yet they could not persuade themselves to keep up the fear of God in their hearts. The form of godliness should engage us to keep up the power of it; but with them it did not do so.

_ _ III. What comfort he had in appealing to God concerning his own integrity (Jeremiah 12:3): But thou, O Lord! knowest me. Probably the wicked men he complains of were forward to reproach and censure him (Jeremiah 18:18), in reference to which this was his comfort, that God was a witness of his integrity. God knew he was not such a one as they were (who had God near in their mouths, but far from their reins), nor such a one as they took him to be, and represented him, a deceiver and a false prophet; those that thus abused him did not know him, 1 Corinthians 2:8. “But thou, O Lord! knowest me, though they think me not worth their notice.” 1. Observe what the matter is concerning which he appeals to God: Thou knowest my heart towards thee. Note, We are as our hearts are, and our hearts are good or bad according as they are, or are not, towards God; and this is that therefore concerning which we should examine ourselves, that we may approve ourselves to God. 2. The cognizance to which he appeals: “Thou knowest me better than I know myself, not by hearsay or report, for thou hast seen me, not with a transient glance, but thou hast tried my heart.” God's knowledge of us is as clear and exact and certain as if he had made the most strict scrutiny. Note, The God with whom we have to do perfectly knows how our hearts are towards him. He knows both the guile of the hypocrite and the sincerity of the upright.

_ _ IV. He prays that God would turn his hand against these wicked people, and not suffer them to prosper always, though they had prospered long: “Let some judgment come to pull them out of this fat pasture as sheep for the slaughter, that it may appear their long prosperity was but like the feeding of lambs in a large place, to prepare them for the day of slaughter,Hosea 4:16. God suffered them to prosper that by their pride and luxury they might fill up the measure of their iniquity and so be ripened for destruction; and therefore he thinks it a piece of necessary justice that they should fall into mischief themselves, because they had done so much mischief to others, that they should be pulled out of their land, because they had brought ruin upon the land, and the longer they continued in it the more hurt they did, as the plagues of their generation (Jeremiah 12:4): “How long shall the land mourn. (as it does under the judgments of God inflicted upon it) for the wickedness of those that dwell therein? Lord, shall those prosper themselves that ruin all about them?” 1. See here what the judgment was which the land was now groaning under: The herbs of every field wither (the grass is burnt up and all the products of the earth fail), and then it follows of course, the beasts are consumed, and the birds, 1 Kings 18:5. This was the effect of a long drought, or want of rain, which happened, as it should seem, at the latter end of Josiah's reign and the beginning of Jehoiakim's; it is mentioned Jeremiah 3:3, Jeremiah 8:13, Jeremiah 9:10, Jeremiah 9:12, and more fully afterwards, ch. 14. If they would have been brought to repentance by this less judgment, the greater would have been prevented. Now why was it that this fruitful land was turned into barrenness, but for the wickedness of those that dwelt therein? Psalms 107:34. Therefore the prophet prays that these wicked people might die for their own sin, and that the whole nation might not suffer for it. 2. See here what was the language of their wickedness: They said, He shall not see our last end, either, (1.) God himself shall not. Atheism is the root of hypocrisy. God is far from their reins, though near in their mouth, because they say, How doth God know? Psalms 73:11; Job 22:13. He knows not what way we take nor what it will end in. Or, (2.) Jeremiah shall not see our last end; whatever he pretends, when he asks us what shall be in the end hereof he cannot himself foresee it. They look upon him as a false prophet. Or, “whatever it is, he shall not live to see it, for we will be the death of him,” Jeremiah 11:21. Note, [1.] Men's setting their latter end at a great distance, or looking upon it as uncertain, is at the bottom of all their wickedness, Lamentations 1:9. [2.] The whole creation groans under the burden of the sin of man, Romans 8:22. It is for this that the earth mourns (so it may be read); cursed is the ground for thy sake.

_ _ V. He acquaints us with the answer God gave to those complaints of his, Jeremiah 12:5, Jeremiah 12:6. We often find the prophets admonished, whose business it was to admonish others, as Isaiah 8:11. Ministers have lessons to learn as well as lessons to teach, and must themselves hear God's voice and preach to themselves. Jeremiah complained much of the wickedness of the men of Anathoth, and that, notwithstanding that, they prospered. Now, this seems to be an answer to that complaint. 1. It is allowed that he had cause to complain (Jeremiah 12:6): “Thy brethren, the priests of Anathoth, who are of the house of thy father, who ought to have protected thee and pretended to do so, even they have dealt treacherously with thee, have been false to thee, and, under colour of friendship, have designedly done thee all the mischief they could; they have called a multitude after thee, raised the mob upon thee, to whom they have endeavoured, by all arts possible, to render thee despicable or odious, while at the same time they pretended that they had no design to persecute thee nor to deprive thee of thy liberty. They are indeed such as thou canst not believe, though they speak fair words to thee. They seem to be thy friends, but are really thy enemies.” Note, God's faithful servants must not think it at all strange if their foes be those of their own house (Matthew 10:36), and if those they expect kindness from prove such as they can put no confidence in, Micah 7:5. 2. Yet he is told that he carried the matter too far. (1.) He laid the unkindness of his countrymen too much to heart. They wearied him, because it was in a land of peace wherein he trusted, Jeremiah 12:5. It was very grievous to him to be thus hated and abused by his own kindred. He was disturbed in his mind by it; his spirit was sunk and overwhelmed with it, so that he was in great agitation and distress about it. Nay, he was discouraged in his work by it, began to be weary of prophesying, and to think of giving it up. (2.) He did not consider that this was but the beginning of his sorrow, and that he had sorer trials yet before him; and, whereas he should endeavour by a patient bearing of this trouble to prepare himself for greater, by his uneasiness under this he did but unfit himself for what further lay before him: If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, and run thee quite out of breath, then how wilt thou contend with horses? If the injuries done him by the men of Anathoth made such an impression upon him, what would he do when the princes and chief priests at Jerusalem should set upon him with their power, as they did afterwards? Jeremiah 20:2; Jeremiah 32:2. If he was so soon tired in a land of peace, where there was little noise or peril, what would he do in the swellings of Jordan, when that overflows all its banks and frightens even lions out of their thickets? Jeremiah 49:19. Note, [1.] While we are in this world we must expect troubles, and difficulties. Our life is a race, a warfare; we are in danger of being run down. [2.] God's usual method being to begin with smaller trials, it is our wisdom to expect greater than any we have yet met with. We may be called out to contend with horsemen, and the sons of Anak may perhaps be reserved for the last encounter. [3.] It highly concerns us to prepare for such trials and to consider what we should do in them. How shall we preserve our integrity and peace when we come to the swellings of Jordan? [4.] In order to our preparation for further and greater trials, we are concerned to approve ourselves well in present smaller trials, to keep up our spirits, keep hold of the promise, keep in our way, with our eye upon the prize, so run that we may obtain it. Some good interpreters understand this as spoken to the people, who were very secure and fearless of the threatened judgments. If they have been so humbled and impoverished by smaller calamities, so wasted by the Assyrians, — if the Ammonites and Moabites, who were their brethren, and with whom they were in league, proved false to them (as undoubtedly they would), — then how would they be able to deal with such a powerful adversary as the Chaldeans would be? How would they bear up their head against that invasion which should come like the swelling of Jordan?

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Jeremiah 12:1

Talk with thee — Not by way of accusing thee, but for my own satisfaction concerning thy judicial dispensations in the government of the world. Wherefore — I know thy ways are just and righteous, but they are dark; I cannot understand why thou doest this.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

Jeremiah 12:1

(a) Righteous [art] thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me speak with thee of [thy] judgments: Why doth the way of the wicked (b) prosper? [why] are they all happy that deal very treacherously?

(a) The prophet confesses God to be just in all his doings, although man is not able to give a reason for all his actions.

(b) This question has been always a great temptation to the godly, to see the wicked enemies of God in prosperity, and his dear children in adversity, as in (Job 21:7; Psalms 37:1, Psalms 73:3; Habakkuk 1:3).

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance

Jeremiah 11:20 But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.
Genesis 18:25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
Deuteronomy 32:4 [He is] the Rock, his work [is] perfect: for all his ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he.
Psalms 51:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done [this] evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, [and] be clear when thou judgest.
Psalms 119:75 I know, O LORD, that thy judgments [are] right, and [that] thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.
Psalms 119:137 TZADDI. Righteous [art] thou, O LORD, and upright [are] thy judgments.
Psalms 145:17 The LORD [is] righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
Daniel 9:7 O Lord, righteousness [belongeth] unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, [that are] near, and [that are] far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.
Habakkuk 1:13-17 [Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, [and] holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth [the man that is] more righteous than he? ... Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?
Zephaniah 3:5 The just LORD [is] in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.
Romans 3:5-6 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? [Is] God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) ... God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

or, reason the case,
Job 13:3 Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.
Isaiah 41:21 Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong [reasons], saith the King of Jacob.

Wherefore doth:

Jeremiah 5:28 They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.
Job 12:6 The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth [abundantly].
Job 21:7-15 Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? ... What [is] the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?
Psalms 37:1 [[[A Psalm] of David.]] Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
Psalms 37:35 I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
Psalms 73:3-28 For I was envious at the foolish, [when] I saw the prosperity of the wicked. ... But [it is] good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.
Psalms 92:7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; [it is] that they shall be destroyed for ever:
Psalms 94:3-4 LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? ... [How long] shall they utter [and] speak hard things? [and] all the workers of iniquity boast themselves?
Proverbs 1:32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.
Habakkuk 1:4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
Malachi 3:15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, [they that] tempt God are even delivered.


Jeremiah 12:6 For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.
Jeremiah 5:11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against me, saith the LORD.
Isaiah 48:8 Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time [that] thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.
Hosea 6:7 But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
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Chain-Reference Bible Search

Gn 18:25. Dt 32:4. Jb 12:6; 13:3; 21:7. Ps 37:1, 35; 51:4; 73:3; 92:7; 94:3; 119:75, 137; 145:17. Pv 1:32. Is 41:21; 48:8. Jr 5:11, 28; 11:20; 12:6. Dn 9:7. Ho 6:7. Hab 1:4, 13. Zp 3:5. Mal 3:15. Ro 3:5.

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