The priests have not said ‘Where is Yahweh?’
And those who handle the law did not know me.
The shepherdsa also transgressed against me,
and the prophets prophesied by Baal
and walked after things that do not profit. Bible other translations
The leaders

“Where is Yahweh?” The priests quit being concerned that Yahweh was not making Himself known as He so often did in Israel’s history, and furthermore, they stopped asking Yahweh for guidance and direction.

“And those who handle the law.” That is, the priests. It is the priests who handle the Law. In this case, the priests do not know God and thus do not really know the Law or God’s will for the people.

“shepherds.” The Hebrew reads “shepherds,” and in this case it refers to the rulers, who were the shepherds over the people. The Old Testament often refers to kings and leaders as shepherds (cp. Jer. 2:8; 6:3; 10:21; 12:10; 23:1-4; 49:19; Ezek. 34:1-10, 23; 37:24; Zech. 10:2-3). Similarly, the verb, “to shepherd” was used for ruling (cp. 2 Sam. 5:2). In the New Testament, “shepherds” usually refers to the pastors over the people in the Church, but that is not its use here.

It is interesting that Micah 5:2, foretelling the birth of the Messiah, says he will “rule” his God’s people, but when Matthew quotes Micah 5:2, he uses the word “shepherds” (Matt. 2:6).

“the prophets prophesied by Baal.” The Hebrew text reads, “the Baal,” not just “Baal,” and therefore “the Baal” refers to the Canaanite storm and fertility god who was worshiped by the Judeans and therefore was the well-known Baal among them. That Baal was called “the Baal” shows that the worship of Baal among the prophets was not a passing knowledge but an entrenched relationship. The prophets who were supposed to follow Yahweh had turned to Baal as their source of information, thus they “prophesied by Baal.”

“walked after things that do not profit.” This refers to following (and thus worshiping) pagan idols, and is perhaps a second reference to Baal. The reason the verse ends with “things that do not profit” seems to be to make a word play in Hebrew that would catch people’s attention. The name for the god Baal is baal (בַּעַל) while the verb “do not profit” is spelled yaal (יַעַל). So the people prophesied by ba’al and walked after ya’al. People reading the Hebrew text would catch the nuance (and perhaps learn from the reproof as well), and the Hebrews were fond of puns and word plays.

Commentary for: Jeremiah 2:8