Jeremiah 14
Benson Commentary
The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.
Jeremiah 14:1. The word of the Lord concerning the dearth — Hebrew, על דברי הבצרות, respecting the matters of the restraints, that is, the drought, when the showers were restrained, or, as Moses and Solomon express it, when the heaven was shut up, and there was no rain. See Deuteronomy 11:17; 1 Kings 7:35. Thus the LXX., περι της αβροχιας, concerning the want of rain. So also the Chaldee and Syriac versions: and thus our translators understand the word, Jeremiah 17:8, rendering it, not dearth, as here, but drought: a calamity which, however, produced a dearth or famine, similar, it seems, to that in the time of Elijah. At what precise time this great drought took place, we are not informed in the records of history: nor whether it be the same with that of which an intimation is given chap Jeremiah 3:3, where see the note. That it was a calamity very incident to the land of Israel, and applied as a punishment of sin, appears from many parts of the Old Testament. The effects of it are described in the next five verses in very elegant and moving language, and afterward earnestly deprecated.

Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.
Jeremiah 14:2. Judah mourneth — The people of Judah and Jerusalem, here considered collectively, and represented as a mother oppressed with grief for the miseries which have come upon her children. And the gates languish, they are black — “They are in deep mourning:” so Blaney, who observes, “The gates of cities, being places of public resort, where the courts of justice were held, and other common business transacted, seem here to be put for the persons wont to meet there; in like manner as when we say, ‘The court is in mourning,’ we mean the persons that attend the court. So that by this passage we are to understand, that all the persons who appeared in public were dejected, and put on black, or mourning, on account of the national distress.” And the cry of Jerusalem is gone up — Namely, to heaven: That is, the cry of the inhabitants of Jerusalem; of their sin and trouble, but not, as it seems, of their confessions, prayers, and supplications.

And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.
Jeremiah 14:3-6. And their nobles, &c. — This scarcity of water afflicted not poor persons only, who had not such means of supplying their necessities as the rich; but the greatest among them, who sent their little ones, (or inferiors, as צעיריהם, seems here rather to signify,) to the places made to receive and retain water; who, finding none, returned with their vessels empty, like persons ashamed, and troubled upon seeing their expectations frustrated. Jerusalem, it must be observed, was supplied with water by two lakes, or pools, termed the upper pool, and the lower pool; Isaiah 7:3; and Isaiah 22:9; from which the water was conveyed by pipes or conduits, for the use of the city. Because the ground is chapt — Hebrew, חתה, broken, bruised, turned into dust. The ploughmen — The husbandmen, as אכרים, properly signifies; were ashamed — Disappointed in their hopes of reaping fruit from their labours. They covered their heads — An expression of great affliction and mourning. The hind also calved and forsook it — The hinds are loving creatures, and as all creatures, by a natural instinct, love their young, so the hinds especially; but their moisture being dried up, they had not milk for them, but were forced to leave them, and to run hither and thither to seek grass to eat. And the wild asses, &c. — The wild asses, wanting water, got upon the high places, or cliffs, where the air was cooler and its current stronger than in lower places, and their sucked in the wind; and this, it is said, they did like dragons, which are reputed to delight in cool places, and are said by Aristotle and Pliny to stand frequently upon high places imbibing the cool air. Their eyes did fail, &c. — They languished, or pined away for want of food; in which case the natural splendour of the eyes, which is very great in wild asses, grows dull or languid.

Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.
Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.
And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.
O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.
Jeremiah 14:7. O Lord, &c. — The prophet, having described their misery both in its cause, the drought, and the effects produced thereby, here applies himself to God, who alone could remove it, confessing that their many and great sins and backslidings had well deserved to be thus severely scourged. Though our iniquities testify against us — That thou art righteous in what thou hast done, and make it evident that we have merited the most dreadful judgments thy wrath can inflict; yet do thou it — Do thou what we stand in need of; give us rain, though not for our sake, we deserve no such kindness from thee, yet for thy name’s sake; for the sake of thy word and promise, by which thou engagest to hear the prayers of thy people in their distress, Psalm 50:15, and for thine honour and glory.

O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?
Jeremiah 14:8-9. O the hope of Israel — That is, the object of Israel’s hope; the Being in whom alone thy people Israel have been wont to hope, or in whom they have just reason to hope; the Saviour thereof in time of trouble — Who hast formerly been their Saviour in their distresses, and who alone canst save them in such times of trouble as thou hast now brought them into; why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land? — That is, as one who, having no permanent interest in the land, is little concerned for its welfare; and as a wayfaring man, &c. — As a traveller who enters a place to stay only for a night, and never inquires, nor takes any care about the affairs of it. Why shouldest thou be as a man astonished — “As a man void of counsel:” so Houbigant. Or as one in such disorder, through some great emotion of mind, that he is able to do nothing. As a mighty man, &c. — As a mere man, who, though mighty, yet in many cases cannot save; or who, through some fear or surprise, is incapacitated to make use of his strength. Yet thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us — Of the whole land, according to thy declaration, Numbers 35:34, I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.

Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not.
Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.
Jeremiah 14:10-12. Thus saith the Lord, &c. — Here God returns an answer to the complaints and expostulations of the prophet, contained in the eight preceding verses. They have loved to wander — They have been fond of their idols; and despising the divine succour, have run after that of strangers, and they have persisted in their sinful courses, notwithstanding all counsels. Therefore the Lord doth not accept them — He will not accept their own prayers or humiliations, nor thine intercessions on their behalf, but will punish them according to their deserts. When they fast, I will not hear — It is likely a public fast had been appointed upon occasion of this drought, as there was in a like case in the Prophet Joel’s time. But I will consume them by the sword, famine, and pestilence — Thus God threatens to add to the drought three sore judgments, ordinarily accompanying one another, both in God’s threatenings and in the execution of them.

Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.
When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.
Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.
Jeremiah 14:13-16. Ah, Lord God! Behold the prophets, &c. — See note on Jeremiah 4:10. Thus saith the Lord — And what he saith he will assuredly make good; By the sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed — They shall fall first by those very judgments, with the hopes of an exemption from which they have flattered others. And the people shall be cast out in the streets, &c. — The people contributed to their own delusions, and readily hearkened to such false prophets as confirmed them in their evil ways: God therefore justly threatens to punish them, because they were unwilling to know the truth.

Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.
Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.
And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.
Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.
Jeremiah 14:17-18. Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them — Either, 1st, The word spoken above; the threatenings denounced in the last two verses against the false prophets and the people, the deceivers and the deceived: or, 2d, As the passage is generally interpreted, and as our translators have understood it, the words following, namely, the prophet’s lamentation and prayer. Let mine eyes run down with tears — As if he had said, However insensible you are of your own condition, yet God commands me to bewail those calamities which I foresee are coming upon you. For the virgin daughter of my people — That is as dear to me as a daughter to her father; is broken with a great breach — Much greater than any she has yet sustained. The dissolution of a government, or body politic, is called a breach, by way of allusion to the breaking or disjointing the limbs of a human body. The prophet speaks as if he already saw the miseries attending the invasion of the country by the Chaldeans. If I go forth into the field, &c. — Multitudes lie dead in the field, slain with the sword; and in the city multitudes lie dying for want of food: doleful spectacle! Yea both the prophet and the priest — Namely, the false prophets, who flattered the people with their lies, and the wicked priests, who persecuted the true prophets, are now expelled their country, and go about into a land they know not — Either as prisoners and captives, whithersoever their conquerors lead them; or, as fugitives and vagabonds, wherever they can find shelter. Some understand it of the true prophets, Ezekiel and Daniel, who were carried to Babylon with the rest. But as the Hebrew word here used, סחרו, properly signifies, to go about on account of traffic, or, merchandise, the sense of the clause may be, “The prophet and the priest carry on a trade against the land, and acknowledge it not.” That is, they deceive the people with lying divinations for the sake of gain, and when accused of it, will not own their guilt. Blaney renders it, They go trafficking about the city, meaning, “They go about with their false doctrine and lying predictions, as peddlers do with their wares, seeking their own gain,” and take no knowledge — That is, “pay no regard to the miseries in which their country is involved, but act as if they were totally insensible of them.”

If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not.
Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!
Jeremiah 14:19-22. Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? — The prophet again returns to God, and expostulates with him, humbly imploring mercy for his people, which shows that he did not understand God’s words to him,

(Jeremiah 14:11,) as an absolute prohibition to pray for them. Hath thy soul loathed Zion? — Which was formerly thy delight, and the place thou didst choose for thy special residence. Why hast thou smitten, &c. — That is, So smitten that there is no healing — Wounded us past recovery; none else can, and thou wilt not heal us. We looked for peace, &c. — All our hopes and expectations have been frustrated. We acknowledge our wickedness — The accumulated guilt of our land; and the iniquity of our fathers

Which we have imitated, and therefore are justly punished for it. We do not cover our sin, in which case we know we should not obtain mercy; we confess it, and hope to find thee faithful and just in forgiving it. Do not abhor us — Hebrew, שׁל תנאצ, do not despise, or reject us. What he deprecates is the judgments come already, and further coming on the people, the famine, sword, and pestilence, with the drought, under the sad effects of which they at present laboured; and he prays for their removal or prevention in these words, in which he implies, that the love of God to a people is the source of all the good which they can expect, and his wrath the source of all evil that can befall them. To enforce his petition he pleads, 1st, God’s honour: For thy name’s sake — That name of thine on which we call, and by which we are called; thy nature and attributes; let not these suffer an eclipse; let it not be said or thought by the heathen that thou art either unable or unwilling to protect and save thy people. Do not disgrace the throne of thy glory — The temple, with the ark in it, the especial symbol of thy presence, termed (Jeremiah 17:12,) a glorious high throne from the beginning. Let not the desolations of it give occasion to idolaters to reproach him that used to be worshipped there, as if he wanted power or inclination to protect it; or, as if the gods of Babylon had been too strong for him. 2d, He pleads God’s promise and covenant with Israel: Remember, break not thy covenant with us — “Thou hast promised to be our God, and that we should be thy people, chap. Jeremiah 11:4; that is, That thou wouldst take us under thy protection. We have indeed forfeited all our title to thy promises by our sins, yet we beseech thee still to remember the relation we bear to thee.” Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles — The vain idols, the imaginary beings, which have no existence save in the fancies of their worshippers, or the gods made by men’s hands; that can give rain? or can the heavens give showers? — Without thy providence. Are showers purely owing to natural causes? Dost thou not direct when and where they shall fall? The giving rain in its season is an argument for God’s providence, often insisted upon in the Scriptures: see note on Jeremiah 5:24. And the prophet, imploring from God a removal of the drought, argues from the impossibility of obtaining relief in any other way, neither the heathen idols, nor the clouds, without God’s will, being able to give rain. Art not thou he, O Lord our God? — Namely, that givest it. Therefore we will wait upon thee — For this blessing, and for the supply of all our other wants.

We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.
Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.
Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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