Jeremiah 15
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.
Jeremiah 15:1. Though Moses and Samuel stood before me] No advocate, however powerful his intercession, could now prevail with Me. For Moses see Exodus 33:11-14; Numbers 14:13-20; Deuteronomy 9:18-20; Deuteronomy 9:25-29, and for Samuel 1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 12:23; cp. these two united in a similar connexion of thought in Psalm 99:6.

stood before] For the phrase in this sense of intercession cp. Jeremiah 18:20, Genesis 18:22; Genesis 19:27. For a different sense see on Jeremiah 15:19.

my mind could not be toward] I could not incline with favour towards.

And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the LORD; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.
2. Whither shall we go forth?] If we are driven unpardoned from the presence of the Lord, to what shall we betake ourselves? The reply is a stern and even ironical one.

death] by pestilence. Cp. Jeremiah 43:11; Ezekiel 14:21; Ezekiel 33:27, and in English “the Black Death.”

2–9. See introd. summary to section.

And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the LORD: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy.
3. kinds] lit. as mg. families. Four sorts of destructive agencies. Similar threats occur chs. Jeremiah 19:7, Jeremiah 34:20.

tear] lit. as mg. drag.

And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.
4. The latter part (“because of … in Jerusalem”) may be a gloss, founded on such passages as 2 Kings 21:11 ff. Jeremiah does not elsewhere name Manasseh in connexion with the evil deeds of that reign.

cause them to be tossed to and fro among] to shake is the lit. meaning of the Heb. root, hence, to move in fear, to tremble (Esther 5:9). The Heb. substantive here (from that root) thus means consternation, i.e. an object of it, and occurs again in Jeremiah 24:9, Jeremiah 29:18. Thus we should render, I will make them to be a consternation to, etc.

For who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest?
Thou hast forsaken me, saith the LORD, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.
And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways.
7. I have fanned them with a fan] “Fan, whether verb or noun, is now practically obsolete in the sense here intended.” Dr. p. 360. We should rather render, Have winnowed them with a winnowing-fork. The Arabic word midhra, corresponding to the Heb. mizreh here and in Isaiah 30:24, is “in use in modern Syria, and denotes a wooden fork almost six feet in length, with five or six prongs, bound together by fresh hide, which, on shrinking, forms a tight band.… The wooden shovel of Isaiah 30:24 was used with it. The mixture of corn, chaff, and broken straw, produced by threshing, was shaken about with these two implements, usually in some exposed spot, when a wind was blowing (generally in the afternoon or evening, Ruth 3:2), and the wind carried away the chaff and the straw (Psalm 1:4). If however the wind was too violent it would blow away the corn as well: hence the point of Jeremiah 4:11.” Ibid.

the gates of the land] the borders (the parts by which men enter and leave the country). Cp. Nahum 3:13.

they have not returned from their ways] LXX have, on account of their evils (wicked deeds), probably meant as a free paraphrase, unless we suppose the word for evils to have fallen out of MT.

Their widows are increased to me above the sand of the seas: I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a spoiler at noonday: I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly, and terrors upon the city.
8. against the mother of the young men] mg. against the mother and the young men who have fallen in battle. If we may accept an emendation of MT. by Du., we shall read mother and suckling.

at noonday] i.e. at an unexpected time. Cp. Jeremiah 6:4 with note.

anguish] The word occurs elsewhere only Hosea 9:9, where it is rendered by “the city,” the ordinary sense of the Heb. word, but the reading of MT. there is suspected. Dr. (p. 361) suggests, but with hesitation, a root which would give the sense of excitement, or agitation of alarm.

8, 9. Co. considers the order of clauses to have suffered dislocation. He inserts “Their widows … the seas” after “… confounded” (Jeremiah 15:9), thus improving both sense and Ḳinah rhythm.

She that hath borne seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it was yet day: she hath been ashamed and confounded: and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword before their enemies, saith the LORD.
9. She that hath borne seven] and therefore, from the Jewish point of view, might have thought herself secure and prosperous. Seven was the perfect number. Cp. 1 Samuel 2:5.

hath given up the ghost] hath died.

while it was yet day] before she had reached the evening of her life. Cp. Amos 8:9.

Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.
10. Woe is me, etc.] Cp. Job 3:1 ff., also Savonarola’s address to God in one of his sermons, “O Lord, whither hast thou led me? From my desire to save souls for Thee, I can no longer return to my rest. Why hast Thou made me ‘a man of strife, and a man of contention to the whole earth?’ ” W. R. Clark’s Savonarola, p. 230.

I have not lent …] Cp. Deuteronomy 23:20; Psalm 15:5. Necessity being almost the sole motive for borrowing, the moneylender would naturally be held in extreme disfavour. So “Interest is money begotten of money; so that of the sources of gain this is the most unnatural” (Aristotle, Politics, Bk. I. ch. 3, end). “Sources of gain, which incur the hatred of mankind, as those of tax-gatherers, of usurers”. Cicero, de Officiis, Bk. I. § 150. Cp.

“When did friendship take

A breed for barren metal of his friend?”

Mer. of Venice, 1:3, v. 123.

Ch. Jeremiah 15:10-21. The prophet bewails his lot. God’s reply

The passage as a whole is one of the most eloquent and pathetic in the Book. The date cannot be determined with confidence. The latter part of Jehoiakim’s reign is a fitting one to suggest. Jeremiah 15:13-14 are almost certainly to be rejected, while 11 and 12 need either drastic emendation or omission. Gi. considers that 11–14 have been inserted here from another context. They are also unrhythmical. We may subdivide as follows.

(i) Jeremiah 15:10-14. Alas, that I was ever born to be assailed by all men. I am subjected to revilings, as though I were a usurer or a defaulting debtor. Jehovah indeed promised me support in evil times, and that my foes should seek my aid when trouble came. Can what is strong as northern iron or bronze be broken? [Thy valued possessions throughout the land shall be plundered by thy foes because of thy misdeeds. They shall lead thee into captivity, by reason of thy sins.]

(ii) Jeremiah 15:15-18. O Lord, Thou knowest that my sufferings are on Thy behalf. Spare Thou my foes no longer. Thy words have been my stay and sustenance, yea, my joy, in my loneliness. Thy wrath at the wickedness of the nation has been mine as well. Shall my pain be ever as now? Shall my trust in Thee be brought toconfusion?

(iii) Jeremiah 15:19-21. The Lord’s reply. If thou wilt return wholeheartedly to My service, and reject from within thee every unworthy thought, I will accept thee again, and the people, unsolicited, shall seek My words at thy mouth. Through My support thou shalt be impregnable against all attacks of the strongest of thy enemies.

The LORD said, Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction.
11. The v. is difficult without applying considerable conjectural emendation. The whole is best taken as Jeremiah’s utterance. “The Lord said “is not a formula which elsewhere in Jeremiah introduces a Divine utterance. The LXX’s rendering of the passage, however, suggests that their text had the usual formula. The verb translated “strengthen” is not pure Heb. but Aramaic. Jeremiah 15:10 seems to want rather an assertion that the prophet on his side had deserved the reverse of revilings from the people. Hence Co. with certain changes in MT. renders “Amen, Jehovah, to their curses, if I did not make intercession with Thee for the enemy’s welfare at the time of their misfortune and need.”

strengthen] mg. suggests release, which is perhaps the meaning of the reading in MT. R.V. text follows the mg. of MT.

I will cause, etc.] mg. I will intercede for thee with the enemy. But see above.

Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?
12. Also very difficult. No satisfactory emendation has been proposed. If, which is very doubtful, the v. is to be retained as it stands, the speaker is either (a) Jehovah, declaring that the Chaldaean foe shall prevail, or (b) better, Jeremiah, as mg. Can iron break iron from, etc., i.e. can my strength be a match for the overwhelming force of my enemies? “The point of reference to iron from the North is that the best and hardest iron came from the Black Sea.” Pe.

Thy substance and thy treasures will I give to the spoil without price, and that for all thy sins, even in all thy borders.
13, 14. For these vv. which, as addressed to the people, break harshly into the dialogue between Jehovah and the prophet, and are most likely an insertion from Jeremiah 17:3 f., see notes there.

And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you.
O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.
15. longsuffering] mercy towards my enemies.

15–18. See summary at commencement of section.

Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
16. He describes the joy with which he first received the Divine commission.

were found] Cp. Ezekiel 3:1, where “findest” (omitted, however, in the best MSS. of LXX) stands in the same connexion.

I did eat them] The expression conveys two notions: (i) joyful acceptance, (ii) close union. It is however a strange one. LXX, slightly changing MT., read (for “I have suffered … joy”), I have borne reproach from them that despise thy words. Consume them, and thy word shall be to me a joy, etc. For “consume them” cp. Psalm 59:13.

am called] See on Jeremiah 7:10.

I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.
17. because of thy hand] Thy firm, compelling grasp. Cp. Isaiah 8:11; Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 37:1.

Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?
18. a deceitful brook] The dried-up watercourse belies the anticipations of the thirsty traveller. Cp. Job 6:15.

fail] lit. as mg. are not sure.

Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them.
19. If thou return] If thou wilt dismiss thy doubts and thy tone of reproach and distrust, which is virtually apostasy from Me.

mayest stand before me] mayest be My minister. The phrase is a common one in this sense, e.g. 1 Kings 18:15; 2 Kings 3:14 : cp. Proverbs 22:29. But see also on Jeremiah 15:1.

if thou take forth the precious from the vile] i.e. if that which comes forth from thy lips (cp. the expression in Jeremiah 17:16) be choice, and wholly separate from the common. “Vile” is a misleading translation. It should be common, i.e. of no account.

my mouth] My mouth-piece, spokesman. Cp. Exodus 4:16.

they shall, etc.] Du. rejects this last part of the v., as an unsuitable play on the word “return” at the beginning of the v., as well as because the despisers of Jehovah’s words had no intention of returning to the prophet.

19–21. See summary at commencement of section.

And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brasen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD.
20, 21. Cp. Jeremiah 1:18 f.

21 the terrible] The chief men in Jerusalem, probably meaning Jehoiakim and his counsellors. See note on ch. Jeremiah 12:7.

And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.
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