Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chs. Jeremiah 16:1 to Jeremiah 17:18. Further prophecies of disaster, with passages of comfort interspersed
This section, though Jeremianic in its general character, owes to editorship such unity as it possesses, while certain passages in it (see on Jeremiah 16:14 f. repeated in Jeremiah 23:7 f.) are clearly out of place. It may be subdivided as follows.
(i) Jeremiah 16:1-9. The prophet must abstain from all domestic ties. Death and ignominy shall soon be the portion of every family of Judah. Neither must he share in the joys of others, nor in mourning rites, which shall shortly be compelled to cease in the presence of universal calamity. (ii) Jeremiah 16:10-13. When the people ask, What is our sin, that we are served thus? the answer is to be, that they have embraced idolatrous rites and forsaken Jehovah. Therefore shall exile be their portion, and therein they shall have opportunity to put to the test the efficacy of the service which they have paid to the gods of strange lands. (iii) Jeremiah 16:14-15. Yet deliverance shall come, so signal that it shall even suffice to eclipse the memory of the deliverance from Egyptian thraldom. (iv) Jeremiah 16:16-18. As fishes are netted in shoals, and wild animals in their scattered hiding places by huntsmen, so shall the dwellers in crowded cities and sparsely populated country parts alike be captured. The polluting rites, laid bare to God’s searching gaze, shall receive a double punishment. (v) Jeremiah 16:19-21. Jehovah, the prophet’s one hope, shall yet be sought by the nations, confessing that the gods they have hitherto served, are vain and profitless. At length they shall acknowledge fully His might. (vi) 17. Jeremiah 16:1-4. The sin of Judah is both ingrained and patent to all. Her cherished possessions and the seats of her idol worship shall be laid waste. She shall be driven forth from the covenant-land to a foreign soil. Jehovah’s wrath is unquenchable. (vii) Jeremiah 16:5-8. He who relies on mere human aid shall lead a stunted life, like the juniper tree in the desert; but he who trusts in the Lord shall be as the riverside tree, vigorous and abundant in foliage. (viii) Jeremiah 16:9-13. The Lord’s searchlight reveals unsuspected evils in the heart. As the brood which are not the partridge’s own, and which soon forsake her, so shall it be with unlawfully acquired riches. Jerusalem is of old Jehovah’s seat. They that forsake Him shall soon be blotted out. (ix) Jeremiah 16:14-18. Jeremiah appeals for deliverance from the evil thoughts towards God with which the taunts of his enemies have to his horror inspired him. He pleads that through all he has been a faithful prophet, and prays that evil may fall on his foes, not on him.
The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying,
Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.2. Thou shall not take thee a wife] Marriage was a state of life in special favour with the Jews. By his act of self-denial therefore Jeremiah was to shew his full submission to the will of God, while it would at the same time be a forcible mode of conveying the message of coming woes which he was charged to deliver to the people.
For thus saith the LORD concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land;3. and concerning their mothers … this land] Possibly these words are a gloss, as being apparently irrelevant, but not (as Co.) the whole v., for then we should have no fitting reference for “they” of Jeremiah 16:4.
They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.4. grievous deaths] lit. as mg. deaths of sicknesses.
they shall not be lamented, neither shall they be buried] We may compare the condition of things in the plague at Athens b.c. 430: “Such was the state of dismay and sorrow, that even the nearest relatives neglected the sepulchral duties … the dead and dying lay piled upon one another not merely in the public roads, but even in the temples.… Those bodies which escaped entire neglect were burnt or buried without the customary mourning and with unseemly carelessness.” Grote’s Hist. of Greece, ch. 49. See Thucyd. II. 52.
For thus saith the LORD, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the LORD, even lovingkindness and mercies.5. Enter not …] The prophet’s abstinence from the accustomed marks of respect to the dead and sympathy with the relatives is to be a forecast of the time when such abstinence shall become general on account of the universal prevalence of suffering and death.
mourning] lit. a cry, found elsewhere only Amos 6:7 “revelry,” in which sense Du. and Co. (who strike out Jeremiah 16:8) understand it here. If so, the v. will mean, Neither rejoice with them that rejoice, nor weep with them that weep.
Both the great and the small shall die in this land: they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them:6. nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald] practices common among semi-civilized races. For both together, as here, cp. Jeremiah 47:5; for the former, Jeremiah 41:5, and perhaps (see C.B.) Hosea 7:14; for the latter, Isaiah 3:24; Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 22:12; Ezekiel 7:18; Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16. They are forbidden Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1. The former of these practices represented the custom of human sacrifices as a propitiation to the spirit of the departed. Herodotus (IV. 71) describes the funeral rites of a Scythian king as requiring no less than six human victims.
Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.7. break bread for them] The same verb as in Isaiah 58:7 (“deal”). There the word for bread (leḥem) stands in MT., and a very slight change here would convert “for them” (Heb. lahem) into the same word. If on the other hand we keep lahem, leḥem must have dropped out after it. The reference is to the custom for mourners to fast (cp. 2 Samuel 3:35), whereupon their sympathetic friends brought them bread and wine to console them.
the cup of consolation] on the principle stated Proverbs 31:6.
Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink.8. Co. omits the v., but on inadequate grounds.
For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.9. Cp. Jeremiah 7:34.
9–21. Du. rejects all these vv. Co. omits 9–13, suspects the genuineness of 14, 15 both here and in Jeremiah 23:7 f., and rejects 16, as well as portions of 17–21. Gi. retains of the whole series only Jeremiah 16:19, while admitting (Metrik) that 20, 21 may be genuine. Schmidt denies the genuineness of 14–21. There is thus a considerable consensus of authorities against the passage, but their arguments do not appear conclusive except as to 14, 15. See further in individual notes. According to Gi. (Metrik) metre is doubtful or non-existent, except in 7, 8, 19–21.
And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?10. Cp. Jeremiah 5:19, Jeremiah 13:22.
10–13. See introd. summary to section.
Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law;
And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me:12. stubbornness] Cp. ch. Jeremiah 3:17.
Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour.13. there shall ye serve other gods] The original thought of Jehovah as a national Deity led to the feeling that change of country involved a loss of His protection. Cp. Jdg 11:24; 1 Samuel 26:19. “Large numbers of the exiles probably felt that the destruction of the State had snapped the tie which bound them to Yahweh.” Pe.
for] perhaps as mg. where.
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;14, 15. See introd. summary to section. These two verses, recurring as they do in a suitable context as Jeremiah 23:7 f., must be considered to be here, at all events, an importation. “The context on both sides relates to Judah’s approaching exile, and Jeremiah 16:16-18 continue the line of thought of Jeremiah 16:10-13.” Dr. In LXX they are found, quite incongruously, after Jeremiah 23:40 instead of in the earlier position in that ch.
But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.
Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.16. For the metaphor from fishing cp. Ezekiel 12:13; Ezekiel 29:4 f.; Amos 4:2; Habakkuk 1:14 ff.
rocks] See on Jeremiah 4:29.
16–18. See introd. summary to section.
For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.
And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things.18. first] The word (rî’shônah) is not found in LXX, and was probably inserted after Jeremiah 16:14 f. had been introduced into the text. Co. however thinks it is a corruption of the frequent expression (e.g. Jdg 9:57) ‘al ro’shâm, upon their head.
double] Cp. Isaiah 40:2.
because they have polluted] The mg. is more strictly in accordance with the Hebrew.
the carcases, etc.] the idols themselves, called carcases as being in their nature polluting to the touch like a dead body.
The whole of Jeremiah 16:18 is unmetrical, and Co. rejects the second part (from “because”), as containing language belonging to later times, e.g. “carcases” in connexion with idols, as in Ezekiel 6 (specially in Jeremiah 16:5; Jeremiah 16:13) and Leviticus 26:30.
O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.19. my strength, and my strong hold] The two Hebrew substantives are derivatives of the same root.
vanity … no profit] See on Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 2:8.
19–21. See introd. summary to section. For the thought in Jeremiah 16:19 cp. Jeremiah 12:15 f. and for the interest felt by Jeremiah in the religious life of the heathen, Jeremiah 2:11 a. Hence Co. with Gi. accepts the v. as genuine.
Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?
Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The LORD.21. Gi. considers this v. to be late, as being in the style of the second Is. (cp. Isaiah 42:6) and Ezek. (Ezekiel 36:23).