Jeremiah 9
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chs. 7–10. Address delivered by Jeremiah at the gate of the Temple

The first question to be answered in regard to these chapters as a whole is the date to which they are to be referred, whether to the reign of Josiah or Jehoiakim. This seems to be answered by ch. 26, for while its Jeremiah 7:1-6 have a marked resemblance to these, it is expressly stated (Jeremiah 7:1) to have been delivered in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim (b.c. 608–7). Others (e.g. Wellhausen and Marti) place it as early as the crisis brought about by the death of Josiah at Megiddo (b.c. 608), but accepting the date in Jeremiah 26:1, we may conclude that the two are respectively a longer and shorter summary of the same discourse, while the latter adds (Jeremiah 26:7-24) the danger which resulted to the prophet and his rescue. The announcement that the fate of the Temple should be that which had befallen Shiloh (Jeremiah 7:8 ff., Jeremiah 26:4 ff.), while helping to identify the two discourses, accounts sufficiently for their hostile reception. Irregularities in metre or its absence in Jeremiah 7:4 to Jeremiah 8:3, compel Du. with his rigid metrical theories to make most of this section to be post-Jeremianic, while he also holds that there are considerable interpolations in the whole section. As Co. points out, however, we can hardly suppose that Jeremiah spoke, as well as wrote, in metre, and we may well nave here in substance his oral prophecy, not yet put into metrical form. It accords with the later date that (a) Jeremiah seems to be now dwelling not at Anathoth but at Jerusalem, since he is told not as in Jeremiah 2:2 to “go and cry,” etc. but simply (Jeremiah 7:2) to “stand in the gate of the Lord’s house,” etc.; (b) idolatry is represented as practised openly in the streets of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 7:17 f.) and in the Temple itself (Jeremiah 7:30); (c) children are burned in the valley of Topheth in honour of Molech (Jeremiah 7:31).

The discourse has five natural divisions. (a) Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3, Denunciation for shameless idolatry and pollution of the very Temple. (b) Jeremiah 8:4 to Jeremiah 9:1, Forecast of punishment as the result of sin. (c) Jeremiah 9:2-26, Judah’s corruption described. Her consequent sufferings. The recognition of Jehovah alone secures the weal of any nation. (d) Jeremiah 10:1-16, The folly of idolatry. (e) Jeremiah 10:17-25, Exile is at hand. Appeal to Jehovah even in punishing to remember mercy.

Chs. Jeremiah 7:1 to Jeremiah 8:3. Contrast between real and false grounds for confidence. Warning of approaching judgements

This section may be broken up as follows. (i) Jeremiah 7:1-2. Introduction. (ii) Jeremiah 7:3-7. The guarantee for Judah’s security is not, as she imagines, the existence of the Temple, but loyalty to Jehovah. (iii) Jeremiah 7:8-11. Can it be that occasional worship of Him in the intervals of profligacy suffices to give them a sense of security? (iv) Jeremiah 7:12-15. Let them take warning from the fate of Shiloh and the northern kingdom. (v) Jeremiah 7:16-20. The people are past interceding for: their idolatry is too gross. (vi) Jeremiah 7:21-28. They have never realised that from the first God’s demands were not for sacrifices but for holiness of life. (vii) Jeremiah 7:29 to Jeremiah 8:3. Topheth, the scene of idolatrous excesses, shall also be that of terrible retribution.

Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
Jeremiah 9:1. Cp. Jeremiah 13:16 f. This is the climax of the prophet’s lamentation, and so to be disconnected from the section that follows.

Ch. Jeremiah 9:2-26. Judah’s corruption described. Her consequent sufferings. The recognition of Jehovah alone secures the weal of any nation

The section may be subdivided as follows.

(i) Jeremiah 9:2-9. The prophet yearns for any retreat, even of the most dreary type, if it will deliver him from the sights he must behold in the city, viz., mutual distrust, treachery, and falsehood, which vitiate even the closest kinship, and lead to rejection of Jehovah, who must punish all this wickedness. (ii) Jeremiah 9:10-16. Disaster is set forth in detail. The land is laid waste. All vegetation and animate life have vanished. Jerusalem itself shall be sacked. Can the wise interpret this? It is because of idolatrous excesses. (iii) Jeremiah 9:17-22. The professional mourning women are bidden to come, and words are given them in which to bewail the fallen nation. Death steals in like a thief. No place is exempt; while the young are cut off in the open. (iv) Jeremiah 9:23-26 are foreign to the context. See notes.

Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.
2. a lodging place] a caravanserai, hospice (khan). Shelter was all that they afforded. The most desolate spot is to the prophet’s mind better than the sights which thrust themselves upon him in Jerusalem.

adulterers] See on last words of ch. Jeremiah 2:20.

And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.
3. falsehood] as the arrow. For the figure cp. Psalm 64:3 f.

truth] mg. faithfulness. See on Jeremiah 5:1.

Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders.
4. Cp. Micah 7:5 f. “The mutual distrust, which had already in the time of Hezekiah broken up families and divided the nearest friends, and made a man’s worst enemies those of his own household, had now reached the highest degree of intensity” (Stanley, J. Ch. II. 437).

will utterly supplant] The Hebrew verb emphasizes the allusion to Genesis 27:36. We might render, “Every brother is a thorough Jacob.”

And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity.
5. Here, and in Jeremiah 9:4, the verbs had best be rendered by present tenses.

deceive] better (as mg.) mock.

5, 6. The MT. has apparently suffered some corruption. The LXX yield a fairly good sense. Dividing the four consonants of the Hebrew word rendered “thine habitation,” so as to end Jeremiah 9:5 with the first two, which thus yield the meaning of turn, and then taking the second pair, which will thus mean oppression (as in Psalm 10:7; Psalm 55:11), they render the whole “they committed iniquity and Ceased not to turn aside. (Jeremiah 9:6) Oppression on oppression and deceit on deceit, etc.,” the latter pair of identical words suggesting the parallel preceding. As Gi. points out, this does not obviate the objection that the verb rendered “weary themselves” always elsewhere (e.g. Isaiah 16:12; Isaiah 47:13) means to do so to no purpose, which is unsuitable here. Hence, and for other reasons, he rejects Jeremiah 9:4-5.

Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the LORD.
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, I will melt them, and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?
7. melt] the same Hebrew word as “refining” in Jeremiah 6:29, where see note, and cp. Zechariah 13:9.

how else should] or, how (terribly) will.

because of the daughter] LXX probably rightly has because of the evil of the daughter, etc. Cp. Jeremiah 7:12, Jeremiah 32:32.

Their tongue is as an arrow shot out; it speaketh deceit: one speaketh peaceably to his neighbour with his mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait.
8. LXX, by a different arrangement of the words forming the second and third clauses, have the words of their mouth are deceitful, an improvement in symmetry, to which the original easily lends itself.

Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
9. Here repeated from ch. Jeremiah 5:9; Jeremiah 5:29.

For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation, because they are burned up, so that none can pass through them; neither can men hear the voice of the cattle; both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled; they are gone.
10. Cp. Jeremiah 4:23-26.

a lamentation] lit. a ḳinah, i.e. a composition carefully constructed in a definite rhythmical form. See Intr. p. xlix, also notes in C. B. on Amos 5:2; Amos 5:16, with pp. 232 ff. there.

burned up] better, laid waste.

10–16. See introd. summary to the section.

And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.
11. jackals] mentioned again chs. Jeremiah 10:22 [Jeremiah 14:6], Jeremiah 49:33 [Jeremiah 51:37].

Who is the wise man, that may understand this? and who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD hath spoken, that he may declare it, for what the land perisheth and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passeth through?
12. Who is the wise man] meaning that there are none such found, with a hint at the would-be wise, the false prophets. Cp. Hosea 14:9, where however there is no suggestion of sarcasm.

12–16. Du. and Gi. consider this passage to be condemned by prosaic wording and the vagueness or absence of metre. Co. thinks it to contain Jeremianic elements, worked up later. It certainly forms a remarkable contrast to the poetical sub-section which follows.

And the LORD saith, Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;
13. I set before them] See e.g. Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 4:44.

But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:
14. the Baalim] See on ch. Jeremiah 2:8.

Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.
15. The coming troubles are likened to wormwood and water of gall.

wormwood] a generic word for the species Artemisia, found chiefly in desert places. Cp. Jeremiah 23:15; Lamentations 3:15; Lamentations 3:19.

water of gall] See on ch. Jeremiah 8:14.

I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come:
17. cunning] i.e. skilled. Cp. Genesis 25:27; 1 Samuel 16:18; 2 Chronicles 26:15.

17, 18. “There are in every city and community women exceedingly cunning in this business.… When a fresh company of sympathisers comes in, these women ‘make haste’ to ‘take up a wailing’ that the newly come may the more easily unite their tears with the mourners. They know the domestic history of each person, and immediately strike up an impromptu lamentation, in which they introduce the names of their relations who have recently died, touching some tender chord in every heart.” Thomson, p. 103, and see Jeremiah 16:5.

17–22. See summary introducing the section.

And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters.
For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled! we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land, because our dwellings have cast us out.
19. Co. considers that the v. is a gloss as breaking the connexion between the summons to the wailers and the words which they are bidden to use.

have forsaken] a prophetic perfect, meaning must forsake. Exile is regarded as inevitable.

Yet hear the word of the LORD, O ye women, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth, and teach your daughters wailing, and every one her neighbour lamentation.
20. No traditional formula will suffice; Jehovah will dictate a dirge, and it shall be for universal use.

For death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets.
21. is come up] Cp. Joel 2:9.

palaces] See on Jeremiah 6:5.

from without] Cp. Zechariah 8:5.

Speak, Thus saith the LORD, Even the carcases of men shall fall as dung upon the open field, and as the handful after the harvestman, and none shall gather them.
22. Speak, Thus saith the Lord] The words are not found in LXX and they break the connexion.

Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
23–26. See summary introducing the section. Piety alone is the source of true glory. Circumcision, as the mere external mark of the covenant, of itself brings no man, Jew or otherwise, favour with God. 23, 24, and 25, 26 form two detached utterances, which have no relation to this context, and we cannot now say where they should be placed. The former is quite in agreement with other sayings of the prophet (Jeremiah 8:9, Jeremiah 17:5 f., Jeremiah 22:13 ff.). It is accordingly retained as his by Gi. and Co., while Du. rejects it.

But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
24. Quoted freely 1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;
25, 26. circumcised in their uncircumcision] probably meaning circumcised in body but not in heart. “Judah cannot rely on a rite which she shares with the heathen, indeed the corresponding inward circumcision is as lacking in her as in them,” Pe. See on Jeremiah 4:4. The statements in Jeremiah 9:26 are confirmed as to Egypt by Joshua 5:9 (where “reproach of Egypt” means that the Egyptians would despise them as long as they remained uncircumcised), and by Herod. II. 104. The other nations, as tracing their descent from Abraham, would naturally observe the rite; so too the Arabians, as claiming Ishmael (see Genesis 17:23 ff.) for ancestor. Josephus (Ant. I. xii. 2) also testifies as to these last. The Philistines, on the other hand, are frequently designated contemptuously as uncircumcised (e.g. 1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Samuel 17:26).

that have the corners of their hair polled] i.e. cut off from the temples. See also Jeremiah 25:23, Jeremiah 49:32. According to Herod. (III. 8) it had a religious significance with certain Arab tribes. Hence its prohibition in Leviticus 19:27.

the wilderness] the desert of Arabia, eastward of Palestine.

all the nations are uncircumcised] The true circumcision of the heart is as much lacking with them as with Judah.

Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.
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