Jeremiah 14
Clarke's Commentary
This chapter begins with foretelling a drought that should greatly distress the land of Judea, the effects of which are described in a most pathetic manner, Jeremiah 14:1-6. The prophet then, in the people's name, makes a confession of sins, and supplication for pardon, Jeremiah 14:7-9. But God declares his purpose to punish, forbidding Jeremiah to pray for the people, Jeremiah 14:10-12. False prophets are then complained of, and threatened with destruction, as are also those who attend to them, Jeremiah 14:13-16. The prophet, therefore, bewails their misery, Jeremiah 14:17, Jeremiah 14:18; and though he had just now been forbidden to intercede for them, yet, like a tender pastor, who could not cease to be concerned for their welfare, he falls on the happy expedient of introducing themselves as supplicating in their own name that mercy which he was not allowed to ask in his, Jeremiah 14:19-22.

The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.
The word - that came - concerning the dearth - This discourse is supposed to have been delivered, after the fourth year of Jehoiakim. Concerning the dearth. We have no historic record of any dearth that may fall in with the time of this prophecy, and perhaps it does not refer to any particular dearth: but this was a calamity to which Judea was very liable. They had ordinarily very dry summers, for scarcely any rain fell from April to the middle of October; and during much of this time, the rivers were generally either very low or entirely dry. They kept the rain of the winter in tanks and reservoirs; and if little fell in winter, a dearth was unavoidable. See an account of a dearth in the time of Elijah, 1 Kings 18:5, through which almost all the cattle were lost.

Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.
The gates thereof languish - The gates being the places of public resort, they are put here for the people.

They are black unto the ground - Covered from head to foot with a black garment, the emblem of sorrow and calamity.

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.
Their nobles have sent their little ones - So general was this calamity, that the servants no longer attended to their lords, but every one was interested alone for himself; and the nobles of the land were obliged to employ their own children to scour the land, to see if any water could be found in the tanks or the pits. In the dearth in the time of Elijah, Ahab the king, and Obadiah his counselor, were obliged to traverse the land themselves, in order to find out water to keep their cattle alive. This and the three following verses give a lively but distressing picture of this dearth and its effects.

Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.
The ground is chapt - The cracks in the earth before the descent of the rains are in some places a cubit wide, and deep enough to receive the greater part of a human body.

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.
Snuffed up the wind like dragons - תנים tannim here probably means the hippopotamus, who, after feeding under the water, is obliged to come to the surface in order to take in fresh draughts of air; or it may mean the wild asses.

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.
O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us - We deeply acknowledge that we have sinned, and deserve nothing but death. Yet act for thy name's sake - work in our behalf, that we perish not.

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?
O the hope of Israel - O thou who art the only object of the hope of this people.

The Savior thereof in time of trouble - Who hast never yet abandoned them that seek thee.

Why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land - As one who has no interest in the prosperity and safety of the country.

And as a way-faring man - A traveler on his journey.

That turneth aside to tarry for a night? - Who stays the shortest time he can; and takes up his lodging in a tent or caravanserai, for the dead of the night, that he may pursue his journey by break of day. Instead of dwelling among us, thou hast scarcely paid the most transient visit to thy land. O come once more, and dwell among us.

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.
Yet thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us - Thy ark, temple, and sacred rites, are all here; and thou thyself, who art every where present, art here also: but alas! thou dost not reveal thyself as the Father of mercies, who forgivest iniquity, transgression, and sin.

We are called by thy name; leave us not - Let us call thee our Father, and say thou to us, "Ye are my sons and daughters!" O 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.
Thus have they loved to wander - And the measure of your iniquity being now full, ye must be punished.

Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.
Pray not for this people - They are ripe for destruction, intercede not for them. O, how dreadful is the state of that people in reference to whom the Lord says to his ministers, Pray not for them; or, what amounts nearly to a prohibition, withholds from his ministers the spirit of prayer and intercession in behalf of the people!

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.
Ah, Lord God! behold, the prophets say unto them - True, Lord, they are exceedingly wicked; but the false prophets have deceived them; this is some mitigation of their offense. This plea God does not admit; and why? the people believed them, without having any proof of their Divine mission.

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.
The prophets prophesy lies - They say they have visions, but they have them by divination, and they are false. The people should know their character, and avoid them but they love to have it so, and will not be undeceived.

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.
By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed - Jeremiah had told Jehoiakim that, if he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, he should be overthrown, and the land wasted by sword and famine: the false prophets said there shall be neither sword nor famine, but peace and prosperity. The king believed them, and withheld the tribute.

Nebuchadnezzar, being incensed, invaded and destroyed the land; and the false prophets fell in these calamities. See 2 Kings 25:3; Lamentations 2:11-19.

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.
And the people - shall be cast out - They shall be destroyed, because they preferred their lying words to my truth, proclaimed by thee.

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.
For the virgin daughter of my people is broken - First, the land was sadly distressed by Pharaoh-necho, king of Egypt. Secondly, it was laid under a heavy tribute by Nebuchadnezzar. And, thirdly, it was nearly desolated by a famine afterwards. In a few years all these calamities fell upon them; these might be well called a great breach, a very grievous blow.

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.
If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword - Every place presents frightful spectacles; the wounded, the dying, the starving, and the slain; none to bury the dead, none to commiserate the dying, none to bring either relief or consolation. Even the prophets and the priests are obliged to leave the cities, and wander about in unfrequented and unknown places, seeking for the necessaries of life. Dr. Blayney thinks that the going about of the prophets and priests of the land, is to be understood thus: - "They went trafficking about with their false doctrines and lying predictions, as peddlers do with their wares, seeking their own gain." I think the other sense preferable.

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!
We looked for peace - We expected prosperity when Josiah purged the land of idolatry.

And there is no good - For we have relapsed into our former ways.

We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.
We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness - This the prophet did in behalf of the people; but, alas! they did not join him.

Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.
Do not disgrace the throne of thy glory - The temple. Let not this sacred place be profaned by impious and sacrilegious hands.

Break not thy covenant - See Exodus 24:7, Exodus 24:8; Exodus 19:5. They had already broken the covenant, and they wish God to fulfill his part. They ceased to be his people, for they abandoned themselves to idolatry; and yet they wished Jehovah to be their Lord; to defend, support, and fill them with all good things! But when the conditions of a covenant are broken by one of the contracting parties, the other party is not bound; and the covenant is necessarily annulled.

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.
Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles - Probably the dearth was now coming, as there had been a long want of rain. It was the prerogative of the true God to give rain and send showers at the prayers of his people.

Therefore we will wait upon thee - If thou do not undertake for us, we must be utterly ruined.

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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