Jeremiah 4:22
For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are silly children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) For my people is foolish.—Jehovah answers the prophet’s question. The misery comes to punish the folly and sottishness of the people. It shall last as long as they last, or till it has accomplished its work of chastisement.

4:19-31 The prophet had no pleasure in delivering messages of wrath. He is shown in a vision the whole land in confusion. Compared with what it was, every thing is out of order; but the ruin of the Jewish nation would not be final. Every end of our comforts is not a full end. Though the Lord may correct his people very severely, yet he will not cast them off. Ornaments and false colouring would be of no avail. No outward privileges or profession, no contrivances would prevent destruction. How wretched the state of those who are like foolish children in the concerns of their souls! Whatever we are ignorant of, may the Lord make of good understanding in the ways of godliness. As sin will find out the sinner, so sorrow will, sooner or later, find out the secure.The standard - See Jeremiah 4:6. The alarm caused by the invasion is graphically described. The people are dispersed over the land following their usual pursuits, when tidings come of the enemy's approach. The only chance of escape is a hasty flight. Flags stream from the hills to mark the safest route, while the blasts of the trumpet quicken the steps of the wavering. 22. Jehovah's reply; they cannot be otherwise than miserable, since they persevere in sin. The repetition of clauses gives greater force to the sentiment.

wise … evil … to do good … no knowledge—reversing the rule (Ro 16:19) "wise unto … good, simple concerning evil."

For my people is foolish: though God show them here that the cause of all these calamities is their folly, Jeremiah 2:17,19 Psa 38:3,5, yet he owns them for his people, Jeremiah 2:11,31,32.

They have not known me; which is indeed the only true wisdom; they have not studied my disposition or mildness toward them; they are so sottish, that they have neither regarded my counsels nor threats, but utterly stupid; they know not what is for their own good, have no understanding.

They have no knowledge, i.e. their knowledge is as bad or worse than none, it is very ill employed in doing evil, only witty here, crafty and subtle. See 2 Samuel 13:3. But how to do any good they know not, Jeremiah 9:3 Luke 16:8: this the apostle dehorts from, 1 Corinthians 14:20. For my people is foolish,.... This, as Kimchi says, is the answer of the Lord to the prophet; for not the prophet says this, but the Lord to the prophet, giving a reason why this sore destruction came upon the people of the Jews, and so reconciling his mind to the providence; seeing those whom he had chosen to be his people, above all people upon the face of the earth, and who professed themselves to be his people, had acted such a foolish part as they had done, in backsliding from him, revolting from his ways and worship, rebelling against him, and in committing such gross idolatries as they had been guilty of. So a people may be a professing people, and yet a foolish one; there are foolish professors of religion; such who take up a profession foolishly, without an experience of the grace of God; without any true faith in Christ; without having on the wedding garment of his righteousness; without laying it upon a good foundation; and without considering the cost and charge of a profession, and the difficulties and troubles attending it; and such are they who foolishly trust in it, when they have taken it up; and hold it foolishly, very remissly, and in a wavering manner; and who walk not agreeably to it, and at last foolishly drop it:

they have not known me; men may be the people of God by profession, and yet not know him; not know him so as to glorify him; not know him as their God, truly and experimentally; not know him in Christ, and have communion with him through him; not know the Lord Christ himself, the worth, glory, and excellency of him; their need of him; of his blood to cleanse them from sin; of his righteousness to justify them; of his sacrifice to atone for them; and of his fulness to supply their need; nor know the way of life, peace, and salvation by him, or at most only notionally, not experimentally; whereas the only true wisdom is to know Christ, and God in him; this is real and solid knowledge; it is science truly so called; it is delightful and satisfactory; it is useful and profitable, and is what issues in eternal life; and let men know what they will else, if they know not the Lord, they are "sottish children"; they are children indeed in understanding; and though they may be the children of God by profession, they are not the true and genuine children of God, since they know neither the Father nor the Son:

and they have no understanding; though they are not without a natural understanding, or an understanding of things natural and civil, yet they have no spiritual understanding, or an understanding of spiritual things; and at best only in a speculative, and not in an experimental way and manner:

they are wise to do evil; cunning inventors of evil things, crafty schemers that way, may be full of all wicked subtlety, and expert at over reaching and defrauding their brethren; when professors of religion especially ought to be wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil, Romans 16:19,

but to do good they have no knowledge; to do good, or to do a good thing well, is to do it according to the revealed will of God, from a principle of love to him, in the exercise of faith upon him, in the name and strength of Christ, and with a view to the glory of God; to do good in this sense, and in such a way and manner, carnal men and carnal professors have no knowledge, no practical knowledge; they have no inclination to it, but the reverse; nor do they, nor can they, perform it: if they had a knowledge how to do it, or a power to perform it, there would have been, in one age or another, some, more or fewer, that would have done it; but there is none of all Adam's descendants that does good, no, not one, Romans 3:9, the grace of God is absolutely necessary to the right doing of a good work, and the knowledge of it.

For my people are foolish, they have not known me; they are silly children, and they have no understanding: {s} they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.

(s) Their wisdom and policy tend to their own destruction and pulls them from God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
22. know] have regard to. Cp. Isaiah 1:3.Verse 22. - For my people is foolish. The Lord gives no direct answer to the complaining question in ver. 21. He simply states the moral ground for Judah's calamity, and implies that this will last so long as the people continue to be "foolish," i.e. virtual deniers of the true God. It is high time to cleanse oneself from sin, periculum in mora est; for already calamity is announced from Dan, even from the Mount Ephraim. קול מגּיד, the voice of him who gives the alarm, sc. נשׁמע, is heard; cf. Jeremiah 3:21; Jeremiah 31:15. That of which the herald gives warning is not given till the next clause. און, mischief, i.e., calamity. משׁמיע is still dependent on קול. "From Dan," i.e., the northern boundary of Palestine; see on Judges 20:1. "From Mount Ephraim," i.e., the northern boundary of the kingdom of Judah, not far distant from Jerusalem. The alarm and the calamity draw ever nearer. "The messenger comes from each successive place towards which the foe approaches" (Hitz.). In Jeremiah 4:16 the substance of the warning message is given, but in so animated a manner, that a charge is given to make the matter known to the peoples and in Jerusalem. Tell to the peoples, behold, cause to be heard. The הנּה in the first clause points forward, calling attention to the message in the second clause. A similar charge is given in Jeremiah 4:5, only "to the peoples" seems strange here. "The meaning would be simple if we could take 'the peoples' to be the Israelites," says Graf. But since גּוים in this connection can mean only the other nations, the question obtrudes itself: to what end the approach of the besiegers of Jerusalem should be proclaimed to the heathen peoples. Jerome remarks on this: Vult omnes in circuitu nationes Dei nosse sententiam, et flagelat Jerusalem cunctos recipere disciplinam. In like manner, Chr. B. Mich., following Schmid: Gentibus, ut his quoque innotescat severitatis divinae in Judaeos exemplum. Hitz. and Gr. object, that in what follows there is no word of the taking and destruction of Jerusalem, but only of the siege; that this could form no such exemplum, and that for this the issue must be awaited. But this objection counts for little. After the description given of the enemies (cf. Jeremiah 4:13), there can be no doubt as to the issue of the siege, that is, as to the taking of Jerusalem. But if this be so, then the warning of the heathen as to the coming catastrophe, by holding the case of Jerusalem before them, is not so far-fetched a thought as that it should be set aside by Hitz.'s remark: "So friendly an anxiety on behalf of the heathen is utterly unnatural to a Jew, especially seeing that the prophet is doubly absorbed by anxiety for his own people." Jeremiah was not the narrow-minded Jew Hitz. takes him for. Besides, there is no absolute necessity for holding "Tell to the peoples" to be a warning of a similar fate addressed to the heathen. The charge is but a rhetorical form, conveying the idea that there is no doubt about the matter to be published, and that it concerned not Jerusalem alone, but the nations too. This objection settled, there is no call to seek other interpretations, especially as all such are less easily justified. By changing the imper. הזכּירוּ and השׁמיעוּ into perfects, Ew. obtains the translation: "they say already to the peoples, behold, they come, already they proclaim in Jerusalem," etc.; but Hitz. and Graf have shown the change to be indefensible. Yet more unsatisfactory is the translation, "declare of the heathen," which Hitz. and Graf have adopted, following the lxx, Kimchi, Vat., and others. This destroys the parallelism, it is out of keeping with the הנּה, and demands the addition (with the lxx) of בּאוּ thereto to complete the sense. Graf and Hitz. have not been able to agree upon the sense of the second member of the verse. If we make לגּויםde gentibus, then 'השׁמיעוּ וגו ought to be: proclaim upon (i.e., concerning) Jerusalem. Hitz., however, translates, in accordance with the use of משׁמיע in vv. 5 and 15: Cry it aloud in Jerusalem (prop. over Jerusalem, Psalm 49:12; Hosea 8:1); but this, though clearly correct, does not correspond to the first part of the verse, according to Hitz.'s translation of it. Graf, on the other hand, gives: Call them (the peoples) out against Jerusalem - a translation which, besides completely destroying the parallelism of the two clauses, violently separates from the proclamation the thing proclaimed: Besiegers come, etc. Nor can השׁמיעוּ be taken in the sense: call together, as in Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 51:27; 1 Kings 15:22; for in that case the object could not be omitted, those who are to be called together would need to be mentioned; and it is too much to assume גּוים from the לגּוים for an object. The warning cry to Jerusalem runs: נצרים, besiegers, (acc. to Isaiah 1:8) come from the far country (cf. Jeremiah 5:15), and give their voice (cf. 1 Kings 2:15); i.e., let the tumult of a besieging army echo throughout the cities of Judah. These besiegers will be like field-keepers round about Jerusalem (עליה refers back to Jerus.), like field-keepers they will pitch their tents round the city (cf. 1 Kings 1:15) to blockade it. For against me (Jahveh) was she refractory (מרה c. acc. pers., elsewhere with ב, Hosea 14:1; Psalm 5:11, or with את־פּי, Numbers 20:24, and often). This is expanded in Jeremiah 4:18. Thy way, i.e., they behaviour and thy doings, have wrought thee this (calamity). This is thy wickedness, i.e., the effect or fruit of thy wickedness, yea, it is bitter, cf. Jeremiah 2:19; yea, it reacheth unto thine heart, i.e., inflicts deadly wounds on thee.
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