Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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!
Jer 9:1-26. Jeremiah's Lamentation for the Jews' Sins and Consequent Punishment.
1. This verse is more fitly joined to the last chapter, as verse 23 in the Hebrew (compare Isa 22:4; La 2:11; 3:48).
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. lodging-place—a caravanseral for caravans, or companies travelling in the desert, remote from towns. It was a square building enclosing an open court. Though a lonely and often filthy dwelling, Jeremiah would prefer even it to the comforts of Jerusalem, so as to be removed from the pollutions of the capital (Ps 55:7, 8).
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. bend … tongues … for lies—that is, with lies as their arrows; they direct lies on their tongue as their bow (Ps 64:3, 4).
not valiant for … truth—(Jer 7:28). Maurer translates, "They do not prevail by truth" or faith (Ps 12:4). Their tongue, not faith, is their weapon.
upon … earth—rather, "in the land."
know not me—(Ho 4:1).
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. supplant—literally, "trip up by the heel" (Ho 12:3).
walk with slanders—(Jer 6:28).
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. weary themselves—are at laborious pains to act perversely [Maurer]. Sin is a hard bondage (Hab 2:13).
Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the LORD.
6. Thine—God addresses Jeremiah, who dwelt in the midst of deceitful men.
refuse to know me—Their ignorance of God is wilful (Jer 9:3; 5:4, 5).
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 … try them—by sending calamities on them.
for how shall I do—"What else can I do for the sake of the daughter of My people?" [Maurer], (Isa 1:25; Mal 3:3).
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. tongue … arrow shot out—rather, "a murdering arrow" [Maurer] (Jer 9:3).
speaketh peaceably … in heart … layeth … wait—layeth his ambush [Henderson], (Ps 55:21).
Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
9. (Jer 5:9, 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. Jeremiah breaks in upon Jehovah's threats of wrath with lamentation for his desolated country.
mountains—once cultivated and fruitful: the hillsides were cultivated in terraces between the rocks.
habitations of … wilderness—rather, "the pleasant herbage (literally, 'the choice parts' of any thing) of the pasture plain." The Hebrew for "wilderness" expresses not a barren desert, but an untilled plain, fit for pasture.
burned up—because no one waters them, the inhabitants being all gone.
none can pass through them—much less inhabit them.
And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.
11. And—omit "And." Jehovah here resumes His speech from Jer 9:9.
heaps—(see on Isa 25:2).
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. Rather, "Who is a wise man? (that is, Whosoever has inspired wisdom, 2Pe 3:15); let him understand this (weigh well the evils impending, and the causes of their being sent); and he to whom the mouth of the Lord hath spoken (that is, whosoever is prophetically inspired), let him declare it to his fellow countrymen," if haply they may be roused to repentance, the only hope of safety.
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. Answer to the "for what the land perisheth" (Jer 9:12).
But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:
14. (Jer 7:24).
Baalim—plural of Baal, to express his supposed manifold powers.
fathers taught them—(Ga 1:14; 1Pe 1:18). We are not to follow the errors of the fathers, but the authority of Scripture and of God [Jerome].
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. feed—(Jer 8:14; 23:15; Ps 80:5).
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.
16. nor their fathers have known—alluding to Jer 9:14, "Their fathers taught them" idolatry; therefore the children shall be scattered to a land which neither their fathers nor they have known.
send a sword after them—Not even in flight shall they be safe.
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. mourning women—hired to heighten lamentation by plaintive cries baring the breast, beating the arms, and suffering the hair to flow dishevelled (2Ch 35:25; Ec 12:5; Mt 9:23).
cunning—skilled in wailing.
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.
18. (Jer 14:17).
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. The cry of "the mourning women."
dwellings cast us out—fulfilling Le 18:28; 20:22. Calvin translates, "The enemy have cast down our habitations."
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. Yet—rather, "Only" [Henderson]. This particle calls attention to what follows.
teach … daughters wailing—The deaths will be so many that there will be a lack of mourning women to bewail them. The mothers, therefore, must teach their daughters the science to supply the want.
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. death … windows—The death-inflicting soldiery, finding the doors closed, burst in by the windows.
to cut off … children from … streets—Death cannot be said to enter the windows to cut off the children in the streets, but to cut them off, so as no more to play in the streets without (Zec 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. saith the Lord—continuing the thread of discourse from Jer 9:20.
handful … none … gather them—implying that the handful has been so trodden as to be not worth even the poor gleaner's effort to gather it. Or the Eastern custom may be referred to: the reaper cuts the grain and is followed by another who gathers it. This grain shall not be worth gathering. How galling to the pride of the Jews to hear that so shall their carcasses be trodden contemptuously under foot!
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. wisdom—political sagacity; as if it could rescue from the impending calamities.
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. Nothing but an experimental knowledge of God will save the nation.
understandeth—theoretically; in the intellect.
knoweth—practically: so as to walk in My ways (Jer 22:16; Job 22:21; 1Co 1:31).
loving kindness—God's mercy is put in the first and highest place, because without it we should flee from God in fear and despair.
judgment … righteousness—loving-kindness towards the godly; judgment towards the ungodly; righteousness the most perfect fairness in all cases [Grotius]. Faithfulness to His promises to preserve the godly, as well as stern execution of judgment on the ungodly, is included in "righteousness."
in the earth—contrary to the dogma of some philosophers, that God does not interfere in terrestrial concerns (Ps 58:11).
in these … I delight—as well in doing them as in seeing them done by others (Mic 6:8; 7:18).
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;
25. with the uncircumcised—rather, "all that are circumcised in uncircumcision" [Henderson]. The Hebrew is an abstract term, not a concrete, as English Version translates, and as the pious "circumcised" is. The nations specified, Egypt, Judah, &c., were outwardly "circumcised," but in heart were "uncircumcised." The heathen nations were defiled, in spite of their literal circumcision, by idolatry. The Jews, with all their glorying in their spiritual privileges, were no better (Jer 4:4; De 10:16; 30:6; Ro 2:28, 29; Col 2:11). However, Eze 31:18; 32:19, may imply that the Egyptians were uncircumcised; and it is uncertain as to the other nations specified whether they were at that early time circumcised. Herodotus says the Egyptians were so; but others think this applies only to the priests and others having a sacred character, not to the mass of the nation; so English Version may be right (Ro 2:28, 29).
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.
26. Egypt—put first to degrade Judah, who, though in privileges above the Gentiles, by unfaithfulness sank below them. Egypt, too, was the power in which the Jews were so prone to trust, and by whose instigation they, as well as the other peoples specified, revolted from Babylon.
in the utmost corners—rather, "having the hair shaven (or clipped) in angles," that is, having the beard on the cheek narrowed or cut: a Canaanitish custom, forbidden to the Israelites (Le 19:27; 21:5). The Arabs are hereby referred to (compare Jer 25:23; 49:32), as the words in apposition show, "that dwell in the wilderness."
uncircumcised … uncircumcised in the heart—The addition of "in the heart" in Israel's case marks its greater guilt in proportion to its greater privileges, as compared with the rest.