Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
The Course to be Pursued by the Prophet in Reference to the Approaching Overthrow of the Kingdom of Judah. - The ruin of Jerusalem and of Judah will inevitably come. This the prophet must proclaim by word and deed. To this end he is shown in Jeremiah 16:1-9 what relation he is to maintain towards the people, now grown ripe for judgment, and next in Jeremiah 16:10-15 he is told the cause of this terrible judgment; then comes an account of its fulfilment (Jeremiah 16:16-21); then again, finally, we have the cause of it explained once more (Jeremiah 17:1-4).
The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying,The course to be pursued by the prophet with reference to the approaching judgment. - Jeremiah 16:1. "And the word of Jahveh cam to me, saying: Jeremiah 16:2. Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place. Jeremiah 16:3. For thus hath Jahveh said concerning the sons and the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bear them, and concerning their fathers that beget them in this land: Jeremiah 16:4. By deadly suffering shall they die, be neither lamented or buried; dung upon the field shall they become; and by sword and by famine shall they be consumed, and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of the heavens and the beasts of the field. Jeremiah 16:5. For thus hath Jahveh said: Come not into the house of mourning, and go not to lament, and bemoan them not; for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith Jahveh, grace and mercies. Jeremiah 16:6. And great and small shall die in this land, not be buried; they shall not lament them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them. Jeremiah 16:7. And they shall not break bread for them in their mourning, to comfort one for the dead; nor shall they give to any the cup of comfort for his father and his mother. Jeremiah 16:8. And into the house of feasting go not, to sit by them, to eat and to drink. Jeremiah 16:9. For thus hath spoken Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I cause to cease out of this place before 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."
What the prophet is here bidden to do and to forbear is closely bound up with the proclamation enjoined on him of judgment to come on sinful Judah. This connection is brought prominently forward in the reasons given for these commands. He is neither to take a wife nor to beget children, because all the inhabitants of the land, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, are to perish by sickness, the sword, and famine (Jeremiah 16:3 and Jeremiah 16:4). He is both to abstain from the customary usages of mourning for the dead, and to keep away from mirthful feasts, in order to give the people to understand that, by reason of the multitude of the dead, customary mourning will have to be given up, and that all opportunity for merry-making will disappear (Jeremiah 16:5-9). Adapting thus his actions to help to convey his message, he will approve himself to be the mouth of the Lord, and then the promised divine protection will not fail. Thus closely is this passage connected with the preceding complaint and reproof of the prophet (Jeremiah 15:10-21), while it at the same time further continues the threatening of judgment in Jeremiah 15:1-9. - With the prohibition to take a wife, cf. the apostle's counsel, 1 Corinthians 7:26. "This place" alternates with "this land," and so must not be limited to Jerusalem, but bears on Judah at large. ילּדים, adject. verbale, as in Exodus 1:32. The form ממותי is found, besides here, only in Ezekiel 28:8, where it takes the place of מותי, Jeremiah 16:10. תחלאים ממותי, lit., deaths of sicknesses or sufferings, i.e., deaths by all kinds of sufferings, since תחלאים is not to be confined to disease, but in Jeremiah 14:18 is used of pining away by famine. With "they shall not be lamented," cf. Jeremiah 25:33; Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 14:16; Jeremiah 7:33.
Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.
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;
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.
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.The command not to go into a house of mourning (מרזח, loud crying, cry of lament for one dead, see on Amos 6:7), not to show sympathy with the survivors, is explained by the Lord in the fearfully solemn saying: I withdraw from this people my peace, grace, and mercy. שׁלום is not "the inviolateness of the relation between me and my people" (Graf), but the pace of God which rested on Judah, the source of its well-being, of its life and prosperity, and which showed itself to the sinful race in the extension to them of grace and mercy. The consequence of the withdrawal of this peace is the death of great and small in such multitudes that they can neither be buried nor mourned for (Jeremiah 16:6). התגּדד, but one's self, is used in Deuteronomy 14:1 for נתן שׂרט, to make cuts in the body, Leviticus 19:28; and קרח, Niph., to crop one's self bald, acc. to Deuteronomy 14:1, to shave a bare place on the front part of the head above the eyes. These are two modes of expressing passionate mourning for the dead which were forbidden to the Israelites in the law, yet which remained in use among the people, see on Leviticus 19:28 and Deuteronomy 14:1. להם, for them, in honour of the dead.
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:
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.פּרס, as in Isaiah 58:7, for פּרשׂ, Lamentations 4:4, break, sc. the bread (cf. Isa. l.c.) for mourning, and to give to drink the cup of comfort, does not refer to the meals which were held in the house of mourning upon occasion of a death after the interment, for this custom cannot be proved of the Israelites in Old Testament times, and is not strictly demanded by the words of the verse. To break bread to any one does not mean to hold a feast with him, but to bestow a gift of bread upon him; cf. Isaiah 58:7. Correspondingly, to give to drink, does not here mean to drink to one's health at a feast, but only to present with wine to drink. The words refer to the custom of sending bread and wine for refreshment into the house of the surviving relatives of one dead, to comfort them in their sorrow; cf. 2 Samuel 3:35; 2 Samuel 12:16., and the remarks on Ezekiel 24:17. The singular suffixes on לנחמו, אביו, and אמּו, alongside of the plurals להם and אותם, are to be taken distributively of every one who is to be comforted upon occasion of a death in his house; and להם is not to be changed, as by J. D. Mich. and Hitz., into לחם.
Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink.The prophet is to withdraw from all participation in mirthful meals and feasts, in token that God will take away all joy from the people. בּית־משׁתּה, house in which a feast is given. אותם, for אתּם, refers, taken ad sensum, to the others who take part in the feast. On Jeremiah 16:9, cf. Jeremiah 7:34.
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.
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?"And when thou showest this people all these things, and they say unto thee, Wherefore hath Jahveh pronounced all this great evil against us, and what is our transgression, and what our sin that we have committed against Jahveh our God? Jeremiah 16:11. Then say thou to them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith Jahveh, and have walked after other gods, and served them, and worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and not kept my law; Jeremiah 16:12. And ye did yet worse than your fathers; and behold, ye walk each after the stubbornness of his evil heart, hearkening not unto me. Jeremiah 16:13. Therefore I cast you out of this land into the land which he know not, neither ye nor your fathers, and there may ye serve other gods day and night, because I will show you no favour. Jeremiah 16:14. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jahveh, that it shall no more be said, By the life of Jahveh, that brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt, Jeremiah 16:15. But, By the life of Jahveh, that brought the sons of Israel out of the land of the north, and out of all the lands whither I had driven them, and I bring them again into their land that I gave to their fathers."
The turn of the discourse in Jeremiah 16:10 and Jeremiah 16:11 is like that in Jeremiah 5:19. With Jeremiah 16:11 cf. Jeremiah 11:8, Jeremiah 11:10; Jeremiah 7:24; with "ye did yet worse," etc., cf. 1 Kings 14:9; and on "after the stubbornness," cf. on 1 Kings 3:17. The apodosis begins with "therefore I cast you out." On this head cf. Jeremiah 7:15; Jeremiah 9:15, and Jeremiah 22:26. The article in על־הארץ, Graf quite unnecessarily insists on having cancelled, as out of place. It is explained sufficiently by the fact, that the land, of which mention has so often been made, is looked on as a specific one, and is characterized by the following relative clause, as one unknown to the people. Besides, the "ye know not" is not meant of geographical ignorance, but, as is often the case with ידע, the knowledge is that obtained by direct experience. They know not the land, because they have never been there. "There ye may serve them," Ros. justly characterizes as concessio cum ironia: there ye may serve, as long as ye will, the gods whom ye have so longed after. The irony is especially marked in the "day and night." Here Jeremiah has in mind Deuteronomy 4:28; Deuteronomy 28:36, Deuteronomy 28:63. אשׁר is causal, giving the grounds of the threat, "I cast you out." The form חנינה is hap leg . - In Jeremiah 16:14 and Jeremiah 16:15 the prophet opens to the people a view of ultimate redemption from the affliction amidst the heathen, into which, for their sin, they will be cast. By and by men will swear no more by Jahveh who redeemed them out of Egypt, but by Jahveh who has brought them again from the land of the north and the other lands into which they have been thrust forth. In this is implied that this second deliverance will be a blessing which shall outshine the former blessing of redemption from Egypt. But just as this deliverance will excel the earlier one, so much the greater will the affliction of Israel in the northern land be than the Egyptian bondage had been. On this point Ros. throws especial weight, remarking that the aim of these verses is not so much to give promise of coming salvation, as to announce instare illis atrocius malum, quam illud Aegyptiacum, eamque quam mox sint subituri servitutem multo fore duriorem, quam olim Aegyptiaca fuerit. But though this idea does lie implicite in the words, yet we must not fail to be sure that the prospect held out of a future deliverance of Israel from the lands into which it is soon to be scattered, and of its restoration again to the land of its fathers, has, in the first and foremost place, a comforting import, and that it is intended to preserve the godly from despair under the catastrophe which is now awaiting them.
(Note: Calvin has excellently brought out both moments, and has thus expounded the thought of the passage: "Scitis unde patres vestri exierint, nempe e fornace aenea, quemadmodum alibi loquitur (xi. 4) et quasi ex profunda morte; itaque redemptio illa debuit esse memorabilis usque ad finem mundi. Sed jam Deus conjiciet vos in abyssum, quae longe profundior erit illa Aegypti tyrannide, e qua erepti sunt patres vestri; nam si inde vos redimat, erit miraculum longe excellentius ad posteros, ut fere exstinguat vel saltem obscuret memoriam prioris illius redemptionis.")
לכן is not nevertheless, but, as universally, therefore; and the train of thought is as follows: Because the Lord will, for their idolatry, cast forth His people into the lands of the heathen, just for that very reason will their redemption from exile not fail to follow, and this deliverance surpass in gloriousness the greatest of all former deeds of blessing, the rescue of Israel from Egypt. The prospect of future redemption given amidst announcements of judgment cannot be surprising in Jeremiah, who elsewhere also interweaves the like happy forecastings with his most solemn threatenings; cf. Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 5:10, Jeremiah 5:18, with Jeremiah 3:14., Jeremiah 23:3., etc. "This ray of light, falling suddenly into the darkness, does not take us more by surprise than 'I will not make a full end,' Jeremiah 4:27. There is therefore no reason for regarding these two verses as interpolations from Jeremiah 23:7-8" (Graf).
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:
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.
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;
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.Further account of the punishment foretold, with the reasons for the same. - Jeremiah 16:16. "Behold, I send for many fishers, saith Jahve, who shall fish them, and after will I send fore many hunters, who shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rock. Jeremiah 16:17. For mine eyes are upon all their ways, they are not hidden from me, neither is their iniquity concealed from mine eyes. Jeremiah 16:18. And first, I requite double their iniquity and their sin, because they defiled my land with the carcases of their detestables, and with their abominations they have filled mine inheritance. Jeremiah 16:19. Jahveh, my strength and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of trouble! Unto Thee shall the peoples come from the ends of the earth and say: But lies have our fathers inherited, vanity, and amidst them none profiteth at all. Jeremiah 16:20. Shall a man make gods to himself, which are yet no gods? Jeremiah 16:21. Therefore, behold, I make them to know this once, I make them to know my hand and my might, and they shall know that my name is Jahveh."
Jeremiah 16:16-18 are a continuation of the threatening in Jeremiah 16:13, that Judah is to be cast out, but are directly connected with Jeremiah 16:15, and elucidate the expulsion into many lands there foretold. The figures of the fishers and hunters do not bespeak the gathering again and restoration of the scattered people, as Ven. would make out, but the carrying of Judah captive out of his land. This is clear from the second of the figures, for the hunter does not gather the animals together, but kills them; and the reference of the verses is put beyond a doubt by Jeremiah 16:17 and Jeremiah 16:18, and is consequently admitted by all other comm. The two figures signify various kinds of treatment at the hands of enemies. The fishers represent the enemies that gather the inhabitants of the land as in a net, and carry them wholesale into captivity (cf. Amos 4:2; Habakkuk 1:15). The hunters, again, are those who drive out from their hiding-places, and slay or carry captive such as have escaped from the cities, and have taken refuge in the mountains and ravines; cf. Jeremiah 4:29, Judges 6:2 1 Samuel 13:6. In this the idea is visibly set forth that none shall escape the enemy. שׁלה c. ל pers., send for one, cause him to come, as in Jeremiah 14:3 (send for water), so that there is no call to take ל according to the Aram. usage as sign of the accusative, for which we can cite in Jeremiah only the case in Jeremiah 40:2. The form דּוּגים (Chet.) agrees with Ezekiel 47:10, while the Keri, דּיּגים, is a formation similar to ציּדים. In the second clause רבּים is, like the numerals, made to precede the noun; cf. Proverbs 31:29; Psalm 89:51. - For the Lord knows their doings and dealings, and their transgressions are not hid from Him; cf. Jeremiah 23:24; Jeremiah 32:19. על for אל, indicating the direction. Their ways are not the ways of flight, but their course of action.
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.The punishment foretold is but retribution for their sins. Because they have defiled the land by idolatry, they shall be driven out of it. ראשׁונה, first, is by Jerome, Hitz., Ew., Umbr. made to refer to the salvation promised in Jeremiah 16:15 : first, i.e., before the restoration of my favour spoken of in Jeremiah 16:15, I requite double. Against this Graf has objected, that on this view "first" would appear somewhat superfluous; and Ng., that the manifestly intended antithesis to משׁנה is left out of account. There is little force in either objection. Even Ng.'s paraphrase does not do full justice to the presumed antithesis; for if we render: "For the first time the double shall be requited, in the event of repetition a severer standard shall be used," then the antithesis to "first" would not be "double," but the supplied repetition of the offence. There is not the slightest hint in the context to lead us to supply this idea; nor is there any antithesis between "first" and "double." It is a mere assumption of the comm., which Rashi, Kimchi, Ros., Maur., etc., have brought into the text by the interpolation of a ו cop. before משׁנה: I requite the first of their transgressions and the repetition of them, i.e., their earlier and their repeated sins, or the sins committed by their fathers and by themselves, on a greater scale. We therefore hold the reference to Jeremiah 16:15 to be the only true one, and regard it as corresponding both to the words before us and the context. "The double of their iniquity," i.e., ample measure for their sins (cf. Isaiah 40:2; Job 11:6) by way of the horrors of war and the sufferings of the exile. The sins are more exactly defined by: because they defiled my land by the carcases of their detestables, i.e., their dead detestable idols. שׁקּוּצים נבלת is formed according to פּגרי , Leviticus 26:30, and it belongs to "they defiled," not to "they filled," as the Masoretic accentuation puts it; for מלא is construed, not with בּ of the thing, but with double accus.; cf. Ezekiel 8:17; Ezekiel 30:11, etc. So it is construed in the last clause: With their abominations they have filled the inheritance of Jahveh, i.e., the land of the Lord (cf. Jeremiah 2:7). The infin. חלּלם is continued by מלאוּ in verbo fin., as usual.
In Jeremiah 16:19-21 we have more as to the necessity of the threatened punishment. The prophet turns to the Lord as his defence and fortress in time of need, and utters the hope that even the heathen may some time turn to the Lord and confess the vanity of idolatry, since the gods which men make are no gods. To this the Lord answers in Jeremiah 16:21, that just therefore He must punish His idolatrous people, so that they shall feel His power and learn to know His name.
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.In his cry to the Lord: My strength...in the day of trouble, which agrees closely with Psalm 28:8; Psalm 59:17; Psalm 18:3, Jeremiah utters not merely his own feelings, but those which would animate every member of his people. In the time of need the powerlessness of the idols to help, and so their vanity, becomes apparent. Trouble therefore drives to God, the Almighty Lord and Ruler of the world, and forces to bend under His power. The coming tribulation is to have this fruit not only in the case of the Israelites, but also in that of the heathen nations, so that they shall see the vanity of the idolatry they have inherited from their fathers, and be converted to the Lord, the only true God. How this knowledge is to be awakened in the heathen, Jeremiah does not disclose; but it may be gathered from Jeremiah 16:15, from the deliverance of Israel, there announced, out of the heathen lands into which they had been cast forth. By this deliverance the heathen will be made aware both of the almighty power of the God of Israel and of the nothingness of their own gods. On הבל cf. Jeremiah 2:5; and with "none that profiteth," cf. Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 14:22. In Jeremiah 16:20 the prophet confirms what the heathen have been saying. The question has a negative force, as is clear from the second clause. In Jeremiah 16:21 we have the Lord's answer to the prophets' confession in Jeremiah 16:19. Since the Jews are so blinded that they prefer vain idols to the living God, He will this time so show them His hand and His strength in that foretold chastisement, that they shall know His name, i.e., know that He alone is God in deed and in truth. Cf. Ezekiel 12:15; Exodus 3:14.
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.