Jeremiah 16
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying,

3. Instructions as to the conduct of the Lord’s servant among the people who have incurred judgment


1          The word of Jehovah came also unto me, saying,

2     Thou shalt not take to thee a wife,

Nor shalt thou have sons and daughters in this place:

3     For thus saith Jehovah of the sons and of the daughters born in this place,

And of their mothers that bare them,

And of their fathers that begat them in this land:

4     Miserable deaths1 shall they die,

They shall not be mourned nor buried;

They shall become dung on the surface of the earth;

And by sword and famine shall they perish;

And their carcases shall serve for food to the fowls of heaven and the beasts of the earth.

5     For thus saith Jehovah: Enter not into the house of mourning,2

And go not to bewail them or to commiserate them;

For I have taken my peace from this people, saith Jehovah,—

The loving-kindness and the mercy.

6     Both great and small shall die in this land;

They shall not be buried and men will not mourn them,

Nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them:

7     Nor will men break bread3 for them in mourning,

To console them concerning the dead;

Nor will they present them the cup of consolation,

Concerning father or mother.

8     And also thou shalt not go into the house of feasting, [lit. drinking],

To sit with them to drink and to eat.

9     For thus saith Jehovah Zebaoth, the God of Israel:

Behold, I take away from this place before your eyes and in your days,

The voice of joy and the voice of gladness,

The voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.


The prophet (in 15:10) had cried to his mother in complaint: Why hast thou borne me? He had explained in Jer 16:17 that he lived alone and far from all society of cheerful men. The Lord had thereupon in Jer 16:19–21 consoled him and promised him protection and deliverance. But the great national calamities should nevertheless continue. Hence both the complaint of the prophet in Jer 16:10 and his separation in Jer 16:17 are approved. Yea, it is added in confirmation that he is not even to take a wife and beget children (16:2), for these would not escape the universal calamity of death (Jer 16:3 and 4),—further that he is not to go into any house of mourning or give any token of sympathy in the cases of death, in order to indicate that the dead will remain without burial or mourning;—finally that he is not to go into any house of feasting, in order to indicate that all joy, especially all nuptial rejoicing, will cease.

Jer 16:1-4. The word … beasts of the earth. The probibition to marry is closely connected with the complaint of the prophet in Jer 16:10: let it not be that thy children charge thee as thou hast charged thy mother. Comp. 8:2; 26:33.—With the sword, comp. 14:12, 15; 44:12, 27.—Become food. Comp. 7:33; 19:7; 34:20.

Jer 16:5-7. For thus saith … father or mother. The connection of Jer 16:4, with Jer 16:5 sqq., is as follows: the inhabitants shall perish miserably and lie unburied, for it is the command of the Lord that the prophet go into no house of mourning, i.e., it is the divine purpose to decree that punishment of which the command to the prophet is only the outward sign. The ground of this purpose is that God has withdrawn His favor from the people. (For I have taken, etc.).—Commiserate. Comp. 15:5; 22:10; Job 2:11; 42:11.—For I have taken, etc. Comp. Joel 2:10; 4:15; Gen. 30:23.—Loving-kindness Comp. Hos. 2:21; Zech. 7:9.—Cut make bald, customs forbidden by the law (Vid. Lev. 19:28; Deut. 14:1), but which were, however, practised. Comp. 41:5 (48:37). קָרְחַה [baldness] is mentioned with especial frequency: Isa. 22:12; Ezek. 7:18; Am. 8:10; Mic. 1:16. Comp. EWALD, Alterthümer d. V. Isr. [Jewish Antiquities] S. 225; SAALSCHUETZ, Mos. Recht., S. 380.—They shall not break bread [A. V., “tear themselves.” Comp. TEXTUAL NOTES].—The cup of consolation, comp. Prov. 31:6, 7.

Jer 16:8 and 9. And also thou shalt not … voice of the bride. In this relation also the absence of the prophet is to indicate that joyful festivals are things denied by the Lord.—Before your eyes. This calamity will not just come upon a later generation, but upon the present.—Voice of the bridegroom. Comp. 7:34; 25:10.


[1]Jer 16:4.—מְמוֹתֵי תַחֲלֻאִים [literally, deaths of diseases], different kinds of death in torment. Comp. Jer. 14:18 [the sick (pining) of famine]. ממות here only and in Ezek. 28:9; comp. מוֹתֵי, Ezek. 28:10.

[2]Jer 16:5.—מַרְזֵחַ ּבֵית מַרְזֵחַ occurs besides only in Am. 6:7 (in the construct state, מִרְזַח. Comp. OLSH. § 198, a. b. S. 376, 7), in the latter place with the meaning of jubilation. The root רָזַח, which does not occur in the Hebrew, has according to the dialects (Arab. marsih, vox vehemens) the meaning of loud crying, be it for joy or sorrow.

[3]Jer 16:7.—פָרַס interchangeably with פָרַשׂ (Lam. 4:4)=frangere, dividere. With להם Isa. 58:7. Here להם is wanting, but is found in some codd. of Kennicott. The LXX. and JEROME also express it. At any rate the bread, corresponding to the cup of consolation, is intended, which in Ezek. 24:17, 22 is called לֶהֶם אֲנָשִׁים; Hos. 9:4 לֶהֶם אוֹנִים. The suffixes in לְנַהֲמִוֹ as in אביו and אִמּוֹ refer to the idea present, not in the words but in the mind of the mourner (Comp. EWALD, § 318 a).

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?


1. Idolatry the cause of the removal into exile


10     And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew [declarest to] this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath [doth] the LORD [Jehovah] pronounced [denounce] all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed4 against the LORD [Jehovah] our God?

11          Then shalt thou say unto them:

Therefore, because your fathers have forsaken me. saith Jehovah,

And went after other gods, and served them and worshipped them,

And have forsaken me and not kept my law;

12     And ye have done still worse5 than your fathers,

Since ye walk6 every one according to the hardness of his evil heart,

That ye hearken not unto me;—

13     Therefore I cast you away out of this land

Into the land that ye have not known, ye and your fathers;

And there ye shall serve the7 other gods day and night,

Because8 I will shew you no favour.9

14     Therefore behold, the days come, saith Jehovah,

When it shall no more be said: As Jehovah liveth,

Who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

15     But: As Jehovah liveth,

Who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the North,

And from all lands whither he had driven them:

And I bring them back into their land, that I gave to their fathers.


The grounds of the punitive judgment described in the previous context are stated in this way, that the prophet is commanded to answer the people when, assuming an air of innocence, they inquire into these grounds (Jer 16:10): because your fathers forsook me and served other gods (Jer 16:11), and ye moreover have done worse (Jer 16:12), therefore I cast you forth into a strange land, where you may serve those gods; and will show you no more favor (Jer 16:13). To this are added two verses repeated in 23:7, 8, in which it is declared that the oath by Jehovah who brought Israel out of Egypt, will be changed into the oath by Jehovah who brought Israel out of the north country. If these verses are genuine here, their object must be a double one: 1. Confirmation of the threatening pronounced in Jer 16:13:2. Mitigation of the harsh utterance at the close of Jer 16:13, by the prospect of future deliverance. This strophe, moreover, forms the argument of the third division, for the three following strophes serve only to describe more in detail, and to elucidate some points in the first.

Jer 16:10-13. And it shall come to pass … shew you no favour. This mode of speech, viz., the hypothesis of a question of the people and answer to it is found 5:19; 13:22.—Therefore that your fathers, etc. Comp. 7:24–28; 9:11–15; 11:7, sqq.—Hardness. Comp. 3:17; 9:13; 18:12.—that ye hearkened not. Comp. 17:23; 18:10; 19:15; 43:13.—Therefore I cast, etc., comp. 22:26, 28.—Into the land. The article is explained by the prophet’s reference to what has been already said (15:14).—And ye shall serve. What was before sin is now punishment. The prophet has in view Deut. 4:28; 28:36, 64.—Day and night. The servants’ toil consists in this, that they must attend to their service day and night.—Because I will shew. This causal sentence refers not to the first clause of the verse, which is circumstantially founded on the preceding context from Jer 16:10, but on the second. Because Jehovah has withdrawn His favor, they have to seek help of their idols.

Jer 16:14 and 15. Therefore behold … gave to your fathers. לָכֵן, therefore, at the beginning of Jer 16:14 is entirely in place. On this very account, because Israel, according to Jer 16:13, were to be cast away into a foreign land, the form of oath is to be correspondingly altered. Accordingly the purport of Jer 16:14 and 15 is primarily not consolatory, but sad. It confirms the declaration concerning the captivity. In so far, and because Jeremiah frequently quotes himself, as well as because interruptions of a prophecy of sorrowful import by consolatory prospects also frequently occur (comp. 4:27; 5:10, 18), these verses may well be genuine here. I bring back is then connected with I cast away in Jer 16:13. Moreover that the words, even if transferred by Jeremiah himself, are in their original position in 23:7, is clear from the connection, as well as from “the more peculiar and concrete form of the text” (HITZIG) of this passage.


[4]Jer 16:10.—אשׁר הטאנו. The nota relationis may be regarded as a pronoun in the accusative, because it is said—הֲטָאָה הָטָא, Exod. 32:31; comp. Lev. 4:3; Deut. 19:15.

[5]Jer 16:12.—חרעתם ו׳. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 95, e.

[6]Jer 16:12.—והנכם ונו׳, causal sentence. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 110, 1, e.

[7]Jer 16:13.—The אֵת before אלהים in this passage may have this reason, that the word may be regarded as determinate in itself. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 68,1. Anm. 1.

[8]Jer 16:13.—אשׁר ּאשׁר־לא is causal here as in 13:25. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 110, 1.

[9]Jer 16:13—חֲנִינָה ἄπ. λεγ.

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.


16          Behold I send for10 many fishers,11 saith Jehovah, who shall fish them.12

After that I send for many hunters, who shall hunt them

Down from every mountain, and from every hill,

And from out of the clefts of the rocks.

17     For my eyes overlook all their ways; they are not hidden from me,

Nor is their iniquity concealed from mine eyes.

18     And I recompense the first time double their iniquity and sin,

Because they have desecrated my land with the carcases of their monsters,

And have filled mine inheritance with their abominations.13


This strophe serves only to describe more fully the facts announced in Jer 16:13, Therefore I cast you, etc. The deportation is to take place, as it were, according to the rules of art. The enemies are therefore compared to fishermen who fish out a lake, and with hunters who exterminate the wild animals from a hunting-district, even from the most effectual covers (Jer 16:16). So also the hiding of the Israelites will not avail, for all their ways are so manifest to the Lord that their iniquity lies displayed before His eyes (Jer 16:17). And so He recompenses to them for the first time double their sin by banishment from the land which they have desecrated by their idolatries. In this it is implied that in case of a second provocation, God’s punitive justice will apply a still higher measure than that of double retribution.

Jer 16:16-18. Behold … abominations.—Many hunters. The reason why the adjective many is used, is that the prophet means to say: then again I send for many, viz., hunters.—Hunters is, therefore, epexegetical. That רבים is here used as a numeral (as in Ps. 89:51; Prov. 31:29; 1 Chron. 28:5; Neh. 9:28), is less probable. From Jer 16:17 and 18 it is evident that fisher and hunter were not to bring together the Israelites out of exile, but to drive them out of their own land.—As it follows from כִּי, Jer 16:17, the figure declares that no concealment will profit them. As fishers and hunters, who proceed according to the rules of their art, know how to drive out the animals from all their hiding-places, so will the enemies do with the Israelites. The former will see through all the plans and measures of the latter and defeat them, for they are revealed to them by God. before whose sight those measures equally with the sins of Israel lie bare and exposed. Comp. 23:24; 32:19.—ראשׁוֹנהּ, first time. [HENDERSON, following HITZIG, etc., renders “previously.”—S. R. A.] The explanation according to which this word is referred to Jer 16:15 (HITZIG, EWALD, UMBREIT), would be perfectly satisfactory if it did not leave unregarded the evidently intended antithesis to משׁנהdouble. This requirement can be met satisfactorily without any alteration of the text (as attempted by GRAF, according to Isai. 56:7), if we recognize that the prophet assumes the possibility of a second visitation. Then he would say: for this first time double will be recompensed (Isai. 61:7; Zech. 9:12), but in case of repetition a much severer measure will be rendered:—as in reality the second destruction by the Romans was total in comparison with the first merely partial one.—Because, etc. The punishment has an inner relation to the sin: they have desecrated the land and rendered it uninhabitable, they must therefore leave it.


[10]Jer 16:16.—שָׁלַח לְ is used here with the meaning of “to send for, cause to be brought,” exactly as in 14:3 in the expression שָׁ‍ֽלְחוּ לַמּיִם. It is, therefore, quite a mistake to assume an Aramaism here as in 40:2 (comp. 2 Chron. 17:7; Ezr. 8:16), or, to refer to entirely different passages, as 1 Kings 20:7. Even Numb. 22:40, cannot be compared.

[11]Jer 16:16.—דַוָּנִים. The word occurs besides only in Isa. 19:8 and Ezek. 47:10, in the former place in the form דַיָנִים, in the second דַּוָּנִים, without any proposed alteration of reading in the Keri. In the present passage the Keri probably proceeds from the endeavor to produce uniformity with צַיָדִים.

[12]Jer 16:16.—ודינום ἄ λεγ.—FUERST and EWALD (§ 127, a) would explain דִּינ as an abbreviation of הֵדִינ. But why should there not be a root with a weak י as middle radical? Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 37; OLSH. § 233 d, S. 486.

[13]Jer 16:18.—As מלא is not construed with בְ, we must connect with מלאו only ותועבוֹתיהם (comp. 2:7; 44:22).

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.


19          O Jehovah, my strength and my fortress,

And my refuge in the day of distress!

“To thee will the heathen come from the ends of the earth, and will say:

Falsehood only have our fathers inherited,

Vapour, and there is none among them that profiteth.

20     Should a man make himself gods? And they are not gods!”

21     Therefore behold I teach them this once,

And teach them to know my hand and my might,

And they shall know that my name [is] Jehovah.


Having in Jer 16:14–18 given a confirmation and further description of the judgment threatened in Jer 16:13, the prophet in the two following strophes, 16:19–21, and 17:1–4 goes back to 16:10, where it is said that the people deny having sinned against Jehovah. This denial may have a double meaning. First it may be intended to declare that it is not a sin to serve other gods, together with Jehovah. Secondly, the meaning may be that the fact itself that Israel served other gods is disputed. To this denial in the first sense the prophet replies by directing his glance into the proximate future, in which the heathen will perceive what Israel has failed to perceive, viz., that the gods are vanity, that Jehovah is alone God, and that therefore idolatry is sin (Jer 16:19, 20). Now since Israel might and should long ago have perceived that which even the heathen will perceive at last, but did not do so, Jehovah will bring this truth to their knowledge by a thoroughly incisive lesson (Jer 16:21).

Jer 16:19 and 20. O Jehovah my strength … not gods. Since the prophet addresses the Lord as my strength, etc., and then says that the heathen, after they have perceived the nothingness of the idols, will all come to this Lord, he includes himself, as it were, together with the heathen, among the believers in Jehovah, but excludes Israel from this communion, until instructed by the judgments they recognize their errors, and obtain the same saving knowledge.—My strength. Comp. Ps. 28:7, 8; 59:17; 2 Sam. 22:3.—Heathen [lit., nations.—S. R. A.] Even this word shows that it is not the tribes of Israel that are meant. (MEIER).—Falsehood only. Comp. 10:14; 51:17.—Our fathers inherited. The expression is still stronger than if it had been we inherited. The tradition is false from the very beginning.—Profiteth. Comp. Isai. 44:10; Jer. 2:8, 11.—Should a man. The words of the heathen in which they themselves set forth the vanity of the idols. Manufactured gods are on this very account no gods. The sentence and they are not gods is to be taken in a causal sense. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 109, 4.

Jer 16:21. Therefore behold … my name Jehovah. From the connection the prophet’s object cannot be to give instruction concerning the future conversion of the heathen. He only wishes, by the good which he says of the heathen, to set the folly of Israel in a clearer light. We are therefore after the sentences “I come to thee,” and “the heathen will come to thee” to supply: but Israel comes not to thee. There is a reference to this thought in therefore. Because Israel has not the knowledge which he might long have had, as well as, or better than the heathen will have it in the future, the Lord will this once impart it to them.—This once (comp. 10:18) like the first time in Jer 16:18, refers to the impending first catastrophe of the theocracy by the Chaldeans. Israel is to feel the hand of the Lord, and thus learn to understand the significance of His name. The prophet evidently alludes to Exod. 3:14. We perceive in what sense the understanding of the name is meant, from the words “I will teach them to know (i. e., to experience, to feel) My hand and My might,” in comparison with the expression הֶבֶל, which is used of the idols in Jer 16:19. By that visitation, namely, will Jehovah manifest Himself as the Really Existent (this point from the connection is evidently here brought into the foreground) in opposition to the non-existent deities, and thus bring Israel to the consciousness that he has certainly sinned in worshipping other gods together with Jehovah. Comp. Isai. 52:6, coll. Jer. 23:27; Exod. 6:3.

[“This passage (16:19–17:14) is appointed as the Haphtorah, or Proper Prophetical Lesson, to Lev. 26:3–27:34, where God declares the vanity of idols, and the blessings of faith, repentance and obedience.” WORDSWORTH.—S. R. A.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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