Matthew Poole's 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!The prophet’s lamentation continueth over their adultery, deceit, idolatry, which God would certainly punish, and they should be laid waste, when they should sufficiently lament, Jeremiah 9:1-22. No trust in ourselves, but in God, who will punish all nations, Jeremiah 9:23-26.
Oh that my head were waters! Heb. Who will give, &c.? by way of inquiry, because the Hebrews do want the imperative mood. The prophet in this chapter principally bewailing his poor countrymen’s calamity, whom Its therefore calls
the daughter of his people, he expresseth the greatness and excess of his sorrows, by wishing that his brains were as it were dissolved into water, (for the word is singular,) as if he wished it were all one water, signifying plenty, and that his eyes might distil tears like a fountain; the same word in the Hebrew for eye signifies a fountain; noting the continuance of it, as not to be drawn dry, expressed by day and night, apprehending it a misery so great, as never sufficiently to be bewailed. See Luke 19:41.
The slain; or that are to be slain, viz. by the Babylonians; a prophetical style; as sure to be slain as if they were slain already.
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.He proceeds in his lamentation, which in the former verse he did, by way of compassion, in this in a way of indignation, Wishing for some retiring place, or sorry shed, or night cottage; See Poole "Isaiah 24:20"; though it were but some mean and sorry lint in the wilderness, as David, Psalm 55:6,7, such as might but shelter him from the injuries of the weather: LXX., in some remotest station or corner, where he might not be an eye-witness of their miseries to grieve him so at the heart, Psalm 119:136,158; see 2 Peter 2:7,8; and where he might hope to find better entertainment from the savage beasts than from his own countrymen.
They be all adulterers, i.e. for the most part, Jeremiah 5:8, both properly and metaphorically, being full of idolatrous practices; or, there is no integrity found among them.
An assembly of treacherous men; that deal perfidiously with God and man in all the concerns they are conversant about, Isaiah 1:4. And though the word here for assembly is most ordinarily used for a holy assembly, Leviticus 23:36 Numbers 29:35, which causeth some to understand it of their being most vile when they should be most devout; yet here it most naturally signifies a kind of combination among them, as such that have conspired one among another to act all manner of villanies.
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.Bend, Heb. tread, because bows are usually kneeled or trod upon when they are bent, Jeremiah 1 14 51:3.
Like their bow; their tongues are here compared to a bow, and lies to arrows, because as a bow shoots out arrows, so doth the tongue words, Psalm 64:3.
For lies, i.e. all reproachful, false, and noxious words, to the damage of one another; and so bending may be preparing, framing, and contriving that mischief which they purpose to vent with their tongues, Psalm 52:2-4 64:3, as bending is preparing the bow to do execution with the arrow.
They are not valiant for the truth; equity, justice; they are as eager in the ways of falsehood as men engaged in war, but show no valour in maintaining the truth.
Upon the earth, i.e. no truth in the earth in them, as we use to express ourselves; or rather more genuinely in the land wherein they live, they have no courage in what is good.
They proceed from evil to evil; either in kind or in degree; they go on from bad to worse, 2 Timothy 3:13, which speaks little hopes of their repentance; the ground of all which is said here to be, their not knowing of God, as in the next clause, Judges 2:10,11 1 Samuel 2:12. The heart cannot work strongly after God where there be but mean apprehensions of him.
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.Take ye heed every one of his neighbour; better rendered friend, or companion, as 2 Samuel 16:17, and in the next verse; showing the general corruption will be so malignant, that one friend will betray another; no faith in friends.
Will utterly supplant; wholly given to it; Heb. supplanting will supplant; or, treading down treadeth down; trampling them under their feet, noting their oppression, which they exercise all manner of ways, as in the next verse, both by fraud and force. Like the interpretation that Esau puts upon Jacob, Genesis 27:36; not only such as are near in habitation, pretending neighbourhood and friendship; but near in relation, even a
brother will circumvent; no respect to blood, arguing them to be monstrous in nature, putting off humanity. The word is here in allusion to Jacob, who had his name from supplanting; a metaphor taken from the sole of the foot, Genesis 25:26.
Walk with slanders; carrying tales and reports up and down, whether true or false, to the disturbance of the peace of neighbourhood, Jeremiah 6:28, and against the law of God, Leviticus 19:16.
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.They will deceive, Heb. mock, or deride; they are scoffers. They have taught their tongue to speak lies; they have so framed their tongues to it by custom and constant use, that lying is become so familiar to them that they cannot leave it. The same word is applied to the wild ass, used or taught to the wilderness, Jeremiah 2:24 13:23.
Weary themselves to commit iniquity; they use a great deal of industry, diligence, and contrivance in it, Psalm 7:14 Isaiah 5:18. They spare for no labour and feel no weariness in it, whereby they are become expert.
Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit; through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the LORD.This God speaks to the prophet, either to inform him that there is no hope of this people’s reformation, Jeremiah 8:5; therefore he expresseth a deceitful people by the abstract,
deceit, i.e. nothing among them but deceit one to another, and hypocrisy towards me, as Psalm 109:2, and vanity for vain men, Job 35:13; or to caution and advise him how to behave himself among such a people, that he be very wary he be not insnared by them, Jeremiah 12:6.
They refuse to know me; either hoping to shift well enough by their several means they think to use, they are careless of turning to me, Jeremiah 8:5; or by hearkening to their false prophets, who have all along deceived them, they obstinately reject my ways and counsels, Psalm 36:1-4 82:5.
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?I will melt them, and try them; the same metaphor used Jeremiah 6:29; try them by melting them, i.e. either I will try what lesser afflictions will do before I do utterly destroy them; or rather, I will bring judgment upon them, the fire and fury of the Chaldean war, that shall clear away their dross from among them, and purge away those deceits in which they trust, that fire remnant may be purified, Daniel 11:35; as when the dross is separated from metals, the rest remains pure: see on Isaiah 1:25. How shall I do? q. d. There is no remedy, I have tried all other means, and they have been ineffectual, any people will take no wanting; they are grown to such a height of impiety, that I can do no less, though they are any people, Hosea 6:4. Or God doth expostulate with them, How can you expect that I should treat you otherwise, that have so provoked me, and whose impieties have redounded so much to any dishonour?
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.Their tongue is as an arrow: before, Jeremiah 9:3, it was compared to a bow, i.e. ready prepared, and furnished with materials contriving their wickedness, Psalm 11:2; and here to an arrow shot out, actually executing what they have designed. Some translate it a murdering arrow. It speaketh deceit; never speaking what they mean, that thereby they may the easier deceive the credulous; a double tongue, speaking fair when they mean to destroy, Psalm 55:21, as the next words explain it, intending to do the greatest mischief when they speak fairest.
In heart he layeth his wait, Heb. in midst of him, i.e. in his very inwards, with his whole heart he contrives mischief.
Shall I not visit them for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?See Jeremiah 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.The prophet having, Jeremiah 9:1, taken up a lamentation for the slaughter of the people, he now reassumes it for the desolation of the whole land, every part of it being to be laid waste: see Jeremiah 4:23,26. And it either sets forth the greatness of his grief, that shall reach to he very mountains, as the words may be read; or rather, the cause of his mourning, because he presently adds, for
the habitations of the wilderness. Of the wilderness; plain, or valley, as it often signifies; so the word is used Isaiah 63:13,14; or, pleasant plains. The country of Judea being mountainous, these plains and valleys were their chief places for pasturage, vhich dealt greatly aggravate the devastation; these shall be burnt up, the herbage so burnt that it shall be left utterly barren, like a parched heath, Jeremiah 9:12. The mountains shall not be able to secure them, nor the valleys to feed them. None can pass through them; either there being no path; the LXX. render it, on the paths of the wilderness; or none to pass to and fro, and so leave it desolate; or so parched and waste that none can pass through it, so far are they from being inhabited, Jeremiah 2:6. Neither can men hear the voice of the cattle; there, where once all sorts of cattle and fowls in great plenty where wont to feed and graze, there is not so much as the chirping of a bird, the bleating of a sheep or lowing of an ox to be heard: see Jeremiah 23:10-12 50:3. They are said to be fled and gone; either the enemy hath swept away all, or they have forsaken the land, because there was no food, Jeremiah 12:4. A figurative expression of a universal desolation.
And I will make Jerusalem heaps, and a den of dragons; and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.Heaps, viz. of stones and rubbish.
A den of dragons; noting a desolate place, not any longer fit for fine habitation of mankind, as the next words do speak; but for hideous beasts; as they had made use of the temple for a den of thieves, Jeremiah 7:11. The same also he afterwards threatens on Babylon herself, Jeremiah 51:37.
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?Who is the wise man, that may understand this, viz. the ground of all these evils? q.d. Is there not a wise man among you, that will concern himself and search into the cause of all these threatened judgments, which hath provoked God to so great displeasure? See Hosea 14:9. It is a question that implies there is none, or very few, that consider common calamities in the causes of them; but rather say of judgments, it is a chance, 1 Samuel 6:9.
And the LORD saith, Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;Either this and the next verse refer to the former, viz. because there are none can give the reason why the land perisheth, therefore God will; or else they refer to Jeremiah 9:15,16, as showing the causes of those judgments threatened; for either of the references do not alter the sense: see Jeremiah 5:19: this verse contains negative reasons.
They have forsaken my law; he chargeth them with their apostacy, and refusing to obey his precepts, and conform their conversation to them.
Which I set before them: lest they should plead they were obscure and hard to be understood, therefore he tells them he had made it plain to them, they could not be ignorant of it, except it were out of wilfulness and obstinacy: the like expression Deu 11:32.
But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:Imagination, or stubbornness and obstinacy: see Jeremiah 7:24.
Baalim: see Jeremiah 2:23. The prophet doth not charge them with new crimes, but with their tenacious sticking to their idolatry.
Which their fathers taught them: see Jeremiah 7:18. It seems they might partly thank their education for it, as well as their own natural perverseness: hence we should learn to follow God’s counsel in the Scriptures, and not blindly follow our fathers’ counsel, precepts, or examples, or our own will, which is the worst guide.
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.Even this people: this supplement even shows that it is spoken emphatically, though they be a people that presume to be my peculiar. Wormwood; worms, Dutch Annotations. A plant to purify and cleanse them, say some; but this doth not seem to be spoken in favour to them; therefore rather some poisonous plant, which may agree to any other destructive herb as well as wormwood, and this the Hebrew word doth intimate, to which purpose the
water of gall is mentioned in the next words; both joined together Deu 29:18; possibly the one pointing at their drink, the other at their bread; both metaphorically to be understood, of which see on Jeremiah 8:14.
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.I will scatter them also among the heathen; either you shall wander up and down among strangers, like Cain’s curse; or rather, you shall have no friend abroad, but be sold as so many slaves from person to person.
Whom neither they nor their fathers have known; part of the curse threatened Deu 28:64.
And I will send a sword after them: neither shall this serve their turn, but I will follow them with the sword till they be destroyed; probably meant of those that might escape out of Jerusalem, and flee into Egypt, the Chaldeans should pursue them thither, and either take or slay them there, i.e. such of them as were appointed for destruction; for otherwise they were not all consumed, a full end was not to be made, as is promised, Jeremiah 5:10.
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:Consider ye; either in how sad a condition you are, what circumstances you are under; or rather, bethink yourselves what course to take: and therefore he puts them upon mourning and bewailing their condition, intimated by the following expression.
The mourning women; a sort of persons, and principally women, as more apt for passions in this kind, which they had among them, 2 Chronicles 35:25; whose work it was, either to compose funeral elegies, or panegyrics in praise of the dead, and to act them in some mournful manner, as tearing their hair, and beating their breasts, with other mourning postures, or to sing them in some doleful tone, thereby artificially to provoke and excite both passions and expressions of grief in the friends of the deceased, rather wringing out tears than shedding them, in which probably they made greater seeming lamentations than those that did really mourn, as being most concerned; not that God calls upon them to do this as approving the formality, (though this foolish custom had obtained in most ages and countries,) any more than other customs that were made use of by way of illustration; as the Olympic games, and possibly that practice mentioned 1 Corinthians 15:29; but makes use of it, as being customary, either to excite them to and put them upon true repentance, or to convince them hereby that they were not able themselves sufficiently to bewail so great calamities as were coming upon them, intimating hereby that he would give them occasion for the most unfeigned weeping and lamentation.
Cunning women; such as are most skilful in it, Amos 5:16; wisdom being taken for skill in any arts, as Exodus 31:3, and elsewhere.
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.Let them make haste: as by the calling for their artificial mourners he did intimate the greatness of the misery that was coming upon them, that with all, their art they could not sufficiently bewail it; so here, by making haste, he intimates the near approach of it, that it was even at the doors.
Take up a wailing for us; pitch upon some form of mourning that may be suitable to our condition.
Our eyelids gush out with waters: this and the former are each of them a hyperbolical expression, and yet are too little to bewail the greatness of the judgment, which suits with the prophet’s lamentation, Jeremiah 9:1. The prophet would herein intimate that they that were so stupid as to hear the prophets denouncing their judgments with dry eyes, though he wished them to have been fountains of tears, shall now suddenly feel that they shall have cause enough to send for all the helps, not only real, but artificial, to stir up their mournings.
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.Is heard out of Zion, i.e. Jerusalem, spoken in the present tense, after the prophetical style, being a frequent way of the prophet’s expressing the certainty of a thing. How are we spoiled! how great is our misery! or, how come we to be in such a desolate condition? possibly expressions of the artificial mourners, or rather their real sense of it, now it is all too late.
We are greatly confounded: whether this be the complaint of the country people forced to flee from their habitation to Jerusalem for shelter, or of Jerusalem itself, that could expect no less, it filled them with great consternation, that they who thought their houses should have continued for ever, because of God’s promise, Psalm 132:10, &c., must now forsake them, Leviticus 18:25; either their persons carried out into captivity, or have them utterly demolished by the enemy.
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.Yet, or therefore, hear the word of the Lord, i.e. do not think I speak words out of my own mind or fancy, but what I speak is from the Lord.
O ye women; either those hired women mentioned before, or rather the women of the land; for God would have it not a mercenary, but a real mourning; and he mentioneth women,
1. To upbraid the men with their stupidity.
2. As being more apt to grieve, thereby to express the readiness that he would have the land to be in for mourning.
3. Because of the decay and want there would be of men, as is expressed in the next verse, by reason partly of the slaughter, and partly of the captivity; therefore here is mention of women with reference to children in the next verse, after whom their bowels would yearn; and daughters, either the scholars of the mourning women, or rather, with reference to young men, unto whom they might be given in marriage.
4. Because the female sex is least able to help themselves in a common calamity. Or,
5. Because they would be least solicitous, but would indulge their delicacies, pride, sloth, and wantonness, Isaiah 32:9,11. Every one her neighbour, Heb. a woman her friend; namely, that the grief might spread the further, and become deeper; for affections and passions, of what kind soever, are augmented by company: it notes how large and universal the mourning shall be, Amos 5:16.
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.Death is come up; the unavoidableness of the ruin is expressed metaphorically, Ezekiel 21:14 Jeremiah 6:5, most likely alluding to the violent and universal storming of a city, Jeremiah 5:10, wherein there is no respect had to sex, youth, or age. Several other allusions. See English Annotations. The Chaldeans are here understood by death, as bringing death wherever they come; a metonymy of the effect.
To cut off the children from without; no safety within or without; the enemy shall cut off all, not only those at home, but even those that are conversing or playing in the streets, which most commonly young men and children are, Jeremiah 6:11.
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.Speak, Thus saith the Lord; lest they should think these things would never be, cease not to tell them from me that they shall certainly come to pass, viz. what was said before, and what is said now in this verse (these words, Speak, Thus saith the Lord, being best read in a parenthesis).
The carcasses of men, Heb. a carcass of a man, noting here and there a scattered carcass.
Shall fall as dung upon the open field; as Jezebel was, 2 Kings 9:37, exposed to all contempt, strewed up and down on the superficies of the earth, Heb. face of the field, and be offensive by their stench to all that pass by, Jeremiah 44:12.
As the handful after the harvest man; either laid in heaps by death, as the harvestman doth his cocks of hay or sheaves of corn; or rather, they shall be no more regarded than a few scattered ears that drop out of the reaper’s hand, which either lie on the ground, and are eaten by birds, or trod to dirt by beasts; thus God would pour contempt upon them, which must needs be grievous to so proud a people as the Jews were.
None shall gather them; none shall have so much respect to them, or compassion of them, as to afford burial, Jeremiah 8:2.
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:The Jews did glory in the counsel of their wise men, the strength of the soldiers, and the wealth of their cities; but here God takes them off from their vain confidences, that neither their counsels and policy, Ecclesiastes 9:11, nor their forces and arms, Psalm 33:16,17, nor their wealth or riches, Proverbs 11:4 Ezekiel 7:19, should be able to deliver them from being either destroyed or carried captive by the Chaldeans. In these, or some of these, men are apt to put their confidences, and neglect God their only succour in distress; and therefore he puts them upon that in the next verse.
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.Understandeth and knoweth me: whether we make any curious distinction between understanding God, as if that be more speculative, whereby we rightly apprehend his nature; and knowing God, as if that be more practical, as directing the conversation; we need not here inquire; yet certainly both centre in this, that we so know and understand God as to trust in him and depend on him alone in all conditions.
Which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth; kindness, as it relates to his own people, Psalm 5:12; judgment, with reference to his punishing the wicked; righteousness, namely, as he deals justly and uprightly with both, Psalm 92:15. The meaning here, I conceive is to show God’s orderly governing and disposing of things in the world in his distributive justice, that all things are right and equal.
In these things I delight; both in himself and others, Psalm 11:7.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised;I will punish, viz. by the Babylonians, all them which are circumcised: q.d. Do not think to insist upon your external privilege of circumcision, that you are Abraham’s natural seed, and thereby distinguished from other nations, as you sometimes were wont to do of the temple, that you had God in the midst of you. Do not think that shall privilege you: for you shall see it shall not be long ere I bring the Chaldeans upon those other nations, which either are circumcised in the flesh as well as you, and upon you also, who are uncircumcised in heart as well as they: or whether circumcision was lost, as being cast off by them, and so they were indeed uncircumcised; God tells them they shall fare alike: hence in the next verse he ranks Judah next to Egypt among the other uncircumcised nations; for he looks to the circumcision of the heart, not of the body; to inward worship, not outward only; therefore some read it the circumcised in uncirumcision.
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.In the utmost corners: some refer this to the place of their habitation, as in corners, and remote parts of the wilderness, as it were separated from other nations, and therefore might think themselves furthest remote from danger; but some rather choose to refer it to their manners, as in cutting the corners of their hair, which was forbidden the Jews, Leviticus 19:27. The like description in Jeremiah 25:23.
Uncircumcised in the heart: see the foregoing verse. God regards not the outward sign, but principally respects the circumcision of the heart. Here ends that sermon that began at Jer. vii.