The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.
Verse 1. - The dearth; rather, the drought, or, more literally, the droughts, the plural being used to indicate the length of time the drought lasted.
Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.
Verse 2. - The tenses in the following description should be perfects and presents; the Authorized Version, by its inconsistency, destroys the unity of the picture. The gates thereof; i.e. the people assembled there. They are black unto the ground. "To be black," in Hebrew, is "to be dressed in mourning" (so e.g., Psalm 35:14, "I bowed down in black"). Here we must understand the same verb which is expressed in the psalm, "They bowed down in mourning attire to the ground." "Black," however, is not to be taken literally; it means rather "squalid, unwashed" (of garments).
And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.
Verse 3. - Their nobles - i.e. the upper classes of Judah and Jerusalem - have sent their little ones; rather, their mean ones; i.e. their servants, or perhaps (as Naegelsbach and Payne Smith) simply, "the common people;" it was not a matter concerning the rich alone. To the pits; i.e. to the cisterns. Covered their heads; a sign of the deepest mourning (2 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 19:4; Esther 6:12).
Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.
Verse 4. - The ground is chapt. Perhaps: but it is more obvious to render, is dismayed, according to the usual meaning of the word. Words which properly belong to human beings are often, by a "poetic fallacy," applied to inanimate objects (as in Ver. 2). In the earth; rather, in the land.
Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.
Verse 5. - Even the animals starve. Yea, the hind also. The hind, contrary to that intense natural affection for which she was famous among the ancients, abandons her young.
And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.
Verse 6. - The wild asses... in the high places; rather, on the bare heights. "The wild asses," says a traveler cited by Rosenmüller," are especially fond of treeless mountains." Like dragons; render rather, like jackals (as Jeremiah 9:11; 10:22). The allusion is to the way jackals hold their head as they howl. We are told that even the keen eyes of the wild asses fail, because there was [is] no grass; rather, herbage. They grow dim first with seeking it so long in vain, and then from lack of nourishment.
O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.
Verse 7. - The intercession of Jeremiah begins. Do thou it; a pregnant expression, equivalent to "act gloriously" (as Psalm 22:31; Isaiah 44:23); For thy name's sake. Jehovah s" Name pledges him to be merciful to his people, and not to make a full end of them, even when they have offended (comp." Our Redeemer was thy name from of old" Isaiah 63:16).
O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?
Verse 8. - How pathetic a supplication! Jehovah will surely not be as a stranger in the land - the strangers, or" sojourners," like the μέτοικοι, enjoyed no civic rights, and consequently had no interest in the highest concerns of the state, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside - or perhaps, pitcketh his tent; for the traveler in Palestine doubtless carried his tent with him then as now - to tarry for a night. With the latter figure compare the beautiful comparison of the hope of the ungodly to "the remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but a day" (Wisd. 5:14).
Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not.
Verse 9. - As a man astonished; rather (comparing the Arabic dahama), as one struck dumb. But Dr. Payne Smith, with much reason, is more than half inclined to follow the Septuagint reading, equivalent to "as one in a deep sleep." Leave us not; literally, lay us not down; as if a burden of which the bearer is tired.
Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.
Verses 10-16. - The answer of Jehovah. Verse 10. - Thus have they loved to wander, ... therefore the Lord doth not accept them; i.e. with such pertinacity have they been set upon "wandering" (roving lawlessly about), that the Lord hath no more pleasure in them. "Therefore," is, literally, and. "Thus," or "so," is used in the same sense as in 1 Kings 10:12, which runs literally, "... there came not so [abundantly] among timber." The particle of comparison has given much occupation to the commentators (see Payne Smith's note), but the above view is at once simple and suitable to the context; for Jeremiah has already admitted that "our backslidings are multiplied" (Ver. 7). The Lord doth not, etc. (to the end of the verse), is quoted verbatim from Hosea 8:13. Jeremiah puts conspicuous honor on the older inspired writers; he has no craving for originality. Nearly all has been said already; what he has to do is chiefly to adapt and to apply, He will now remember, etc. The emphasis is on "now" Nothing is more remarkable in the prophets than the stress laid on the unerring justness of the time chosen for Divine interpositions. When the iniquity is fully ripe, it as it were attracts the punishment, which till then is laid up in store (comp. Genesis 15:16; Isaiah 18:5; Isaiah 33:10).
Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.
When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.
Verse 12. - Their cry. The word is very forcible; it is the shriek in which an unsophisticated man gives vent to his pain and grief. An oblation. It is the vegetable offering (Authorized Version, "meat offering;" Luther, "speisopfer") which is referred to in the so-called minkhah (literally, gift). Though sometimes offered separately, it regularly accompanied a burnt offering. I will not accept them. Dr. Payne Smith tries to soften the rejection of these worshippers by the remark that "there is a time when the most genuine repentance avails nothing to avert the temporal consequences of sin." But the analogy of other similar passages (e.g. Isaiah 1:15) warrants the view of Keil that the ground of the rejection of the worship is its heartless formalism and insincerity, which was equally a bar to Jehovah's favor and the prophet's intercession.
Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.
Verse 13. - "Pleading with Providence, the good prophet lays the blame on ill teaching, but the stern answer (Ver. 14), admitting the plea as true, rejects it as inadequate (Ver. 14), and denounces sorrows which (Vers. 17-22) the prophet passionately deprecates" (Rowland Williams). Ah, Lord God! rather, Alas! O Lord Jehovah (see on Jeremiah 1:6). The prophets say unto them. The greater part of the prophetic order had not kept pace with its more spiritual members (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.). They still traded on those natural gifts of divination (Micah 3:6) which were, no doubt, where genuine, of Divine origin, but which, even then, needed to be supplemented and controlled by a special impulse from the Spirit of holiness. Jeremiah, however, declares, on the authority of a revelation, that these prophets did not divine by any God-given faculty, but "the deceit of their own heart" (Ver. 14). The Deuteronomic Torah, discovered after a period of concealment at the outset of Jeremiah's ministry, energetically forbids the practice of the art of divination (Deuteronomy 18:10).
Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.
Verse 14. - A thing of naught. The word, however, is collective, and means all the various futile means adopted for prying into the future.
Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.
And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.
Verse 16. - I will pour their wickedness; i.e. the fruits of their wickedness (comp. Jeremiah 2:19, "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee").
Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.
Verses 17-21. - The prophet's grief, and second intercession. Verse 17. - Therefore thou shalt say, etc. There is something strange and contrary to verisimilitude in the prefixing of this formula, not to a Divine revelation, but to a mere expression of the pained human feelings of the prophet. It is possible that the editor of Jeremiah's prophecies thought the paragraph which begins here needed something to link it with the preceding passage, and selected his formula rather unsuitably. Let mine eyes run down, etc. (comp. Jeremiah 13:27). Jeremiah's tender compassion shows itself in his choice of the expression, the virgin daughter of my people, just as we feel an added bitterness in the premature death of a cherished maiden.
If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not.
Verse 18. - A picture of the state of things after the capture of Jerusalem: the slain without, the famine-stricken within. The latter are described allusively as "sicknesses of famine" (so literally). As a peculiarly striking evidence of the downfall of greatness, it is added that even prophet and priest have to go about into a land that they know not. The verb used here can obviously not have its ordinary sense of going about for purposes of traffic. Aramaic usage suggests, however, a suitable meaning; what the prophet sketches before us is a company of these ex-grandees "begging their way" into an unknown land.
Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!
Verse 19. - We looked for peace, etc.; a repetition of Jeremiah 8:15.
We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.
Verse 20. - Our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers. There is a mysterious connection between the sin of the past and of the present. So in another prophet we read, "Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together [will I requite]."
Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.
Verse 21. - The throne of thy glory; i.e. the temple (Jeremiah 17:12; Ezekiel 43:7), or Jerusalem (Jeremiah 3:17). It is the same conception where Jehovah is said to "dwell between" [or, 'sit upon'] "the cherubim" (Isaiah 37:16; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 99:1).
Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.
Verse 22. - None of the vanities, or false gods (Jeremiah 3:17), of the heathen can deliver us in this our strait (want of rain). "Rainmakers" is still a common name of soothsayers among savage nations. Thou alone art God, and our God; or, in Jeremiah's phrase (not, Art not thou he, etc.? but) Art thou not Jehovah our God? and the ground of the appeal follows, Jehovah is the Maker of all these things; i.e. all the heavenly phenomena, especially the clouds and the rain.