Jeremiah 16
Pulpit Commentary
The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying,
Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.
Verse 2. - Thou shalt not take thee a wife. So St. Paul, "I think therefore that this is good by reason of the present distress, namely, that it is good for a man to be as he is (1 Corinthians 7:26, Revised Version); and Hosea has already drawn an awful picture of "Ephraim bringing forth his children to the murderer" (Hosea 9:9). In ordinary times it was a kind of unwritten law among the Israelites to marry and beget children. Most of the prophets (e.g. Isaiah) appear to have been married. In this place; i.e. in the land of Judah. A Jeremianic phrase (comp. Jeremiah 7:3).
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.
Verse 4. - Grievous deaths; literally, deaths of sicknesses; i.e. all kinds of painful deaths, including (as Jeremiah 14:18 shows) death by starvation. They shall not be lamented. The absence of sepulture has already been pointed to several times as a feature of the horror of the times (Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 14:16; comp. Jeremiah 7:33), but this is a new and affecting touch. Dr. Payne Smith aptly refers to the plagues of Athens and London, in which the gentler elements of human nature were for the time almost extinguished.
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.
Verse 5. - Compare this prohibition with that given to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 24:15-27), The house of mourning; literally, cf. screaming (an uncommon word, only occurring again - of banqueters - in Amos 6:7). It is, no doubt, the wail of mourning relatives which is meant.
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:
Verse 6. - Nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald. Both practices are forbidden in the Law (Deuteronomy 14:1; Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5), but the prohibition was at any rate unknown to the masses (see, for the former, Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 47:5; and for the latter, Jeremiah 47:5; Isaiah 22:12, "The Lord Jehovah called... to baldness;" Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16; Ezekiel 7:18). St. Jerome remarks, and incidentally gives a valuable evidence of the tenacity of primitive customs, "Mos hic fuit apud veteres, et usque hodie in quibusdam permanet Judaerum, ut in luctibus incidant lacertos," etc.
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.
Verse 7. - Tear themselves for them. The verb is used in Isaiah 58:7 of breaking bread (the accusative is there expressed), and there is no doubt that this is the meaning here. The only question is whether lahem, for them, should not rather be lekhem, bread (this was read by the Septuagint, Peshito, Vulgate, Targnm). St. Jerome sees here an allusion to the funeral feasts (comp. the parentalia), and surely he is right. The Jews had a conception of the nature of the life of the other world only less distinct than that of their Egyptian neighbors. The funeral feast was not merely for the living, but for the dead. Indeed, it was primarily intended for the spiritual nourish-merit of those who had gone before to the unseen world (comp. Bonwick, 'Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought,' p. 48). Chardin, the old traveler, asserts that "the Oriental Christians still make banquets of this kind by a custom derived from the Jews." The cup of consolation. It would seem as if the funeral feasts had dwindled among the Jews into little more than a refection for the benefit of the mourners.
Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink.
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.
Verse 9. - The voice of mirth, etc.; a striking deaf, on, repeated from Jeremiah 7:34.
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?
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:
Verse 12. - Imagination; rather, stubbornness (Jeremiah 3:17).
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.
Verse 13. - A grim irony. In me foreign land ye shall serve your idols to your hearts' content, day and night if ye will, "because, [not, where] I will not have mercy upon you" (by delivering you, and so calling you from your idols).
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;
Verses 14, 15. - The text of these verses occurs in a more characteristic form and in a bettor connection in Jeremiah 23:7, 8. The connection here would be improved by insorting the passage before Ver. 18; and as displacements are not unfamiliar phenomena in manuscripts, this would not be a violent act. The difficulty is not m the therefore introducing the promise, which frequently occurs in prophecies immediately after threatenings (e.g., Isaiah 10:23, 24), as if to say, "Things being in such a miserable plight, your God will interpose to help you;" but in the position of Ver. 18. How can the prophet say, "And first I will recompense their iniquity double," when Vers. 16, 17 contain a description of this very double recompense?
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.
Verses 16, 17. - I will send for should rather be, I will send. Fishers and hunters, by a divinely given impulse, shall "fish" and "hunt" the unhappy fugitives from their lurking-places. There may, perhaps, be an allusion to the cruel ancient practice of "sweeping the country with a drag-net" (Herod, 3:149), and then destroying the male population: Samos, e.g. was thus "netted" and depopulated by the Persians. Habakkuk may also refer to this when he says (Habakkuk 1:15), "They catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag."
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.
Verse 18. - First - i.e. before "I bring them back again into their land" - I will recompense... double; i.e. amply, in full measure (comp. Jeremiah 17:18; Isaiah 40:2; Revelation 18:6). With the carcasses, etc. The idols, which "defile the consciences" of those who worship them, are compared to the most unclean and loathsome objects.
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.
Verse 19. - O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, etc. Jeremiah falls into the tone of the psalmists (Psalm 18:2; Psalm 28:8; Psalm 59:17). All that is choicest and most permanent in Old Testament religion finds its adequate lyric expression in the Book of Psalms. The Gentiles shall some unto thee. The article, however, is not expressed. "Nations." i.e. a crowd of peoples, hitherto ignorant of the true God, shall hasten to the scene of Jehovah's great interposition; they have been convinced by Israel's unlooked-for restoration of the unique divinity of Jehovah.
Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?
Verse 20. - But the Jews of this generation, in spite of the manifold proofs of the true religion which have been vouchsafed to them, are deserting the real divinity for the unreal. In a tone of surprise the prophet exclaims, Shall a man make gods unto himself, etc.?
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.
Verse 21. - The final answer of Jehovah. There will be no further grace-time. I will this once cause them to know; rather, I will this time (comp. on Jeremiah 10:18) cause them to acknowledge. The judgment which Jeremiah has had the sad duty of announcing will prove to the blinded Jews that Jehovah alone is true God, alone can strike and heal.

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