Exhortations and promises. (1-2) Judah exhorted to repentance. (3-4) Judgements denounced. (5-18) The approaching ruin of Judah. (19-31)
Verses 1-2 The first two verses should be read with the last chapter. Sin must be put away out of the heart, else it is not put away out of God's sight, for the heart is open before him.
Verses 3-4 An unhumbled heart is like ground untilled. It is ground which may be improved; it is our ground let out to us; but it is fallow; it is over-grown with thorns and weeds, the natural product of the corrupt heart. Let us entreat the Lord to create in us a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within us; for except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Verses 5-18 The fierce conqueror of the neighbouring nations was to make Judah desolate. The prophet was afflicted to see the people lulled into security by false prophets. The approach of the enemy is described. Some attention was paid in Jerusalem to outward reformation; but it was necessary that their hearts should be washed, in the exercise of true repentance and faith, from the love and pollution of sin. When lesser calamities do not rouse sinners and reform nations, sentence will be given against them. The Lord's voice declares that misery is approaching, especially against wicked professors of the gospel; when it overtakes them, it will be plainly seen that the fruit of wickedness is bitter, and the end is fatal.
Verses 19-31 The prophet had no pleasure in delivering messages of wrath. He is shown in a vision the whole land in confusion. Compared with what it was, every thing is out of order; but the ruin of the Jewish nation would not be final. Every end of our comforts is not a full end. Though the Lord may correct his people very severely, yet he will not cast them off. Ornaments and false colouring would be of no avail. No outward privileges or profession, no contrivances would prevent destruction. How wretched the state of those who are like foolish children in the concerns of their souls! Whatever we are ignorant of, may the Lord make of good understanding in the ways of godliness. As sin will find out the sinner, so sorrow will, sooner or later, find out the secure.
Jeremiah 4:1-31 . CONTINUATION OF ADDRESS TO THE TEN TRIBES OF ISRAEL. ( Jeremiah 4:1 Jeremiah 4:2 ). THE PROPHET TURNS AGAIN TO JUDAH, TO WHOM HE HAD ORIGINALLY BEEN SENT ( Jeremiah 4:3-31 ).
1. return . . . return--play on words. "If thou wouldest return to thy land (thou must first), return (by conversion and repentance) to Me."
not remove--no longer be an unsettled wanderer in a strange land. So Cain ( Genesis 4:12 Genesis 4:14 ).
2. And thou--rather, "And if (carried on from Jeremiah 4:1 ) thou shalt swear, 'Jehovah liveth,' in truth, &c.", that is, if thou shalt worship Him (for we swear by the God whom we worship; compare Deuteronomy 6:13 , 10:20 , Isaiah 19:18 , Amos 8:14 ) in sincerity, &c.
and the nations--Rather, this is apodosis to the "if"; then shall the nations bless themselves in (by) Him" ( Isaiah 65:16 ). The conversion of the nations will be the consequence of Israel's conversion ( Psalms 102:13 Psalms 102:15 , Romans 11:12 Romans 11:15 ).
3. Transition to Judah. Supply mentally. All which (the foregoing declaration as to Israel) applies to Judah.
and Jerusalem--that is, and especially the men of Jerusalem, as being the most prominent in Judea.
Break . . . fallow ground--that is, Repent of your idolatry, and so be prepared to serve the Lord in truth ( Hosea 10:12 , Matthew 13:7 ). The unhumbled heart is like ground which may be improved, being let out to us for that purpose, but which is as yet fallow, overgrown with weeds, its natural product.
4. Remove your natural corruption of heart ( Deuteronomy 10:16 , 30:6 , Romans 2:29 , Colossians 2:11 ).
5. cry, gather together--rather, "cry fully" that is, loudly. The Jews are warned to take measures against the impending Chaldean invasion (compare Jeremiah 8:14 ).
6. Zion--The standard toward Zion intimated that the people of the surrounding country were to fly to it, as being the strongest of their fortresses.
7. lion--Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans ( Jeremiah 2:15 , 5:6 , Daniel 7:14 ).
his thicket--lair; Babylon.
destroyer of the Gentiles--rather, "the nations" ( Jeremiah 25:9 ).
8. Nothing is left to the Jews but to bewail their desperate condition.
anger . . . not turned back--( Isaiah 9:12 Isaiah 9:17 Isaiah 9:21 ).
9. heart--The wisdom of the most leading men will be utterly at a loss to devise means of relief.
10. thou hast . . . deceived--God, having even the false prophets in His hands, is here said to do that which for inscrutable purposes He permits them to do ( Exodus 9:12 , 2 Thessalonians 2:11 ; compare Jeremiah 8:15 ; which passage shows that the dupes of error were self-prepared for it, and that God's predestination did not destroy their moral freedom as voluntary agents). The false prophets foretold "peace," and the Jews believed them; God overruled this to His purposes ( Jeremiah 5:12 , 14:13 , Ezekiel 14:9 ).
soul--rather, "reacheth to the life."
11. dry wind--the simoom, terrific and destructive, blowing from the southeast across the sandy deserts east of Palestine. Image of the invading Babylonian army ( Hosea 13:15 ). Babylon in its turn shall be visited by a similar "destroying wind" ( Jeremiah 51:1 ).
of . . . high places--that is, that sweeps over the high places.
daughter--that is, the children of my people.
not to fan--a very different wind from those ordinary winds employed for fanning the grain in the open air.
12. full . . . from those places--rather, "a wind fuller (that is, more impetuous) than those winds" (which fan the corn) ( Jeremiah 4:11 ) [ROSENMULLER].
unto me--"for Me," as My instrument for executing My purpose.
sentence--judgments against them ( Jeremiah 1:16 ).
13. clouds--continuing the metaphor in Jeremiah 4:11:12 . Clouds of sand and dust accompany the simoom, and after rapid gyrations ascend like a pillar.
eagles--( Deuteronomy 28:49 , Habakkuk 1:8 ).
Woe unto us--The people are graphically presented before us, without it being formally so stated, bursting out in these exclamations.
14. Only one means of deliverance is left to the Jews--a thorough repentance.
vain thoughts--namely, projects for deliverance, such as enlisting the Egyptians on their side. GESENIUS translates, "How long wilt thou harbor vain thoughts?"
15. For . . . from Dan--The connection is: There is danger in delay; for the voice of a messenger announces the approach of the Chaldean enemy from Dan, the northern frontier of Palestine ( Jeremiah 8:16 ; compare Jeremiah 4:6 , Jeremiah 1:14 ).
Mount Ephraim--which borders closely on Judah; so that the foe is coming nearer and nearer. Dan and Beth-el in Ephraim were the two places where Jeroboam set up the idolatrous calves ( 1 Kings 12:29 ); just retribution.
16. The neighboring foreign "nations" are summoned to witness Jehovah's judgments on His rebel people ( Jeremiah 6:18 Jeremiah 6:19 ).
watchers--that is, besiegers (compare 2 Samuel 11:16 ); observed or watched, that is, besieged.
their voice--the war shout.
17. keepers of a field--metaphor from those who watch a field, to frighten away the wild beasts.
18. ( Jeremiah 2:17 Jeremiah 2:19 , Psalms 107:17 ).
this is thy wickedness--that is, the fruit of thy wickedness.
19. The prophet suddenly assumes the language of the Jewish state personified, lamenting its affliction ( Jeremiah 10:19 Jeremiah 10:20 , Jeremiah 9:1 Jeremiah 9:10 , Isaiah 15:5 ; compare Luke 19:41 ).
at my very heart--Hebrew, "at the walls of my heart"; the muscles round the heart. There is a climax, the "bowels," the pericardium, the "heart" itself.
maketh . . . noise--moaneth [HENDERSON].
alarm--the battle shout.
20. Destruction . . . cried--Breach upon breach is announced ( Psalms 42:7 , Ezekiel 7:26 ). The war "trumpet" . . . the battle shout . . . the "destructions" . . . the havoc throughout "the whole land" . . . the spoiling of the shepherds "tents" ( Jeremiah 10:20 ; or, "tents" means cities, which should be overthrown as easily as tents [CALVIN]), form a gradation.
21. Judah in perplexity asks, How long is this state of things to continue?
22. Jehovah's reply; they cannot be otherwise than miserable, since they persevere in sin. The repetition of clauses gives greater force to the sentiment.
wise . . . evil . . . to do good . . . no knowledge--reversing the rule ( Romans 16:19 ) "wise unto . . . good, simple concerning evil."
23. Graphic picture of the utter desolation about to visit Palestine. "I beheld, and lo!" four times solemnly repeated, heightens the awful effect of the scene (compare Isaiah 24:19 , 34:11 ).
without form and void--reduced to the primeval chaos ( Genesis 1:2 ).
24. mountains--( Isaiah 5:25 ).
moved lightly--shook vehemently.
25. no man . . . birds--No vestige of the human, or of the feathered creation, is to be seen ( Ezekiel 38:20 , Zephaniah 1:3 ).
26. fruitful place--Hebrew, Carmel.
a wilderness--Hebrew, "the wilderness," in contrast to "the fruitful place"; the great desert, where Carmel was, there is now the desert of Arabia [MAURER].
cities--in contrast to the fruitful place or field.
27. full end--utter destruction: I will leave some hope of restoration ( Jeremiah 5:10 Jeremiah 5:18 , 30:11 , 46:28 ; compare Leviticus 26:44 ).
28. For this--on account of the desolations just described ( Isaiah 5:30 , Hosea 4:3 ).
not repent--( Numbers 23:19 ).
29. whole city--Jerusalem: to it the inhabitants of the country had fled for refuge; but when it, too, is likely to fall, they flee out of it to hide in the "thickets." HENDERSON translates, "every city."
noise--The mere noise of the hostile horsemen shall put you to flight.
30. when thou art spoiled--rather, "thou, O destroyed one" [MAURER].
rentest . . . face with painting--Oriental women paint their eyes with stibium, or antimony, to make them look full and sparkling, the black margin causing the white of the eyes to appear the brighter by contrast ( 2 Kings 9:30 ). He uses the term "distendest" in derision of their effort to make their eyes look large [MAURER]; or else, "rentest," that is, dost lacerate by puncturing the eyelid in order to make the antimony adhere [ROSENMULLER]. So the Jews use every artifice to secure the aid of Egypt against Babylon.
face--rather, thy eyes ( Ezekiel 23:40 ).
31. anguish--namely, occasioned by the attack of the enemy.
daughter of Zion--There is peculiar beauty in suppressing the name of the person in trouble, until that trouble had been fully described [HENDERSON].
bewaileth herself--rather, "draweth her breath short" [HORSLEY]; "panteth."
spreadeth . . . hands--( Lamentations 1:17 ).