The invasion of Judea. (1-8) The justice of God's proceedings. (9-17) All methods used to amend them had been without success. (18-30)
Verses 1-8 Whatever methods are used, it is vain to contend with God's judgments. The more we indulge in the pleasures of this life, the more we unfit ourselves for the troubles of this life. The Chaldean army shall break in upon the land of Judah, and in a little time devour all. The day is coming, when those careless and secure in sinful ways will be visited. It is folly to trifle when we have eternal salvation to work out, and the enemies of that salvation to fight against. But they were thus eager, not that they might fulfil God's counsels, but that they might fill their own treasures; yet God thereby served his own purposes. The corrupt heart of man, in its natural state, casts out evil thoughts, just as a fountain casts out her waters. It is always flowing, yet always full. The God of mercy is loth to depart even from a provoking people, and is earnest with them, that by repentance and reformation, they may prevent things from coming to extremity.
Verses 9-17 When the Lord arises to take vengeance, no sinners of any age or rank, or of either sex escape. They were set upon the world, and wholly carried away by the love of it. If we judge of this sin by God's word, we find multitudes in every station and rank given up to it. Those are to be reckoned our worst and most dangerous enemies, who flatter us in a sinful way. Oh that men would be wise for their souls! Ask for the old paths; the way of godliness and righteousness has always been the way God has owned and blessed. Ask for the old paths set forth by the written word of God. When you have found the good way, go on in it, you will find abundant recompence at your journey's end. But if men will not obey the voice of God and flee to his appointed Refuge, it will plainly appear at the day of judgment, that they are ruined because they reject God's word.
Verses 18-30 God rejects their outward services, as worthless to atone for their sins. Sacrifice and incense were to direct them to a Mediator; but when offered to purchase a license to go on in sin, they provoke God. The sins of God's professing people make them an easy prey to their enemies. They dare not show themselves. Saints may rejoice in hope of God's mercies, though they see them only in the promise: sinners must mourn for fear of God's judgments, though they see them only in the threatenings. They are the worst of revolters, and are all corrupters. Sinners soon become tempters. They are compared to ore supposed to have good metal in it, but which proves all dross. Nothing will prevail to part between them and their sins. Reprobate silver shall they be called, useless and worthless. When warnings, corrections, rebukes, and all means of grace, leave men unrenewed, they will be left, as rejected of God, to everlasting misery. Let us pray, then, that we may be refined by the Lord, as silver is refined.
Jeremiah 6:1-30 . ZION'S FOES PREPARE WAR AGAINST HER: HER SINS ARE THE CAUSE.
1. Benjamin--Jerusalem was situated in the tribe of Benjamin, which was here separated from that of Judah by the valley of Hinnom. Though it was inhabited partly by Benjamites, partly by men of Judah, he addresses the former as being his own countrymen.
blow . . . trumpet . . . Tekoa--Tikehu, Tekoa form a play on sounds. The birthplace of Amos.
Beth-haccerem--meaning in Hebrew, "vineyard-house." It and Tekoa were a few miles south of Jerusalem. As the enemy came from the north, the inhabitants of the surrounding country would naturally flee southwards. The fire-signal on the hills gave warning of danger approaching.
2. likened--rather, "I lay waste." Literally, "O comely and delicate one, I lay waste the daughter of Zion," that is, "thee." So Zechariah 3:9 , "before Joshua," that is, "before thee" [MAURER].
3. shepherds--hostile leaders with their armies ( Jeremiah 1:15 , 4:17 , 49:20 , 50:45 ).
feed--They shall consume each one all that is near him; literally, "his hand," that is, the place which he occupies ( Numbers 2:17 ;
4, 5. The invading soldiers encourage one another to the attack on Jerusalem.
Prepare--literally, "Sanctify" war, that is, Proclaim it formally with solemn rites; the invasion was solemnly ordered by God (compare Isaiah 13:3 ).
at noon--the hottest part of the day when attacks were rarely made ( Jeremiah 15:8 , 20:16 ). Even at this time they wished to attack, such is their eagerness.
Woe unto us--The words of the invaders, mourning the approach of night which would suspend their hostile operations; still, even in spite of the darkness, at night they renew the attack ( Jeremiah 6:5 ).
6. cast--Hebrew, "pour out"; referring to the emptying of the baskets of earth to make the mound, formed of "trees" and earthwork, to overtop the city walls. The "trees" were also used to make warlike engines.
this--pointing the invaders to Jerusalem.
visited--that is, punished.
wholly oppression--or join "wholly" with "visited," that is, she is altogether (in her whole extent) to be punished [MAURER].
7. fountain--rather, a well dug, from which water springs; distinct from a natural spring or fountain.
casteth out--causeth to flow; literally, "causeth to dig," the cause being put for the effect ( 2 Kings 21:16 2 Kings 21:24 , Isaiah 57:20 ).
8. Tender appeal in the midst of threats.
depart--Hebrew, "be torn away"; Jehovah's affection making Him unwilling to depart; His attachment to Jerusalem was such that an effort was needed to tear Himself from it ( Ezekiel 23:18;,Hos 9:12 Ezekiel 23:18;,Hos 9:12 , 11:8 ).
9. The Jews are the grapes, their enemies the unsparing gleaners.
turn back . . . hand--again and again bring freshly gathered handfuls to the baskets; referring to the repeated carrying away of captives to Babylon ( Jeremiah 52:28-30 , 2 Kings 24:14 , 25:11 ).
10. ear is uncircumcised--closed against the precepts of God by the foreskin of carnality ( Leviticus 26:41 , Ezekiel 44:7 , Acts 7:51 ).
word . . . reproach--( Jeremiah 20:8 ).
11. fury of . . . Lord--His denunciations against Judah communicated to the prophet.
weary with holding in--( Jeremiah 20:9 ).
I will pour--or else imperative: the command of God (see Jeremiah 6:12 ), "Pour it out" [MAURER].
aged . . . full of days--The former means one becoming old; the latter a decrepit old man [MAURER] ( Job 5:26 , Isaiah 65:20 ).
12. The very punishments threatened by Moses in the event of disobedience to God ( Deuteronomy 28:30 ).
13. ( Jeremiah 8:10 , Isaiah 56:11 , Micah 3:11 ).
14. hurt--the spiritual wound.
slightly--as if it were but a slight wound; or, in a slight manner, pronouncing all sound where there is no soundness.
saying--namely, the prophets and priests ( Jeremiah 6:13 ). Whereas they ought to warn the people of impending judgments and the need of repentance, they say there is nothing to fear.
peace--including soundness. All is sound in the nation's moral state, so all will be peace as to its political state ( Jeremiah 4:10 , 8:11 , 14:13 , 23:17 , Ezekiel 13:5 Ezekiel 13:10 , 22:28 ).
15. ROSENMULLER translates, "They ought to have been ashamed, because . . . but," &c.; the Hebrew verb often expressing, not the action, but the duty to perform it ( Genesis 20:9 , Malachi 2:7 ). MAURER translates, "They shall be put to shame, for they commit abomination; nay (the prophet correcting himself), there is no shame in them" ( Jeremiah 3:3 , 8:12 , Ezekiel 3:7 , Zephaniah 3:5 ).
them that fall--They shall fall with the rest of their people who are doomed to fall, that is, I will now cease from words; I will execute vengeance [CALVIN].
16. Image from travellers who have lost their road, stopping and inquiring which is the right way on which they once had been, but from which they have wandered.
old paths--Idolatry and apostasy are the modern way; the worship of God the old way. Evil is not coeval with good, but a modern degeneracy from good. The forsaking of God is not, in a true sense, a "way cast up" at all ( Jeremiah 18:15 , Psalms 139:24 , Malachi 4:4 ).
rest--( Isaiah 28:12 , Matthew 11:29 ).
17. watchmen--prophets, whose duty it was to announce impending calamities, so as to lead the people to repentance ( Isaiah 21:11 , 58:1 , Ezekiel 3:17 , Habakkuk 2:1 ).
18. congregation--parallel to "nations"; it therefore means the gathered peoples who are invited to be witnesses as to how great is the perversity of the Israelites ( Jeremiah 6:16 Jeremiah 6:17 ), and that they deserve the severe punishment about to be inflicted on them ( Jeremiah 6:19 ).
what is among them--what deeds are committed by the Israelites ( Jeremiah 6:16 Jeremiah 6:17 ) [MAURER]. Or, "what punishments are about to be inflicted on them" [CALVIN].
19. ( Isaiah 1:2 ).
fruit of . . . thoughts--( Proverbs 1:31 ).
nor to my law, but rejected it--literally, "and (as to) My law they have rejected it." The same construction occurs in Genesis 22:24 . Literally, "To what purpose is this to Me, that incense cometh to Me?"
incense . . . cane--( Isaiah 43:24 , 60:6 ). No external services are accepted by God without obedience of the heart and life ( Jeremiah 7:21 , Psalms 50:7-9 , Isaiah 1:11 , Micah 6:6 , &c.).
sweet . . . sweet--antithesis. Your sweet cane is not sweet to Me. The calamus.
21. stumbling-blocks--instruments of the Jews' ruin (compare Matthew 21:44 , Isaiah 8:14 , 1 Peter 2:8 ). God Himself ("I") lays them before the reprobate ( Psalms 69:22 , Romans 1:28 , 11:9 ).
fathers . . . sons . . . neighbour . . . friend--indiscriminate ruin.
22. north . . . sides of the earth--The ancients were little acquainted with the north; therefore it is called the remotest regions (as the Hebrew for "sides" ought to be translated, of the earth. The Chaldees are meant ( Jeremiah 1:15 , 5:15 ). It is striking that the very same calamities which the Chaldeans had inflicted on Zion are threatened as the retribution to be dealt in turn to themselves by Jehovah ( Jeremiah 50:41-43 ).
23. like the sea--( Isaiah 5:30 ).
as men for war--not that they were like warriors, for they were warriors; but "arrayed most perfectly as warriors" [MAURER].
24. fame thereof--the report of them.
25. He addresses "the daughter of Zion" ( Jeremiah 6:23 ); caution to the citizens of Jerusalem not to expose themselves to the enemy by going outside of the city walls,
sword of the enemy--literally "there is a sword to the enemy"; the enemy hath a sword.
26. wallow . . . in ashes--( Jeremiah 25:34 , Micah 1:10 ). As they usually in mourning only "cast ashes on the head," wallowing in them means something more, namely, so entirely to cover one's self with ashes as to be like one who had rolled in them ( Ezekiel 27:30 ).
as for an only son--( Amos 8:10 , Zechariah 12:10 ).
lamentation--literally, "lamentation expressed by beating the breast."
27. tower . . . fortress--( Jeremiah 1:18 ), rather, "an assayer (and) explorer." By a metaphor from metallurgy in Jeremiah 6:27-30 , Jehovah, in conclusion, confirms the prophet in his office, and the latter sums up the description of the reprobate people on whom he had to work. The Hebrew for "assayer" (English Version, "tower") is from a root "to try" metals. "Explorer" (English Version, "fortress") is from an Arabic root, "keen-sighted"; or a Hebrew root, "cutting," that is, separating the metal from the dross [EWALD]. GESENIUS translates as English Version, "fortress," which does not accord with the previous "assayer."
28. grievous revolters--literally "contumacious of the contumacious," that is, most contumacious, the Hebrew mode of expressing a superlative. So "the strong among the mighty," that is, the strongest ( Ezekiel 32:21 ). See Jeremiah 5:23 , Hosea 4:16 .
walking with slanders--( Jeremiah 9:4 ). "Going about for the purpose of slandering" [MAURER].
brass, &c.--that is, copper. It and "iron" being the baser and harder metals express the debased and obdurate character of the Jews ( Isaiah 48:4 , 60:17 ).
29. bellows . . . burned--So intense a heat is made that the very bellows are almost set on fire. ROSENMULLER translates not so well from a Hebrew root, "pant" or "snort," referring to the sound of the bellows blown hard.
lead--employed to separate the baser metal from the silver, as quicksilver is now used. In other words, the utmost pains have been used to purify Israel in the furnace of affliction, but in vain ( Jeremiah 5:3 , 1 Peter 1:7 ).
consumed of the fire--In the Chetib, or Hebrew text, the "consumed" is supplied out of the previous "burned." Translating as ROSENMULLER, "pant," this will be inadmissible; and the Keri (Hebrew Margin) division of the Hebrew words will have to be read, to get "is consumed of the fire." This is an argument for the translation, "are burned."
wicked . . . not plucked away--answering to the dross which has no good metal to be separated, the mass being all dross.
30. Reprobate--silver so full of alloy as to be utterly worthless ( Isaiah 1:22 ). The Jews were fit only for rejection.