The remains of the dead exposed. (1-3) The stupidity of the people, compared with the instinct of the brute creation. (4-13) The alarm of the invasion, and lamentation. (14-22)
Verses 1-3 Though no real hurt can be done to a dead body, yet disgrace to the remains of wicked persons may alarm those yet alive; and this reminds us that the Divine justice and punishments extend beyond the grave. Whatever befalls us here, let us humble ourselves before God, and seek his mercy.
Verses 4-13 What brought this ruin? 1. The people would not attend to reason; they would not act in the affairs of their souls with common prudence. Sin is backsliding; it is going back from the way that leads to life, to that which leads to destruction. 2. They would not attend to the warning of conscience. They did not take the first step towards repentance: true repentance begins in serious inquiry as to what we have done, from conviction that we have done amiss. 3. They would not attend to the ways of providence, nor understand the voice of God in them, ver. ( 7 ) . They know not how to improve the seasons of grace, which God affords. Many boast of their religious knowledge, yet, unless taught by the Spirit of God, the instinct of brutes is a more sure guide than their supposed wisdom. 4. They would not attend to the written word. Many enjoy abundance of the means of grace, have Bibles and ministers, but they have them in vain. They will soon be ashamed of their devices. The pretenders to wisdom were the priests and the false prophets. They flattered people in sin, and so flattered them into destruction, silencing their fears and complaints with, All is well. Selfish teachers may promise peace when there is no peace; and thus men encourage each other in committing evil; but in the day of visitation they will have no refuge to flee unto.
Verses 14-22 At length they begin to see the hand of God lifted up. And when God appears against us, every thing that is against us appears formidable. As salvation only can be found in the Lord, so the present moment should be seized. Is there no medicine proper for a sick and dying kingdom? Is there no skilful, faithful hand to apply the medicine? Yes, God is able to help and to heal them. If sinners die of their wounds, their blood is upon their own heads. The blood of Christ is balm in Gilead, his Spirit is the Physician there, all-sufficient; so that the people may be healed, but will not. Thus men die unpardoned and unchanged, for they will not come to Christ to be saved.
Jeremiah 8:1-22 . THE JEW'S COMING PUNISHMENT; THEIR UNIVERSAL AND INCURABLE IMPENITENCE.
1. The victorious Babylonians were about to violate the sanctuaries of the dead in search of plunder; for ornaments, treasures, and insignia of royalty were usually buried with kings. Or rather, their purpose was to do the greatest dishonor to the dead ( Isaiah 14:19 ).
2. spread . . . before the sun, &c.--retribution in kind. The very objects which received their idolatries shall unconcernedly witness their dishonor.
lover . . . served . . . after . . . walked . . . sought . . . worshipped--Words are accumulated, as if enough could not be said fully to express the mad fervor of their idolatry to the heavenly host ( 2 Kings 23:5 ).
nor . . . buried--( Jeremiah 22:19 ).
dung--( Jeremiah 9:22 , Psalms 83:10 ).
3. The survivors shall be still worse off than the dead ( Job 3:21 Job 3:22 , Revelation 9:6 ).
which remain in all the places--"in all places of them that remain, whither I . . . that is, in all places whither I have driven them that remain [MAURER].
4. "Is it not a natural instinct, that if one falls, he rises again; if one turns away (that is, wanders from the way), he will return to the point from which he wandered? Why then does not Jerusalem do so?" He plays on the double sense of return; literal and metaphorical ( Jeremiah 3:12 , 4:1 ).
5. slidden . . . backsliding--rather, as the Hebrew is the same as in Jeremiah 8:4 , to which this verse refers, "turned away with a perpetual turning away."
perpetual--in contrast to the "arise" ("rise again," Jeremiah 8:4 ).
refuse to return--in contrast to, "shall he . . . not return" ( Jeremiah 8:4 , Jeremiah 5:3 ).
6. spake not aright--that is, not so as penitently to confess that they acted wrong. Compare what follows.
every one . . . his course--The Keri reads "course," but the Chetib, "courses." "They persevere in the courses whatever they have once entered on." Their wicked ways were diversified.
horse rusheth--literally, "pours himself forth," as water that has burst its embankment. The mad rapidity of the war horse is the point of comparison ( Job 39:19-25 ).
7. The instinct of the migratory birds leads them with unfailing regularity to return every spring from their winter abodes in summer climes ( Solomon 2:12 ); but God's people will not return to Him even when the winter of His wrath is past, and He invites them back to the spring of His favor.
in the heaven--emphatical. The birds whose very element is the air, in which they are never at rest, yet show a steady sagacity, which God's people do not.
times--namely, of migrating, and of returning.
my people--This honorable title aggravates the unnatural perversity of the Jews towards their God.
know not, &c.--( Jeremiah 5:4 Jeremiah 5:5 , Isaiah 1:3 ).
8. law . . . with us--( Romans 2:17 ). Possessing the law, on which they prided themselves, the Jews might have become the wisest of nations; but by their neglecting its precepts, the law became given "in vain," as far as they were concerned.
scribes--copyists. "In vain" copies were multiplied. MAURER translates, "The false pen of the scribes hath converted it [the law] into a lie." See Margin, which agrees with Vulgate.
what wisdom--literally, "the wisdom of what?" that is, "wisdom in what respect?" the Word of the Lord being the only true source of wisdom ( Psalms 119:98-100 , Proverbs 1:7 , 9:10 ).
10-12. Repeated from Jeremiah 6:12-15 . See a similar repetition, Jeremiah 8:15 , Jeremiah 14:19 .
inherit--succeed to the possession of them.
11. ( Ezekiel 13:10 ).
13. surely consume--literally, "gathering I will gather," or "consuming I will consume."
no grapes . . . nor figs--( Joel 1:7 , Matthew 21:19 ).
things that I have given . . . shall pass away--rather, "I will appoint to them those who shall overwhelm (pass over) them," that is, I will send the enemy upon them [MAURER]. English Version accords well with the context; Though their grapes and figs ripen, they shall not be allowed to enjoy them.
14. assemble--for defense.
let us be silent--not assault the enemy, but merely defend ourselves in quiet, until the storm blow over.
put us to silence--brought us to that state that we can no longer resist the foe; implying silent despair.
water of gall--literally, "water of the poisonous plant," perhaps the poppy ( Jeremiah 9:15 , 23:15 ).
15. Repeated ( Jeremiah 14:19 ).
We looked for--owing to the expectations held out by the false prophets.
health--healing; that is, restoration from adversity.
16. his horses--the Chaldean's.
was heard--the prophetical past for the future.
from Dan--bordering on Phoenicia. This was to be Nebuchadnezzar's route in invading Israel; the cavalry in advance of the infantry would scour the country.
strong ones--a poetical phrase for steeds, peculiar to Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 47:3 ; compare Jeremiah 4:13 Jeremiah 4:29 , 6:23 ).
cockatrices--basilisks ( Isaiah 11:8 ), that is, enemies whose destructive power no means, by persuasion or otherwise, can counteract. Serpent-charmers in the East entice serpents by music, and by a particular pressure on the neck render them incapable of darting ( Psalms 58:4 Psalms 58:5 ).
18. ( Isaiah 22:4 ). The lamentation of the prophet for the impending calamity of his country.
against sorrow--or, with respect to sorrow. MAURER translates, "Oh, my exhilaration as to sorrow!" that is, "Oh, that exhilaration ('comfort', from an Arabic root, to shine as the rising sun) would shine upon me as to my sorrow!"
in me--within me.
19. The prophet in vision hears the cry of the exiled Jews, wondering that God should have delivered them up to the enemy, seeing that He is Zion's king, dwelling in her ( Micah 3:11 ). In the latter half of the verse God replies that their own idolatry, not want of faithfulness on His part, is the cause.
because of them that dwell in a far country--rather, "from a land of distances," that is, a distant land ( Isaiah 39:3 ). English Version understands the cry to be of the Jews in their own land, because of the enemy coming from their far-off country.
strange vanities--foreign gods.
20. Proverbial. Meaning: One season of hope after another has passed, but the looked-for deliverance never came, and now all hope is gone.
21. black--sad in visage with grief ( Joel 2:6 ).
22. balm--balsam; to be applied to the wounds of my people. Brought into Judea first from Arabia Felix, by the queen of Sheba, in Solomon's time [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 8.2]. The opobalsamum of PLINY; or else [BOCHART] the resin drawn from the terebinth. It abounded in Gilead, east of Jordan, where, in consequence, many "physicians" established themselves ( Jeremiah 46:11 , 51:8 , Genesis 37:25 , 43:11 ).
health . . . recovered--The Hebrew is literally, "lengthening out . . . gone up"; hence, the long bandage applied to bind up a wound. So the Arabic also [GESENIUS].