The people are corrected, Jerusalem is destroyed. (1-11) The captives suffer in a foreign land. (12-22) God's loving-kindness, He threatens the enemies of his people. (23-26)
Verses 1-11 Jeremiah wept much, yet wished he could weep more, that he might rouse the people to a due sense of the hand of God. But even the desert, without communion with God, through Christ Jesus, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, must be a place for temptation and evil; while, with these blessings, we may live in holiness in crowded cities. The people accustomed their tongues to lies. So false were they, that a brother could not be trusted. In trading and bargaining they said any thing for their own advantage, though they knew it to be false. But God marked their sin. Where no knowledge of God is, what good can be expected? He has many ways of turning a fruitful land into barrenness for the wickedness of those that dwell therein.
Verses 12-22 In Zion the voice of joy and praise used to be heard, while the people kept close to God; but sin has altered the sound, it is now the voice of lamentation. Unhumbled hearts lament their calamity, but not their sin, which is the cause of it. Let the doors be shut ever so fast, death steals upon us. It enters the palaces of princes and great men, though stately, strongly built, and guarded. Nor are those more safe that are abroad; death cuts off even the children from without, and the young men from the streets. Hearken to the word of the Lord, and mourn with godly sorrow. This alone can bring true comfort; and it can turn the heaviest afflictions into precious mercies.
Verses 23-26 In this world of sin and sorrow, ending soon in death and judgement, how foolish for men to glory in their knowledge, health, strength, riches, or in any thing which leaves them under the dominion of sin and the wrath of God! and of which an account must hereafter be rendered; it will but increase their misery. Those are the true Israel who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Let us prize the distinction which comes from God, and will last for ever. Let us seek it diligently.
Jeremiah 9:1-26 . JEREMIAH'S LAMENTATION FOR THE JEWS' SINS AND CONSEQUENT PUNISHMENT.
1. This verse is more fitly joined to the last chapter, as Jeremiah 9:23 in the Hebrew (compare Isaiah 22:4 , Lamentations 2:11 , 3:48 ).
2. lodging-place--a caravanseral for caravans, or companies travelling in the desert, remote from towns. It was a square building enclosing an open court. Though a lonely and often filthy dwelling, Jeremiah would prefer even it to the comforts of Jerusalem, so as to be removed from the pollutions of the capital ( Psalms 55:7 Psalms 55:8 ).
3. bend . . . tongues . . . for lies--that is, with lies as their arrows; they direct lies on their tongue as their bow ( Psalms 64:3 Psalms 64:4 ).
not valiant for . . . truth--( Jeremiah 7:28 ). MAURER translates, "They do not prevail by truth" or faith ( Psalms 12:4 ). Their tongue, not faith, is their weapon.
upon . . . earth--rather, "in the land."
know not me--( Hosea 4:1 ).
4. supplant--literally, "trip up by the heel" ( Hosea 12:3 ).
walk with slanders--( Jeremiah 6:28 ).
5. weary themselves--are at laborious pains to act perversely [MAURER]. Sin is a hard bondage ( Habakkuk 2:13 ).
6. Thine--God addresses Jeremiah, who dwelt in the midst of deceitful men.
refuse to know me--Their ignorance of God is wilful ( Jeremiah 9:3 , Jeremiah 5:4 Jeremiah 5:5 ).
7. melt . . . try them--by sending calamities on them.
for how shall I do--"What else can I do for the sake of the daughter of My people?" [MAURER], ( Isaiah 1:25 , Malachi 3:3 ).
8. tongue . . . arrow shot out--rather, "a murdering arrow" [MAURER] ( Jeremiah 9:3 ).
speaketh peaceably . . . in heart . . . layeth . . . wait--layeth his ambush [HENDERSON], ( Psalms 55:21 ).
9. ( Jeremiah 5:9 Jeremiah 5:29 ).
10. Jeremiah breaks in upon Jehovah's threats of wrath with lamentation for his desolated country.
mountains--once cultivated and fruitful: the hillsides were cultivated in terraces between the rocks.
habitations of . . . wilderness--rather, "the pleasant herbage (literally, 'the choice parts' of any thing) of the pasture plain." The Hebrew for "wilderness" expresses not a barren desert, but an untilled plain, fit for pasture.
burned up--because no one waters them, the inhabitants being all gone.
none can pass through them--much less inhabit them.
fowl--( Jeremiah 4:25 ).
11. And--omit "And." Jehovah here resumes His speech from Jeremiah 9:9 .
12. Rather, "Who is a wise man? (that is, Whosoever has inspired wisdom, 2 Peter 3:15 ); let him understand this (weigh well the evils impending, and the causes of their being sent); and he to whom the mouth of the Lord hath spoken (that is, whosoever is prophetically inspired), let him declare it to his fellow countrymen," if haply they may be roused to repentance, the only hope of safety.
13. Answer to the "for what the land perisheth" ( Jeremiah 9:12 ).
14. ( Jeremiah 7:24 ).
Baalim--plural of Baal, to express his supposed manifold powers.
fathers taught them--( Galatians 1:14 , 1 Peter 1:18 ). We are not to follow the errors of the fathers, but the authority of Scripture and of God [JEROME].
15. feed--( Jeremiah 8:14 , 23:15 , Psalms 80:5 ).
16. nor their fathers have known--alluding to Jeremiah 9:14 , "Their fathers taught them" idolatry; therefore the children shall be scattered to a land which neither their fathers nor they have known.
send a sword after them--Not even in flight shall they be safe.
17. mourning women--hired to heighten lamentation by plaintive cries baring the breast, beating the arms, and suffering the hair to flow dishevelled ( 2 Chronicles 35:25 , Ecclesiastes 12:5 , Matthew 9:23 ).
cunning--skilled in wailing.
18. ( Jeremiah 14:17 ).
19. The cry of "the mourning women."
dwellings cast us out--fulfilling Leviticus 18:28 , 20:22 . CALVIN translates, "The enemy have cast down our habitations."
20. Yet--rather, "Only" [HENDERSON]. This particle calls attention to what follows.
teach . . . daughters wailing--The deaths will be so many that there will be a lack of mourning women to bewail them. The mothers, therefore, must teach their daughters the science to supply the want.
21. death . . . windows--The death-inflicting soldiery, finding the doors closed, burst in by the windows.
to cut off . . . children from . . . streets--Death cannot be said to enter the windows to cut off the children in the streets, but to cut them off, so as no more to play in the streets without ( Zechariah 8:5 ).
22. saith the Lord--continuing the thread of discourse from Jeremiah 9:20 .
dung--( Jeremiah 8:2 ).
handful . . . none . . . gather them--implying that the handful has been so trodden as to be not worth even the poor gleaner's effort to gather it. Or the Eastern custom may be referred to: the reaper cuts the grain and is followed by another who gathers it. This grain shall not be worth gathering. How galling to the pride of the Jews to hear that so shall their carcasses be trodden contemptuously under foot!
23. wisdom--political sagacity; as if it could rescue from the impending calamities.
24. Nothing but an experimental knowledge of God will save the nation.
understandeth--theoretically; in the intellect.
knoweth--practically: so as to walk in My ways ( Jeremiah 22:16 , Job 22:21 , 1 Corinthians 1:31 ).
loving kindness--God's mercy is put in the first and highest place, because without it we should flee from God in fear and despair.
judgment . . . righteousness--loving-kindness towards the godly; judgment towards the ungodly; righteousness the most perfect fairness in all cases [GROTIUS]. Faithfulness to His promises to preserve the godly, as well as stern execution of judgment on the ungodly, is included in "righteousness."
in the earth--contrary to the dogma of some philosophers, that God does not interfere in terrestrial concerns ( Psalms 58:11 ).
in these . . . I delight--as well in doing them as in seeing them done by others ( Micah 6:8 , 7:18 ).
25. with the uncircumcised--rather, "all that are circumcised in uncircumcision" [HENDERSON]. The Hebrew is an abstract term, not a concrete, as English Version translates, and as the pious "circumcised" is. The nations specified, Egypt, Judah, &c., were outwardly "circumcised," but in heart were "uncircumcised." The heathen nations were defiled, in spite of their literal circumcision, by idolatry. The Jews, with all their glorying in their spiritual privileges, were no better ( Jeremiah 4:4 , Deuteronomy 10:16 , 30:6 , Romans 2:28 Romans 2:29 , Colossians 2:11 ). However, Ezekiel 31:18 , 32:19 , may imply that the Egyptians were uncircumcised; and it is uncertain as to the other nations specified whether they were at that early time circumcised. HERODOTUS says the Egyptians were so; but others think this applies only to the priests and others having a sacred character, not to the mass of the nation; so English Version may be fight ( Romans 2:28 Romans 2:29 ).
26. Egypt--put first to degrade Judah, who, though in privileges above the Gentiles, by unfaithfulness sank below them . . . Egypt, too, was the power in which the Jews were so prone to trust, and by whose instigation they, as well as the other peoples specified, revolted from Babylon.
in the utmost corners--rather, "having the hair shaven (or clipped) in angles," that is, having the beard on the cheek narrowed or cut: a Canaanitish custom, forbidden to the Israelites ( Leviticus 19:27 , 21:5 ). The Arabs are hereby referred to (compare Jeremiah 25:23 , 49:32 ), as the words in apposition show, "that dwell in the wilderness."
uncircumcised . . . uncircumcised in the heart--The addition of "in the heart" in Israel's case marks its greater guilt in proportion to its greater privileges, as compared with the rest.