Jeremiah 4

1 If you return, Israel, return to me, declares the LORD. If you get rid of your disgusting idols from my presence and wander no more,
2 and if you swear by the living God in truth, justice, and righteousness, then the nations will enjoy God's blessings; they will boast about him.
3 This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and to the residents of Jerusalem: Break up your hard rocky soil; don't plant among the thorns.
4 Dedicate yourselves to the LORD; don't be thick-skinned, people of Judah and residents of Jerusalem, or else my anger will spread like a wildfire. It will burn, with no one to put it out, because of your evil deeds.

Disaster approaches

5 Announce in Judah, in Jerusalem proclaim, sound the alarm throughout the land, cry out and say, "Gather together! Let's flee to the fortified towns!"
6 Set up a flag to Zion; take cover, don't just stand there! I'm bringing disaster from the north, massive devastation.
7 A lion bursts out of the thicket; a destroyer of nations advances. He's gone forth from his place to ravage your land, to wipe out your towns, until no one is left.
8 So put on funeral clothing. Weep and wail, for the LORD's fierce anger hasn't turned away from us.
9 On that day, declares the LORD, the courage of the king and his princes will fail, the priests will be stunned, and the prophets will be shocked.
10 Then I said, "LORD God, no! You have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem by promising them peace even though the sword is at their throats."
11 At that time, this people and Jerusalem will be told: A blistering wind from the bare heights; it rages in the desert toward my people, not merely to winnow or cleanse.
12 This wind is too devastating for that. Now I, even I, will pronounce my sentence against them.
13 Look! He approaches like the clouds; his chariots advance like a tempest, his horses swifter than eagles. How horrible! We're doomed!
14 Cleanse your heart of evil, Jerusalem, that you may be saved. How long will you entertain your destructive ideas?
15 A voice declares from Dan; someone proclaims disaster from the highlands of Ephraim.
16 Warn the nations, proclaim it to Jerusalem! Armies are approaching from a far-away country, raising their war cries against the towns of Judah.
17 They hem her in like those guarding a field, because she has rebelled against me, declares the LORD.
18 Your own conduct, your own deeds have done this to you. This is your payment and how bitter it is, piercing into the depths of your heart.

Anguish over looming disaster

19 Oh, my suffering, my suffering! My pain is unbearable; my heart is in turmoil; it throbs nonstop. I can't be silent, because I hear the blast of the trumpet and the roar of the battle cry!
20 Disaster follows disaster; the whole land is ruined. Suddenly, my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment.
21 How long must I see the battle flags and hear the blast of the trumpet?
22 My people are foolish. They don't even know me! They are thoughtless children without understanding; they are skilled at doing wrong, inept at doing right.
23 I looked at the earth, and it was without shape or form; at the heavens and there was no light.
24 I looked at the mountains and they were quaking; all the hills were rocking back and forth.
25 I looked and there was no one left; every bird in the sky had taken flight.
26 I looked and the fertile land was a desert; all its towns were in ruins before the LORD, before his fury.
27 The LORD proclaims: The whole earth will become a desolation, but I will not destroy it completely.
28 Therefore, the earth will grieve and the heavens grow dark because I have declared my plan and will neither change my mind nor cancel the plan.
29 As the horsemen and archers approach, the people take flight. They hide in the bushes and escape to the cliffs. Every city is deserted; no one remains.
30 And you, devastated one, why dress up in scarlet, deck yourself in gold jewelry, and color your eyes with paint? In vain you get all decked out; your lovers have rejected you and now seek your life.
31 I hear the cry of a woman in labor, the distress of one delivering her first child. It is the cry of Daughter Zion, gasping for breath, her arms stretched out, and moaning, "I'm about to fall into the hands of murderers!"

Jeremiah 4 Commentary

Chapter 4

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.

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Or bless themselves in him or be blessed by him or will bless themselves
  • [b]. Or circumcise
  • [c]. Or remove the foreskins of your hearts

Chapter Summary


This chapter begins with several exhortations to repentance; first to Israel, or the ten tribes, to return to the Lord with their whole hearts, and put away their abominations, and serve him in sincerity and uprightness of soul; with promises of rest and safety to themselves; and that it would have a happy influence on the Gentiles, and issue in their conversion; who would hereupon bless themselves in the Lord, and glory in him, Jer 4:1,2, and next to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, to show a concern for renewing and sanctifying grace, signified by various metaphors, lest they should be consumed with the fire of divine wrath, Jer 4:3,4 and then the destruction of that land and city is foretold and described, partly by what was introductory to it, and the proclamation of it, signified by blowing the trumpet, and setting up the standard, Jer 4:5,6,15,19,20, by an account of the destroyers, their cruelty, swiftness, and diligence, Jer 4:7,13,16,17, and of the destruction itself, compared to a violent wind, Jer 4:11,12, by the effect it should have upon the inhabitants of all sorts, high and low, Jer 4:8,9, and had upon the prophet himself, Jer 4:10,19,21, and by the cause and ground of it, the sins of the people, which they are called upon to repent of, Jer 4:14,17,18,22 and by a vision the prophet had of the dreadful desolation of the land, Jer 4:23-29 and by the vain and false hopes the people would have of their recovery, and the great anxiety and distress they would be in, Jer 4:30,31.

Jeremiah 4 Commentaries