If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove.
Return - The repentance of Israel described in Jeremiah 3:21-25 was a hope, and not a reality. The return, literally, would be their restoration to their land; spiritually, their abandoning their sins.
Jeremiah 4:1-2 should be translated as follows:
If thou wouldst return, O Israel, saith Yahweh.
Unto Me thou shalt return:
And if thou wouldst remove thy abominations from before Me,
And not wander to and fro,
But wouldst swear truly, uprightly; and justly
By the living Yahweh;
Then shall the pagan bless themselves ... -
In him - In Yahweh. Two great truths are taught in this verse;
(1) that the Gentiles were to be members of the Church of the Messiah;
(2) that Israel's special office was to be God's mediator in this great work.
Thus, Jeremiah is in exact accord with the evangelical teaching of Isaiah.
And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.
For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.
To the men - To each man "of Judah." They are summoned individually to repentance.
Break up - literally, Fallow for you a fallow ground, i. e., do not sow the seeds of repentance in unfit soil, but just as the farmer prepares the ground, by clearing it of weeds, and exposing it to the sun and air, before entrusting to it the seed, so must you regard repentance as a serious matter, requiring forethought, and anxious labor. To sow in unfallowed ground was practically to sow on land full of thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
See the Deuteronomy 10:16 note. Nature, such as it is in itself, unconsecrated to God, is to be removed from our inner selves, that a new and spiritual nature may take its place.
Lest my fury ... - God is long-suffering, but unless this change take place, the time of judgment must at length come to all as it came to Jerusalem - "like fire" (compare 1 Corinthians 3:13; Philippians 2:12-13).
Jeremiah 4:5-6:30 "God's Judgment upon the Unrepentant"
A group of prophecies now commences, extending to Jeremiah 10:25, but broken at the beginning of Jeremiah 7 by a new heading. The subject of them all is the same, namely, the approaching devastation of Judaea by a hostile army in punishment of its persistence in idolatry. The prophecy of Jeremiah 7 was probably written in the first year of Jehoiakim, while as regards the rest they probably extended over a considerable period of time. This group, which we may reasonably believe to have come down to us much as it stood in Jehoiakim's scroll, gives us a general view of the nature of Jeremiah's efforts during that important period, when under Josiah a national reformation was still possible, and the exile might have been averted. The prophecy Jeremiah 7, spoken in the first year of Jehoiakim, when the probation of Judah was virtually over, was the solemn closing of the appeal to the conscience of the people, and a protest, while the new king was still young upon his throne, against that ruinous course upon which he so immediately entered.
Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities.
Rather, Make proclamation "in Judah, and in Jerusalem" bid them hear, "and say, Blow the trumpet" throughout "the land:" cry aloud "and say etc." The prophecy begins with a loud alarm of war. The verse sets forth well, in its numerous commands, the excitement and confusion of such a time.
Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.
The standard - A flag or signal, to which the people were to rally.Retire, stay not - Rather, gather your goods together: linger not; "for I" (emphatic, Yahweh) am bringing at this very time etc.
The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant.
Rather, A "lion"... a "destroyer" of nations: a metaphor descriptive of the impending calamity. A lion is just rousing himself from his lair, but no common one. It is destroyer, not of men, but of nations.
Is on his way - literally, "has broken up his encampment." Jeremiah uses a military term strictly referring to the striking of tents in preparation for the march.
Without an inhabitant - The final stage of destruction, actually reached in the utter depopulation of Judaea consequent upon Gedaliah's murder.
For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us.
Is not turned ... - As long as their sins are unrepented of, so long must their punishment continue.
And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.
Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall have peace; whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul.
Ah, Lord God! - Alas! my Lord Yahweh: an expression of disapproval on Jeremiah's part. Jeremiah had constantly to struggle against the misgivings of his own melancholy nature, but he never let them prevent him from doing his duty. See the introduction of Jeremiah.
Ye shall have peace - These words are generally referred to the false prophets; they rather refer to real prophecies of future blessedness promised to the Jews. Jeremiah could not reconcile the doom he was now commanded to pronounce, either with his previous prophecy, or with what he read in the writings of his predecessors. Time only could solve the difficulty. Upon the struggles of the prophets to understand their own predictions see 1 Peter 1:10-11.
Unto the soul - The sword has reached the life. i. e., has inflicted a mortal wound.
At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse,
At that time - See Jeremiah 4:7. Though the revelation of the certainty of Judah's ruin wrings from Jeremiah a cry of despair, yet it is but for a moment; he immediately returns to the delivery of God's message.
A dry wind - literally, A clear wind. The Samum is probably meant, a dry parching east wind blowing from the Arabian desert, before which vegetation withers, and human life becomes intolerable.
Not to fan ... - The Syrian farmers make great use of the wind for separating the chaff from the grain: but when the Samum blows labor becomes impossible. It is not for use, but for destruction.
Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them.
Or, as in the margin; i. e., a wind more full, more impetuous than those winds which serve for fanning and cleansing the grain.
Unto me - Rather, for me: to perform my will.
Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled.
His troops move on in large masses like dark threatening clouds Joel 2:2.
Woe unto us! for we are spoiled - Jeremiah's own cry of grief.
O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?
Thy vain thoughts - "Thy" iniquitous "thoughts." "Aven," the word used here, is especially applied to the sin of idolatry: thus Bethel is generally called Bethaven by Hosea (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8, ...), because instead of being the house of God, El, it was the house of an iniquity, Aven, the golden calf.
For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim.
Dan - The border-town of Palestine on the north Deuteronomy 34:1.
Mount Ephraim - The northern boundary of Judaea itself. The invading army presses on so rapidly, that scarcely have the news arrived of its appearance at Dan, before fresh messengers announce that it has traversed the whole length of Galilee, and is now defiling through the mountains of Samaria.
Affliction - The same word, aven, occurs in Jeremiah 4:14, and apparently there is a play upon its double meaning: for from a root signifying worthlessness, it is used both for wickedness and for misery. Thus, the "iniquity" of Judah proves also, to be her "affliction," as being the cause of the ruin inflicted by the enemy.
Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah.
Proclaim ye to the pagan, "Behold!" Cry aloud concerning "Jerusalem, that watchers" are on their way "from a far country: and" will "give out their voice against the cities of Judah." The pagan are summoned to witness the chastisement of Jerusalem, that they may take warning thereby. By "watchers" are meant besiegers, who will surround the city with a line of sentinels.
As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD.
Jeremiah compares the tents of the besiegers on guard round Jerusalem to the booths erected by shepherds or farmers for the protection of their flocks or produce.
Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart.
Thy wickedness - This siege is thy wickedness, i. e., in its results; or better, this is thy wretchedness, this army and thy approaching ruin is thy misery.
Because - "For." To feel that one's misery is the result of one's own doings adds bitterness to the anguish, and makes it reach, penetrate to the heart.
My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.
The verse is best translated as a series of ejaculations, in which the people express their grief at the ravages committed by the enemy:
"My bowels! My bowels!" I writhe in pain!
The walls of my heart! "My heart" moans for me!
I cannot keep silence!
For "thou hast heard, O my soul," the trumpet's voice!
"The alarm of war!"
Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.
Destruction ... - Or, breaking upon breaking Jeremiah 4:6. The news of one breaking, one violent calamity, follows close upon another.
My curtains - The curtains of the tent, put here for the tents themselves. tents were the ordinary habitations of the Israelites.
How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?
The standard - See Jeremiah 4:6. The alarm caused by the invasion is graphically described. The people are dispersed over the land following their usual pursuits, when tidings come of the enemy's approach. The only chance of escape is a hasty flight. Flags stream from the hills to mark the safest route, while the blasts of the trumpet quicken the steps of the wavering.
For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.
I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.
In four verses each beginning with "I beheld," the prophet sees in vision the desolate condition of Judaea during the Babylonian captivity.
Without form, and void - Desolate and void (see Genesis 1:2 note). The land has returned to a state of chaos (marginal reference note).
And the heavens - And upward to the heavens. The imagery is that of the last day of judgment. To Jeremiah's vision all was as though the day of the Lord had come, and earth returned to the state in which it was before the first creative word (see 2 Peter 3:10).
I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly.
Moved lightly - "Reeled to and fro," from the violence of the earthquake.
I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.
I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger.
The fruitful place - The Carmel Jeremiah 2:7, where the population had been most dense, and the labors of the farmer most richly rewarded, has become the wilderness.
At the presence - i. e., because of, at the command of Yahweh, and because of His anger.
For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.
Desolate - a waste.
One of the most striking points of prophecy is, that however severe. may be the judgment pronounced against Judah, there is always the reservation, that the ruin shall not be complete Jeremiah 3:14.
For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.
For ... - Because of this doom upon Judah.
I have purposed it - The Septuagint arrangement restores the parallelism:
For I have spoken, and will not repent,
I have purposed, and will not turn back from it.
The whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; they shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks: every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein.
The whole city ... - Rather, Every city is fleeing. All the inhabitants of the tokens flee to Jerusalem for protection, or seek refuge in the woods and rocks.
The horsemen and bowmen - The cavalry Jeremiah 4:13 and bowmen formed the chief strength of the Assyrian armies.
They shall go - They have gone.
And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life.
Translate, And thou, O plundered one, what effectest thou, that "thou clothest thyself with" scarlet, that "thou deckest" thyself "with ornaments of gold," that thou enlargest thine eyes with antimony (2 Kings 9:30 note)? "In vain" dost thou beautify thyself; "thy lovers" despise" thee, they" seek "thy life." Jerusalem is represented as a woman who puts on her best attire to gain favor in the eyes of her lovers, but in vain.
For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers.
For a cry have I heard as of one writhing in vain:
Anguish as of one that bringeth forth her first-born:
The cry of the daughter of Zion.
She gasps for breath: she stretches out her palms:
Woe is me! for my soul faints before the murderers.