Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
At that time, saith the LORD, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves:
But even then the judgment has not come to a height. Even sinners long dead must yet bear the shame of their sins. "At that time" points back to "days come" in Jeremiah 7:32. The Masoretes wished to have the ו before יוציאוּ deleted, apparently because they took it for ו consec. But it here stands before the jussive, as it does frequently, e.g., Jeremiah 13:10, Exodus 12:3. They will take the bones of the kings, princes, priests, and prophets, the rulers and leaders of the people (cf. Jeremiah 2:26), and the bones of the other inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves, and spread them out before the sun, the moon, and the stars, i.e., expose them under the open sky to the influence of the heavenly bodies, so that they shall rot away, become "dung on the face of the earth." The worst dishonour that could be done to the dead, a just return in kind for their worship of sun, moon, and stars: cf. Exodus 7:18; 2 Kings 21:5; 2 Kings 23:11. This worship the prophet describes in its various stages: "Inclination of the heart, the act of devoting and dedicating themselves to the service, the frequenting of gods' sanctuary in order to worship and to obtain oracles; while he strives to bring out in strong relief the contrast between the zeal of their service and the reward they get by it" (Hitz.). They shall not be gathered, i.e., for burial: cf. 2 Samuel 21:13.; 1 Samuel 31:13. The dead shall suffer this at the hands of enemies despoiling the land. The reason for so doing was, as Jerome observes, the practice of burying ornaments and articles of value along with the dead. Seeking for such things, enemies will turn up the graves (cf. acts of this kind the case of Ibn Chaldun, in Sylv. de Sacy, Abdollat. p. 561), and, in their hatred and insolence, scatter the bones of the dead all about.
And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth.
And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the LORD of hosts.
Not less dreadful will be the fate of those who remain in life; so appalling that they will prefer death to life, since every kind of hardship in exile and imprisonment amongst the heathen is awaiting them: cf. Leviticus 26:36-39; Deuteronomy 28:65-67. המּקמות strikes us as peculiar, seeing that the latter word cannot be adjective to the former; for "in all the remaining places of Judah" (Umbr.) gives no suitable sense, and "in all remaining places outside of Judah" is contrary to usage. But הנּשׁארים may be taken as genitive, in spite of the article prefixed to the stat. constr. מקמות; and we may then translate, with Maur.: in all the places of those who remain whither I have driven them. The lxx have omitted the second word; and it is possible it may have found its way hither from the preceding line by an error of transcription. And so Hitz., Ew., and Graf have deleted it as a gloss; but the arguments adduced have little weight. The lxx have also omitted "and say to them," Jeremiah 8:4, have changed כּה into כּי, and generally have treated Jeremiah in a quite uncritical fashion: so that they may have omitted the word from the present verse because it seemed awkward to them, and was not found in the parallel passages, Jeremiah 29:14; Jeremiah 23:3, which are not, however, precisely similar to the present verse.
Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return?
The People's Obstinacy in Wickedness, and the Dreadfulness of the Judgment. - Since the people cleaves stedfastly to its sin (Jeremiah 8:4-13), the Lord must punish sorely (Jeremiah 8:14 -23). - Jeremiah 8:4-13. "And say to them, Thus hath the Lord said: Doth one fall, and not rise again? or doth one turn away, and not turn back again? Jeremiah 8:5. Why doth this people of Jerusalem turn itself away with a perpetual turning? They hold fast by deceit, they refuse to return. Jeremiah 8:6. I listened and heard: they speak not aright; no one repenteth him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? They all turn to their course again, like a horse rushing into the battle. Jeremiah 8:7. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and turtle-dove, and swallow, and crane, keep the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of Jahveh. Jeremiah 8:8. How can ye say, Wise are we, and the law of Jahve we have? Certainly the lying pen of the scribes hath made it a lie. Jeremiah 8:9. Ashamed the wise men become, confounded and taken; lo, the word of Jahveh they spurn at; and whose wisdom have they? Jeremiah 8:10. Therefore will I give their wives unto others, their fields to new heirs: for from the small to the great, they are all greedy for gain; from the prophet even unto the priest, they all use deceit. Jeremiah 8:11. And they heal the hurt of the daughter of my people as it were a light matter, saying, Peace, peace; and yet there is no peace. Jeremiah 8:12. They have been put to shame because they have done abomination; yet they take not shame to themselves, ashamedness they know not. Therefore they shall fall amongst them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall stumble, that Jahve said. Jeremiah 8:13. Away, away will I sweep them, saith Jahveh: no grapes on the vine, and no figs on the fig-tree, and the leaf is withered; so I appoint unto them those that shall pass over them."
This strophe connects itself with what precedes. A judgment, dreadful as has been described in Jeremiah 7:32-8:3, will come on Judah, because the people cleaves stiffneckedly to its sins. The ואמרתּ of Jeremiah 8:4 corresponds to that in Jeremiah 7:28. The questioning clauses in Jeremiah 8:4 contain universal truths, which are applied to the people of Judah in Jeremiah 8:5. The subjects to יפּלוּ and ישׁוּב are indefinite, hence singular and plural with like significance: cf. Gesen. 137, 3; Ew. 294, b. The verb ישׁוּב, turn oneself, turn about, is here used in a double sense: first, as turn away from one; and then turn towards him, return again. In the application in Jeremiah 8:5, the Pilel is used for to turn away from, and strengthened by: with perpetual turning away or backsliding. נצּחת is not partic. Niph. fem. from נצח, but an adjectival formation, continual, enduring, from נצח, continuance, durableness. "Jerusalem" belongs to "this people:" this people of Jerusalem; the loose grammatical connection by means of the stat. constr. not being maintained, if the first idea gives a sense intelligible by itself, so that the second noun may then be looked on rather in the light of an apposition conveying additional information; cf. Ew. 290, c. תּרמית, equivalent to מרמה, deceit against God. they refuse to return. Sense: they will not receive the truth, repent and return to God. The same idea is developed in Jeremiah 8:6. The first person: I have listened and heard, Hitz. insists, refers to the prophet, "who is justified as to all he said in Jeremiah 8:5 by what he has seen." But we cannot account that even an "apt" view of the case, which makes the prophet cite his own observations to show that God had not spoken without cause. It is Jahveh that speaks in Jeremiah 8:5; and seeing that Jeremiah 8:6 gives not the slightest hint of any change in the speaker, we are bound to take Jeremiah 8:6 also as spoken by God. Thus, to prove that they cleave unto deceit, Jahveh says that He has given heed to their deeds and habits, and heard how they speak the לוא־כן, the not right, i.e., lies and deceit. The next clause: not one repents him of his wickedness, corresponds to: they refuse to return; cf. Jeremiah 8:5 (נחם is partic.). Instead of this, the whole of it, i.e., all of them, turn again to their course. שׁוּב with ב, construed as in Hosea 12:7 : turn oneself to a thing, so as to enter into it. For מרוּצה, the sig. course is certified to by 2 Samuel 18:27. The Chet. מרצותם .tehC e is doubtless merely an error of transcription for מרוּצתם, as is demanded by the Keri. Turn again into their course. The thought is: instead of considering, of becoming repentant, they continue their evil courses. This, too, is substantially what Hitz. gives. Ros., Graf, and others, again, take this in the sense of turning themselves away in their course; but it is not fair to deduce this sense for שׁוּב without מן from Jeremiah 8:4; nor is the addition of "from me" justifiable. Besides, this explanation does not suit the following comparison with the horse. It is against analogy to derive מרצותם from רצה with the sig. desire, cupidity. Ew., following the Chald., adopts this sense both here and in Jeremiah 22:17 and Jeremiah 23:10, though it is not called for in any of these passages, and is unsuitable in Jeremiah 22:17. As a horse rusheth into the battle. שׁטף, pour forth, overflow, hence rush on impetuously; by Jerome rightly translated, cum impetu vadens. Several commentators compare the Latin se effundere (Caes. Bell. Gall. v. 19) and effundi (Liv. xxviii. 7); but the cases are not quite in point, since in both the words are used of the cavalry, and not of the steed by itself. This simile makes way for more in Jeremiah 8:7. Even the fowls under the heaven keep the time of their coming and departure, but Israel takes no concern for the judgment of its God; cf. Isaiah 1:3. חסידה, (avis) pia, is the stork, not the heron; see on Leviticus 11:19. "In the heaven" refers to the flight of the stork. All the birds mentioned here are birds of passage. תּור and סוּס are turtle-dove and pigeon. For סוּס the Masoretes read סיס, apparently to distinguish the word from that for horse; and so the oriental Codd. propose to read in Isaiah 38:14, although they wrote עגוּר .סוּס is the crane (acc. to Saad. and Rashi), both here and in Isaiah 38:14, where Gesen., Knob., and others, mistaking the asyndeton, take it as an adjective in the sig. sighing.
(Note: Starting from this unproved interpretation of Isaiah 38:14, and supporting their case from the lxx translation of the present passage, τρυγὼν καὶ χελιδὼν ἀγροῦ στρουθία, Hitz. and Graf argue that עגוּר is not the name of any particular bird, but only a qualifying word to סוּס, in order to distinguish the swallow from the horse, the sense more commonly attached to the same word. But that confused text of the lxx by no means justifies us in supposing that the ו cop. was introduced subsequently into the Heb. text. It is possible that ἁγροῦ is only a corrupt representation of עגוּר, and the στρουθία came into the lxx text in consequence of this corruption. but certainly the fact that the lxx, as also Aquil. and Symm., both here and in Isaiah 38:14, did not know what to make of the Hebrew word, and so transcribed it in Greek letters, leads us to conclude that these translators permitted themselves to be guided by Isaiah 38, and omitted here also the copula, which was there omitted before עגוּר.
מועדים are the fixed times for the arrival and departure of the birds of passage.
Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.
I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.
Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.
How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.
In spite of this heedlessness of the statutes, the judgment of God, they vainly boast in their knowledge and possession of God's law. Those who said, We are wise, are mainly the priests and false prophets; cf. Jeremiah 8:10, Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 5:31. The wisdom these people claimed for themselves is, as the following clause shows, the knowledge of the law. They prided themselves on possessing the law, from which they conceived themselves to have drawn their wisdom. The second clause, as Hitz. observed, shows that it is the written law that is meant. The law is with us. This is not to be understood merely of the outward possession of it, but the inward, appropriated knowledge, the mastery of the law. The law of Jahveh, recorded in the Pentateuch, teaches not only the bearing towards God due by man, but the bearing of God towards His people. The knowledge of this law begets the wisdom for ruling one's life, tells how God is to be worshipped, how His favour is to be procured and His anger appeased.
As against all this, Jeremiah declares: Assuredly the lying pen (style) of the scribes hath made it a lie. Ew., Hitz., Graf, translate ספרים, authors, writers; and the two latter of them take עשׂה equals labour: "for a lie (or for deception) hath the lying style (pen) of the writers laboured." This transl. is feasible; but it seems simpler to supply 'תּורת יי: hath made it (the law); and there is no good reason for confining סופר to the original composers of works. The words are not to be limited in their reference to the efforts of the false prophets, who spread their delusive prophecies by means of writings: they refer equally to the work of the priests, whose duty it was to train the people in the law, and who, by false teaching as to its demands, led the people astray, seduced them from the way of truth, and deceived them as to the future. The labours both of the false prophets and of the wicked priests consisted not merely in authorship, in composing and circulating writings, but to a very great extent in the oral teaching of the people, partly by prophetic announcements, partly by instruction in the law; only in so far as it was necessary was it their duty to set down in writing and circulate their prophecies and interpretations of the law. But this work by word and writing was founded on the existing written law, the Torah of Moses; just as the true prophets sought to influence the people chiefly by preaching the law to them, by examining their deeds and habits by the rule of the divine will as revealed in the Torah, and by applying to their times the law's promises and threatenings. For this work with the law, and application of it to life, Jer. uses the expression "style of the Shoferim," because the interpretation of the law, if it was to have valid authority as the rule of life, must be fixed by writing. Yet he did not in this speak only of authors, composers, but meant such as busied themselves about the book of the law, made it the object of their study. But inasmuch as such persons, by false interpretation and application, perverted the truth of the law into a lie, he calls their work the work of the lying style (pen).
The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?
Those who held themselves wise will come to shame, will be dismally disabused of their hopes. When the great calamity comes on the sin-hardened people, they shall be confounded and overwhelmed in ruin (cf. Jeremiah 6:11). They spurn at the word of Jahveh; whose wisdom then have they? None; for the word of the Lord alone is Israel's wisdom and understanding, Deuteronomy 4:6.
The threatening in Jeremiah 8:10 includes not only the wise ones, but the whole people. "Therefore" attaches to the central truth of Jeremiah 8:5 and Jeremiah 8:6, which has been elucidated in Jeremiah 8:7-9. The first half of Jeremiah 8:10 corresponds, in shorter compass, to what has been said in Jeremiah 6:12, and is here continued in Jeremiah 8:10-12 in the same words as in Jeremiah 6:13-15. יורשׁים are those who take possession, make themselves masters of a thing, as in Jeremiah 49:2 and Micah 1:15. This repetition of the three verses is not given in the lxx, and Hitz. therefore proposes to delete them as a supplementary interpolation, holding that they are not only superfluous, but that they interrupt the sense. For he thinks Jeremiah 8:13 connects remarkably well with Jeremiah 8:10, but, taken out of its connection with what precedes as we have it, begins baldly enough. To this Graf has made fitting answer: This passage is in no respect more superfluous or awkward than Jeremiah 6:13.; nor is the connection of Jeremiah 8:13 with Jeremiah 8:10 at all closer than with Jeremiah 8:12. And Hitz., in order to defend the immediate connection between Jeremiah 8:13 and Jeremiah 8:10, sees himself compelled, for the restoration of equilibrium, to delete the middle part of Jeremiah 8:13 (from "no grapes" to "withered") as spurious; for which proceeding there is not the smallest reason, since this passage has neither the character of an explanatory gloss, nor is it a repetition from any place whatever, nor is it awanting in the lxx. Just as little ground is there to argue against the genuineness of the two passages from the variations found in them. Here in Jeremiah 8:10 we have מקּטן ועד־גּדול instead of the מקּטנּםof Jeremiah 6:13; but the suffix, which in the latter case pointed to the preceding "inhabitants of the land," was unnecessary here, where there is no such reference. In like manner, the forms הכּלם for הכלים, and עת פּקדּתם for עת־פּקדתּים, are but the more usual forms used by Jeremiah elsewhere. So the omission of the א in ירפּוּ for ירפּאוּ, as coming either from the writer or the copyist, clearly does not make against the genuineness of the verses. And there is the less reason for making any difficulty about the passage, seeing that such repetitions are amongst the peculiarities of Jeremiah's style: cf. e.g., Jeremiah 7:31-33 with Jeremiah 19:5-7; Jeremiah 10:12-16 with Jeremiah 51:15-19; Jeremiah 15:13-14, with Jeremiah 17:3-4; Jeremiah 16:14-15, with Jeremiah 23:7-8, Jeremiah 23:5-6, with Jeremiah 33:15-16; Jeremiah 23:19-20, with Jeremiah 30:23-24, and other shorter repetitions.
Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.
For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.
I will surely consume them, saith the LORD: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them.
The warning of coming punishment, reiterated from a former discourse, is strengthened by the threatening that God will sweep them utterly away, because Judah has become an unfruitful vine and fig-tree. In אסף we have a combination of אסף, gather, glean, carry away, and הסיף, Niph. of סוּף, make an end, sweep off, so as to heighten the sense, as in Zephaniah 1:1. - a passage which was doubtless in the prophet's mind: wholly will I sweep them away. The circumstantial clauses: no grapes - and the leaves are withered, show the cause of the threatening: The people is become an unfruitful vine and fig-tree, whose leaves are withered. Israel was a vineyard the Lord had planted with noble vines, but which brought forth sour grapes, Jeremiah 2:21; Isaiah 5:2. In keeping with this figure, Israel is thought of as a vine on which are no grapes. With this is joined the like figure of a fig-tree, to which Micah in Micah 7:1 makes allusion, and which is applied by Christ to the degenerate race of His own time in His symbolical act of cursing the fig-tree (Matthew 21:19). To exhaust the thought that Judah is ripe for judgment, it is further added that the leaves are withered. The tree whose leaves are withered, is near being parched throughout. Such a tree was the people of Judah, fallen away from its God, spurning at the law of the Lord; in contrast with which, the man who trusts in the Lord, and has delight in the law of the Lord, is like the tree planted by the water, whose leaves are ever green, and which bringeth forth fruit in his season, Jeremiah 17:8; Psalm 1:1-3. Ros. and Mov. are quite wrong in following the Chald., and in taking the circumstantial clauses as a description of the future; Mov. even proceeds to change אסף אסיפם into אסף . The interpretation of the last clause is a disputed point. Ew., following the old translators (Chald., Syr., Aq., Symm., Vulg.; in the lxx they are omitted), understands the words of the transgression of the commands of God, which they seem to have received only in order to break them. ואתּן seems to tell in favour of this, and it may be taken as praeter. with the translation: and I gave to them that which they transgress. But unless we are to admit that the idea thus obtained stands quite abruptly, we must follow the Chald., and take it as the reason of what precedes: They are become an unfruitful tree with faded leaves, because they have transgressed my law which I gave them. But ואתּן with ו consec. goes directly against this construction. Of less weight is the other objection against this view, that the plural suffix in יעברוּם has no suitable antecedent; for there could be no difficulty in supplying "judgments" (cf. Jeremiah 8:8). But the abrupt appearance of the thought, wholly unlooked for here, is sufficient to exclude that interpretation. We therefore prefer the other interpretation, given with various modifications by Ven., Rose., and Maur., and translate: so I appoint unto them those that shall pass over them. The imperf. c. ו consec. attaches itself to the circumstantial clauses, and introduces the resulting consequence; it is therefore to be expressed in English by the present, not by the praeter.: therefore I gave them (Ng.). נתן in the general sig. appoint, and the second verb with the pron. rel. omitted: illos qui eos invadent. עבר, to overrun a country or people, of a hostile army swarming over it, as e.g., Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 28:15. For the construction c. accus. cf. Jeremiah 23:9; Jeremiah 5:22. Hitz.'s and Graf's mode of construction is forced: I deliver them up to them (to those) who pass over them; for then we must not only supply an object to אתּן, but adopt the unusual arrangement by which the pronoun להם is made to stand before the words that explain it.
Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there: for the LORD our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD.
The horrors of the approaching visitation. - Jeremiah 8:14. "Why do we sit still? Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities, and perish there; for Jahveh our God hath decreed our ruin, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against Jahveh. Jeremiah 8:15. We looked for safety, and there is no good; for a time of healing, and behold terrors. Jeremiah 8:16. From Dan is heard the snorting of his horses; at the loud neighing of his steeds the whole earth trembles: they come, and devour the land and its fulness, the city and those that dwell therein. Jeremiah 8:17. For, behold, I send among you serpents, vipers, of which there is no charming, which shall sting you, saith Jahve. Jeremiah 8:18. Oh my comfort in sorrow, in me my heart grows too sock. Jeremiah 8:19. Behold, loud sounds the cry of the daughter from out of a far country: 'Is Jahveh not in Zion, nor her King in her?' Why provoked they me with their images, with vanities of a foreign land? Jeremiah 8:20. Past is the harvest, ended is the fruit-gathering, and we are not saved. Jeremiah 8:21. For the breaking of the daughter of my people am I broken, am in mourning; horror hath taken hold on me. Jeremiah 8:22. Is there no balm in Gilead, or no physician there? why then is no plaister laid upon the daughter of my people? V. 23. Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears! then would I weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people."
In spirit the prophet sees the enemy forcing his way into the country, and the inhabitants fleeing into the fortified cities. This he represents to his hearers with graphic and dramatic effect. In Jeremiah 8:14 the citizens of Judah are made to speak, calling on one another to flee and give up hope of being saved. "Why do we sit still?" i.e., remain calmly where we are? We will withdraw into the strong cities (cf. Jeremiah 4:5), and perish there by famine and disease (נדּמה for נדּמּה, imperf. Niph., from דּמם: cf. Gesen. 67, 5, Rem. 11; in Niph. be destroyed, perish). The fortresses cannot save them from ruin, since they will be besieged and taken by the enemy. For our sin against Him, God has decreed our ruin. The Hiph. from דמם, prop. put to silence, bring to ruin, here with the force of a decree. מי ראשׁ, bitter waters; ראשׁ or רושׁ, Deuteronomy 32:32, is a plant with a very bitter taste, and so, since bitterness and poison were to the Jews closely connected, a poisonous plant; see on Deuteronomy 29:17. So they call the bitter suffering from the ruin at hand which they must undergo. Cf. the similar figure of the cup of the anger of Jahveh, Jeremiah 25:15.
We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!
Instead of peace and safety hoped for, there is calamity and terror. The infin. abs. קוּה is used emphatically for the imperf.: We looked for safety, and no good has come to us: for healing, sc. of our injuries, and instead comes terror, by reason of the appearance of the foe in the land. This hope has been awakened and cherished in the people by false prophets (see on Jeremiah 4:10), and now, to their sore suffering, they must feel the contrary of it. The same idea is repeated in Jeremiah 14:19. מרפּה is a mis-spelling of מרפּא, Jeremiah 14:19, etc.
The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein.
From the northern borders of Canaan (from Dan; see on Jeremiah 4:15) is already heard the dreadful tumult of the advancing enemy, the snorting of his horses. The suffix in סוּסיו refers to the enemy, whose invasion is threatened in Jeremiah 6:22, and is here presumed as known. אבּיריו, his strong ones, here, as in Jeremiah 47:3; Jeremiah 50:11, a poetical name for strong horses, stallions; elsewhere for strong animals, e.g., Psalm 22:13; Psalm 50:13. The whole earth, not the whole land. With "devour the land," cf. Jeremiah 5:17. עיר and ארץ have an indefinite comprehensive force; town and country on which the enemy is marching.
For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.
The terribleness of these enemies is heightened by a new figure. They are compared to snakes of the most venomous description, which cannot be made innocuous by any charming, whose sting is fatal. "Vipers" is in apposition to "serpents;" serpents, namely basilisks. צפעני is, acc. to Aq. and Vulg. on Isaiah 11:8, serpens regulus, the basilisk, a small and very venomous species of viper, of which there is no charming. Cf. for the figure, Cant. 10:11; and fore the enemies' cruelty thereby expressed, cf. Jeremiah 6:23; Isaiah 13:18.
When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me.
The hopeless ruin of his people cuts the prophet to the very heart. In Jeremiah 8:18 -23 his sore oppressed heart finds itself vent in bitter lamentations. Oh my comfort in sorrow! is the cry of sore affliction. This may be seen from the second half of the verse, the sense of which is clear: sick (faint) is my heart upon me. עלי shows that the sickness of heart is a sore burden on him, crushes him down; cf. Ew. 217, i. "My comfort" is accordingly vocative: Oh my comfort concerning the sorrow! Usually מי יתּן is supplied: Oh that I had, that there were for me comfort! The sense suits, but the ellipse is without parallel. It is simpler to take the words as an exclamation: the special force of it, that he knows not when to seek comfort, may be gathered from the context. For other far-fetched explanations, see in Ros. ad h. l. The grief which cuts so deeply into his heart that he sighs for relief, is caused by his already hearing in spirit the mourning cry of his people as they go away into captivity.
Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the LORD in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities?
From a far country he hears the people complain: Is Jahveh not in Zion? is He no longer the King of His people there? The suffix in מלכּהּ refers to "daughter of my people," and the King is Jahveh; cf. Isaiah 33:22. They ask whether Jahveh is no longer King in Zion, that He may release His people from captivity and bring them back to Zion. To this the voice of God replies with the counter-question: Why have they provoked me with their idolatry, sc. so that I had to give them over into the power of the heathen for punishment? "Images" is expounded by the apposition: vanities (no-gods; for הבל, see on Jeremiah 2:5) of a foreign land. Because they have chosen the empty idols from abroad (Isaiah 14:22) as their gods, Jahveh, the almighty God of Zion, has cast them out into a far country amidst strange people. The people goes on to complain in Jeremiah 8:20 : Past is the harvest...and we are not saved. As Schnur. remarked, these words have something of the proverb about them. As a country-man, hoping for a good harvest, falls into despair as to his chances, so the people have been in vain looking for its rescue and deliverance. The events, or combinations of events, to which it looked for its rescue are gone by without bringing any such result. Many ancient commentators, following Rashi, have given too special a significance to this verse in applying it to the assistance expected from Egypt in the time of Jehoiakim or Zedekiah. Hitz. is yet more mistaken when he takes the saying to refer to an unproductive harvest. From Jeremiah 8:19 we see that the words are spoken by the people while it pines in exile, which sets its hopes of being saved not in the productiveness of the harvest, but in a happy turn of the political situation.
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.
For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me.
The hopeless case of the people and kingdom moves the seer so deeply, that he bursts forth with the cry: For the breaking of my people I am broken (the Hoph. השׁבּרתּי, of the breaking of the heart, only here; in this sig. usu. the Niph., e.g., Jeremiah 38:7. Horror hath taken hold on me, is stronger than: Anguish hath taken hold on me, Jeremiah 6:24, Micah 4:9. Help is nowhere to be found. This thought is in Jeremiah 8:22 clothed in the question: Is there no balm in Gilead, or no physician there? "There" points back to Gilead. Graf's remark, that "it is not known that the physicians were got from that quarter," shows nothing more than that its author has mistaken the figurative force of the words. צרי, balsam, is mentioned in Genesis 37:25 as an article of commerce carried by Midianite merchants to Egypt (cf. Ezekiel 27:17), but is hardly the real balsam from Mecca (amyris opobalsamum), which during the Roman sovereignty was grown under culture in the gardens of Jericho, and which only succeeds in a climate little short of tropical. It was more likely the resina of the ancients, a gum procured from the terebinth or mastic tree (lentiscus, σχῖνος), which, acc. to Plin. h. nat. xxiv. 22, was held in esteem as a medicament for wounds (resolvitur resina ad vulnerum usus et malagmata oleo). Acc. to our passage and Jeremiah 46:11, cf. Genesis 37:25, it was procured chiefly from Gilead; cf. Movers, Phniz. ii. 3, S. 220ff., and the remarks on Genesis 37:25. To these questions a negative answer is given. From this we explain the introduction of a further question with כּי: if there were balm in Gilead, and a physician there, then a plaister would have been laid on the daughter of my people, which is not the case. As to עלתה , lit., a plaister comes upon, see on Jeremiah 30:17.
Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?