|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:4-13 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.
Verse 7. - The appeal to the regularity of animal instincts reminds us of Isaiah 1:3. Yea, the stork, etc. The minatory birds obey their instinct with the most unfailing regularity. Those referred to are:
(1) the stork, whose "regular and sudden return is one of the most interesting natural sights of Palestine. The expression 'stork in the heavens' refers to the immense height at which they fly during migration" (Tristram);
(2) the turtle, or turtle-dove, whose return is the sure sign of spring (Song of Solomon 2:11);
(3 and 4) the crane and the swallow, or rather, "the swift and the crane." These birds are again mentioned together in Isaiah 38:14 (the psalm of Hezekiah), where special reference is made to the penetrating quality of their note. "The whooping or trumpeting of the crane rings through the night air in spring, and the vast flocks which we noticed passing north near Beersheba were a wonderful sight." The introduction of the swallow in the Authorized Version is misleading, as that bird is not a regular migrant in Palestine. The note of the swift is a shrill scream. "No bird is more conspicuous by the suddenness of its return than the swift," is the remark of Canon Tristram, who saw large flocks passing northwards over Jerusalem, on the 12th of February ('Nat. Hist. of Bible,' p. 208). It is an interesting fact that the swift bears the same name (sus) in the vernacular Arabic as in the Hebrew of Jeremiah. The judgment; better, the law (see on Jeremiah 5:4).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times,.... Of going and returning; for this is a bird of passage, as Pliny (d) and other naturalists observe; which goes away as winter approaches, and returns when that is over. The temperature of the air, as to heat and cold, and the natural propensity of such birds of passage to breed their young, are thought to be the incentives to change their habitation; and wonderful thing it is in nature, that they should know the proper time of their passage, what places to go to, and how to steer their course thither; and, as the above naturalist observes, they go and come in the night:
and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming: for these also are birds of passage; the turtle is absent in the winter, and its coming is a sign of spring, Sol 2:11, the crane, according to Aelianus (e), goes away with the stork, and returns when winter is over; and the same is observable of the swallow; hence the common saying, one swallow does not make spring; so Horace (f) uses "hirundine prima" for the beginning of spring. Where these birds retire to is not known; some think the swallows fly into Egypt and Ethiopia; but Olaus Magnus (g) says they lurk in holes, and even under water, where they hang together, and are sometimes drawn out in clusters, and being brought to the fire, and thawed, will revive and fly about.
But my people know not the judgment of the Lord; meaning not the unsearchable judgments of God, or those providential dispensations of God which are a great deep, and are not clearly discerned and known by the best of men; but either his own judgments, which are inflicted upon wicked men as punishments for sin, which yet are not taken notice of, and duly attended to, as they should be; or rather the law of God, and his revealed word, which is the rule of judgment and justice, and a declaration of righteousness, showing what is just and good, and ought to be done, which they were willingly ignorant of; or else the final and future judgment of God after death, to which all men must come, and into which every thought, word, and work, will be brought, and which day wicked men put far from them; see Isaiah 1:3.
(d) Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 23. (e) De Animal. l. 3. c. 23. (f) Ep. l. 1. Ep. 7. (g) De Ritu Gent. Septent. l. 19. c. 11.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7. The instinct of the migratory birds leads them with unfailing regularity to return every spring from their winter abodes in summer climes (So 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.—(Jer 5:4, 5; Isa 1:3).
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