Jeremiah proceeds to unveil the judgment impending upon Jerusalem, and his description of it is divided into five parts, each beginning with the words "Thus saith Jehovah."
O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction.Jeremiah addresses the men of Benjamin, either as being his own tribesmen, or as a name appropriate to the people of Jerusalem, which also was situate in the tribe of Benjamin.
Gather yourselves to flee - Gather your goods together to remove them to a place of safety.
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa - The name of Tekoa is almost identical with the verb "to blow": but it was not chosen merely for the alliteration, but because it was the last town in Judaea (about 11 miles south of Jerusalem), upon the very border of the desert, where the fugitives would halt.
A sign - Rather, a signal.
Beth-haccerem - Or, the "Vineyard-House," which was situated halfway between Jerusalem and Tekoa.
Appeareth - "Is bending over;" is bending forward in eagerness to seize its prey.
I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.The whole verse is difficult, but should probably be translated; "to a pasturage, yea a luxuriant pasturage, have I likened (or, have reduced to silence, i. e., destroyed) the daughter of Zion."
The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her; they shall pitch their tents against her round about; they shall feed every one in his place.To it shall come "shepherds with their flocks:"
They have pitched upon it "their tents round about:"
They have pastured each his hand, "i. e., side."
The pasture is so abundant that each feeds his flock, i. e., plunders Jerusalem, at the side of his own tent.
Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out.Prepare ye war - Rather, Sanctify ye war against her. War in ancient times was never undertaken without religions solemnities (see Deuteronomy 20:2 note). For some of these compare Ezekiel 21:21-23.
At noon - The mid-day heat is so great in the East as to be usually passed under shelter 2 Samuel 4:5; Sol 1:7. The morning-march of an army was made fasting, and was usually over by eight or nine. But so great is the impatience of the Chaldeans for the assault that they cry, "we will make the assault at noon!"
Woe unto us! - Or,
Alas for us! "for the day" has turned
For the evening shadows are lengthening!
Arise, and let us go by night, and let us destroy her palaces.Up! and we will make the assault "by night!"
And destroy "her palaces."
The generals delay the assault until the next morning. The soldiers consider themselves aggrieved at this, and clamour for a night attack.
For thus hath the LORD of hosts said, Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem: this is the city to be visited; she is wholly oppression in the midst of her.Hew ye down trees - Rather, her trees: for the simple purpose of clearing the approaches.
Cast a mount - literally, pour: the earth was emptied out of the baskets, in which it was carried to the required spot upon the backs of laborers.
Wholly - Or,
"She "is the city" that is visited:
"Wholly oppression" is "in the midst of her!"
She is visited, - i. e., punished; she is ripe for punishment.
As a fountain casteth out her waters, so she casteth out her wickedness: violence and spoil is heard in her; before me continually is grief and wounds.As a fountain casteth out - Better, As a cistern "cooleth."
Before me ... - Before My face continually there is disease and wounding: Disease as the result of poverty and want: wounding, or, the commission of deeds of actual violence.
Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.Be thou instructed - Be thou chastised: learn the lesson which chastisement is intended to teach thee.
Lest my soul - Lest I Myself - not "depart from thee," God does not willingly leave His people, but - "be torn from thee."
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets.They ... - Each word indicates the completeness of Judah's ruin.
Turn back thine hand - Addressed perhaps to Nebuchadnezzar as God's servant Jeremiah 25:9. He is required to go over the vine once again, that no grapes may escape.
Into the baskets - Better, "upon the tendrils." While the Jews carried captive to Babylon escaped, misery gleaned the rest again and again.
To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.Give warning - Rather testify.
Reproach - They make the Word of God the object of their ridicule.
Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD; I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days.Or, But I am filled with "the fury of Yahweh: I am weary with holding" it "in." Pour it out "upon the children" in the street, and upon the company of youths "together;" for both man and "wife shall be taken;" the older and he whose days are full. With emphatic abruptness Jeremiah bids himself give full utterance to God's message. And the message is to reach all. Five stages of human life are successively marked out.
And their houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together: for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD.Turned - Violently transferred. Houses, fields, wives, all they most valued, and most jealously kept to themselves - are gone.
For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.Given to covetousness - literally, everyone has gained gains. The temper of mind which gains the world is not that which gains heaven.
Falsely - Rather, "fraudulently."
They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.Healed - Rather, "tried to heal."
Of the daughter - These words are omitted by a majority of manuscripts, but found in most of the versions.
Slightly - literally, "according to," i. e., as if it were, a "trifle: making nothing" of it. This cry of "peace" was doubtless based upon Josiah's reforms.
Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.They are brought to shame because
They have "committed abomination:"
Shame nevertheless they feel not;
To blush nevertheless they know not;
"Therefore they shall fall among" the falling;
"At the time" when "I visit them, they shall" stumble,
The fact is expressed that their conduct was a disgrace to them, though they did not feel it as such. "Abomination" has its usual meaning of idolatry Jeremiah 4:1.
Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.The sense is: God's prophet has declared that a great national calamity is at hand. "Make inquiries; stand in the ways; ask the passers by. Your country was once prosperous and blessed. Try to learn what were the paths trodden in those days which led your ancestors to happiness. Choose them, and walk earnestly therein, and find thereby rest for your souls." The Christian fathers often contrast Christ the one goodway with the old tracks, many in number and narrow to walk in, which are the Law and the prophets.
Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.Watchmen - The prophets Isaiah 52:8.
Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.God summons three witnesses to hear His sentence.
(1) the Gentiles.
(2) all mankind, Jews and Gentiles.
(3) nature (see Jeremiah 6:19).
What is among them - Rather, "what happens" in them; i. e., "Know what great things I will do to them."
Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.The fathers understood this to be the decree rejecting the Jews from being the Church.
To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.The sweet cane - The same as the scented cane of Exodus 30:23 (see the note).
Your burnt offerings - The rejection of ritual observances is proclaimed by the two prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, who chiefly assisted the two pious kings, Hezekiah and Josiah, in restoring the temple-service. God rejects not the ceremonial service, but the substitution of it for personal holiness and morality. Compare 1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:11; Micah 6:6-8.
Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish."Behold," I give unto "this people" causes of stumbling,
And they shall stumble against them:
Fathers and sons together,
"The neighbor and his friend shall perish."
This is the natural consequence of their conduct. Their service of Yahweh was a systematic hypocrisy: how then could they walk uprightly with their fellow-men? When God lays stumblingblocks in men's way, it is by the general action of His moral law James 1:13-14, by which willful sin in one point reacts upon the whole moral nature James 2:10.
Thus saith the LORD, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth.Raised - Or, awakened, to undertake distant expeditions.
The sides of the earth - Or ends, the most distant regions (see Jeremiah 25:32).
They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion.Spear - Properly, a javelin for hurling at the enemy (see 1 Samuel 17:6 note): an ordinary weapon of the Babylonians.
Cruel - ruthless, inhuman. In the Assyrian monuments warriors put the vanquished to death; rows of impaled victims hang round the walls of the besieged towns; and men collect in heaps hands cut from the vanquished.
Horses, set in array - A full stop should be put after horses. It - the whole army, and not the cavalry only - is "set in array."
As men for war against thee - Rather, as a warrior for battle "against thee."
We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.The effect upon the Jewish people of the news of Nebuchadnezzars approach.
Wax feeble - Are relaxed. It is the opposite of what is said in Jeremiah 6:23 of the enemy, "They lay hold etc." Terror makes the hands of the Jews hold their weapons with nerveless grasp.
Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.For the sword of the enemy - literally, "for to the enemy a sword; i. e., for the enemy is armed," he has a commission from God to execute judgment. See Jeremiah 12:12; Isaiah 10:5, and Psalm 17:13 note.
O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.Wallow thyself in ashes - Violent distress is accustomed to find relief in eccentric actions, and thus the wallowing in ashes shows that Jerusalem's grief is unbearable.
The spoiler - Nebuchadnezzar.
I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way.Render it:
I have set thee among My people as a prover of ore,
And thou shalt know and try their way.
They are all of them rebels of rebels (i. e., utter rebels):
Slander-walkers, were copper and iron,
Corrupters all of them.
The bellows glow: from their fire lead only!
In vain hath the smelter smelted,
And the wicked are not separated.
Refuse-silver have men called them:
For Yahweh hath refused them.
The intermixture throughout of moral words and metallurgical terms is remarkable.
They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters.
The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away.The bellows are burned - Worn out by continual blowing. The prophet has exhausted all his efforts. His heart, consumed by the heat of divine inspiration, can labor no more. Others translate "The bellows snort," i. e., blow furiously. More probably, "The bellows glow" with the strong heat of the fire.
Plucked away - Separated. The smelter's object is to separate the metal from the dross.
Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them.Reprobate - See the margin; not really silver, but the dross.
The Lord hath rejected them - This then is the end. The smelter is God's prophet: the bellows the breath of inspiration: the flux his earnestness in preaching. But in vain does the fervour of prophecy essay to melt the hearts of the people. They are so utterly corrupt, that no particle even of pure metal can be found in them. All the refiner's art is in vain. They have rejected all God's gifts and motives for their repentance, and therefore Yahweh has rejected them as an alloy too utterly adulterate to repay the refiner's toil.