Jeremiah 5
Clarke's Commentary
The prophet, having described the judgments impending over his countrymen, enlarges on the corruptions which prevailed among them. Their profession of religion was all false and hypocritical, Jeremiah 5:1, Jeremiah 5:2. Though corrected, they were not amended, but persisted in their guilt, Jeremiah 5:3. This was not the case with the low and ignorant only, Jeremiah 5:4; but more egregiously so with those of the higher order, from whose knowledge and opportunities better things might have been expected, Jeremiah 5:5. God therefore threatens them with the most cruel enemies, Jeremiah 5:6; and appeals to themselves if they should be permitted to practice such sins unpunished, Jeremiah 5:7-9. He then commands their enemies to raze the walls of Jerusalem, Jeremiah 5:10; that devoted city whose inhabitants added to all their other sins the highest contempt of God's word and prophets, Jeremiah 5:11-13. Wherefore his word, in the mouth of his prophet, shall be as fire to consume them, Jeremiah 5:14; the Chaldean forces shall cruelly addict them, Jeremiah 5:15-17; and farther judgments await then as the consequence of their apostasy and idolatry, Jeremiah 5:18, Jeremiah 5:19. The chapter closes with a most melancholy picture of the moral condition of the Jewish people at that period which immediately preceded the Babylonish captivity, Jeremiah 5:20-31.

Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.
Broad places - Market-places, and those where there was most public resort.

If ye can find a man - A certain philosopher went through the streets of Athens with a lighted lamp in his hand; and being asked what he sought, answered, "I am seeking to find a Man." So in Jerusalem none was found, on the most diligent search, who acted worthy the character of a rational being.

I will pardon it - I will spare the city for the sake of one righteous person. So at the intercession of Abraham, God would have spared Sodom if there had been ten righteous persons found in it; Genesis 18:26.

And though they say, The LORD liveth; surely they swear falsely.
The Lord liveth - Though they profess to bind themselves by Jehovah, as if they acknowledged him their God and only Lord, yet they swore falsely; for not believing in him, they took a false oath; one by which they did not believe themselves bound, not acknowledging him as their Lord. See on Jeremiah 4:2 (note).

O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.
Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God.
These are poor - They are ignorant; they have no education; they know no better.

I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds.
I will get me unto the great men - Those whose circumstances and rank in life gave them opportunities of information which the others could not have, for the reasons already given.

These have altogether broken the yoke - These have cast aside all restraint, have acted above law, and have trampled all moral obligations under their feet, and into their vortex the lower classes of the people have been swept away. Solon said, "The laws are like cobwebs; they entangle the small fry, but the great ones go through them, and carry all away with them."

Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased.
Wherefore a lion - Nebuchadnezzar, according to the general opinion; who is called here a lion for his courage and violence, a bear for his rapaciousness, and a leopard for his activity. Dahler supposes the Scythians to be intended, both here and in Jeremiah 4:7.

How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses.
In the harlots' houses - In places consecrated to idolatry. In the language of the prophets, adultery generally signifies idolatry. This we have often seen.

They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour's wife.
After his neighbor's wife - This may have been literally true, as the abominations of idolatry, in which they were so deeply practiced, would necessarily produce such a state of things as that here mentioned.

Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the LORD'S.
Go ye up upon her walls - This is the permission and authority given to the Chaldeans to pillage Jerusalem.

Take away her battlements - Some translate נטישות netishoth, branches; others, vines. Destroy the branches, cut down the stem; but do not damage the root. Leave so many of the people that the state may be regenerated. The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic, read, "Leave her foundations, for they are the Lord's;" and this agrees with "Destroy, but make not a full end."

For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against me, saith the LORD.
They have belied the LORD, and said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine:
They have belied the Lord - כחשו kichashu. They have denied or disavowed the Lord.

It is not he - לוא הוא lo hu, he is not; there is no such being; therefore this evil shall not come upon us. On their premises, this conclusion was just. There is no judge; therefore there shall be no judgment. Thus they denied the Lord. They were atheists at heart.

And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them: thus shall it be done unto them.
And the prophets shall become wind - What are the prophets?

Empty persons. Their words are wind; we hear the sound of their threatening but of the matter of the threatenings we shall hear no more.

And the word is not in them - There is no inspirer, but may their own predictions fall on their own heads! This seems the natural sense of this passage.

Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.
Because ye speak this word - Because ye thus treat my message, "I will make my words in thy mouth fire." They have said they are but air; but I will make them fire, and a fire too that shall devour them. And how this was to be done, and by whom, is mentioned in the next verse.

Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the LORD: it is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say.
I will bring a nation - The Scythians, says Dahler; the Babylonians, whose antiquity was great, that empire being founded by Nimrod.

Whose language thou knowest not - The Chaldee, which, though a dialect of the Hebrew, is so very different in its words and construction that in hearing it spoken they could not possibly collect the meaning of what was said.

Their quiver is as an open sepulchre, they are all mighty men.
Their quiver is an open sepulcher - They are such exact archers as never to miss their mark; every arrow is sure to slay one man.

And they shall eat up thine harvest, and thy bread, which thy sons and thy daughters should eat: they shall eat up thy flocks and thine herds: they shall eat up thy vines and thy fig trees: they shall impoverish thy fenced cities, wherein thou trustedst, with the sword.
Nevertheless in those days, saith the LORD, I will not make a full end with you.
I will not make a full end - There are more evils in store for you. You shall not only be spoiled, and all your property destroyed, but ye shall be carried into captivity; and ye shall serve strangers in a land that is not yours, Jeremiah 5:19.

And it shall come to pass, when ye shall say, Wherefore doeth the LORD our God all these things unto us? then shalt thou answer them, Like as ye have forsaken me, and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours.
Declare this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in Judah, saying,
Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:
Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?
Which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea - What can I not do, who confine the sea, that enormous mass of waters, and prevent it from overflowing the earth; not by immense mountains and rocks, but by the sand, no particle of which is in cohesion with another? The most tremendous waves cannot displace nor pass over this simple barrier.

But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone.
They are revolted and gone - They have abandoned me, and are gone farther and farther into transgression. They are gone entirely away from truth and righteousness.

Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest.
Giveth rain, both the former and the latter - See the note on Jeremiah 3:3.

The appointed weeks of the harvest - As the early rains fell in the northern parts of Judea about the end of September, in the civil year of the Hebrews, so the latter rains fell before harvest, in the months of March and April. The appointed weeks of the harvest were those which fell between the passover and pentecost. In the southern parts the harvest was earlier than in the northern. Dr. Blayney translates, "A sufficiency of the appointed things of harvest he secureth to us."

If the word שבעת weeks, be read with a ש sin instead of a ש shin, it will signify fullness or sufficiency; and thus the Septuagint and Vulgate have read it. I think the present reading is much to be preferred. God appoints a harvest time, and in his good providence he generally gives harvest weather.

Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.
Your iniquities have turned away these things - When these appointed weeks of harvest do not come, should we not examine and see whether this be not in God's judgments? Have not our iniquities turned away these good things from us?

For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.
They lay wait, as he that setteth snares - A metaphor taken from fowlers, who, having fixed their nets, lie down and keep out of sight, that when birds come, they may be ready to draw and entangle them.

As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich.
As a cage is full of birds - There is no doubt that the reference here is to a decoy or trap-cage, as Dr. Blayney has rendered it; in these the fowlers put several tame birds, which when the wild ones see, they come and light on the cage, and fall into the snare.

They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.
They judge not the cause, yet they prosper - Perhaps we might be justified in translating, "And shall they prosper?"

Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land;
A wonderful and horrible thing is committed on the land - Dahler translates: "Strange crimes and horrible trespasses have been committed in the land." These have been already detailed; but this may refer to what follows.

The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?
The prophets prophesy falsely - The false prophets predict favorable things, that they may please both the princes and the people.

The priests bear rule by their means - The false prophets affording them all that their influence and power can procure, to enable them to keep their places, and feed on the riches of the Lord's house.

And my people love to have it so - Are perfectly satisfied with this state of things, because they are permitted to continue in their sins without reproof or restraint. The prophets and the priests united to deceive and ruin the people. The prophets gave out false predictions; by their means the priests got the government of the people into their own hands; and so infatuated were the people that they willingly abandoned themselves to those blind guides, and would not hearken to the voice of any reformer. In my Old Bible the words stand thus: - Stonyng and mervailis ben made in the erthe, prophets prophecieden lesing; and prestis flappiden with joye with ther bondes, and my peple lovid siche thingis. False prophets and worldly priests have been in all ages the bane of religion, and the ruin of many souls. When profligate people stand up on behalf of profligate priests, corruption must then be at its height.

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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