Jeremiah 12:4
How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) How long shall the land mourn . . .—The Hebrew punctuation gives a different division, How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of the whole field (i.e., all the open country) wither? For the wickedness of them that dwell therein, cattle and birds perish, for, say they, he (i.e., the prophet) will not see our latter end (i.e., we shall outlive him, though he prophesies our destruction). A slightly different reading, however, adopted by the LXX. and by some modern scholars, would give for the last clause, “He (God) seeth not our ways,” i.e., will leave us unpunished. The opening words point to a time of distress, probably of drought and famine. But out of this wretchedness, the men who were Jeremiah’s enemies—the forestallers, and monopolists, and usurers of the time—continued to enrich themselves, and scornfully defied all his warnings.

Jeremiah 12:4. How long shall the land mourn? — As it doth under thy judgments inflicted upon it; for the wickedness of them that dwell therein — Lord, shall they themselves prosper, who ruin all about them? The wickedness of the people is here represented as having brought a great calamity upon the land, under which all living creatures, even the beasts of the earth, and the fowls of heaven, as well as the human race, were now suffering grievously. This calamity was a long drought, or want of rain, which happened, it seems, in the latter end of Josiah’s, and the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign. It is mentioned Jeremiah 3:3; and Jeremiah 8:13; and Jeremiah 9:10; Jeremiah 9:12; and more fully afterward, chap. 14. Some of its effects are here noticed; namely, that the herbs of every field were withered, and the beasts and birds consumed. If they would have been brought to repentance by this lesser judgment, the greater would have been prevented. Because they — The wicked men; said, He shall not see our last end — Namely, Jeremiah, whom these abandoned Jews threatened to kill, as if they were not willing he should see the fulfilling of his prophecies concerning the calamities to come on Judea. Not that they believed what he predicted would really come to pass, but they spake thus in a sarcastical manner, as much as to say, Be it so, that the calamities which thou denouncest against us shall come upon us, yet we will take care that thou shalt not have the pleasure of seeing them fulfilled upon us.12:1-6 When we are most in the dark concerning God's dispensations, we must keep up right thoughts of God, believing that he never did the least wrong to any of his creatures. When we find it hard to understand any of his dealings with us, or others, we must look to general truths as our first principles, and abide by them: the Lord is righteous. The God with whom we have to do, knows how our hearts are toward him. He knows both the guile of the hypocrite and the sincerity of the upright. Divine judgments would pull the wicked out of their pasture as sheep for the slaughter. This fruitful land was turned into barrenness for the wickedness of those that dwelt therein. The Lord reproved the prophet. The opposition of the men of Anathoth was not so formidable as what he must expect from the rulers of Judah. Our grief that there should be so much evil is often mixed with peevishness on account of the trials it occasions us. And in this our favoured day, and under our trifling difficulties, let us consider how we should behave, if called to sufferings like those of saints in former ages.The Hebrew divides this verse differently. "How long shall the land mourn, and the herb of the whole field wither? Because of the wickedness of them that dwell therein cattle and fowl have ceased to be: for he will not see, say they, our latter end." The people mock the prophet, saying, In spite of all his threatenings we shall outlive him.

Jeremiah complained that at a time of great general misery powerful men throve upon the ruin of others: even the innocent cattle and fowl suffered with the rest. To him it seemed that all this might have been cured by some signal display of divine justice. If God, instead of dealing with men by general and slow-working laws, would tear (out some of the worst offenders from among the rest, the land might yet be saved.

4. land mourn—personification (Jer 14:2; 23:10).

for the wickedness—(Ps 107:34).

beasts—(Ho 4:3).

He shall not see our last end—Jehovah knows not what is about to happen to us (Jer 5:12) [Rosenmuller]. So the Septuagint. (Ps 10:11; Eze 8:12; 9:9). Rather, "The prophet (Jeremiah, to whom the whole context refers) shall not see our last end." We need not trouble ourselves about his boding predictions. We shall not be destroyed as he says (Jer 5:12, 13).

The prophet seems to give a reason of his former passion and prayer against those wicked men he before reflected on, because they were the cause of the nation’s ruin, which is also asserted by the psalmist, Psalm 107:34. A land is said to mourn, metaphorically, when it is brought to an ill complexion, and looketh unpleasantly, the grass and green herbs in it being destroyed by enemies, or drought, or vermin. Nay, the effects of their wicked courses reached to the very beasts and birds, because they were so presumptuous as to conclude that they should do well enough, neither the prophet nor any other should see their last end. How long shall the land mourn,.... The land of Judea, being desolate, and bringing forth no fruit, through the long drought that had been upon it:

and the herbs of every field wither; for want of rain to come upon it:

for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? this opens the cause, the reason of this dearth; it was the wickedness of the inhabitants of it: as the whole earth was originally cursed for the sins of men, so particular countries have had the marks of God's displeasure upon them, because of the sins of those that dwell in them. This clause, according to the accents, belongs to what follows, and may be read in connection with the next clause; either thus, "the herbs" of every field wither, I say, "because of the wickedness of the inhabitants of it, which consumes the beasts and the birds" (x); that is, which wickedness is the cause not only of the withering of the grass and herbs, but of the consumption of birds and beasts: or else, by repeating the interrogation in the preceding clause,

how long shall the earth mourn, &c.;

how long, for the malice of them that dwell in it, are the beasts and the birds consumed (y)? the one having no grass to eat; and the other no fruit to pick, or seeds to live upon; the barrenness being so very great and general.

Because they said; the Jews, the inhabitants of the land, the wicked part of them, and which was the greater:

he shall not see our last end; either the Prophet Jeremiah, who had foretold it; but they did not believe him, that such would be their end, and that he should live to see it; or such was their atheism and infidelity, that they said God himself should not see it; and so the Septuagint and Arabic versions read, "God shall not see".

(x) So Gussetius, Ebr. Comment. p. 564. (y) Thus Schmidt, after Luther.

How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell in it? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, {e} He shall not see our last end.

(e) Abusing God's leniency and his promises, they flattered themselves as though God would ever be merciful and not utterly destroy them therefore they hardened themselves in sin, till at length the beasts and insensible creatures felt the punishment of their stubborn rebellion against God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. This v., while suiting Jeremiah’s style, is quite out of harmony with the context. See further on Jeremiah 12:13.

He shall not see our latter end] He will predecease us, not we him, as he pretends. But the LXX, assuming the pronoun to refer to Jehovah, and transposing two consonants in the last Hebrew word, translate, God shall not see our ways. In that case cp. Psalm 73:11. Co. and so Gi. (Metrik) for metrical reasons omit the v.Verse 4. - How long, etc.? The verse is decided rather differently by the Hebrew accents. The question should end at wither, and the following words run on. Every field should be the whole field (i.e. open country). The connection has caused some difficulty. But drought is constantly described as a judgment (Jeremiah 3:3; Jeremiah 5:24, 25; Jeremiah 14:2-7; Jeremiah 23:10), and it is a prophetic doctrine that the lower animals suffer for the fault of man. Because they said; rather, because they say. The speakers are the ungodly. The subject of the following verb is uncertain. Some think it is God; but when God is said to "see" (i.e. take notice of) anything, it is always something actually existing. The subject must, therefore, be the prophet, of whom the ungodly scoffingly declare, He shall not see our last end, because his predictions are mere delusions. Therefore Jeremiah calls upon the Lord, as the righteous judge and omniscient searcher of hearts, to punish his enemies. This verse is repeated almost verbally in Jeremiah 20:12, and in substance in Jeremiah 17:10. Who trieth reins and heart, and therefore knows that Jeremiah has done no evil. אראה is future as expressing certainty that God will interfere to punish; for to Him he has wholly committed his cause. גּלּיתי, Pi. of גּלה, is taken by Hitz., Ew., etc. in the sense of גּלל: on Thee have I rolled over my cause; in support of this they adduce Psalm 22:9; Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 16:3, as parallel passages. It is true that this interpretation can be vindicated grammatically, for גלל might have assumed the form of גלה (Ew. 121, a). But the passages quoted are not at all decisive, since Jeremiah very frequently gives a new sense to quotations by making slight alterations on them; and in the passage cited we read גּלל את ריב. We therefore adhere, with Grot. and Ros., to the usual meaning of גּלה; understanding that in making known there is included the idea of entrusting, a force suggested by the construction with אל instead of ל. ריב, controversy, cause. - The prophet declares God's vengeance to the instigators of the plots against his life, Jeremiah 11:21-23. The introductory formula in Jeremiah 11:21 is repeated in Jeremiah 11:22, on account of the long intervening parenthesis. "That thou diest not" is introduced by the ו of consecution. The punishment is to fall upon the entire population of Anathoth; on the young men of military age (בּחוּרים), a violent death in war; on the children, death by famine consequent on the siege. Even though all had not had a share in the complot, yet were they at heart just as much alienated from God and ill-disposed towards His word. "Year of their visitation" is still dependent on "bring." This construction is simpler than taking שׁנת for accus. adverb., both here and in Jeremiah 23:12.
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