Jeremiah 14:3
And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.
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(3) Their little ones.—Not their children, but their menial servants. The word is peculiar to Jeremiah, and occurs only here and in Jeremiah 48:4. The vivid picture of the messengers running hither and thither to all wells, and springs, and tanks, reminds us of Ahab’s search for wells or springs in the time of the great drought of his reign (1Kings 18:5), of the “two or three cities wandering” to the one city that was yet supplied with water of Amos 4:8.

The pits.—The tanks or reservoirs where, if anywhere, water might be looked for.

Covered their heads.—The extremest sign of a grief too great to utter itself to others, craving to be alone in its wretchedness (2Samuel 15:30; 2Samuel 19:4). The student will recollect it as occurring also in the account of the painting of Agamemnon at the Sacrifice of Iphigenia, ascribed to Timanthes.

Jeremiah 14:3-6. And their nobles, &c. — This scarcity of water afflicted not poor persons only, who had not such means of supplying their necessities as the rich; but the greatest among them, who sent their little ones, (or inferiors, as צעיריהם, seems here rather to signify,) to the places made to receive and retain water; who, finding none, returned with their vessels empty, like persons ashamed, and troubled upon seeing their expectations frustrated. Jerusalem, it must be observed, was supplied with water by two lakes, or pools, termed the upper pool, and the lower pool; Isaiah 7:3; and Isaiah 22:9; from which the water was conveyed by pipes or conduits, for the use of the city. Because the ground is chapt — Hebrew, חתה, broken, bruised, turned into dust. The ploughmen — The husbandmen, as אכרים, properly signifies; were ashamed — Disappointed in their hopes of reaping fruit from their labours. They covered their heads — An expression of great affliction and mourning. The hind also calved and forsook it — The hinds are loving creatures, and as all creatures, by a natural instinct, love their young, so the hinds especially; but their moisture being dried up, they had not milk for them, but were forced to leave them, and to run hither and thither to seek grass to eat. And the wild asses, &c. — The wild asses, wanting water, got upon the high places, or cliffs, where the air was cooler and its current stronger than in lower places, and their sucked in the wind; and this, it is said, they did like dragons, which are reputed to delight in cool places, and are said by Aristotle and Pliny to stand frequently upon high places imbibing the cool air. Their eyes did fail, &c. — They languished, or pined away for want of food; in which case the natural splendour of the eyes, which is very great in wild asses, grows dull or languid. 14:1-9 The people were in tears. But it was rather the cry of their trouble, and of their sin, than of their prayer. Let us be thankful for the mercy of water, that we may not be taught to value it by feeling the want of it. See what dependence husbandmen have upon the Divine providence. They cannot plough nor sow in hope, unless God water their furrows. The case even of the wild beasts was very pitiable. The people are not forward to pray, but the prophet prays for them. Sin is humbly confessed. Our sins not only accuse us, but answer against us. Our best pleas in prayer are those fetched from the glory of God's own name. We should dread God's departure, more than the removal of our creature-comforts. He has given Israel his word to hope in. It becomes us in prayer to show ourselves more concerned for God's glory than for our own comfort. And if we now return to the Lord, he will save us to the glory of his grace.Little ones - mean ones, the common people. The word is unique to Jeremiah Jer 48:4.

The pits - i. e., tanks for holding water.

Covered their heads - The sign of grief.

3. little ones—rather, "their inferiors," that is, domestics.

pits—cisterns for collecting rain water, often met with in the East where there are no springs.

covered … heads—(2Sa 15:30). A sign of humiliation and mourning.

This scarcity of water afflicted not mean persons only, who have not so good means to supply their necessities as others; but their greatest persons; so as they sent their

little ones (it were better translated servants, for they are meant) to the places made to receive and retain water; but finding no water in the pits, they came back again with their vessels empty, like men ashamed and confounded, and troubled upon the seeing their expectations frustrated. And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters,.... To places where water used to be; to the pools, the upper and the lower, particularly to the fountain of Shiloah, which, Jerom says, was the only one the city of Jerusalem used. The meaning either is, that the nobles in Jerusalem sent their own children to get water for them, they having no servants to attend them, these being put away because they could not support them, the famine being so sore; or rather that they sent their menial servants, their subjects, as the Targum renders it, to fetch them a little water to refresh themselves with:

they came to the pits and found no water; their servants came according to order to the pools and cisterns, or to the deep wells, and to such places where there used to be a great confluence of water, and plenty of it, but now they could find none:

they returned with their vessels empty; just as they came:

they were ashamed and confounded; either the servants that were sent, or rather their masters that sent them, when they saw them come with their empty vessels; having been looking out and longing for their return, expecting they would have brought water with them for their refreshment; but to their great disappointment and confusion brought none:

and covered their heads; as persons ashamed, or as mourners used to do, being full of anguish and distress because of the drought.

And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and {c} covered their heads.

(c) That is, with ashes in token of sorrow.

3. little ones] rather, as mg. inferiors, i.e. servants.

pits] cisterns, or tanks, where the water was kept till wanted for use. See on ch. Jeremiah 2:13.

ashamed] See on Jeremiah 2:26.

cover their heads] as a sign of the greatest grief or confusion. Cp. 2 Samuel 15:30; Esther 6:12.Verse 3. - Their nobles - i.e. the upper classes of Judah and Jerusalem - have sent their little ones; rather, their mean ones; i.e. their servants, or perhaps (as Naegelsbach and Payne Smith) simply, "the common people;" it was not a matter concerning the rich alone. To the pits; i.e. to the cisterns. Covered their heads; a sign of the deepest mourning (2 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 19:4; Esther 6:12). Judah will not escape this ignominious lot, since wickedness has so grown to be its nature, that it can as little cease therefrom and do good, as an Ethiopian can wash out the blackness of his skin, or a panther change it spots. The consequential clause introduced by גּם אתּם connects with the possibility suggested in, but denied by, the preceding question: if that could happen, then might even ye do good. The one thing is as impossible as the other. And so the Lord must scatter Judah among the heathen, like stubble swept away by the desert wind, lit., passing by with the desert wind. The desert wind is the strong east wind that blows from the Arabian Desert; see on Jeremiah 4:11.
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