Jeremiah 15:10
Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them does curse me.
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(10) Woe is me . . .—The abruptness of the transition suggests the thought that we have a distinct fragment which has been merged in the artificial continuity of the chapter. Possibly, as some have thought, Jeremiah 15:10-11 have been misplaced in transcription, and should come after Jeremiah 15:14, where they fit in admirably with the context. The sequence of thought may, however, be that the picture of the sorrowing mother in the previous verses suggests the reflection that there may be other causes for a mother’s sorrow than that of which he has spoken, and so he bursts out into the cry, “Woe is me, my mother!” The prophet feels more than ever the awfulness of his calling as a vessel of God’s truth. He, too, found that he had come “not to send peace on earth, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). His days were as full of strife as the life of the usurer, whose quarrels with his debtors had become the proverbial type of endless litigation. As examples of the working of the law of debt, see Exodus 22:25; 2Kings 4:1; Proverbs 6:1-5; Isaiah 24:2; Psalm 15:5; Psalm 109:11.

We note, as characteristic of the pathetic tenderness of the prophet’s character, the address to his mother. We may think of her probably as still living, and the thought of her suffering embitters her son’s grief. The sword was piercing through her soul also (Luke 2:35). There, too, there was a Mater dolorosa.

Jeremiah 15:10-11. Wo is me, my mother — The prophet here complains of the opposition he met with from his countrymen for speaking unwelcome truths. Thou hast borne me a man of contention to the whole earth — Or, whole land, rather. I am the object of common hatred; every body takes occasion to quarrel with me, because I speak truths which they do not like to hear. I have neither lent upon usury, &c. — “The Jews were forbidden to take usury of their brethren, (Deuteronomy 23:19,) especially of the poor, (Exodus 22:25,) which was thought so great an oppression that it made the man who was guilty of it hated and cursed by every one. The prophet says that he had never done this, and yet every body was his enemy, only for delivering those messages which he had received from God.” The Lord said, Verily it shall be well with thy remnant — The latter words of this verse expound the former: for by שׁרית, remnant, or residue, is meant the remnant of days that Jeremiah had to live. Verily, I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well — I will by my providence so order it that how cruelly and severely soever the enemy may deal with thy countrymen, yet they shall use thee kindly when they shall take the city. This was accordingly fulfilled: the Chaldeans, when they took Jerusalem, and carried the inhabitants of the land into captivity, treated Jeremiah with great kindness, giving him his choice to go where he pleased, and bestowing gifts upon him, as we read Jeremiah 39:11; Jeremiah 40:3-4.15:10-14 Jeremiah met with much contempt and reproach, when they ought to have blessed him, and God for him. It is a great and sufficient support to the people of God, that however troublesome their way may be, it shall be well with them in their latter end. God turns to the people. Shall the most hardy and vigorous of their efforts be able to contend with the counsel of God, or with the army of the Chaldeans? Let them hear their doom. The enemy will treat the prophet well. But the people who had great estates would be used hardly. All parts of the country had added to the national guilt; and let each take shame to itself.Jeremiah vents his sorrow at the rejection of his prayer. In reading these and similar expostulations we feel that we have to do with a man who was the reluctant minister of a higher power, from where alone he drew strength to be content to do and suffer.

Strife - More exactly, "lawsuit;" the sense is, "I am as a man who has to enter into judgment with and reprove the whole earth."

I have neither lent ... - i. e., I have no personal cause of quarrel with the people, that I should thus be perpetually at strife with them. The relations between the moneylender and the debtor were a fruitful source of lawsuits and quarrelling.

10. (Jer 20:14; Job 3:1, &c.). Jeremiah seems to have been of a peculiarly sensitive temperament; yet the Holy Spirit enabled him to deliver his message at the certain cost of having his sensitiveness wounded by the enmities of those whom his words offended.

man of strife—exposed to strifes on the part of "the whole earth" (Ps 80:6).

I have neither lent, &c.—proverbial for, "I have given no cause for strife against me."

The prophet in this verse cannot be excused from a great measure of passion and human infirmity; he almost curseth the day of his birth, denouncing himself a woeful, miserable man, to be born a man of strife and contention to the whole world, that is, those nations in it against which God sent him to denounce his judgments; which denunciations, how true soever, and the truth of which they afterward did effectually find, yet they were not able to bear, and therefore they strove with him, and contended against him; yet it was not for his sin.

Usury was forbidden the Jews, Deu 23:19, and so was the more odious; but saith the prophet, I have not followed that trade, I have neither lent nor borrowed upon usury; I have done them no wrong, or given them any occasion against me; yet they will not be reconciled to me, but speak of me all manner of evil. This was the lot of the old prophets, the lot of Samuel, of Christ, of his apostles, and of all the faithful ministers of the gospel ever since; let them carry themselves never so innocently and obligingly to people, yet if they will be faithful, and truly reveal unto people the mind and will of God, that is enough to anger a people whose wills are not subjugated to the will of God, and they will curse them. Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast born me a man of strife,.... Not that the prophet was a quarrelsome and contentious man, but others quarrelled and contended with him, and that for no other reason than for his faithful discharge of his office, under which he ought to have been easy; but being a man of like passions with others, wishes he had never been born, than to meet with so much trouble; and seems to blame his mother for bearing him; or however looked upon himself to be a miserable man through his birth, and that he was destined from thence to this sorrow:

and a man of contention to the whole earth; or "land"; the land of Judea, the inhabitants of it, as the Targum; for with no other had Jeremiah to do; and it were these only that contended with him, because he brought a disagreeable message to them, concerning their captivity:

I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; which was not lawful with the Jews to do; and therefore such were cursed that did it: but this is not to be restrained to this particular branch of business, which was not usual; but has respect to all trade and commerce; and the meaning is, that the prophet did not concern himself with secular affairs, but attended to the duties of his office; he carried on no negotiations with men; he was neither a creditor nor a debtor; had nothing to do with pecuniary affairs; which often occasions strifes and contentions, quarrels and lawsuits; and yet, notwithstanding, could not be free from strife and debate:

yet everyone of them do curse me; that is, everyone of the inhabitants of the land of Judea, so much known were Jeremiah and his prophecies; these slighted and set light by both him and his predictions; and wished the vilest imprecations upon him for his messages to them. The word here used is compounded of two words, or derived from two roots, as Kimchi observes; the one signifies to make light or vilify, in opposition to honour and glory; and the other to curse, in opposition to blessing; and this is often the case of the ministers of the word, not only to be slighted and despised, but to be defamed and cursed; see 1 Corinthians 4:12.

{k} Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither {l} lent on interest, nor have men lent to me on interest; yet every one of them doth curse me.

(k) By these are the prophet's words, complaining of the obstinacy of the people and that he was reserved to so wicked a time: in which also he shows what is the condition of God's ministers, that is, to have all the world against them, though they give no opportunity.

(l) Which is an opportunity for contention and hatred.

10. Woe is me, etc.] Cp. Job 3:1 ff., also Savonarola’s address to God in one of his sermons, “O Lord, whither hast thou led me? From my desire to save souls for Thee, I can no longer return to my rest. Why hast Thou made me ‘a man of strife, and a man of contention to the whole earth?’ ” W. R. Clark’s Savonarola, p. 230.

I have not lent …] Cp. Deuteronomy 23:20; Psalm 15:5. Necessity being almost the sole motive for borrowing, the moneylender would naturally be held in extreme disfavour. So “Interest is money begotten of money; so that of the sources of gain this is the most unnatural” (Aristotle, Politics, Bk. I. ch. 3, end). “Sources of gain, which incur the hatred of mankind, as those of tax-gatherers, of usurers”. Cicero, de Officiis, Bk. I. § 150. Cp.

“When did friendship take

A breed for barren metal of his friend?”

Mer. of Venice, 1:3, v. 123.

Ch. Jeremiah 15:10-21. The prophet bewails his lot. God’s reply

The passage as a whole is one of the most eloquent and pathetic in the Book. The date cannot be determined with confidence. The latter part of Jehoiakim’s reign is a fitting one to suggest. Jeremiah 15:13-14 are almost certainly to be rejected, while 11 and 12 need either drastic emendation or omission. Gi. considers that 11–14 have been inserted here from another context. They are also unrhythmical. We may subdivide as follows.

(i) Jeremiah 15:10-14. Alas, that I was ever born to be assailed by all men. I am subjected to revilings, as though I were a usurer or a defaulting debtor. Jehovah indeed promised me support in evil times, and that my foes should seek my aid when trouble came. Can what is strong as northern iron or bronze be broken? [Thy valued possessions throughout the land shall be plundered by thy foes because of thy misdeeds. They shall lead thee into captivity, by reason of thy sins.]

(ii) Jeremiah 15:15-18. O Lord, Thou knowest that my sufferings are on Thy behalf. Spare Thou my foes no longer. Thy words have been my stay and sustenance, yea, my joy, in my loneliness. Thy wrath at the wickedness of the nation has been mine as well. Shall my pain be ever as now? Shall my trust in Thee be brought toconfusion?

(iii) Jeremiah 15:19-21. The Lord’s reply. If thou wilt return wholeheartedly to My service, and reject from within thee every unworthy thought, I will accept thee again, and the people, unsolicited, shall seek My words at thy mouth. Through My support thou shalt be impregnable against all attacks of the strongest of thy enemies.Verses 10-21. - These verses come in very unexpectedly, and are certainly not to be regarded as a continuation of the preceding discourse. They describe some deeply pathetic moment of the prophet's inner life, and in all probability belong to a later period of the history of Judah. At any rate, the appreciation of the next chapter will be facilitated by reading it in close connection with Ver. 9 of the present chapter. But the section before us is too impressive to be east adrift without an attempt to find a place for it in the life of the prophet. The attempt has been made with some plausibility by a Jewish scholar, Dr. Gratz, who considers the background of these verses to be the sojourn of Jeremiah at Ramah, referred to in Jeremiah 40:1, and groups them, therefore, with another prophecy (Jeremiah 31:15-17), in which Ramah is mentioned by name as the temporary abode of the Jewish captives. We are told in Jeremiah 40:4, 5, that Jeremiah had the choice given him of either going to Babylon with the exiles, or dwelling with the Jews who were allowed to remain under Gedaliah the governor. He chose, as the narrative in Jeremiah 40. tells us, to stay with Gedaliah; but the narrative could not, in accordance with the reserve which characterizes the inspired writers, reveal the state of mind in which this difficult choice was made. This omission is supplied in the paragraph before us. Jeremiah, with that lyric tendency peculiar to him among the prophets, gives a vent to his emotion in these impassioned verses. He tells his friends that the resolution to go to Gedaliah may cost him a severe struggle. He longs for rest, and in Babylon he would have more chance of a quiet life than among the turbulent Jews at home. But he has looked up to God for guidance, and, however painful to the flesh, God's will must be obeyed. He gives us the substance of the revelation which he received. The Divine counselor points out that he has already interposed in the most striking manner for Jeremiah, and declares that if he will devote himself to the Jews under Gedaliah, a new and fruitful field will be open to him, in which, moreover, by Divine appointment, no harm can happen to him. Whether this is really the background of the paragraph must remain uncertain. In a case of this kind, we are obliged to call in the help of the imagination, if the words of the prophet are to be realized with any degree of vividness. There are some great difficulties in the text, and apparently one interpolation (Vers. 13, 14 being in all probability an incorrect copy of Jeremiah 17:3, 4). Verse 10. - Woe is me, my mother! This is one of those passages (comp. Introduction) which illustrate the sensitive and shrinking character of our prophet.

"If his meek spirit erred, opprest
That God denied repose,
What sin is ours, to whom Heaven's rest
Is pledged to heal earth's woes?"

(Cardinal Newman, in 'Lyra Apostolica,' 88.). I have neither lent on usury, etc.; a speaking figure to men of the ancient world, to whom, as Dr. Payne Smith remarks, "the relations between the money-lender and the debtor were the most fruitful source of lawsuits and quarrellings." Decisive refusal of the petition. - Jeremiah 15:1. Even Moses and Samuel, who stood so far in God's favour that by their supplications they repeatedly rescued their people from overwhelming ruin (cf. Exodus 17:11; Exodus 32:11., Numbers 14:13., and 1 Samuel 7:9., Jeremiah 12:17., Psalm 99:6), if they were to come now before the Lord, would not incline His love towards this people. אל indicates the direction of the soul towards any one; in this connection: the inclination of it towards the people. He has cast off this people and will no longer let them come before His face. In Jeremiah 15:2-9 this is set forth with terrible earnestness. We must supply the object, "this people," to "drive" from the preceding clause. "From my face" implies the people's standing before the Lord in the temple, where they had appeared bringing sacrifices, and by prayer invoking His help (Jeremiah 14:12). To go forth from the temple equals to go forth from God's face. Jeremiah 15:2. But in case they ask where they are to go to, Jeremiah is to give them the sarcastic direction: Each to the destruction allotted to him. He that is appointed to death, shall go forth to death, etc. The clauses: such as are for death, etc., are to be filled up after the analogy of 2 Samuel 15:20; 2 Kings 8:1, so that before the second "death," "sword," etc., we supply the verb "shall go." There are mentioned four kinds of punishments that are to befall the people. The "death" mentioned over and above the sword is death by disease, for which we have in Jeremiah 14:12 דּבר, pestilence, disease; cf. Jeremiah 43:11, where death, captivity, and sword are mentioned together, with Ezekiel 14:21, sword, famine, wild beasts, and disease (דּבר), and Ezekiel 33:27, sword, wild beasts, and disease. This doom is made more terrible in Jeremiah 15:3. The Lord will appoint over them (פּקד as in Jeremiah 13:21) four kinds, i.e., four different destructive powers which shall prepare a miserable end for them. One is the sword already mentioned in Jeremiah 15:2, which slays them; the three others are to execute judgment on the dead: the dogs which shall tear, mutilate, and partly devour the dead bodies (cf. 2 Kings 9:35, 2 Kings 9:37), and birds and beasts of prey, vultures, jackals, and others, which shall make an end of such portions as are left by the dogs. In Jeremiah 15:4 the whole is summed up in the threatening of Deuteronomy 28:25, that the people shall be delivered over to be abused to all the kingdoms of the earth, and the cause of this terrible judgment is mentioned. The Chet. זועה is not to be read זועה, but זועה, and is the contracted form from זעוה, see on Deuteronomy 28:25, from the rad. זוּע, lit., tossing hither and thither, hence for maltreatment. For the sake of King Manasseh, who by his godless courses had filled up the measure of the people's sins, so that the Lord must cast Judah away from His face, and give it up to the heathen to be chastised; cf. 2 Kings 23:26; 2 Kings 24:3, with the exposition of these passages; and as to what Manasseh did, see 2 Kings 21:1-16.
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