Jeremiah 16:4
They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung on the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcasses shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.
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(4) Of grievous deaths.—Literally, deaths from diseases, including, perhaps, famine (as in Jeremiah 14:18), as contrasted with the more immediate work of the sword.

They shall not be lamented.—Among a people who attached such importance to the due observance of funeral obsequies as the Jews did, the neglect of those obsequies was, of course, here, as in Jeremiah 22:18, a symptom of extremest misery. Like features have presented themselves in the pestilences or sieges of other cities and other times, as in the description in Lucretius (vi. 1278) :—

“Nec mos ille sepulturæ remanebat in urbe,

Quo pius hic populus semper consuerat humari.”

“No more the customed rites of sepulture

Were practised in the city, such as wont

Of old to tend the dead with reverent care.”

Compare the account of the plague at Athens in Thucydides (ii. 52).

16:1-9 The prophet must conduct himself as one who expected to see his country ruined very shortly. In the prospect of sad times, he is to abstain from marriage, mourning for the dead, and pleasure. Those who would convince others of the truths of God, must make it appear by their self-denial, that they believe it themselves. Peace, inward and outward, family and public, is wholly the work of God, and from his loving-kindness and mercy. When He takes his peace from any people, distress must follow. There may be times when it is proper to avoid things otherwise our duty; and we should always sit loose to the pleasures and concerns of this life.The times were such that for "the present distress" it was wise for all to abstain from marriage 1 Corinthians 7:26; Matthew 24:19. 4. grievous deaths—rather, "deadly diseases" (Jer 15:2).

not … lamented—so many shall be the slain (Jer 22:18).

dung—(Ps 83:10).

God in these verses opens the reason why he would not have the prophet marry nor multiply relations. In evil and calamitous times, those who multiply relations do but multiply sorrows and afflictions to themselves; the apostle in evil times tells the Corinthians that married persons should have trouble in the flesh, 1 Corinthians 7:28; and Christ pronounceth a woe to those that should be with child, and to those that gave suck, at the time when Jerusalem should be besieged. God tells the prophet he was resolved that the people of this land, both young and old, should die miserable deaths, and die so fast, that there should be none to bury them. They should die by the

sword and the

famine, and be devoured by the

fowls and the

beasts; and therefore it was better for him to abide free from relations, for whose miseries he would be as much concerned as for his own affliction. They shall die of grievous deaths,.... Such as the sword, famine, and pestilence. The Targum particularly adds famine. It may be rendered, "deaths of diseases, or sicknesses" (u); such as are brought on by long sickness and lingering distempers; by which a man consumes gradually, as by famine, and is not snatched away at once; and which are very grievous to bear.

They shall not be lamented, neither shall they be buried; which two offices are usually done to the dead by their surviving relations; who mourn for them, and express their grief by various gestures, and which especially were used by the eastern nations; and take care that they have a decent burial: but neither of these would now be, which is mentioned as an aggravation of the calamity; that not only the deaths they should die of would be grievous ones, but after death no regard would be shown them; and that either because there would be none to do these things for them; or they would be so much taken up in providing for their own safety, and so much in concern for their own preservation, that they would not be at leisure to attend to the above things:

but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth; lie and rot there, and be dung to the earth; which would be a just retaliation, for their filthy and abominable actions committed in the land:

and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; the grievous deaths before mentioned; the sword without, and the famine within; the one more sudden, and at once, the other more lingering; and therefore may be more especially designed by the death of lingering sicknesses referred to:

and their carcasses shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; lying unburied; see Jeremiah 7:33.

(u) "mortibus aegrotationum", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, "aegritudium", Munster, Vatablus; "mortibus morborum", Schmidt. So Stockius, p. 340, 597, who restrains it to the death of individuals by the pestilence.

They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.
4. grievous deaths] lit. as mg. deaths of sicknesses.

they shall not be lamented, neither shall they be buried] We may compare the condition of things in the plague at Athens b.c. 430: “Such was the state of dismay and sorrow, that even the nearest relatives neglected the sepulchral duties … the dead and dying lay piled upon one another not merely in the public roads, but even in the temples.… Those bodies which escaped entire neglect were burnt or buried without the customary mourning and with unseemly carelessness.” Grote’s Hist. of Greece, ch. 49. See Thucyd. II. 52.Verse 4. - Grievous deaths; literally, deaths of sicknesses; i.e. all kinds of painful deaths, including (as Jeremiah 14:18 shows) death by starvation. They shall not be lamented. The absence of sepulture has already been pointed to several times as a feature of the horror of the times (Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 14:16; comp. Jeremiah 7:33), but this is a new and affecting touch. Dr. Payne Smith aptly refers to the plagues of Athens and London, in which the gentler elements of human nature were for the time almost extinguished. By reprimanding his impatience, and by again assuring him of His protection and of rescue from the power of his oppressors. - Jeremiah 15:19. "Therefore thus saith Jahveh: If thou return, then will I bring thee again to serve me; and if thou separate the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth. They will return to thee, but thou shalt not return unto them. Jeremiah 15:20. And I make thee unto this people a strong wall of brass, so that they fight against thee, but prevail not against thee; for I am with thee, to help thee and to save thee, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 15:21. And I save thee out of the hand of the wicked, and deliver thee out of the clutch of the violent."

In the words: if thou return, lies the reproach that in his complaint, in which his indignation had hurried him on to doubt God's faithfulness, Jeremiah had sinned and must repent. אשׁיבך is by many commentators taken adverbially and joined with the following words: then will I again cause thee to stand before me. But this adverbial use has been proved only for the Kal of שׁוּב, not for the Hiphil, which must here be taken by itself: then will I bring thee again, sc. into proper relations with me - namely, to stand before me, i.e., to be my servant. עמד , of the standing of the servant before his lord, to receive his commands, and so also of prophets, cf. 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:15; 2 Kings 3:14, etc. In the words: if thou make to go forth, i.e., separate the precious from the vile, we have the figure of metal-refining, in course of which the pure metal is by fusion parted from the earthy and other ingredients mixed with it. The meaning of the figure is, however, variously understood. Some think here, unfittingly, of good and bad men; so Chald. and Rashi: if thou cause the good to come forth of the bad, turn the good into bad; or, if out of the evil mass thou cause to come forth at least a few as good, i.e., if thou convert them (Chr. B. Mich., Ros., etc.). For we cannot here have to do with the issue of his labours, as Graf well remarks, since this did not lie in his own power. Just as little is the case one of contrast between God's word and man's word, the view adopted by Ven., Eichh., Dahl., Hitz., Ew. The idea that Jeremiah presented man's word for God's word, or God's word mixed with spurious, human additions, is utterly foreign to the context; nay, rather it was just because he declared only what God imposed on him that he was so hard bested. Further, that idea is wholly inconsistent with the nature of true prophecy. Maurer has hit upon the truth: si quae pretiosa in te sunt, admixtis liberaveris sordibus, si virtutes quas habes maculis liberaveris impatientiae et iracundiae; with whom Graf agrees. כּפי (with the so-called כ verit.), as my mouth shalt thou be, i.e., as the instrument by which I speak, cf. Exodus 4:16. Then shall his labours be crowned with success. They (the adversaries) will turn themselves to thee, in the manner shown in Jeremiah 15:11, but thou shalt not turn thyself to them, i.e., not yield to their wishes or permit thyself to be moved by them from the right way. Jeremiah 15:20. After this reprimand, the Lord renews to him the promise of His most active support, such as He had promised him at his call, Jeremiah 1:18.; "to save thee" being amplified in Jeremiah 15:21.

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