Jeremiah 4:19
My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.
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(19) My bowels, my bowels!—As with Jeremiah 4:13, the words may be Jeremiah’s own cry of anguish, or that of the despairing people with whom he identifies himself. The latter gives more dramatic vividness, as we thus have the utterances of three of the great actors in the tragedy: here of the people, in Jeremiah 4:22 of Jehovah, in Jeremiah 4:23 of the prophet. The “bowels” were with the Hebrews thought of as the seat of all the strongest emotions, whether of sorrow, fear, or sympathy (Job 30:27; Isaiah 16:11).

At my very heart.—Literally (reproducing the physical fact of palpitation), I writhe in pain; the walls of my heart! my heart moans for me. The verb for “I am pained” is often used for the “travail” or agony of childbirth (Isaiah 23:4; Isaiah 26:18).

Thou hast heard, O my soul . . .—Silence at such a time was impossible. The prophet, as in the language of strong emotion, addresses his own soul, his very self (Comp. Psalm 16:2; Psalm 42:5; Psalm 42:11).

Jeremiah 4:19-20. My bowels, &c. — Or, as Dr. Waterland renders it, My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at the centre, or in the midst, of my heart; my heart is tumultuous within me! It is an exclamation of the prophet, moved beyond measure at the calamities coming on his country, in being made the seat of war, and utterly ruined by a hostile invasion: which was so strongly represented to him in his vision, that he, as it were, saw the army of Nebuchadnezzar before his eyes, and the destruction and desolation made by it, heard the noise of the trumpets, the shouts of the soldiers, the outcries and lamentations of his countrymen, and the groans of the wounded and dying. And “the calamities described are presented to the mind in such lively colours, the images are so crowded, and arranged with so much art, and the breaks and apostrophes are so animated, that we seem to be involved in the same scene of misery with the prophet.” — Bishop Lowth’s 9th and 17th Prelec. I cannot hold my peace — I am so troubled I cannot forbear my complaints. Because thou hast heard, O my soul, &c. — I have heard in the spirit of prophecy; the calamity will as certainly come as if I now heard the trumpet sounding. Destruction upon destruction — Dr. Waterland reads, Breach upon breach, or, destruction dashes upon destruction; one sad calamity, like Job’s messengers, treading upon the heels of another. First, good Josiah is slain in battle; within three months after, his son and successor, Jehoahaz, is deposed by the king of Egypt; within two or three years after, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and took it, and from thence forward was continually making descents on the land of Judah with his armies, during the reigns of Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, till, about nineteen years after, he completed their ruin by the destruction of Jerusalem. For the whole land is spoiled — This is more particularly described Jeremiah 4:23-26. Suddenly are my tents spoiled — The enemy makes no more of overthrowing my stately cities than if he were overturning tents made of curtains.

4:19-31 The prophet had no pleasure in delivering messages of wrath. He is shown in a vision the whole land in confusion. Compared with what it was, every thing is out of order; but the ruin of the Jewish nation would not be final. Every end of our comforts is not a full end. Though the Lord may correct his people very severely, yet he will not cast them off. Ornaments and false colouring would be of no avail. No outward privileges or profession, no contrivances would prevent destruction. How wretched the state of those who are like foolish children in the concerns of their souls! Whatever we are ignorant of, may the Lord make of good understanding in the ways of godliness. As sin will find out the sinner, so sorrow will, sooner or later, find out the secure.The verse is best translated as a series of ejaculations, in which the people express their grief at the ravages committed by the enemy:

"My bowels! My bowels!" I writhe in pain!

The walls of my heart! "My heart" moans for me!

I cannot keep silence!

For "thou hast heard, O my soul," the trumpet's voice!

"The alarm of war!"

19. The prophet suddenly assumes the language of the Jewish state personified, lamenting its affliction (Jer 10:19, 20; 9:1, 10; Isa 15:5; compare Lu 19:41).

at my very heart—Hebrew, "at the walls of my heart"; the muscles round the heart. There is a climax, the "bowels," the pericardium, the "heart" itself.

maketh … noise—moaneth [Henderson].

alarm—the battle shout.

My bowels, my bowels! here begins the woeful complaint of, and the great trouble the prophet was in, upon the consideration of these things, crying out as one even under great pain and torment, doubling his words for want of vent, thereby expressing the excess of his sorrow, which in words was inexpressible; the like 2 Samuel 18:33; which sorrow of his he expresseth Jeremiah 9:1,10.

I am pained at my very heart, Heb. the walls of my heart; or, my heartstrings, that surrounded and encompassed my heart, are ready to break. He may possibly allude to their encompassing the walls of Jerusalem. Or the proper meaning is, my heart is ready to break; the LXX. rendereth it doth beat or pant. Maketh a noise; is disturbed within me, I can have no rest nor quiet within, Job 30:27 Lamentations 1:20.

I cannot hold my peace; I cannot forbear my complaints, I am so troubled and grieved, Job 7:11 Isaiah 22:4.

Because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, i.e. I have heard in the spirit of prophecy; it is as certain as if I now heard the trumpet sounding, and the alarm of war beating up.

My bowels, my bowels,.... These are either the words of the people, unto whose heart the calamity reached, as in the preceding verse; or rather of the prophet, who either, from a sympathizing heart, expresses himself in this manner; or puts on an appearance of mourning and distress, in order to awaken his people to a sense of their condition. The repetition of the word is after the manner of persons in pain and uneasiness, as, "my head, my head", 2 Kings 4:19,

I am pained at my very heart; as a woman in labour. In the Hebrew text it is, "as the walls of my heart" (e); meaning either his bowels, as before; or the "praecordia", the parts about the heart, which are as walls unto it; his grief had reached these walls, and was penetrating through them to his heart, and there was danger of breaking that:

my heart makes a noise in me; palpitates, beats and throbs, being filled with fears and dread, with sorrow and concern, at what was coming on; it represents an aching heart, all in disorder and confusion:

I cannot hold my peace; or be silent; must speak, and vent grief:

because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war; Kimchi observes, he does not say "my ears", but "my soul"; for as yet he had not heard with his ears the sound of the trumpet; for the enemy was not yet come, but his soul heard by prophecy: here is a Keri and a Cetib, a reading and a writing; it is written "I have heard"; it is read "thou hast heard", which is followed by the Targum: the sense is the same, it is the hearing of the soul. The prophet, by these expressions, represents the destruction as very near, very certain, and very distressing. The trumpet was sounded on different accounts, as Isidore (f) observes; sometimes to begin a battle; sometimes to pursue those that fled; and sometimes for a retreat.

(e) "parietes cordis mei", Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius. (f) Orignum l. 18. c. 4.

My distress, my {q} distress! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

(q) He shows that the true ministers are lively touched with the calamities of the Church, so that all the parts of their body feel the grief of their heart, even though with zeal to God's glory they pronounce his judgments against the people.

19. My bowels] considered as the seat of profound emotion. Cp. Jeremiah 31:20, Isaiah 16:11; Isaiah 63:15; Ca. Jeremiah 5:4 (R.V. mg.).

I am pained] decidedly to be preferred to mg. I will wait patiently.

at my very heart] O the walls of my heart! a separate exclamation. The “walls” are the sides of the cavity of the heart or the chest, against which it seems to beat. The prophet is speaking to some extent as a representative of the people.

is disquieted] The word in the Hebrew denotes tumultuous movement, pain, and the expression of it in sound.

thou hast heard, O my soul] better, as mg. (with different vocalisation in the Hebrew) my soul heareth. So LXX, Du. and Co. omit “my soul,” and read, with a very slight addition to the Hebrew verb, I hear.

19–22. The prophet is racked with grief at the noise of war and the thought of its horrors—and all through the mad folly of his people.

19–22. See summary at commencement of section.

Verse 19. - My bowels. It is doubted whether the speaker in vers. 19-21 is the prophet or the whole nation. Ver. 19 reminds us of Isaiah 15:5; Isaiah 16:11 and Isaiah 21:3, 4, and would be quite in harmony with the elegiac tone of our prophet elsewhere; the Targum too already regards the passage as an exclamation of the prophet. On the other hand, the phrase "my tents" (ver. 20) certainly implies that the people, or the pious section of the people, is the speaker. Both views may perhaps be united. The prophet may be the speaker in ver. 19, but simply (as is the case with so many of the psalmists) as the representative of his fellow-believers, whom in ver. 20 he brings on the stage more directly. Ver. 19 is best rendered as a series of exclamations -

"My bowels! my bowels! I must writhe in pain!
The walls of my heart! My heart moaneth unto me!
I cannot hold my peace!
For thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet,
The alarm of war!"
Observe, the "soul" hears; the "heart" is pained. So generally the one is more active, the other more passive. The Hebrew margin gives, for "I must writhe," "I must wait" (comp. Micah 7:7); but this rendering does not suit the context. The walls of my heart. A poetical way of saying, "My heart beats." Jeremiah 4:19Grief at the desolation of the land the infatuation of the people. - Jeremiah 4:19. "My bowels, my bowels! I am pained! the chambers of my heart - my heart rages within me! I cannot hold my peace! for thou hearest (the) sound of the trumpet, my soul, (the) war-cry. Jeremiah 4:20. Destruction upon destruction is called; for spoiled is the whole land; suddenly are my tents spoiled, my curtains in a moment. Jeremiah 4:21. How long shall I see (the) standard, hear (the) sound of the trumpet? Jeremiah 4:22. For my people is foolish, me they know not; senseless children are they, and without understanding; wise are they to do evil, but to do good they know not. Jeremiah 4:23. I look on the earth, and, lo, it is waste and void; and towards the heavens, and there is no light in them. Jeremiah 4:24. I look on the mountains, and, lo, they tremble, and all the hills totter. Jeremiah 4:25. I look, and, lo, no man is there, and all the fowls of the heavens are fled. Jeremiah 4:26. I look, and, lo, Carmel is the wilderness, and all the cities thereof are destroyed before Jahveh, before the heath of His anger."

To express the misery which the approaching siege of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah is about to bring, the prophet breaks forth into lamentation, Jeremiah 4:19-21. It is a much debated question, whether the prophet is the speaker, as the Chald. has taken it, i.e., whether Jeremiah is uttering his own (subjective) feelings, or whether the people is brought before us speaking, as Grot., Schnur., Hitz., Ew. believe. The answer is this: the prophet certainly is expressing his personal feelings regarding the nearing catastrophe, but in doing so he lends words to the grief which all the godly will feel. The lament of Jeremiah 4:20, suddenly are my tents spoiled, is unquestionably the lament not of the prophet as an individual, but of the congregation, i.e., of the godly among the people, not of the mass of the blinded people. The violence of the grief finds vent in abrupt ejaculations of distress. "My bowels, my bowels!" is the cry of sore pain, for with the Hebrews the bowels are the seat of the deepest feelings. The Chet. אוחולה is a monstrosity, certainly a copyist's error for אחוּלה, as it is in many MSS and edd., from חוּל: I am driven to writhe in agony. The Keri אוחילה, I will wait (cf. Micah 7:7), yields no good sense, and is probably suggested merely by the cohortative form, a cohortative being regarded as out of place in the case of חוּל. But that form may express also the effort to incite one's own volition, and so would here be rendered in English by: I am bound to suffer pain, or must suffer; cf. Ew. 228, a. - קירות , prop. the walls of my heart, which quiver as the heart throbs in anguish. הומה־לּי is not to be joined with the last two words as if it were part of the same clause; in that case we should expect הומה. But these words too are an ejaculation. The subject of הומה is the following לבּי; cf. Jeremiah 48:36. In defiance of usage, Hitz. connects לבּי with לא : my heart can I not put to silence. But this verb in Hiph. means always: be silent, never: put to silence. Not even in Job 11:3 can it have the latter meaning; where we have the same verb construed with acc. rei, as in Job 41:4, and where we must translate: at thy harangues shall the people be silent. The heart cannot be silent, because the soul hears the peal of the war-trumpet. שׁמעתּי is 2nd pers. fem., as in Jeremiah 2:20, Jeremiah 2:33, and freq., the soul being addressed, as in Psalm 16:2 (in אמרתּ), Psalm 42:6, 12. This apostrophe is in keeping with the agitated tone of the whole verse.

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