Jeremiah 5:4
Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Therefore.—Literally, And. The prophet makes for the poor the half-pitying plea of ignorance. Looking upon the masses that toil for bread, those whom the Scribes afterwards called the “people of earth,” it was not strange that they who had been left untaught should have learnt so little. The thought finds a parallel in our Lord’s compassion for the multitude who were as “sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36), for the servant who “knew not his Lord’s will” (Luke 12:48).

The way of the Lord.—That which He approves, that which leads to Him, as in Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 31:29.

5:1-9 None could be found who behaved as upright and godly men. But the Lord saw the true character of the people through all their disguises. The poor were ignorant, and therefore they were wicked. What can be expected but works of darkness, from people that know nothing of God and religion? There are God's poor, who, notwithstanding poverty, know the way of the Lord, walk in it, and do their duty; but these were willingly ignorant, and their ignorance would not be their excuse. The rich were insolent and haughty, and the abuse of God's favours made their sin worse.Therefore - More simply "and."

They are foolish - Or, they act foolishly (see Numbers 12:11), not having that knowledge which would enable them to guide their ways with discretion.

4. poor—rather, "the poor." He supposes for the moment that this utter depravity is confined to the uninstructed poor, and that he would find a different state of things in the higher ranks: but there he finds unbridled profligacy. Therefore I said; or, perhaps, I said with myself; not, possibly, that he thought so, but that he might thus express himself, as men use to speak.

Surely these are poor; poor, low-spirited, or of the meanest rank among the vulgar, understand but little; either men of greater ignorance, John 7:49, and therefore said not to know the way of the Lord; see Jeremiah 8:7; being better skilled in fields and vineyards than in the law; or of less conscience than the better sort may be, and therefore said to be foolish, or infatuated, or put upon greater temptation by reason of their poverty, Proverbs 30:9.

The judgment of their God; the methods or ways of his providence, the usual manner of his dealing; so judgment is to be taken here for the same with ways, 1 Samuel 2:13, as it is also Jeremiah 8:7. Then I said, surely these are poor, they are foolish,.... The prophet, observing that reproofs and corrections in providence had no effect upon the people, he thought within himself that surely the reason must be, because these people are poor, and in low circumstances in the world, and are so busy in their worldly employments to get bread for their families, that they were not at leisure to attend unto divine things; nor of capacity to receive instruction and correction by providences; therefore it is they were so foolish, stupid, and infatuated:

for they know not the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God; either the way which God takes in the salvation of the sons of men, and in justifying of them, which is revealed in his word; or that which he prescribes them to walk in, in his law, even the way of truth and righteousness, and for failure of which he judges and condemns them; but of these things they were ignorant; see John 7:48, not that this is observed in excuse for them, but in order to introduce what follows; and to show that this depravity, stupidity, and ignorance, obtained among all sort of people, high and low, rich and poor.

Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. The prophet thinks, Surely it is poverty and ignorance that mislead them. Cp. Hosea 4:6.

the way of the Lord] the way prescribed by God to man.

judgement] primarily a decision given by a judge, and hence an ordinance, or a prescribed system of ordinances (so in Jeremiah 8:7). See Dr. pp. 334 f. and cp. note on Jeremiah 10:24. The sense here is well illustrated by 2 Kings 17:26 f., where, however, “manner” in E. VV. is an inadequate rendering.Verse 4. - Therefore I said; rather, and as for me, I said. They are foolish; rather, they act foolishly (as Numbers 12:11). For; rather, because. Their want of religious instruction is the cause of their faulty conduct. In fact, it was only after the return from Babylon that any popular schools were founded in Judaea, and not till shortly before the destruction of the temple that the elementary instruction attained the regularity of a system (Edersheim, 'Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Time of Christ,' pp. 134, 135). The judgment of their God. A similar phrase occurs in Jeremiah 8:7. "Judgment (mishpat) here (as in some other passages) has acquired a technical sense. This may be illustrated by the corresponding word in Arabic (din), which means

(1) obedience,

(2) a religion,

(3) a statute or ordinance,

(4) a system of usages, rites, and ceremonies" (Lane's 'Lexicon,' s.v.). Judgment is, therefore, here equivalent to "religious law," and "law" is a preferable rendering. The devastation of Judah, though not its utter annihilation, is irrevocably decreed, and cannot be turned away by any meretricious expedients. - Jeremiah 4:27. "For thus saith Jahveh, A waste shall the whole land be, yet will I not make an utter end. Jeremiah 4:28. For this shall the earth mourn, and the heaven above darken, because I have said it, purposed it, and repent it not, neither will I turn back from it. Jeremiah 4:29. For the noise of the horseman and bowman every city flees; they come into thickets, and into clefts of the rock they go up; every city is forsaken, and no man dwells therein. Jeremiah 4:30. And thou, spoiled one, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself in purple, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou tearest open thine eyes with paint, in vain thou makest thyself fair; the lovers despise thee, they seek thy life. Jeremiah 4:31. For I hear a voice as of a woman in travail, anguish as of one who bringeth forth her first-born, the voice of the daughter of Zion; she sigheth, she spreadeth out her hands: Woe is me! for my soul sinketh powerless beneath murderers."

Jeremiah 4:27-29

Jeremiah 4:27 and Jeremiah 4:28 confirm and explain what the prophet has seen in spirit in Jeremiah 4:23-26. A waste shall the land become; but the wasting shall not be a thorough annihilation, not such a destruction as befell Sodom and Gomorrah. עשׂה , as in Nahum 1:8., Isaiah 10:23, and freq. This limitation is yet again in v. Jeremiah 5:10, Jeremiah 5:18 made to apply to Jerusalem, as it has done already to the people at large. It is founded on the promise in Leviticus 26:44, that the Lord will punish Israel with the greatest severity for its stubborn apostasy from Him, but will not utterly destroy it, so as to break His covenant with it. Accordingly, all prophets declare that after the judgments of punishment, a remnant shall be left, from which a new holy race shall spring; cf. Amos 9:8; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 11:11, Isaiah 11:16; Isaiah 10:20., Micah 2:12; Micah 5:6; Zephaniah 3:13, etc. "For this" refers to the first half of Jeremiah 4:27, and is again resumed in the על כּי following: for this, because Jahveh hath purposed the desolation of the whole land. The earth mourns, as in Hosea 4:3, because her productive power is impaired by the ravaging of the land. The heaven blackens itself, i.e., shrouds itself in dark clouds (1 Kings 18:45), so as to mourn over the desolated earth. The vividness of the style permits "have decreed it" to be appended as asyndeton to "I have said it," for the sake of greater emphasis. God has not only pronounced the desolation of the land, but God's utterance in this is based upon a decree which God does not repent, and from which He will not turn back. The lxx have placed the זמּתי after נחמתּי, and have thus obtained a neater arrangement of the clauses; but by this the force of expression in "I have said it, decreed it," is weakened. In Jeremiah 4:29 the desolation of the land is further portrayed, set forth in Jeremiah 4:30 as inevitable, and exhibited in its sad consequences in Jeremiah 4:31. On the approach of the hostile army, all the inhabitants flee into inaccessible places from the clatter or noise of the horsemen and archers. He that casts the bow, the bowman; cf. Psalm 78:9. כּל־העיר means, in spite of the article, not the whole city, but every city, all cities, as may be gathered from the בּהן, which points back to this. So frequently before the definite noun, especially when it is further defined by a relative clause, as e.g., Exodus 1:22; Deuteronomy 4:3; 1 Samuel 3:17; cf. Ew. 290, c. For the first כּל־העירthe lxx have πᾶσα ἡ χώρα, and accordingly J. D. Mich., Hitz., and Graf propose to amend to כּל־הארץ, so as to avoid "the clumsy repetition." But we cannot be ruled here by aesthetic principles of taste. Clearly the first "every city" means the populace of the cities, and so בּאוּ is: they (i.e., the men) come, pouring forth. עבים is not here clouds, but, according to its etymology, to be dark, means the dark thickets or woods; cf. the Syr. ̀āb, wood. כּפים, rocks, here clefts in the rocks, as is demanded by the בּ. For this state of things, cf. Isaiah 2:19, Isaiah 2:21, and the accounts of Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6, where the Israelites hide themselves from the invading Midianites in caves, ravines, thorn-thickets, rocks, and natural fastnesses.

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