Jeremiah 8:14
Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defended cities, and let us be silent there: for the LORD our God has put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD.
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(14) Why do we sit still? . . .—The cry of the people in answer to the threatening of Jehovah is brought in by the prophet with a startling dramatic vividness. They are ready to flee into the defenced cities, as the prophet had told them in Jeremiah 4:5, but it is without hope. They are going into the silence as of death, for to that silence Jehovah himself has brought them.

Water of gall.—The idea implied is that of poison as well as bitterness. It is uncertain what the “gall-plant” was; possibly, from its connection with “grapes” or “clusters,” as in Deuteronomy 32:32, belladonna or colocynth is meant. Others have suggested the poppy, and this is in part confirmed by the narcotic properties implied in Matthew 27:34. In Deuteronomy 29:18 it is joined with “wormwood.”

Jeremiah 8:14-15. Let us enter into the defenced cities — In these verses the prophet seems to turn to and address his countrymen by way of apostrophe; and, as one of the people that dwelt in the open towns, advises those that were in the like situation to retire with him into some of the fortified cities, and there wait the event with patience; since there was nothing but terror abroad, and the noise of the enemy who had already begun to ravage the country. By this the prophet signifies, that when the Chaldeans should come, there would be no hope of safety left but in fleeing to fortified places, and that none would dare to stay in the open country. He speaks of the thing as already present, because it was soon to happen, and it was represented to him, in his vision, as already present. Let us be silent there, for the Lord hath put us to silence — This may mean, that God had suffered the forces of the king of Judah to be so diminished that they were not able to defend the country and open towns, but must of necessity keep themselves cooped up in their fortified cities, and leave the country to be ravaged everywhere by the Chaldeans. And given us water of gall to drink — Hath brought us into grievous calamities for the punishment of our sins. We looked for peace — We were willing to believe the false prophets, who foretold prosperous times. For a time of health — Or, for a time in which we should be cured; that is, for a time of peace, in which we might recover our strength.8:14-22 At length they begin to see the hand of God lifted up. And when God appears against us, every thing that is against us appears formidable. As salvation only can be found in the Lord, so the present moment should be seized. Is there no medicine proper for a sick and dying kingdom? Is there no skilful, faithful hand to apply the medicine? Yes, God is able to help and to heal them. If sinners die of their wounds, their blood is upon their own heads. The blood of Christ is balm in Gilead, his Spirit is the Physician there, all-sufficient; so that the people may be healed, but will not. Thus men die unpardoned and unchanged, for they will not come to Christ to be saved.The people rouse one another to exertion. "Why," they ask, "do we remain here to be overwhelmed?" They are ready now to follow the command given (see the marginal reference), but with the conviction that all hope is over.

Let us be silent there - Rather, let us perish there, literally "be put to silence."

Water of gall - i. e., poison. The word rendered "gall" was probably the belladonna, or night-shade, to the "berries" of which the grapes of Israel were compared.

14. assemble—for defense.

let us be silent—not assault the enemy, but merely defend ourselves in quiet, until the storm blow over.

put us to silence—brought us to that state that we can no longer resist the foe; implying silent despair.

water of gall—literally, "water of the poisonous plant," perhaps the poppy (Jer 9:15; 23:15).

Why do we sit still? the people at length seem to bethink themselves, and thus to bespeak each other. Let us enter into the defenced cities; in the scattered villages there is no safety for us, let us retire into places of greater security, Matthew 24:16-18; possibly they thought they might be secured there, as they had been before in the time of Sennacherib.

Let us be silent there; keep close within our walls, say or do nothing to provoke the enemy; but sit down and bewail the desperateness of our condition, Lamentations 3:28,29, or tremblingly expect the issue of this sad war, for there is no possibility of making head against such an enemy, that bears down all before them.

The Lord our God hath put us to silence: they now begin to perceive that the hand of God is in all this, and that therefore they have not a word to say, as if they were wronged; God hath put them to shame: much less courage to oppose the Babylonians; their heart fails them, they are as men in a great terror and consternation; God hath put us to silence, let us be silent.

Water of gall; or, poison; probably the name of some poisonous herb, with the juice or infusion whereof they were wont to kill persons, as hemlock, nightshade &c. See Hosea 10:4. It notes those bitter destructive judgments that God was bringing upon them, Jeremiah 9:15, which did spring from that bitter root of their sinning against him, as in the next words. Why do we sit still?.... In the country, where were barrenness and want of provisions; in the villages and unwalled towns, where they were exposed to the spoils and ravages of the enemy. These words, with what follow, are the words of the prophet, in the language of the Israelites, as Kimchi observes.

Assemble yourselves; this is the gathering together, in order to be consumed, before threatened, which they themselves were made to do:

and let us enter into the defenced cities; such as Jerusalem, where they thought they should be safe from their enemies:

and let us be silent there; either promising themselves rest, quietness, and security; or suggesting that it would be right in them to say nothing by way of complaint; having no reason to murmur at their afflictions, since they were no other than what their own sins had brought upon them:

for the Lord our God hath put us to silence; stopped their mouths that they could not complain, being convicted in their consciences of their sins; and brought them into a state of destruction and death, which makes silent:

and given us water of gall to drink; afflictions bitter and deadly. The Targum is,

"and hath made us drink the cup of an evil curse, as the heads of serpents;''

a poisonous and deadly potion:

because we have sinned against the Lord; which they were obliged to own; though it does not appear that they had true repentance for their sins, or amended their ways; sometimes confession of sin is made without either of these.

Why do we sit still? {i} assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the fortified cities, and let us be silent there: for the LORD our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of {k} gall to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD.

(i) He speaks in the person of the people, who when the enemy comes will turn about to hide themselves and acknowledge that it is God's hand.

(k) That is, has brought us into extreme affliction, and thus they will not attribute this plague to fortune, but to God's just judgment, Jer 9:15,23:15.

14. be silent … put us to silence] better, as mg. perish … caused us to perish. Cp. 1 Samuel 2:9.

water of gall] a plant yielding some bitter flavour reminding of gall. It is mentioned also Jeremiah 9:15, Jeremiah 23:15; Deuteronomy 29:18 (Matthew 17), Jeremiah 32:32; Psalm 69:21; Lamentations 3:5; Lamentations 3:19; Hosea 10:4 (“hemlock”). It cannot be identified with any certainty.

14, 15. The people in their straits address one another. Cp. Jeremiah 4:5.Verse 14. - Why do we sit still? The prophet transports us by a stroke of his pen into the midst of the fulfillment of his prophecy. The people of the country districts are represented as urging each other to flight. True, it is the resource of despair. No defensed cities can defend them against the judgment of Jehovah. Let us be silent; rather, let us perish; literally, let us be put to silence. Hath put us to silence; rather, hath caused us to perish; i.e. hath decreed our destruction. Water of gall; a phrase characteristic of our prophet (see Jeremiah 9:14; Jeremiah 23:15). It is a little difficult to find a rendering which shall suit all the passages in which rosh (gall) is mentioned. In Deuteronomy 32:33 (and so Job 20:16) it is clearly used for "venom" in general; and yet in Ver. 32 of the same chapter it obviously means a plant. Another general application of the term seems to have been to bitterness in general, the ideas of bitterness and poisonousness being taken as interchangeable. The Authorized Version may therefore stand. In spite of this heedlessness of the statutes, the judgment of God, they vainly boast in their knowledge and possession of God's law. Those who said, We are wise, are mainly the priests and false prophets; cf. Jeremiah 8:10, Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 5:31. The wisdom these people claimed for themselves is, as the following clause shows, the knowledge of the law. They prided themselves on possessing the law, from which they conceived themselves to have drawn their wisdom. The second clause, as Hitz. observed, shows that it is the written law that is meant. The law is with us. This is not to be understood merely of the outward possession of it, but the inward, appropriated knowledge, the mastery of the law. The law of Jahveh, recorded in the Pentateuch, teaches not only the bearing towards God due by man, but the bearing of God towards His people. The knowledge of this law begets the wisdom for ruling one's life, tells how God is to be worshipped, how His favour is to be procured and His anger appeased.

As against all this, Jeremiah declares: Assuredly the lying pen (style) of the scribes hath made it a lie. Ew., Hitz., Graf, translate ספרים, authors, writers; and the two latter of them take עשׂה equals labour: "for a lie (or for deception) hath the lying style (pen) of the writers laboured." This transl. is feasible; but it seems simpler to supply 'תּורת יי: hath made it (the law); and there is no good reason for confining סופר to the original composers of works. The words are not to be limited in their reference to the efforts of the false prophets, who spread their delusive prophecies by means of writings: they refer equally to the work of the priests, whose duty it was to train the people in the law, and who, by false teaching as to its demands, led the people astray, seduced them from the way of truth, and deceived them as to the future. The labours both of the false prophets and of the wicked priests consisted not merely in authorship, in composing and circulating writings, but to a very great extent in the oral teaching of the people, partly by prophetic announcements, partly by instruction in the law; only in so far as it was necessary was it their duty to set down in writing and circulate their prophecies and interpretations of the law. But this work by word and writing was founded on the existing written law, the Torah of Moses; just as the true prophets sought to influence the people chiefly by preaching the law to them, by examining their deeds and habits by the rule of the divine will as revealed in the Torah, and by applying to their times the law's promises and threatenings. For this work with the law, and application of it to life, Jer. uses the expression "style of the Shoferim," because the interpretation of the law, if it was to have valid authority as the rule of life, must be fixed by writing. Yet he did not in this speak only of authors, composers, but meant such as busied themselves about the book of the law, made it the object of their study. But inasmuch as such persons, by false interpretation and application, perverted the truth of the law into a lie, he calls their work the work of the lying style (pen).

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