Jeremiah 8:4
Moreover you shall say to them, Thus said the LORD; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return?
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(4) Shall he turn.—Better, as both clauses arc indefinite, Shall men fall and not arise? Shall one turn away and not return? The appeal is made to the common practice of men. Those who fall struggle to their feet again. One who finds that he has lost his way retraces his steps. In its spiritual aspect the words assert the possibility of repentance in all but every case, however desperate it may seem. St. Paul’s question, “Have they stumbled that they should fall?” (Romans 11:11), expresses something of the same belief in the ultimate triumph of the Divine purpose of good. As yet, that purpose, as the next verse shows, seemed to be thwarted.

Jeremiah 8:4-6. Moreover, thou shalt say, &c. — The prophet is here directed to set before the Jews the unreasonableness and folly of their impenitence, which was the thing that brought this ruin upon them. And he represents them as the most stupid and senseless people in the world, that would not be made wise by any of the methods which infinite wisdom took to bring them to a right mind. Thus saith the Lord, Shall they fall and not arise? — If men happen to make a false step and fall to the ground, do they not endeavour immediately to rise again? Shall he — Shall any traveller; turn away — Namely, out of his right road, and not return into it when he is informed of his error? Why then is this people slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? — Having fallen into sin, why do they not endeavour to rise again by repentance? Having missed their way, and being clearly shown that they have, why to they not correct their error and return into it? It is “an expostulation,” says Lowth, “implying that men are seldom so far gone in wickedness as not to be touched with some remorse for their evil doings, and make some general resolutions of amendment:” but the Jews were “guilty of one perpetual apostacy, as if they could deceive God by their hypocritical pretences, without taking any steps toward a reformation.” They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return — They have turned aside into a false way, a way in which they promise themselves prosperity, but which will bring them to ruin; their error is demonstrated to them, and yet they refuse to relinquish it: they hold it fast, and proceed forward to destruction. I hearkened and heard, &c. — These also are the words of God, expressing himself after the manner of men, who are wont to look and listen diligently after the things they are very desirous of. Thus God represents himself as waiting and looking continually to see marks of the people’s repentance, that he might show them mercy, and avert his threatened judgments. But they spake not aright — I neither heard a word nor saw an action which manifested any sorrow for their apostacy, or any inclination to return to their duty and allegiance. No man repented him, saying, What have I done? — None of them did so much as take the first step toward repentance; they did not even examine into their conduct, and call themselves to an account for their actions. Every one turned to his course, &c. — Proceeded on in his accustomed way, committing all wickedness without restraint.8:4-13 What brought this ruin? 1. The people would not attend to reason; they would not act in the affairs of their souls with common prudence. Sin is backsliding; it is going back from the way that leads to life, to that which leads to destruction. 2. They would not attend to the warning of conscience. They did not take the first step towards repentance: true repentance begins in serious inquiry as to what we have done, from conviction that we have done amiss. 3. They would not attend to the ways of providence, nor understand the voice of God in them, ver. 7. They know not how to improve the seasons of grace, which God affords. Many boast of their religious knowledge, yet, unless taught by the Spirit of God, the instinct of brutes is a more sure guide than their supposed wisdom. 4. They would not attend to the written word. Many enjoy abundance of the means of grace, have Bibles and ministers, but they have them in vain. They will soon be ashamed of their devices. The pretenders to wisdom were the priests and the false prophets. They flattered people in sin, and so flattered them into destruction, silencing their fears and complaints with, All is well. Selfish teachers may promise peace when there is no peace; and thus men encourage each other in committing evil; but in the day of visitation they will have no refuge to flee unto.The prophet here resumes from Jeremiah 7:28 the main subject of his prophecy. He again invites the Jews to repentance.

Shall they fall? - The argument is that when men fall, they do not lie upon the ground, but endeavor to get up again: and when a man loses his way, he does not persist in going on, but turns round, and retraces his steps. Israel then will be only following the dictates of comnon sense in desisting from that which she now knows to be her ruin.

4. "Is it not a natural instinct, that if one falls, he rises again; if one turns away (that is, wanders from the way), he will return to the point from which he wandered? Why then does not Jerusalem do so?" He plays on the double sense of return; literal and metaphorical (Jer 3:12; 4:1). Moreover thou shalt say unto them; though possibly it be all in vain, yet thou shalt keep in thy work.

Shall they fall, and not arise? an interrogation that hath the force of a negative, i.e. surely none. Or, Will men, is there no hope? And are they upon this ground desperate? Or rather, Will men fall, and not arise? Are they such fools, that having fallen by their sins, and been foretold all that is coming, that they will not accept of a remedy? Jeremiah 7:27 Hosea 14:1.

Shall he turn away, and not return? a metaphor taken from one that is out of his way; can any imagine that if one tell him of it, and direct him aright, that he will not hearken to him, and turn back? It is even against nature itself for a man not to seek his own good. Moreover, thou shalt say unto them,.... The Jews, in Jeremiah's time, in order to leave them inexcusable, though the Lord had before assured that they would not hearken to him, Jeremiah 7:27,

thus saith the Lord, shall they fall, and not rise? men, when they fall, endeavour to get up again, and generally they do:

shall he turn away, and not return? when a man turns out of the right way into a wrong one, as soon as he is sensible of his mistake, he returns back; this is usually done among men. This is generally the case in a natural sense, and might be expected in a moral sense; that whereas these people had fallen into sin, they would rise again by repentance; and, having turned from the good ways of God, would soon return again to them.

Moreover thou shalt say to them, Thus saith the LORD; Shall they {c} fall, and not rise? shall he turn away, and not return?

(c) Is there no hope that they will return?

4. We have had (chs. Jeremiah 7:29 to Jeremiah 8:3) a kind of parenthesis, setting forth the nature of the coming punishment. Jeremiah now returns to the subject of the conduct which has procured it.

Chs. Jeremiah 8:4 to Jeremiah 9:1. Forecast of punishment as the result of sin

The section may be thus summarized.

(i) Jeremiah 8:4-9. Human fortunes and conduct are as a rule liable to change, but Israel pursues a steady course of disobedience. Migratory birds obeying unerringly their instincts compare favourably with the men who have intellect to understand Jehovah’s teaching, yet falsify or ignore it. (ii) Jeremiah 8:10-12. Even prophets and priests are covetous, insincere, foolishly optimistic, and unblushingly wicked. They must suffer the penalty. Their wives and lands shall be given to others. (iii) Jeremiah 8:13-17. They are as a tree without fruit or leaf. It remains only in despair to take refuge within walls. The northern foes’ approach can be already heard. They devastate city and country alike. No charm can avert this serpent-like attack. (iv) Jeremiah 8:18 to Jeremiah 9:1. There sounds from afar the cry of dismay from those who have moved Jehovah to anger. The time for deliverance has gone by. Is there indeed no remedy? No, none. Would that my tears were as limitless as the calamity which calls them forth.Verse 4 - Jeremiah 9:1. - The incorrigible wickedness of the people, and the awfulness of the judgment. Verse 4. - Moreover thou shalt say, etc.; literally, and thou shalt say. The section is introduced by a formula which connects it with Jeremiah 7:2, 28. Shall they fall, etc.? rather, Do men fall... doth a man turn away? One of those appeals to common sense in which the prophets delight. Who ever sees a fallen man stay quietly on the ground without attempting to rise? or a man who has wandered out of the path persist in going in the wrong direction? Therefore God will make the place of their sins the scene of judgment on the sinners. There shall come days when men will call the valley of these abominations the valley of slaughter, i.e., shall make it into such a valley. Where they have sacrificed their children to Moloch, they shall themselves be slaughtered, massacred by their enemies. And in this valley, as an unclean place (Jeremiah 19:13), shall they be buried "for want of room;" since, because of the vast numbers of the slain, there will be nowhere else to put them.
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