Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction.
Jer 6:1-30. Zion's Foes Prepare War against Her: Her Sins Are the Cause.
1. Benjamin—Jerusalem was situated in the tribe of Benjamin, which was here separated from that of Judah by the valley of Hinnom. Though it was inhabited partly by Benjamites, partly by men of Judah, he addresses the former as being his own countrymen.
blow … trumpet … Tekoa—Tikehu, Tekoa form a play on sounds. The birthplace of Amos.
Beth-haccerem—meaning in Hebrew, "vineyard-house." It and Tekoa were a few miles south of Jerusalem. As the enemy came from the north, the inhabitants of the surrounding country would naturally flee southwards. The fire-signal on the hills gave warning of danger approaching.
I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.
2. likened—rather, "I lay waste." Literally, "O comely and delicate one, I lay waste the daughter of Zion," that is, "thee." So Zec 3:9, "before Joshua," that is, "before thee" [Maurer].
The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her; they shall pitch their tents against her round about; they shall feed every one in his place.
3. shepherds—hostile leaders with their armies (Jer 1:15; 4:17; 49:20; 50:45).
feed—They shall consume each one all that is near him; literally, "his hand," that is, the place which he occupies (Nu 2:17; see on Isa 56:5).
Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out.
4, 5. The invading soldiers encourage one another to the attack on Jerusalem.
Prepare—literally, "Sanctify" war, that is, Proclaim it formally with solemn rites; the invasion was solemnly ordered by God (compare Isa 13:3).
at noon—the hottest part of the day when attacks were rarely made (Jer 15:8; 20:16). Even at this time they wished to attack, such is their eagerness.
Woe unto us—The words of the invaders, mourning the approach of night which would suspend their hostile operations; still, even in spite of the darkness, at night they renew the attack (Jer 6:5).
Arise, and let us go by night, and let us destroy her palaces.
For thus hath the LORD of hosts said, Hew ye down trees, and cast a mount against Jerusalem: this is the city to be visited; she is wholly oppression in the midst of her.
6. cast—Hebrew, "pour out"; referring to the emptying of the baskets of earth to make the mound, formed of "trees" and earthwork, to overtop the city walls. The "trees" were also used to make warlike engines.
this—pointing the invaders to Jerusalem.
visited—that is, punished.
wholly oppression—or join "wholly" with "visited," that is, she is altogether (in her whole extent) to be punished [Maurer].
As a fountain casteth out her waters, so she casteth out her wickedness: violence and spoil is heard in her; before me continually is grief and wounds.
7. fountain—rather, a well dug, from which water springs; distinct from a natural spring or fountain.
casteth out—causeth to flow; literally, "causeth to dig," the cause being put for the effect (2Ki 21:16, 24; Isa 57:20).
Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.
8. Tender appeal in the midst of threats.
depart—Hebrew, "be torn away"; Jehovah's affection making Him unwilling to depart; His attachment to Jerusalem was such that an effort was needed to tear Himself from it (Eze 23:18; Ho 9:12; 11:8).
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets.
9. The Jews are the grapes, their enemies the unsparing gleaners.
turn back … hand—again and again bring freshly gathered handfuls to the baskets; referring to the repeated carrying away of captives to Babylon (Jer 52:28-30; 2Ki 24:14; 25:11).
To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.
10. ear is uncircumcised—closed against the precepts of God by the foreskin of carnality (Le 26:41; Eze 44:7; Ac 7:51).
word … reproach—(Jer 20:8).
Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD; I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days.
11. fury of … Lord—His denunciations against Judah communicated to the prophet.
weary with holding in—(Jer 20:9).
I will pour—or else imperative: the command of God (see Jer 6:12), "Pour it out" [Maurer].
aged … full of days—The former means one becoming old; the latter a decrepit old man [Maurer] (Job 5:26; Isa 65:20).
And their houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together: for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD.
12. The very punishments threatened by Moses in the event of disobedience to God (De 28:30).
For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.
13. (Jer 8:10; Isa 56:11; Mic 3:11).
They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
14. hurt—the spiritual wound.
slightly—as if it were but a slight wound; or, in a slight manner, pronouncing all sound where there is no soundness.
saying—namely, the prophets and priests (Jer 6:13). Whereas they ought to warn the people of impending judgments and the need of repentance, they say there is nothing to fear.
peace—including soundness. All is sound in the nation's moral state, so all will be peace as to its political state (Jer 4:10; 8:11; 14:13; 23:17; Eze 13:5, 10; 22:28).
Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.
15. Rosenmuller translates, "They ought to have been ashamed, because … but," &c.; the Hebrew verb often expressing, not the action, but the duty to perform it (Ge 20:9; Mal 2:7). Maurer translates, "They shall be put to shame, for they commit abomination; nay (the prophet correcting himself), there is no shame in them" (Jer 3:3; 8:12; Eze 3:7; Zep 3:5).
them that fall—They shall fall with the rest of their people who are doomed to fall, that is, I will now cease from words; I will execute vengeance [Calvin].
Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
16. Image from travellers who have lost their road, stopping and inquiring which is the right way on which they once had been, but from which they have wandered.
old paths—Idolatry and apostasy are the modern way; the worship of God the old way. Evil is not coeval with good, but a modern degeneracy from good. The forsaking of God is not, in a true sense, a "way cast up" at all (Jer 18:15; Ps 139:24; Mal 4:4).
rest—(Isa 28:12; Mt 11:29).
Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.
17. watchmen—prophets, whose duty it was to announce impending calamities, so as to lead the people to repentance (Isa 21:11; 58:1; Eze 3:17; Hab 2:1).
Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.
18. congregation—parallel to "nations"; it therefore means the gathered peoples who are invited to be witnesses as to how great is the perversity of the Israelites (Jer 6:16, 17), and that they deserve the severe punishment about to be inflicted on them (Jer 6:19).
what is among them—what deeds are committed by the Israelites (Jer 6:16, 17) [Maurer]. Or, "what punishments are about to be inflicted on them" [Calvin].
Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.
19. (Isa 1:2).
fruit of … thoughts—(Pr 1:31).
nor to my law, but rejected it—literally, "and (as to) My law they have rejected it." The same construction occurs in Ge 22:24.
To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me.
20. Literally, "To what purpose is this to Me, that incense cometh to Me?"
incense … cane—(Isa 43:24; 60:6). No external services are accepted by God without obedience of the heart and life (Jer 7:21; Ps 50:7-9; Isa 1:11; Mic 6:6, &c.).
sweet … sweet—antithesis. Your sweet cane is not sweet to Me. The calamus.
Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish.
21. stumbling-blocks—instruments of the Jews' ruin (compare Mt 21:44; Isa 8:14; 1Pe 2:8). God Himself ("I") lays them before the reprobate (Ps 69:22; Ro 1:28; 11:9).
fathers … sons … neighbour … friend—indiscriminate ruin.
Thus saith the LORD, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth.
22. north … sides of the earth—The ancients were little acquainted with the north; therefore it is called the remotest regions (as the Hebrew for "sides" ought to be translated, see on Isa 14:13) of the earth. The Chaldees are meant (Jer 1:15; 5:15). It is striking that the very same calamities which the Chaldeans had inflicted on Zion are threatened as the retribution to be dealt in turn to themselves by Jehovah (Jer 50:41-43).
They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion.
23. like the sea—(Isa 5:30).
as men for war—not that they were like warriors, for they were warriors; but "arrayed most perfectly as warriors" [Maurer].
We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
24. fame thereof—the report of them.
Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.
25. He addresses "the daughter of Zion" (Jer 6:23); caution to the citizens of Jerusalem not to expose themselves to the enemy by going outside of the city walls.
sword of the enemy—literally, "there is a sword to the enemy"; the enemy hath a sword.
O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.
26. wallow … in ashes—(Jer 25:34; Mic 1:10). As they usually in mourning only "cast ashes on the head," wallowing in them means something more, namely, so entirely to cover one's self with ashes as to be like one who had rolled in them (Eze 27:30).
as for an only son—(Am 8:10; Zec 12:10).
lamentation—literally, "lamentation expressed by beating the breast."
I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way.
27. tower … fortress—(Jer 1:18), rather, "an assayer (and) explorer." By a metaphor from metallurgy in Jer 6:27-30, Jehovah, in conclusion, confirms the prophet in his office, and the latter sums up the description of the reprobate people on whom he had to work. The Hebrew for "assayer" (English Version, "tower") is from a root "to try" metals. "Explorer" (English Version, "fortress") is from an Arabic root, "keen-sighted"; or a Hebrew root, "cutting," that is, separating the metal from the dross [Ewald]. Gesenius translates as English Version, "fortress," which does not accord with the previous "assayer."
They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters.
28. grievous revolters—literally, "contumacious of the contumacious," that is, most contumacious, the Hebrew mode of expressing a superlative. So "the strong among the mighty," that is, the strongest (Eze 32:21). See Jer 5:23; Ho 4:16.
walking with slanders—(Jer 9:4). "Going about for the purpose of slandering" [Maurer].
brass, &c.—that is, copper. It and "iron" being the baser and harder metals express the debased and obdurate character of the Jews (Isa 48:4; 60:17).
The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away.
29. bellows … burned—So intense a heat is made that the very bellows are almost set on fire. Rosenmuller translates not so well from a Hebrew root, "pant" or "snort," referring to the sound of the bellows blown hard.
lead—employed to separate the baser metal from the silver, as quicksilver is now used. In other words, the utmost pains have been used to purify Israel in the furnace of affliction, but in vain (Jer 5:3; 1Pe 1:7).
consumed of the fire—In the Chetib, or Hebrew text, the "consumed" is supplied out of the previous "burned." Translating as Rosenmuller, "pant," this will be inadmissible; and the Keri (Hebrew Margin) division of the Hebrew words will have to be read, to get "is consumed of the fire." This is an argument for the translation, "are burned."
wicked … not plucked away—answering to the dross which has no good metal to be separated, the mass being all dross.
Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them.
30. Reprobate—silver so full of alloy as to be utterly worthless (Isa 1:22). The Jews were fit only for rejection.