Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove.4. THE CALL TO RETURN IN THE PRESENT
1 If thou returnest, O Israel, saith Jehovah,
Return unto Me.
And if thou puttest away thine abominations out of my sight,
Then waver not,1
2 But swear ‘As Jehovah liveth!’
In truth and justice and righteousness,
So that the nations bless themselves in him,2
And boast of him.
3 For thus saith Jehovah to the men of Judah and Jerusalem,
Break up your fallow-ground3
And sow not among thorns.
4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
And take away the foreskin of your heart,
Ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem;
Lest my fury break forth like fire,
And burn, and there be no quencher,—
On account of the wickedness of your doings.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The fundamental thought of the whole discourse (RETURN) is distinctly stamped on the head of this section. True and honest conversion is the indispensable condition of present life. All that the prophet has previously said, partly in severe rebuke, partly in friendly invitation, was to serve as an exhortation to procure an entrance into this life. If the people do not heed this exhortation, they fall inevitably under the just judgment of God.
Jer 4:1. If thou returnest … waver not. These words point back to 3:7 and 10. The call “Return to me” according to 3:7, had been addressed to Israel in vain. Judah on the other hand, according to 3:10, had been obedient to the call “Return,” but not to the “to me,” for their return was not hearty but hypocritical. We have shown above that by this is meant the reform of Josiah. A hypocritical return is the same as one which is not to the Lord, for the hypocrite avoids indeed the forms in which his sins have hitherto been manifested, but he does not turn positively with his heart to the Lord. The Lord does not therefore allow the conversion occasioned by the reformation under Josiah to be regarded as unto Him. And hence the prophet thus addresses the people: if you would answer the call “Return to me” (3:7), it must not be done by a return “with falsehood” which is no return to me at all, but by such a conversion as may be truly thus designated.—Comp. Hos. 6:14. An example of such a conversion, “not unto the Lord” is also the reformation of Jehu, 2 Kings 9:10 Comp. especially 2 Kings 10:31. In the reformation of Josiah, Judah did outwardly put away their abominations out of God’s sight (2 Kings 23:4 sqq.) but they were far from directing their hearts fixedly and alone to God. Instead of this they wavered, wishing partly to serve the Lord and partly also their idols. Comp. Zeph. 1:5. How ambiguous the conduct of the people must then have been is clear from 2 Kings 22:14 sqq.; 23:25–27; 2 Chron. 34:22–28. Comp. HERZOG, Real-Enc. VII. 36.—In translating נוּד by “waver” I appeal to the radical signification of the word, “to oscillate,” by virtue of which it is used of the waving of a reed (2 Kings 14:15), the flapping of wings (Ps. 11:1; Prov. 26:2), of the wandering of a fugitive (Gen. 4:12) and of the shaking of the head, (Jer. 18:16; Ps. 44:15). From the meaning of commiserari which it has in several places (Jer. 16:5; 48:17, etc.) it is evident that the word is also capable of being transferred to the sphere of spiritual relations.
Jer 4:2. But swear … and boast of him. In swearing by Jehovah in truth, justice and righteousness is included not only that they swear the truth (Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:3; Jer. 5:2 coll. Matt. 5:33) but also that they swear by Jehovah alone and not also by idols, as according to Zeph. 1:5. they then did. To refer בּוֹ to Israel, and then to assume either a change of person or a quotation from Gen. 18:18, (coll. 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14) or to read בְּךָ (as ex. gr.E. MEIER) is arbitrary. The reference to God is perfectly justified by the connection. The moral course of Israel is to win over the heathen to God, who is the source of that power by which they pursue this course (1 Pet. 3:1, 2), as on the other hand the sin of Israel is designated as causing the heathen to blaspheme (Rom. 2:24, coll. Ezek. 36:20, 23). As in Isai. 65:16, so also here התברך בי׳ signifies to recognize God as the source of all blessing, and therefore to seek all blessing only through him. “And boast of him,” refers to the possession of the desired blessing. For they justly boast in a dispenser of blessing, who causes those who bless themselves in his name to appear really blessed. Comp. Isai. 41:16; Jer. 9:22, 23; Ps. 34:3; 105:3.
Jer 4:3. For thus saith Jehovah … sow not among thorns. כּי here is not causative but explicative. The words return unto Me, waver not and swear by Jehovah in truth are so explained in what follows as to show plainly that the prophet has in view the hypocritical half-heartedness with which the people submitted to the reformation of Josiah. Break up your fallow-ground is from Hos. 10:12. Israel is not to sow on the unemployed field of his heart, but to break it up, as is done with wild land, which is cleansed from weeds only by deep and repeated ploughing. It was just in this that the people failed in Josiah’s reformation. It was a sowing among thorns. Comp. Luke 8:7.
Jer 4:4. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord … your doings. Circumcision to the Lord is opposed to that which is done only in accordance with outward ordinance or custom. The latter is done merely on the body, the former on the heart also, of which sin is the real defiling foreskin. Comp. Levit. 26:41; Jer. 9:25, coll. Exod. 6:12 (4:10); Jer. 6:13. The expression “take away the foreskin of your heart” is a reminiscence from Deut. 10:16; 30:6. Comp. KUEPER, S. 10.—Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, a frequent formula in Jeremiah (Comp. 11:2, 12; 17:20; 18:11; 25:2; 35:17, etc.) in which a certain prerogative of the citizens of Jerusalem is recognizable. Comp. 8:1; 13:13; 19:3.—My fury, etc. Comp. Am. 5:6; Jer. 7:20.—The words on account of the wickedness, etc. (coll. 21:22; 23:2; 26:3; 44:22) are from Deut. 28:20. The prophet in these words prepares the way for the transition to the second main division. Israel obeys not the call, the fury of the Lord must therefore break forth. The manner in which this will take place is described in section second.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. On Jer 4:1. Mere turning from earthly things without positive returning to God, the pole of the soul, is not true repentance. So long as the prodigal son, after the loss of all earthly goods, had not formed the resolution of returning to his father, he was not yet in a penitent condition. A man, who should denounce this or that sin, but yet not devote himself wholly and decidedly to God, would thus give no guarantee of the genuineness or permanence of his conversion. Comp. what is said of following Jesus, Matt. 19:16; Luke 9:59 sqq. For repentance to be honest, it must have the right object, i. e. it must be towards God.—CRAMER.
2. On Jer 4:2. Swearing by Jehovah involves the acknowledgment of His deity. For no one would swear by Him who was not convinced that He is the witness of truth and the avenger of false-hood. But when one swears by others he robs God of His glory and gives it to idols; Isa. 42:8.
3. On Jer 4:3. Rooting out weeds from the field of the heart is the most difficult part of repentance. Many would receive the gospel gladly if they were permitted to leave the thorns and sow the seed of the gospel among them. Comp. Matt. 6:24; 1 Ki. 18:21.
4. On Jer 4:4. We Christians also know of a double circumcision, a bodily and a spiritual, which however are not related to each other, as the bodily and spiritual circumcision of Judaism. For according to Col. 2:11 baptism corresponds to conversion as the περιτομὴ ἀχειροποιητός, as the ἀπέκδυσις τοῦ σώματος τῆς σαρκός. Thus the sacrament of baptism is the spiritual and bodily basis of the περιτομὴ τῆς καρδίας, which is spoken of in Phil. 3:3, coll. Rom. 2:29; 6:1 sqq.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1. ORIGEN treats this passage in his peculiar style in his fifth homily on Jeremiah. Vide S. 149 and 164 sqq., ed. LOMMATZSCH.
2. On Jer 4:3. “We Christians also, like the Jews, love to sow under the hedges. We allow the divine word to be strewn on the field of our heart, we hear and read God’s word on week-days and Sundays, but we also allow the thickets of evil passions and sinful habits to grow on.”—HOCHSTETTER, 12 Parables (12 Gleichnisse, etc., S. 10).
3. True repentance consists (a) in decided turning away from evil (not sowing among the thorns but breaking up new ground); (b) in decided turning to God (positive devotion to God alone, Jer 4:1, so that He alone is served and worshipped, Jer 4:2).
Jer 4:1.—[BLAYNEY renders “thou shalt not be removed from before me.” MOVERS and HITZIG also connect the words “out of my sight” with what follows: neque a facie mea oberraveris. HENDERSON and NOYES following DE WETTE, have “Thou shalt not be a fugitive (wanderer).” UMBREIT renders as in the text.—S. R. A].
Ver 2.—והתברכו בו The Perfect with Vau consec., expresses intended result. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr. § 84, h. sqq. [The usual rendering is the simple future].
Jer 4:3.—[BLAYNEY renders well “Break up your ground in tillage.” The German Commentators have Brechet euch Neubruch for which we have no exact equivalent.—S. R. A].
Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities.SECOND DIVISION
Threatening of punishment for neglecting to return
The call, “return” was unheeded. The prophet therefore now proceeds to announce the punishment. He does this in three sections: in the first (chap. 4) he announces the approaching calamity; in the second (chap. 5) he shows particularly its causes in the moral corruption of the people; in the third (Jer 6:1–26) he recapitulates the main thought of the discourse, adding to the repeated proof of the incorrigibility of the people, a repeated admonition and a threatening of still severer judgments
Description of the expected judgment (Jeremiah 4:5–31)
1. This is described as future under a triple emblem (4:5–18)
a. The first emblem: the Lion.
5 Declare it in Judah and publish it in Jerusalem,
And speak—and blow the trumpet in the land,
Cry with a loud voice and say:
Assemble yourselves, that we may go into the fortified cities.
6 Raise banners towards Zion,
Flee! stand not!
For I am bringing calamity from the North,
And great destruction.
7 A lion cometh up from his thicket,4
And a destroyer of nations hath broken up.
He is come forth from his place
To make thy land a desert:
Thy cities shall be desolate,5—without inhabitant.
8 For this gird on sackcloth, lament and howl!
For the heat of Jehovah’s anger hath not turned from us.
9 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith Jehovah,
The heart of the king shall fail and the heart of the princes,
The priests shall be amazed and the prophets full of horror.
10 And I said: Ah Lord Jehovah,
Surely thou hast prepared6 deception for this people and Jerusalem,
Saying: “ye shall have peace,”
And yet the sword reacheth even to the soul.7
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Jer 4:5. Declare it in Judah … fortified cities. The prophet speaks, and indeed as the mouth of God. This is seen from the אנכי, “I,” Jer 4:6. The persons addressed are primarily those who dwell on the border, who are to inform those in the interior, even as far as the capital, of the invasion of the enemy. That which is declared is not the command to blow the trumpet, and to cry “assemble,” etc. For why should not those first addressed themselves at once cry to their next neighbors, “assemble.” etc.? Accordingly all that comes after the general sentence, “declare—Jerusalem,” is only introductory to “assemble.” Thus it is evident that the Chethib וְתִקְעוּ is not incorrect, and the Keri, which is followed by the ancient commentators and many MSS. is therefore unnecessary. “Assemble,” etc., should have come after the first וְאִמְרוּ. But the prophet (1) according to well-known linguistic usage adds an accompanying circumstance paratactically, (2) he distributes the command to cry into three parts, of which the two first refer to the form, the last to the contents.—On the construction comp. 13:18; 1 Sam. 2:3; NAEGELSB.Gr. § 95, g. Anm.
Jer 4:6. Raise banners towards Zion … great destruction. The signal is to be so arranged that it will indicate to the inhabitants the direction of flight. הֵעִיז only in the Hiphil =to fly to (Exod. 9:19), and to make flight, i.e. to flee (thus only besides here in 6:1; Isa. 10:31).—From the north points back to 1:13, 14. Compare the remarks there made.
Jer 4:7. A lion cometh up … without inhabitants. The enemy is here represented by the emblem of a lion as in 49:19; 50:44, 17.—Without inhabitant. Comp. 2:15, and the remarks thereon.
Jer 4:8. For this gird on … turned from us. This last sentence points back to 2:35. The people had expected a return of God to graciousness on the ground of their hypocritical return under Josiah.
Jer 4:9. And it shall come to pass … full of horror. After the prophet in Jer 4:8 has summoned them to general lamentation, he describes the effect of the calamity on those who are called by their position to provide means and ways of defence; they are helpless, and lose their presence of mind. לֵב in the sense of understanding, ex. gr.Prov. 28:26; 15:32; Hos. 4:11; 7:11; Jer. 5:21. Comp. DELITZSCH, Psychol. IV., § 12.—Shall be amazed. Comp. Ezek. 4:17; Job 17:9; 18:20.
Jer 4:10. And I said … even to the soul. The prophet here declares what impression was made by the denunciatory prophecy upon himself, after he had previously in Jer 4:9 described the impression which its fulfilment will make on the chiefs of the people. This denunciatory prophecy does not at all harmonize with that earlier and exceedingly glorious one in Jer 3:12–25. This was correctly perceived by JEROME, who says: “Quia supra dixerat: in illo tempore vocabunt Jerusalem solium Dei, etc. (3:17), et nunc dicit: peribit cor regis (Jer 4:9), turbatur propheta et in se Deum putat esse mentitum; nec intelligit, illud multa post tempora repromissum, hoc autem vicino futurum tempore.”—Following the example of THEODORET very many commentators refer prepared deception to the false prophets, coll. 1 Kings 22:22. But is it conceivable that a true prophet like Jeremiah would have traced back false prophecy so directly to the Lord? Comparison with 1 Pet. 1:11 renders it conceivable that Jeremiah may himself have been deceived as to the difference of the times.
Jer 4:7.—סֻבְּכוֹ with Dag. forte, to emphasize the sharpening from סבְֹךְ (EWALD, § 255, d.) or סבֶֹךְ (OLSHAUSEN, § 155, b.) The word is ἁ̔παξ λεγ. Comp. the related forms from סְבִךְ Isai. 9:17; 10:31; Gen. 22:13; Ps. 74:5.
Jer 4:7.—תִּצֶינָה is certainly Kal from נָצָה, which must here be taken in an intransitive sense. Comp. 9:11; Isai. 37:26; 2 Kings 19:25.
Jer 4:10.—השׁא with לְ as in 29:8; 2 Kings 18:29.
Jer 4:10.—[Or even to the life, as HENDERSON, etc.—S. R. A.]
Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall have peace; whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul.DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. On Jer 4:10. It is not here a matter for consideration, how God may be said to deceive men (comp. 1 Kings 22:20; Job 12:24; 2 Thess. 2:11), for it was only the opinion of the prophet, who here interrupts the discourse revealed to him by the expression of a subjective view, just as Paul in 1 Cor. 7:10, 12, 25, 40, inserts his view of the λόγος κυρίου.
2. On Jer 4:14. ARISTOTLE (De partibus animal. II. 4) and PLINY (Hist. nat. XI. 37) remark that the heart alone of all the internal organs will not bear any injury. The latter says “solum cor viscerum vitiis non maceratur, nee supplicia vitæ trahit; læsumque mortem illico affert.” The heart also in a spiritual sense will not bear the least injury, as the fall shows. Yet though every sin is a death-germ, a poison, yet all poison is not equally rapid in its effects. BERNHARD of Clairvaux says in his Sermo de triplici genere cogitationum nostrarum (sub fin.) as follows: “Et primum quidem genus cogitationum otiosarum scil. ad rem non pertinentium lutum est, sed lutum simplex, id est non inhærens, nec fœtens, nisi forte diutius immoretur in nobis, et per incuriam ac negligentiam nostram in alterum genus cogitationum vertatur, quod quotidie experimur. Dum enim otiosa tamquam minima spernimus, ad turpia atque inhonesta dilabimur. Secundum vero cogitationum genus non lutum simplex, sed viscosum ac limosum est. Nam tertium quidem sic cavendum est, non tamquam lutum aut limus, sed tamquam immundissimum ac fœtidissimum cœnum.” He explains what he understands by this tertium genus in the words: “Dico autem cogitationes illas immundas penitus et fœtidas, quæ ad luxuriam, ad invidiam et vanam gloriam pertinent, cæteraque vitia detestanda.”—He further says of the conflicts with sinful thoughts: “Quid ergo agendum, cum limosa cogitatio mentem subierit? Plane exclamandum nobis est cum sancto Jacobo: Ruben, primogenito meus, non crescas, ascendisti enim cubile patris tui (Gen. 49:3). Ruben enim carnalis atque sanguinea hujus modi concupiscentia est, quæ tunc cubile nostrum ascendit, cum non solum memoriam tangit cogitatione, sed et ipsum voluntatis stratum ingreditur et polluit prava cogitatione.” GHISLER.
3. On Jer 4:22. (They are wise to do evil, but do not understand well-doing.) The Israelites are here designated as children of the world, for it is the manner of the world to be wise in worldly matters, but foolish in spiritual, as our Lord says (Luke 16:8) the children of this world are wiser in their own generation than the children of light in theirs, and Paul (1 Cor. 2:14) says the natural man perceiveth nothing of the Spirit of God, for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot know it, for it must be spiritually discerned.—The blind man understands nothing about color. Every one is at home in his own element. But this is the greatest misery that the world knows, that man, the image of God, is not at home in His house, but in the Devil’s, and that the greatest labor the world knows, scarcely suffices to bring him back into his Father’s house.
4. On Jer 4:27. How wonderfully do the anger and love of God here touch! How proportionate appear both! How is one the limit of the other! God does not so love that He cannot be angry; and He is not so angry that He cannot love. He leaves room for His anger in order that justice may be preserved and the sinner reformed. Thus His anger is also guided by love, yea, in a certain sense it is a manifestation of love. Comp. SCHÖBERLEIN, Grundlehren des Heils, S. 50, 51. “Anger is the energy of love towards the sinner, the expression, namely, of its pain, that he himself has become untrue to his better self, and he who cannot be angry has no hearty love for this true I of another. … For the very reason that God in holy self-preservation places Himself in opposition to him, man is not really forsaken of God, but love is still with him in the might of its anger.” Jer. 10:24; 30:11; 46:28; Isai. 27:8.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1.The first eight verses of this chapter are part of the text of the fifth homily of ORIGEN (the whole text is Jer. 3:21–4:8).
2. FÖRSTER remarks: “ex versu 31 haberi potest concio in funere mulieris, quæ in partu, vel post partum obiit.”
3. True repentance is 1. a true return from evil (not a sowing among remaining thorns, not a merely external circumcision, but a circumcision of the heart and removal of abominations); 2. a true return to God (right and holy swearing, as a symptom of right and holy disposition); 3. a source of blessing for ourselves and others (thou shalt not be exiled—the heathen shall be blessed in thee).
4. On Jer 4:10. Warning against false peace. This is 1. a lie, for men say there is peace when the sword reaches even to the soul; 2. a misfortune, for it will disappoint the heart of those who cherish it.
5. On Jer 4:22. Since Scripture distinguishes a wisdom that is from above from a wisdom that is from below (James 3:13–18), the question arises, wherein consists the difference between the two? 1. The wisdom from below is a wisdom in evil doing (a. unbelief, b. destruction, α. of self, β. of others—consequently absolute folly); Wisdom from above is wisdom in well-doing (a. faith, b. observing God’s word in love—consequently blessing).
At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse,B. THE SECOND EMBLEM: THE TEMPEST
11 About this time it will be said to this people and Jerusalem,
A hot wind of the bare heights in the deserts
Comes thence against the daughters of my people—
Not to winnow and not to cleanse.
12 With full cheeks comes a wind to me from those.
Now will I also contend with them.
13 Behold, as clouds he ascends,
And as the stormwinds his chariots,
Swifter than eagles are his horses.
Woe to us, for we are destroyed!
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Jer 4:11. About this time … not to cleanse. As the invasion of the lion-like enemy, so also the approach of the destructive desert-wind is to be announced in Jerusalem. The prophet alludes to the custom of signalizing those who are threatened by a hurricane or flood. דֶּרֶךְ (Acc. loci. xxxix. 4) seems also to point to this. עַח (besides here also in Isa. 18:4; 32:4; Song of Sol. 5:10) if we compare the words radically related to it (צִחֵהIsa. 5:13; צְחִיחָהPs. 68:7; צִחִיחִיםNeh. 4:7; צַחְצָחוֹתIsa. 58:11), appears to unite the meanings calidus, candidus, aridus, and to designate the brilliant clearness of the air heated by the hot-wind. So also JEROME (ventus urens), AQUILA (ventus fulgoris), SYMMACHUS (v. æstus). On the position of צַח between the nomen regens and rectum, comp. NAEGELSB. Gr., § 63, 4 f.—Bareheights. Comp. 3:2, 21. The bare rocky mountains of the eastern desert are meant, over which the dry, hot east wind blows (קָדִים the “wind of the wilderness,” Jer. 13:24). Comp. WINER, R-B-W., s. v. Winde. The expression is found also in 12:12.—Not to winnow, etc. It is not one of the winds, which is favorable to human industry, but a hostile, destructive wind.
Jer 4:12. With full cheeks … contend with them. מָלֵא here is fundamentally the same as in Jer 4:5 and 12:6. The idea of “full” we are accustomed to apply to wind only as expressed in the translation. As hot wind denotes the quality so full denotes the quantity—from those refers to bare heights. The Lord says, the wind comes to me, because it is in His service. לִי is Dat. commodi.—I also refers to 2:5, 29. The prophet of Israel according to these passages really contended with the Lord. Comp. the remarks on 2:29. The sense is this: after they have presumed to contend with the Lord (or, to use His pretended fault as a pretext of revolt, comp. 44:18), He contends with them, i.e. He punishes them, and His instrument is he, who is understood by the wind. Comp. 1:16.
Jer 4:13. Behold as clouds … we are destroyed. The prophet still retains his emblem in the region of the air, but he modifies it. The total impression of the hostile masses is now compared with threatening storm-clouds, the chariots in the rapidity of their motion and power of their impetus are like the storm-blast, the riders are like swift eagles. The prophet seems to have had Hab. 1:8 generally in mind. Comp. KUEPER, S. 76.
O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?C. THE THIRD EMBLEM: THE KEEPERS
14 Wash thy heart from wickedness, Jerusalem,
In order that thou mayest be delivered.
How long do thy sinful thoughts tarry within thee?
15 For a loud call sounds from Dan,
A message of misfortune from Mount Ephraim.
16 Announce it to the nations!
Behold, call it out over Jerusalem:
Watchmen [Besiegers] are coming from a distant land,
They raised their cry over the cities of Judah.
17 For like keepers of a field are they over her from all sides,
For against me hath she rebelled, saith Jehovah.
18 Thy walk and thy works bring this upon thee;
This is thy wickedness, that a bitter thing (comes upon thee),
That it reaches even to thine heart.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The first emblem was from the animal kingdom, the second from the region of the air, the third is taken from the sphere of human life. The third appeals most strongly to the moral consciousness of the people; this calamity is held up before them as the punishment of their sin, and acknowledgment and renunciation of this as the only means of escape.
Jer 4:14. Wash thy heart … tarry within thee?—Wash [Cleanse]. Comp. 2:22.—Comp. the beginning and end of the strophe: the idea of wickedness forms the frame-work. It is quite unnecessary to take תָּלִין, with VATABLE and others, as causative. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr. § 105, 4 b.אוֹנֵךְ from אָוֶן in the sense of sin, while אָוֶן, Jer 4:15, means calamity. Comp. Gen. 35:18; Deut. 26:14; Ps. 55:4.
Jer 4:15. For a loud call … Ephraim. It is high time to comply with the admonition contained in Jer 4:14 (comp. “how long,” etc.), for the news is already received of the approach of the avenger. The prophet’s mention of Dan and Mount Ephraim is a confirmation of the view expressed concerning from the north in 1:14. Comp. the remarks there made.
Jer 4:16 and 17. Announce it to the nations … saith Jehovah. הַזְכִּירוּ ו׳ verbally: cause זֵכֶר to the nations, that is, cause that these reflecting upon it are deeply impressed by the significance of the fact. From the meaning, to penetrate, to bore in (comp. FUERST, Handwb.), is developed the meaning of to remember, which is the common one, to consider, to reflect (Lam. 1:9; Ps. 103:14; Job 7:7). This call to the nations is made only incidentally, not with a friendly purpose, but only to denote the greatness and importance of the event. The invasion of this enemy is something so great that it cannot be cried out loud enough, and this the rather since the nations round about Israel are implicated with them. Comp. Jer 25.—It is therefore unnecessary to follow HITZIG as he follows the LXX. KIMCHI and others, in taking לְ=from or E. MEIER and others in rendering גוים=tribes (of Israel).—The business of watchmen, keepers of a field, is usually to protect from robbery and violence. But the prophet has such keepers in mind who do not remove their gaze from him to whom it is directed, as, ex. gr., those who beset a fox, a weasel or a polecat, so that the animal may either perish in his hole or be killed when he comes out. In short the prophet here means the same thing as he expressed in 1:15 by setting seats before the gates. Comp. 2 Sam. 11:16, שְׁמוֹר אֵל־הָעִיר; Jer. 5:6; 6:25.—These raised their cry, etc. It is announced to Jerusalem, that the cry of these keepers has already sounded over the other cities of Judah. Jerusalem alone is still in the power of the enemy. Hence it is also said in Jer 4:17 that they are over her from all sides.—As in the beginning of the strophe, Jer 4:14, the exhortation to repentance as the only means of escape is prominent, so in Jer 4:17b and Jer 4:18 is ungodliness as the self inflicted cause of the punitive judgments.
Jer 4:18. Thy walk and thy works … reaches even to thy heart. Comp. 2:19.—Both this parallel passage and the parallelism in the verse itself prove that hemistich 2 is a subjective sentence (comp. NAEGELSB. Gr. § 109, 1). The two sentences with for represent the subject, this thy wickedness is the predicate. The bitter thing which comes upon thee is nothing more than thine own wickedness, here developing its own true nature.—The conclusion of the strophe reminds us of Jer 4:10, and in such a way as to show that the prophet intended a similarity in diversity.
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.2. THE PROPHET HEARS AND SEES THE ENEMY PRESENT
19 My bowels, my bowels! Cramp8 in the chambers9 of the heart!
My heart palpitates! I cannot be silent,
For the trumpet’s sound thou hearest,10 ray soul,
The cry of battle.
20 Blow upon blow is reported,
For desolated is the whole land;
Suddenly my huts are desolated,
In a twinkling my tents.
21 How long shall I see the banner,
Hear the sound of the trumpet?
22 For my people are foolish, they know me not;
Silly children are they and undiscerning:
They are wise to do evil,
But doing good they understand not.
23 I look at the earth and behold—desolation and emptiness!
And up towards heaven, and its light is gone.
24 I look at the mountains and behold they quake,11
And all the hills are shaken.
25 I look and behold, man is gone,
And all the birds of heaven are fled.
26 I look and behold, the fertile field has become a waste,
And all its cities are desolated12—
Before Jehovah, before the fury of his anger.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
This entire strophe describes the desolation of the country from the standpoint of the present. The prophet places himself in spirit in that mournful future, and describes in the liveliest colors what he hears, sees and feels, as one who is present.
Jer 4:19. My bowels … cry of battle. LXX.: τὴν κοιλίαν μου ἀλγῶ. So also the authors of the Syro-Hexapla. HITZIG has “my belly.” The prophet in these and the following verses describes in a most drastic style the physical sensation which is produced by the immediate perception of the calamity.—Passages related in subject are Isa. 16:11; 21:2–4; Jer. 48:36.—I cannot be silent (comp. Hab. 1:13; Job 41:4) expresses that the prophet would relieve the inward pain, which he has just described, by speech. He does this by enumerating the occurrences which have so excited him.—The expression: hearest thou, my soul, seems to intimate that the prophet heard it not with the outward but the inward ear.
Jer 4:20. Blow upon blow is reported … my tents. The exposition, which, following the Chaldee and Syriac, takes נקרא for נקרה (destruction meets destruction) is not correct, because the prophet in Jer 4:20 and 21 mentions what he hears, while in Jer 4:23 sqq. he relates what he sees. If, moreover, we consider that the prophet is here speaking of messages or signals, which report disasters, we see that the existence of a middle point is presupposed, to which these reports of misfortune proceed. We shall not then err, if we refer Jer 4:20 to the laying waste of the country surrounding the capital.
Jer 4:21. How long shall I … trumpet. נֵם the signal, Jer 4:6. Although this is seen it is mentioned among the things which the prophet hears because it also brings news, or a message.
Jer 4:22. For my people are foolish … they understand not. This verse contains the answer to the question of the prophet, how long? Still long, is the answer of course, for the people are still as they were. So KIMCHI.—With Hemist. 2 comp. 2:8; Mic. 7:3.
Jer 4:23-26. I look at the earth … fury of his anger. ראיתי four times repeated shows plainly that the prophet would here render expressly prominent what he has seen, in antithesis to Jer 4:19 and 20, where he narrates what he has heard. But there is also a climax in the progress from the one to the other. While that which the prophet hears is only the herald and preliminary stage of the main catastrophe, in Jer 4:23–26 he portrays the condition of the country after the occurrence of this catastrophe. In spirit he beholds in the place of the once so fruitful land a dismal waste, over which the heavens veil themselves in mourning, and with which even lifeless and unintelligent creatures sympathize.
Jer 4:23, reminds us of Gen. 1:2, 14, and therefore presupposes the existence of this passage. The land has, as it were, returned to chaos. Comp. Isa. 34:11.—The fruitful field a waste [lit., the Carmel the desert], a free reminiscence from Isa. 32:15; 29:17. That Carmel here denotes not the mountain, but the fruitful field (comp. 2:7), follows (a) from the connection, which declares the desolation not of a small strip, but of the whole country, (b) from all its cities, which evidently cannot be referred to that single mountain but only to the whole land. The article before Carmel and waste has a general significance, not a waste, but the waste had the fruitful field become, that is, the genus Carmel had passed over into the genus desert. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr. § 71, 4.—Before, etc. Comp. 23:9; 25:37.—On the general subject compare Joel 2:10; 4:15; Nah. 1:5; Isa. 13:10, 13; Ps. 18:8.
Jer 4:19.—אוחולה. The form of the Chethibh אוֹחוּלָה is a grammatical anomaly and therefore certainly incorrect. The Keri reads אוֹחִילָה. This however would mean: I wait, expect (2 Sam. 18:14; Mic. 7:7), which does not well suit the connection. The reading אָחוּלָה or אָחִילָה which is expressed in the LXX, and is found in very many MSS. and editions (STEPH., JOS. ATHIAS., Bibl. Mant.) should therefore be preferred. חוּל (or חיל, comp. FUERST, s. v.) is to twist one’s self, to, quiver with pain, grief or terror. Comp. 5:3; Ezek. 30:16.—As to the construction we may (a) divide after מעי ,ומהל בי ,ק׳ לבי ,אחולה, (so GRAF), or (b) after א חרשׁ ,הומה־לי ,אחולה ,מעי (see HITZIG, E. MEIER), (c) מעי, אחרשׁ, לבי, לבי. I would give the preference to the last division, since חול declared of קירות־לב (the expression here only) designates very appropriately the cramp of the heart, while לֵב הוֹמֶה evidently denotes the palpitation of the heart. The cohortative form in אחולה as in אשׁמעה, Jer 4:21, is not to be insisted on. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr. § 89, 3 a.
Jer 4:19.—קירוֹת is the accusative of more exact definition. Comp. NAEGELSB. Gr. § 70 f.
Jer 4:19.—שָׁמַעַתְּי, 2 Pers. fem. Comp. 2:20, 33; 3:4, 5. EWALD, HITZIG, E. MEIER, read with the Cod. Regiomont. 1. שֹׁמַעַת, which is unnecessary. [Comp. GREEN’S Heb. Gr. § 86, b.]
Jer 4:24.—רֹעֲשִׁים. On the absence of the subject comp. NAEGELSB. Gr. § 97, 1, a Anm.
Jer 4:26.—נִתְּצוּ Niph. from נָתַץ. Comp. Nah. 1:6. LXX,: ὲμπεπυρισμἑναι, confounded with נִצְתוּ, 9:9.
For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.3. THE JUDGMENT IS IRREVOCABLY DETERMINED, BUT IT AIMS NOT AT ABSOLUTE DESTRUCTION
27 For thus hath Jehovah spoken:
The whole land shall be waste,
But I will not utterly make an end of it.
28 For this the whole land keeps lamenting,
And the heaven above wears the garment of mourning;
For this namely, that I have spoken and determined,13
And I repent not, nor draw back from it.
29 Before the tumult of the horsemen and archers
The whole city is fled,
They are in their hiding-places, up on the rocks;
The whole city is abandoned, not an inhabitant therein.
30 But thou, destroyed one,14 what art thou doing?
That thou clothest thyself in purple,
That thou puttest on cloth of gold,
That thou rendest thine eyes with paint?
In vain dost thou beautify thyself;
Thy lovers despise thee, they seek thy soul.
31 For I hear a cry like that of a parturient,15
The call of anguish, like one who bears for the first time:
The voice of the daughter of Zion,
Who panteth and spreadeth forth her hands:
Woe is me, for my soul succumbs16 to the murderers!
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The theme of this strophe is contained in Jer 4:27. This has two parts: 1. The destruction is founded in an irrevocable divine decree. This is the main point which is expressed still more emphatically, Jer 4:28, 29, and in Jer 4:30, etc., placed in the light of a contrast (what can Israel’s feeble attempts effect in opposition to the divine counsel?). 2. The second point, “but I will not utterly make an end,” is briefly stated and not further discussed, but is for this purpose twice repeated in the course of the prophecy, 5:10, 18.
Jer 4:27. For thus hath Jehovah spoken … make an end of it. The certainty of the statement in the previous strophe is found in the fact that Jehovah has thus spoken.—I will not utterly, etc., is, as we have said, a briefly stated parenthetical thought, which is only to give a correct limitation to the declaration of the first clause. Comp. Levit. 26:44.
Jer 4:28. For this the whole land keeps lamenting … draw back from it. Comp. Hos. 4:3, whence the words תֶּֽאֱבַל הא׳ are taken.—This refers to the following I have spoken. The mourning posture of the earth and heavens mentioned in Jer 4:23 sqq. is here designated as the result of a divine decree. Not by chance, nor by the power of idols, did it take place, but by the power of the Lord. It should moreover be remarked that this strophe forms the transition to the following section, in which also the cause of the judgment is spoken of, but in another sense. While here only the immediate cause, the causa efficiens, of the calamity is mentioned, the prophet in what follows goes more deeply into the matter and designates the corruption of the people as the immediate, deepest provocative cause.—That is a repetition of for this. LXX., διότι ἐλάλησα καὶ οὐ μετανοήσω, ὡ̔ρμησα καὶ οὐκ ἀποστρέψω ἀπ́ αὐτῆς. We must first take spoken independently. Then the external, announcement which is made to men through the prophet, is set over against the inner cause, which has a positive (determined) and a negative side (repent not). The last point is designated also by nor draw back from it, in order that the prophet may connect this declaration of God with the same made by Israel (3:7 sqq.; 4:1).
Jer 4:29. Before the tumult … not an inhabitant therein. This verse seems to interrupt the connection. Yet it may be justified as a brief and condensed description of the calamity which has been described at length in the previous strophes, and only hinted at in Jer 4:28. We might regard it as the explanation of from it, with which Jer 4:28 closes. On the neutral rendering of this VideNAEGELSB. Gr., § 60, 6 b.—It is not necessary to render (with GRAF and others) כָּל־הָעִיר=every city. It is, as the rule requires, the whole city. But the prophet understands the whole city, supposing this to be the general fate of all the cities. This collective rendering explains also therein in the plural.—עָבִים are obscure hiding-places. כֵּפִים comp. Job 30:6.
Jer 4:30. But thou, destroyed one … seek thy soul. שָׁדוּד (comp. נָטוּי רַגְלַי, Ps. 73:2, inclinatum aliquid pedes mei) is to be rendered as neuter: Thou, as good as destroyed, a thing devoted to destruction. The expression is contemptuous. VideNAEGELSB. Gr., § 60, 4. [GREEN’SGr., § 275, 5].—It can neither mean: if thou art destroyed, for then Israel can no more paint; nor: if thou shalt be attacked, for the word does not mean to attack. (Comp. שְׁדוּדָה, Ps. 137:8). The prophet has in view the present attempts of Israel to procure assistance by coquetting with foreign nations (comp. 2:18, 36, 37), which are foolish in opposition to the decree of Jehovah, solemnly announced in Jer 4:28, according to which Israel is already destroyed.—Thine eyes with paint. The effect of paint is to make the eyes look not only more fiery, but larger. Comp. HERZOG’SReal Enc., Art. Schminke. XIII. S. 607 [SMITH, Dict. II., 657].—2 Kings 9:30; Ezek. 23:40.
Jer 4:31. For I hear a cry … my soul succumbs to the murderers.—For refers to seek thy soul. On this account Israel cries: Wo is me, I succumb to the murderers. 31b.—עיפה ל׳constr. prægnans; my soul is weary, i.e. as one who succumbs to murderers. Comp. NAEGELSB.Gr., § 112, 7. [GREEN, 156, 1].
Jer 4:28.—E. MEIER reads זִמֹּתַי instead of זַמֹּתִי. But the Masoretic reading being the more difficult has the presumption of genuineness.
Jer 4:30.—[NOYES translates correctly ad sensum, “destined to perish.”—S. R. A.]
Jer 4:31.—חוֹלה, Part. like בּוֹסִים in Zech. 10:5, קוֹמִים in 2 Ki. 16:7, etc. FUERST s. v. חוּל; EWALD, § 151, 6.
Jer 4:31.—[HENDERSON: My soul fainteth because of murderers; NOYES, more freely: I am dying of murderers.—S. R. A.]