Jeremiah 4
Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.
An invitation to true repentance, by promises, Jeremiah 4:1-4; and judgments coming on them by the Babylonians, contrary to the predictions of their false prophets, for their sins, Jeremiah 4:5-18. A grievous lamentation for the miseries of Judah, Jeremiah 4:19-31.

Return unto me: this seems to be a continuation of the former sermon; so that Israel having promised repentance, they are here directed how it must be qualified, viz. it must not be hypocritical and reigned, but real and hearty, Jeremiah 24:7, as Josiah’s was, 2 Kings 23:25; and it must be unto the Lord; not to this idol and that idol, hither and thither, shifting their way; but unto me; see Jeremiah 2:36; or to my worship, and as thou hast promised, Jeremiah 3:22. And this sense agrees best with the coherence. Or it maybe all emphatical, short, peremptory expression; If thou wilt return, return; make no longer demur or delay about it; like that Isaiah 21:12. The Hebrew read the words in the future tense, if thou wilt return, thou shalt return; and so they may be taken partly as a promise, and that with reference either to their returning into their own land; and so they concern Israel; thus Deu 30:2-5: see Jeremiah 3:14. But if the word be taken in the notion of resting, not returning, as some do, and as it is taken Isaiah 30:15, then it rather concerns Judah: q. d. Thou shalt abide quietly where thou art, and shalt not wander into captivity; and this may agree with the last expression in the verse,

not remove. Or else with reference to the assistance that God would give them to return unto him; partly, and that rather, as a direction (for in the Hebrew, though the word return be in the future tense, yet it is often used imperatively).

Abominations, viz. idols, a metonymy of the adjunct, which are so abominable in God’s sight, Deu 27:15 Ezekiel 20:7,8; called dungy gods, Deu 29:17. See 2 Chronicles 15:8.

Out of my sight; though God’s eye be every where; and hence implieth that idols are no where to be admitted, either in private or public; yet it doth particularly relate to the place of his more immediate presence, as their land and temple, 1 Kings 9:3, and spiritually to our hearts, hypocrites thinking it enough if they conceal their wickedness from man’s eye.

Then shalt thou not remove: if this be read imperatively, then it is,

remove not, as it may be read; and so it agrees with Israel, Depart not away from me to thy idols upon the mountains and hills: if read in the future tense, then it agrees with Judah, Thou shalt not go out of thine own land into exile. See the first clause of the verse.

And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.
And thou shalt swear: this is to be understood, partly by way of command, as Deu 10:20; and partly by way of direction, if thou swear, or when thou swearest: it is put here synecdochically for the whole worship of God, hereby acknowledging and owning God as the only God.

The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness: here he prescribes,

1. The form of the oath. viz.

The Lord liveth, or, By the life of God, which was that form which they did use in swearing, 1 Samuel 14:39,45, and many other places; so Joseph sware by the life of Pharaoh, Genesis 42:15,16; and Elisha very frequently useth this form, 2 Kings 2:2,4,6 3:14 5:16; which is also to be understood exclusively; q.d. not by any idol, as Baal, &c., or any creature, Jeremiah 5:7 Matthew 5:34-36 Jam 5:12, but by God alone, Isaiah 65:16; see Hosea 2:17; for by this indeed we declare the Godhead of him whom we worship, Isaiah 19:182. The qualification of it, in which indeed are comprised all the requisites to a religious oath and worship of God, both in our general and particular calling, with respect to God, ourselves, our neighbours,


In truth, that the matter and substance of it be really true in itself, Romans 9:1, that which agrees with the intent of the mind, Psalm 24:4, and with the intent of him that administers it; not doubtful, feigned, or deceitful, as they did, Isaiah 48:1 Jeremiah 5:2, but as true as the Lord lives.


In judgment, i.e. either in matter or places of judicature, for the decision of controversies, deliberately, advisedly, and reverently, well considering both of the form and matter of the oath, Leviticus 5:4, that God’s name be neither taken in vain customarily, or in matters trivial, Deu 5:11, nor abused by oaths the are rash and precipitant, such as Saul’s was, 1 Samuel 14:39, and as Herod’s, Matthew 14:7, and without necessity.


In righteousness, that none be injured by it, that the things we engage be,

1. Both lawful and possible; see 1 Samuel 25:21,22 28:10 1 Kings 19:2; and,

2. That we look to the performance, Psalm 15:4 Matthew 5:33; the want of either of which circumstances makes it a bond of iniquity, Ecclesiastes 5:4,5.

The nations shall bless themselves in him; this shall be a means to work upon the heathen nations, and prevail with them to come into the same way of worship, that now scorn both you and me, because I am forced to make them the rod of my anger against you, in regard of your provocations, Psalm 47:8,9 Jer 3:17. They shall think themselves happy to be incorporated with thee, that it may be with them according to that promise, Genesis 12:3 22:17,18. They shall, as it were, bless themselves in such like form; The Lord make me and mine as Israel; blessed be Israel, and the God of Israel. Or rather,

in him shall they glory; whereas before they gloried in their idols, now, being taken into the true church, among God’s Israel, they shall glory in God alone, Psalm 106:5, who indeed alone is the glory of his people, Psalm 89:17 148:14.

For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.
To the men, Heb. man, i.e. to each man; I speak to every individual among you, Ezekiel 20:7,8.

Of Judah and Jerusalem: the Lord having spoke what he had to say at present to Israel, turns now his speech from Israel to Judah, and so continues it; which consists of several subjects, and first begins with repentance.

Break up your fallow ground, i.e. prepare your hearts by making them soft, tender, and pliable, fit to embrace my word; a metaphor taken from ploughmen, that do either prepare the ground that hath lain some time waste and untilled, by tearing up the surface of the earth, making it mellow and soft to receive the seed; (for the Hebrew word nir seems to be of larger extent than bare preparation; God useth the same word when he speaks to the same purpose to Israel, Hosea 10:13; and so it is used Proverbs 13:23) or it may relate to both, that every thing that may be injurious to the seed may be stubbed up. Or rather, From such as plough the ground.

Sow not among thorns; rid you hearts and hands of what may hinder you of embracing my word; grub up all those briers, and thorns, and mischievous weeds that will not suffer my counsels to take, or my graces to thrive, with you; such as use to overrun the sluggard’s field, Proverbs 24:30,31. Here the Lord begins to call upon them to repent. The phrase seems to intimate that the Jews had been wont to mix the truths of God among their own inventions, as seed among thorns, and so corrupted it; as also, that they retained many secret and hidden sins, like hypocrites, which he exhorts them to eradicate.

Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
Circumcise yourselves; put away your natural corruptions; which was signified by the sacrament of circumcision, Colossians 2:11; see 1 Peter 3:21; the same thing with the other, but expressed in other words.

To the Lord; or, to me, viz. so as I will approve. Take away the fore-skins of your heart; let it be inward, not outward, viz. in the flesh only, (in which you so much glory in the sight of men,) but take away that brawniness and obstinacy that (having to do with God, who hath respect unto the heart) is upon your hearts, Deu 10:16 Ezekiel 44:9 Acts 7:51 Romans 2:29.

Lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it; not only fierce and consuming, like fire, Deu 4:24; but unquenchable, especially when it gets among your thorns, Jeremiah 4:3, which are very apt to kindle, Isaiah 10:17; lest you proceed so far in your obstinacy that I will not be appeased, Jeremiah 21:12 Amos 5:6; there being nothing that stirs up God to anger but sin, as in the next clause, which is an explication of those metaphors of thorns and foreskins.

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.
The Lord being now about to bring enemies upon them, he bespeaks them in martial language, by stirring them to a speedy provision, and warning of them of the nature of their approaching judgment; not famine or plague within them, but a foreign enemy from without, Jeremiah 6 1, viz. the coming of Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans.

Cry, that your voice may be heard afar off, that all may hear.

Gather together; either to unite your forces, or to take counsel what to do, that you may be in safety; the same thing with

Assemble yourselves; implying that the calamity was general.

Let us go into the defenced cities, to secure from these invasions that are coming upon us.

Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.
Set up the standard, i.e. for them to resort to, as is usual in war; and it is therefore said to he towards Zion or Jerusalem, as being a signal to show them whither they should repair; see Jeremiah 1:5; Jerusalem being their principal place of strength, and Zion the strongest part of it, 2 Samuel 5:6,7.

Retire; or, strengthen; fortify or strengthen yourselves for the fight. Or rather, make haste away, as men use to do in a great fight, viz. for your security: such a use there is of the word Isaiah 10:31 Jeremiah 6:1, which sense is confirmed by the next words,

stay not, or, as some, stay not yourselves in sin, where you promise yourselves security.

I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction, i.e. I am about to bring a great destruction upon you from Chaldea, Jeremiah 1:13-15. Some take this and the former verse to be spoken ironically.

The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant.
The lion is come up from his thicket, i.e. Nebuchadnezzar, called here a lion from his fierceness and strength, Proverbs 30:30; a metaphor; especially in this expedition; see Isaiah 5:27-29 shall come up from Babylon, where his chief seat is, Daniel 4:30; as lions are principally among the thickets of the forest, in coverts; this place being so remote and hid from them, that they least expected trouble to arise from thence.

The destroyer of the Gentiles; another description of the same person, of whose destroying armies the nations have had woeful experience, Isaiah 14:16,17, called the hammer of the whole earth, Jeremiah 50:23: q.d. And how shall you think to escape him?

Is on his way, i.e. as it is expressed in the next clause, he is gone forth from his place, he is already upon his march.

To make thy land desolate, i.e. with a resolution so to do.

Shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant, i.e. as places uninhabited soon lie waste, and are overgrown with grass, as the notation of the word seems to import.

For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us.
Gird you with sackcloth; the usual habit of mourners, especially in those days, Isaiah 22:12 Jeremiah 6:26: it is a calling upon them to repent.

Lament and howl: probably these expressions do import the several ways that men have to set forth their bitter complaints and sorrows of the mind, both by the gestures of the body, Jeremiah 2:37 Luke 18:13, and expressions of the tongue, Psalm 32:3 Isaiah 59:11.

Is not turned back from us; neither will it, until it have accomplished its ends, Jeremiah 30:24.

And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.
The heart of the king shall perish; the king, viz. of Judah, and the great men, that should have encouraged the people in such a calamitous day, and been their great support, shall not only be afraid, but their own hearts shall melt within them, they shall be even at their wits’ end; see Joshua 5:1; they shall have no heart at all to do any thing; they shall not be able to help their people, either by their counsel or arms; their courage will utterly fail, and their counsel perish. See Psalm 73:26. This was fulfilled in Zedekiah, Jeremiah 39 Jer 42, whose flight would not advantage him.

Shall be astonished; shall be in such a consternation, that they shall not know what course to take.

The prophets, viz. false prophets, that had nothing but visions of peace for them, Ezekiel 13:16 Zechariah 13:3,4 Jer 8:11. See Jeremiah 4:10.

Shall wonder, not so much at the disappointment of their prophecies, for they knew well enough they were false, Jeremiah 23:26,27, as that they should be possessed with the same horror and frights with the rest, not knowing where to show, or rather to hide, their heads for the shame that would fall upon them; when their lies should be discovered, they would be put to shame, and perish with the rest, and whither shall they cause their shame to go.

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.
Ah, Lord God: the Hebrew aha is a word both of admiration and lamentation together; they are Jeremiah’s words and complaint breathed out in the great sorrow and. sighing of soul, which he expresseth more emphatically Jeremiah 23:9.

Surely thou hast greatly deceived this people; either hast suffered them to be thus deluded by these false prophets, Isaiah 63:17 Ezekiel 14:9; compare 1 Kings 22:21-23 2 Thessalonians 2:11; or possibly it may be read better by way of interrogation: q.d. How can it possibly be that thou shouldst suffer thy people to be thus deluded by their false prophets, Numbers 23:19, thou being a God that canst not lie? Titus 1:2.

Ye shall have peace: under the word peace is comprised and intended all good, intimating all things should go on prosperously with them. Genesis 37:14; and seems the rather to be thus expressed, because it was the common language and phrase of the false prophets, Jeremiah 8:11 23:17.

Whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul: to persuade them it should be well with them, when the sword is at the door, not only ready to take away the comforts of life, but even life itself, soul being put for life, Jeremiah 4:30 Psalm 69:1 Matthew 16:25,26. It may intimate also a great cutting off and slaughter among them, especially their great ones; they being, as it were, the soul of the people.

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,
At that time, viz. when Nebuchadnezzar is upon this expedition, Jeremiah 4:7, shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem; there shall be tidings brought both to the country and city, Jeremiah 4:5.

A dry wind: the meaning is, a drying wind, such as shall blast and scorch where it comes, without any rain or moisture, or any other way for use or refreshment, as the last word in the verse intimates; and it may also allude unto the coast from whence this wind comes, viz. from Babylon, or the north, which drives away rain, Proverbs 25:23; for it points at the stormy and furious irruption of the Babylonian army, destroying all before them, a metaphorical allegory, Jeremiah 23:19 30:23,24.

In the wilderness; or, in the plain, where there is no stop or obstacle in the way to hinder the wind, or to break its fury, Isaiah 21:1 Jeremiah 13:24. See Poole "Isaiah 63:13".

Toward, i.e. directly and designedly, coming along in the way leading to my people; for so we are to understand this expression,

the daughter of my people, as the daughter of Zion, Isaiah 1:8, or rather, the daughter Zion, which is as comely and beautiful in my eyes and tender to me as a daughter, Jeremiah 9:1.

Not to fan, nor to cleanse; not such a gentle wind which is made choice of to separate the chaff from the wheat, the bad from the good; but so boisterous and violent, that it shall depopulate, sweep away, and lay waste all together, Jeremiah 51:1 Ezekiel 21:3.

Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them.
A full wind from those places, Heb. fuller than they. A wind too strong for them. This is a further description of the former wind; it shall be full, even a fuller wind, that shall do its work thoroughly.

Shall come unto me: these are either God’s words: q. d. It shall presently come to me, to receive my commission, and be at my beck, and do my will, Psalm 148:8. Or they relate, as it were, what will be the language of the people at that time

unto me, for against me.

Now also will I give sentence: q.d. The coming of this terrible wind shall in effect speak the execution of my judgment upon them, which is pointed at by this word now, viz. at the time of the coming of this terrible storm from Chaldea. Heb. utter judgment, viz. not by word, but by deed; my judgments shall speak as well as my prophets.

Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled.
He shall come up as clouds; either noting the vast number of them, Isaiah 60:8 Hebrews 12:1; or the suddenness of them, when not expected, clouds often rising on a sudden, and overspreading the whole face of the heavens; or rather, the great speed and swiftness with which Nebuchadnezzar shall march against them, Isaiah 19:1, hyperbolically described by the swiftness of eagles in this verse, Jeremiah 48:8.

His chariots shall be as a whirlwind; which beside the swiftness, notes also the confusion and amazement that they will cause, Isaiah 66:15.

Woe unto us! for we are spoiled: the dreadful apprehensions that the people have of their woeful condition, or possibly the words of the prophet lamenting their misery.

O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?
O Jerusalem, wash thine heart; cleanse your inward parts, O ye men of Jerusalem; not your hands only, as hypocrites do, but your hearts, Jam 4:8. The same exhortation with Jeremiah 4:3,4, only in another metaphor of washing, which seems to be taken from such potions first physicians give to clear away the inward parts from noxious humours. See Isaiah 1:16,17.

From wickedness; viz. from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, 2 Corinthians 7:1 Jam 1:21.

That thou mayest be saved: this hath reference in this place to temporal salvation; it is prescribed as a means to prevent the judgments that are impending on them, as is plainly expressed, Jeremiah 4:4, yet not exclusive of spiritual salvation, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 Titus 3:5.

Vain thoughts; wicked thoughts, or rather hopes or expectation from any helps, Jeremiah 2:5,37; pleasing thyself with vain fancies of safety and security, which thoughts of thine will assuredly bring ruin and misery upon thee, which is inevitably coming, as in the next verse.

For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim.
A voice, i.e. either the voice of the prophets, that is still sounding it in your ears, and declaring it unto you; or rather, the rumour and noise of this army is already come through your land; you have the heavy tidings of this great affliction, Jeremiah 8:16, to note the near approach of it.

Declareth from Dan: this is said to come from Dan and Ephraim, because Dan was the first place these Chaldeans must come to, it being the utmost boundary of Canaan northward, and Ephraim the innermost border of Israel in the north of Judea, intimating the march of the Babylonians through all Israel toward Jerusalem.

Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah.
Make ye mention to the nations: these are either the nations in Judea; or these words are a proclamation, summoning in the nations by the Chaldeans, as it were, in pursuance of a commission from God, to bring great armies together against Jerusalem; or they are the prophets turning away from Judah, as despairing of doing any good upon them, and calling for the nations to execute God’s sentence.

Publish; let her be acquainted with what is coming upon her, let her have public notice beforehand, that she may be warned.

Watchers; military watchers, i.e. the Chaldean soldiers, that shall so carefully and watchfully encompass Jerusalem, that none shall escape; possibly a metaphor from hunters, that in hunting their prey lay wait at every passage, that the game may not escape. See 2 Kings 25:4,5. Or possibly there may be an allusion to Nebuchadnezzar’s name; the Hebrew word for watchers being notscrim, which comes from natser, the end of his name, as if they were termed Nebuchadnezzartans, as the keepers or guards of his person; as they were called Caesarcans from Caesar.

Come; they are now at hand, you may as it were see them.

From a far country; from Chaldea.

Give out their voice; they will proclaim war against them; or a shout, either encouraging soldiers to the battle, or triumphing after the victory; or the outcries that they will make, such as the Turks now make in their onsets, Jeremiah 2:15.

As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD.
They will strictly besiege her, as keepers of a field will be careful who go in and who go out, Zechariah 12:2; they will watch that none go in to relieve them, and also that none get out to escape: see 2 Chronicles 16:1.

Because she hath been rebellious: God doth not threaten his judgments only, but he labours to convince them that there is a sufficient reason for it, both here and in the next verse.

Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart.
Thy way; thy manner of life, and particularly thy idolatries.

Have procured these things unto thee: q.d. Thou canst not lay any blame upon me.

This is thy wickedness, because it is bitter; thy wickedness hath been the cause of this thy grievous affliction, Isaiah 1:1 Jeremiah 2:17,19, of this thy bitterness of bringing such a bitter enemy against thee, a metonymy of the efficient, which hath reached unto thy very heart, as the sword is said to reach unto the soul, Jeremiah 4:10.

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.
My bowels, my bowels! here begins the woeful complaint of, and the great trouble the prophet was in, upon the consideration of these things, crying out as one even under great pain and torment, doubling his words for want of vent, thereby expressing the excess of his sorrow, which in words was inexpressible; the like 2 Samuel 18:33; which sorrow of his he expresseth Jeremiah 9:1,10.

I am pained at my very heart, Heb. the walls of my heart; or, my heartstrings, that surrounded and encompassed my heart, are ready to break. He may possibly allude to their encompassing the walls of Jerusalem. Or the proper meaning is, my heart is ready to break; the LXX. rendereth it doth beat or pant. Maketh a noise; is disturbed within me, I can have no rest nor quiet within, Job 30:27 Lamentations 1:20.

I cannot hold my peace; I cannot forbear my complaints, I am so troubled and grieved, Job 7:11 Isaiah 22:4.

Because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, i.e. I have heard in the spirit of prophecy; it is as certain as if I now heard the trumpet sounding, and the alarm of war beating up.

Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.
Destruction upon destruction; a further expression of his bitter lamentation, redoubling his complaint; the end of one, but the beginning of another; q.d. worse and worse, Deu 32:23 Ezekiel 7:26; good Josiah slain, and four of his successors carried away or slain, or both, 2 Chronicles 36.

The whole-land is spoiled: this is more particularly described Jeremiah 4:23-26.

Suddenly are my tents spoiled; the enemy makes no more of overthrowing my stately cities and magnificent palaces, sometimes described by tents, Isaiah 54:2, than if he were plundering of a camp, or overturning of tents made of curtains, Jeremiah 49:29; either alluding to their ancient way of living, Numbers 24:2,5, or their wilderness condition, when they abode in tents: q.d. We are reduced to as mean a condition as then, and that suddenly, ere we are aware, and it is done with as much ease as overturning a poor shepherd’s cottage, Lamentations 2:5,6. Jeremiah possibly personating a shepherd, speaks in the shepherd’s style, and may here signify the destruction of their whole country, even all those places and fields where shepherds were wont to pitch their tents.

How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?
He seems to have these concomitants of war, both of Judea preparing for defence, and especially these of the enemy preparing for ruin and destruction. always in his eye and ear, Jeremiah 4:19, and bewailing the continuance of it in taking city after city, with the several sackings of Jerusalem under her three last kings. The LXX. read, How long shall I see them flying? reading nas, a refuge, for nes, a banner, differing only in the points.

For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.
For my people is foolish: though God show them here that the cause of all these calamities is their folly, Jeremiah 2:17,19 Psa 38:3,5, yet he owns them for his people, Jeremiah 2:11,31,32.

They have not known me; which is indeed the only true wisdom; they have not studied my disposition or mildness toward them; they are so sottish, that they have neither regarded my counsels nor threats, but utterly stupid; they know not what is for their own good, have no understanding.

They have no knowledge, i.e. their knowledge is as bad or worse than none, it is very ill employed in doing evil, only witty here, crafty and subtle. See 2 Samuel 13:3. But how to do any good they know not, Jeremiah 9:3 Luke 16:8: this the apostle dehorts from, 1 Corinthians 14:20.

I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.
I beheld; either I Jeremiah saw all this in a vision, or I fancied and framed such an

idea of it in my mind; it seems to be impressed upon my thoughts graphically, as in a map, in such a rueful manner; for in this and the three following verses he doth, as one transported with sorrow, elegantly and hyperbolically describe the phaenomenon, face or appearance of it.

It was without form and void; the land was so squalid and so ruined, that he fancieth it to be like the first chaos, for which reason possibly he calls Judea the earth, in allusion to Genesis 1:2; and herein implying that Judah’s sins were such, that they had even overturned the course of nature, being laid waste and desolate, not of inhabitants only, but of all things that might tend either to ornament or use, without men, without houses, without fruits, without beasts or birds for food or service, Jeremiah 4:25,26.

They had no light; some say being obnubilated and darkened by the abundance of smoke that would ascend from the desolating fires of towns and cities, Isaiah 9:18,19, of which you may read in the history of this breaking in of the Chaldeans. But he seems to proceed rather in his metaphor of the chaos, it being an expression whereby the Scripture doth set forth the saddest desolations, Isaiah 13:9, &c.; Ezekiel 32:7, &c.; Joel 2:10,30,31; every thing above and below seemed to be in a mournful posture, wrapt up in dismal blackness.

I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly.
He proceeds in his figurative elegancies: q.d. Behold how the mountains of Judea tremble! a like expression Psalm 18:7,8 Isa 5:25; as if the very senseless creatures were astonished at the greatness of God’s anger; and he mentions these as being the most stable part of the earth, yet shake before him.

All the hills moved lightly; as easily as if they were some very light matter, or as dust or feathers in a whirlwind. See Psalm 114:4,6. Or these may be said hyperbolically to tremble and move by reason of the multitudes of trampling and prancing horses and chariots furiously passing over them.

I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.
There was no man; quite depopulated and laid waste, all either slain, or carried captive, or fled; for after the flight of men, women, and children into Egypt, upon the death of Gedaliah, scarce a Jew was left in Judea.

All the birds of the heavens were fled; such birds as are used to inhabited places, that live, feed, and build among men; (others indeed, both birds and beasts, would continue, which implies but the greater desolation and waste of the land, as is threatened against Babylon, Isaiah 13:19-22)

fled, either to seek provisions, here being no food left for them, or frighted with the hideous noises and clatterings that do attend armies; as we have read, that such hath been the concussion of the air by the loud clamours and noises of armies, that birds have fallen down to the earth, Jeremiah 9:10 Zephaniah 1:2,3.

I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger.
The fruitful place, Heb. Carmel, either properly, for that part of the land so called for its fruitfulness; or rather appellatively, for not only their most pleasant, but most fruitful lands, that were kept dressed and occupied for food, both for necessity and delight, Jeremiah 4:27 Isaiah 29:17 33:9.

All the cities thereof were broken down; no place left for men to inhabit, Isaiah 1:7.

By his fierce anger; that which the enemy could not have done with all his fury and fierceness, had it not been for the anger of the Lord, which by their great provocation they had brought upon them. selves, 2 Kings 24:3 Jeremiah 9:12,13.

For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.
Some expound it, Neither shall this punishment suffice, nor my fury stop here; I will not thus have done with them; and so look to what they were further to endure in their long captivity. See Leviticus 26:36,39. But it seems rather to be a word of comfort, that they shall not be utterly extinct, he will preserve a remnant, Jeremiah 5:10 Isaiah 1:9 24:13: q.d. Though I am greatly moved with anger, yet I will not be inexorable, I will remember my covenant, Jeremiah 30:11: in the midst of judgment he will remember mercy; after seventy years’ captivity he brought them back again.

For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.
For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black; expressions to set forth the dreadfulness of the judgment; he makes the elements to personate mourners, a sad face of things above and below, a metaphor, and therein to shame the stupidity of his people.

Because I have spoken it: q.d. You would not believe either that my prophets spake, or what they said; now I tell you I speak myself, and what I have resolved upon I will not revoke; see Ezekiel 24:13,14, and Jeremiah 15:6; for I have purposed it; I have not spoken in my heat or fury, but upon mature deliberation; an anthropopathy; or, what the prophets have denounced I will ratify.

The whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; they shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks: every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein.
The whole city shall flee; the inhabitants of all ranks and qualities shall seek to escape the fury of this Chaldean army, Jeremiah 39:4.

For the noise; either upon the report of their coming, hereby as it were deriding their confidence; or rather at the approach of their vast armies, for they were close besieged before they fled, as appears, 2 Kings 25:4.

They shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks; such a consternation there shall be upon them, that they shall run into every hole to hide themselves: thus Manasseh was taken among the thorns, 2 Chronicles 33:11. The Hebrew is abim, the clouds, possibly alluding to dark places on the tops of hills, reaching as it were to the clouds, or among the cloudy shades of trees and groves that usually grew there. The LXX. render it caves, and so the rocks for shelter, or the clefts, caves, and hiding-places in the rocks. See Isaiah 2:21.

Every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein; there shall be an utter desolation, their cities quite forsaken, not any to inhabit them, Jeremiah 4:25,26.

And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life.
When thou art spoiled; which will certainly come upon thee; or when this destruction shall come upon thee, which is very near thee.

What wilt thou do? viz. when thou, O daughter of Zion, as Jeremiah 4:31, art besieged by the Babylonians, what course wilt thou take? It is not to be avoided. A kind of an insulting way of speech, as it were upbraiding them with their pride and confidence: q.d. Your condition is desperate.

Crimson, or scarlet, 2 Samuel 1:24: see on See Poole "Isaiah 1:18".

Though thou deckest thee with ornaments; though thou dost superinduce those ornaments, or jewels of gold, that may reader thy attire the most rich and splendid, 2 Samuel 1:24.

Though thou rentest thy face with painting: it is observed that they that paint much make their skins withered. Face, Heb. eyes, the wantonness thereof being possibly set out more by painting; see Isaiah 3:16; or rather, face and eyes, being sometimes put one for the other see 1 Samuel 16:12 Isaiah 25:8, compared with Revelation 21:4.

In vain shalt thou make thyself fair; all thy tricking up thyself, thinking thereby to ingratiate thyself with the Chaldeans, will be to no purpose, for they will work thy ruin, as in the close of the verse, and Jeremiah 19:7.

Thy lovers will despise thee; they will slight thee more than ever; they that have doted on time, thy unchaste paramours, their lust being satisfied, shall abhor thee; see 2 Samuel 13:15; and the pronoun, being not in the original, it may signify that no lovers at all will look after thee; thou shalt be cast off by all. See thus of Tyre, Isaiah 23:15,16. Those that were in confederacy with thee, and thy professed friends, Hosea 2:5, shall not only forsake time, but join with thine enemies to destroy thee, Lamentations 1:2. And thus is Babylon to be dealt withal, Revelation 17:16,17. The sense is, That notwithstanding all thy allurings and enticements, either to obtain the help of thy friends and allies the Egyptians, whom thou takest to be thy lovers, and didst forsake me to cleave to them, or to stop the fury of thine enemies, the Chaldeans; (possibly alluding to Jezebel’s practice, in painting herself to stop the fury of Jehu, 2 Kings 9:30 O yet shall it advantage thee nothing; thou shalt be no more regarded than a forsaken strumpet, Ezekiel 16:36,37 Eze 23
For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, and the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, that bewaileth herself, that spreadeth her hands, saying, Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers.
A voice as of a woman in travail: when the Scripture would express any exquisite sorrow, exceeding all other pains, it doth it by a woman in travail, Isaiah 13:8,9 Jer 6:24 30:6,7. The anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, which of all seems to be the most painful, both from natural causes, and because they have less patience to bear, having not had former experience of the like.

The daughter of Zion, viz. Jerusalem, Isaiah 1:8.

That spreadeth her hands; in her great distress she either reacheth them out to God for some help, Isaiah 1:15; or rather, according to the use of persons in great anguish, clapping or wringing their hands together, as both the former expression of bewailing herself, fetching of deep sighs and lamentations, and the following woe is me, intimates. See Jeremiah 2:37.

Woe is me now! or, the time of my woe is at hand; it draws near.

My soul is wearied because of murderers; there is no more spirit left within me, I am ready to sink under my distress, considering not only that my destruction is so near, but that those of whom I have been so fond, and whose idols I have so zealously served, should become my murderers, Jeremiah 4:30, and that I should fall into the hands of such as will have no compassion, 2 Chronicles 36:17.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Jeremiah 3
Top of Page
Top of Page