Matthew Poole's Commentary
At that time, saith the LORD, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves:The calamity of the Jews, both dead and alive, Jeremiah 8:1-3. Their brutish impenitency, Jeremiah 8:4-7: Their vain boast of wisdom; their covetousness, security, impudence, Jeremiah 8:8-12. Their grievous judgments, Jeremiah 8:13-17; bewailed by the prophet, Jeremiah 8:18-22.
This chapter being a continuation of the former, he proceeds in carrying on the threatening with higher aggravations of the judgment, viz. that when the time shall come spoken of Jeremiah 7:32, the Chaldeans’ rage shall reach, not only to the living, but even against those that are in their graves, and that sparing none of any degree or quality.
They shall bring out the bones of the nobles and princes, as Manasseh and others, possibly led to it out of greediness, supposing to find great treasure in their sepulchres; of the
priests and prophets, principally the false ones, as a just judgment of God against them for deceiving the people; of the
inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their spite and fury kindled against them, as soldiers, or in contempt and ignominy: and this notes the utter desolation of the city, not only razing the walls, but turning up the very sepulchres, which were accounted sacred, and not to be violated.
And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth.They shall spread them before the sun; not gather them together into charnel-houses, as we usually do out of humanity, but scatter them about as it were to be turned into dust and dung.
And the moon, and all the host of heaven, viz. all the rest of the stars, to show that they should not lie out in the day time only, but night also, before the moon and stars, Jeremiah 36:30. Their carcasses shall be cast to their idols, Leviticus 26:30 2 Kings 23:14,20; a kind of lex talionis, that as they had served and worshipped these creatures, God doth, as it were, appoint them as spectators and witnesses of his vengeance, and what contempt he pours upon them, their carcasses being brought before their idols, which will be so shameful, as if one should draw forth the adulteress with the adulterer into open view, and expose them together; and it also insinuates the inability that is in these dumb idols to help them in their misery.
Whom they have loved: this and the following term serve to express the greatness and variety of their affection and zeal in their worshipping of them, Deu 4:19 2 Kings 23:5 Jeremiah 7:18: he multiplies words, as it were implying that there can hardly be words enough to express their folly and madness, the Gentiles worshipping these creatures, not only for their beauty and lustre, but, according to their ancient philosophy, apprehending them to have been living creatures, and that all events were ordered by them.
They shall be for dung upon the face of the earth; on the superficies of it; there shall be no care taken of them, but they shall lie in the open country in the air, till they rot into dung, or dry into dust, as in the beginning of the verse; see Psalm 83:10 Jeremiah 9:22; they shall be ignominious even after death.
And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the LORD of hosts.And death shall be chosen rather than life; a description of the unexpressibleness of their misery, that notwithstanding all the barbarism of the Babylonians exercised both upon the bring and the dead, yet a small matter in comparison of what the living would feel, of the greatness of which misery there was a double cause; not only their being led into captivity, but God’s displeasure following them, even in their banishment, being sorely oppressed; one of those threatenings Leviticus 26:36,39: see Job 3:20,21 Kings 9:6. Which remain in all the places whither I have driven them; some dispersed among the mountains and hiding-places of Judea, others in the desert of Moab and Idumea, whither they fled for fear of the Chaldeans, and all other places where God would scatter them; an hypallage.
The Lord of hosts, he that hath all the creatures as an army at his command, can do this against those with whom he is displeased.
Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return?Moreover thou shalt say unto them; though possibly it be all in vain, yet thou shalt keep in thy work.
Shall they fall, and not arise? an interrogation that hath the force of a negative, i.e. surely none. Or, Will men, is there no hope? And are they upon this ground desperate? Or rather, Will men fall, and not arise? Are they such fools, that having fallen by their sins, and been foretold all that is coming, that they will not accept of a remedy? Jeremiah 7:27 Hosea 14:1.
Shall he turn away, and not return? a metaphor taken from one that is out of his way; can any imagine that if one tell him of it, and direct him aright, that he will not hearken to him, and turn back? It is even against nature itself for a man not to seek his own good.
Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.By a perpetual backsliding: either a universal backsliding; or rather, obstinately resolved to hold on, though they see they are out of the way; not out of levity or inconsiderateness. The Hebrew word signifies strength, the same used Psalm 13:1, and translated for ever, implying a strong, stiff, stout refusal. See Isaiah 57:17 Jeremiah 5:3. Deceit: either their injustice and cozenages in circumventing one another, which was so frequent among them, Jeremiah 9:4-6 Micah 7:3,4; or their hypocrisy, whereby they thought to deceive God, but they did indeed deceive themselves; the great impediment of their repentance, Isaiah 44:20; or rather, their sticking close to their false prophets, who did deceive them, thence encouraging themselves in their wickedness, and pleasing themselves that their miseries should not come upon them. See Poole "Isaiah 30:10"; See Poole "Jer v. 31"; See Poole "Jeremiah 14:13", &c.
I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.And heard, i.e. that I might hear; the words rather of God than of the prophet, which the continuance of the speech seems to show in the next verse, in the close whereof it is plain that God speaks, expressing himself after the manner of men, who are wont to listen diligently after the things they are very desirous of. See 1 Kings 20:33 Malachi 3:16.
Not aright; or, not so, as the LXX., and the word is thus used, Exodus 10:11 Psalm 1:4; not so as I would have had them; so far from repentance, that I do not perceive a word from them tending that way.
What have I done? I see no tendency to repentance, I see none of them so much as calling themselves to an account, not recoiling upon themselves, where repentance usually begins, 2 Chronicles 6:37, as men use upon an inconsiderate act to smite upon their breast, or thigh, and say, What have I done? as 2 Samuel 3:24.
Every one turned to his course; to their accustomed way, committing all wickedness without restraint. See on Isaiah 59:7. The fury and unbridledness of their lusts, being spurred on by their wills, it described in the next expression, showing how, like a headstrong horse, he runs away with his rider; or compared to the delight that a horse seems to take in running violently and headstrongly into the battle, as it is described, Job 39:21, &c.; and this word rushing, signifying properly an inundation of waters, helps to show their uncontrollableness in another metaphor: see this verified of them Jeremiah 2:23,24. It is said every one by an hyperbole, at, Psalm 14:3, and frequently elsewhere.
Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.In the heaven, i.e. in the air, which is often called heaven, where the birds fly, Psalm 8:8; compare Jeremiah 7:33, who possibly observe the fit time by the temperature of the air.
Knoweth her appointed times, i.e. observeth the several seasons of her going and coming by some natural instinct, and this is said of the stork: what kind of fowl is here meant is disputable: see English Annotations and Latin Synopsis.
Observe the time of their coming; the same thing diversified in these several fowls, that know also their seasons.
But my people know not: this notes the great stupidity of his people, seeming not to have as much sense in them as the birds in the air, not knowing their summer of prosperity, to make a good use of God’s favours, nor the winter of adversity, either to prevent or remove that wrath of God that hangs over their heads, Isaiah 5:12 Luke 19:42,44; they know not their time for repentance, and making their peace with God, compared also, on the same account, to the beasts of the field, Isaiah 1:3; and thus Christ upbraids the Pharisees, Matthew 16:2,3.
The judgment of the Lord; either God’s vengeance in general, or particularly hovering over Jerusalem and Judea; or rather, the manner of God’s dispensations with them. So the word is used 1 Samuel 2:13 8:11.
How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.How do ye say, We are wise? q. d. These things considered, where is your wisdom, when you see the very fowls of the air are not so stupid as you are? he speaks either to princes and priests, or to the whole body of the people.
The law of the Lord is with us: this may be understood either more general of all, or may have a more special eye to the priests, with whom it was intrusted, Deu 33:10 Malachi 2:7. They were wont to boast much of the law, as well as of the temple, Jeremiah 18:18 Romans 2:17,23.
In vain made he it: q.d. For any use they made of it, they had as good have been without it; God needed not to have given them a law, Hosea 8:12.
The pen of the scribes is in vain; neither need it ever have been copied out, divulged, and conveyed down to them by the scribe, Deu 17:18; or the prevarications and collusions these lawyers used in the false interpretation of the law, wherein they sided with the false prophets, should be in vain. A scribe was a teacher, one well versed in the in the Scripture, or esteemed so.
The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken; they trusted to their refuge of lies, but when God shall bring the judgment threatened, the wisest among them will find that they shall be confounded among themselves, not knowing what to do for all their wisdom, but shall be taken with the rest, Jeremiah 4:9: by wise men he means the scribes in the former verse. The same said of Babylon, Isaiah 47:10.
What wisdom is in them? or, What is wisdom to them? How can they say they are wise, when they have no fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom, Proverbs 1:7; when they have no respect at all to the word of God, as to any holy practice, which is the fountain of all wisdom? Deu 4:6 Psalm 19:7 2 Timothy 3:15.
Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them; a paraphrastical description of the miseries of war: God doth here insinuate that their misery shall not be for a short time, but so long, as that strangers, viz. the Chaldeans, shall enjoy their land by inheritances, so far should they be from possessing their land for ever.
Every one is given to covetousness; so greedy after their own private gain, that they took no care of equity or justice, in which word is comprised all their fraudulent dealings one among another. Of this and the two next verses, see on Jeremiah 6:13-15.
For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.No text from Poole on this verse.
Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.No text from Poole on this verse.
I will surely consume them, saith the LORD: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them.I will surely consume them; or, In gathering I will consume them: q.d. I will so gather them together into their several cities to be besieged, that it shall be no hard matter to destroy them, Jeremiah 8:16, viz. the body of the people; not every one, for there was a remnant that did escape.
There shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree: these fruits, grapes and figs, it is probable, were of greatest account and use among them, Isaiah 36:16, and so may be put for all other things, either for necessity or delight, which God threatens he will deprive them of by reason of the siege, which a famine shall succeed, Jeremiah 5:17 Joel 1:7 Habakkuk 3:17. See the like Zephaniah 1:2,3. Or possibly it may be spoken by way of similitude: q.d. They shall be wasted, as when there is no grapes on the vine, &c.; the land shall be left as bare as when by tempests or other violence there is neither leaf nor fruit left upon the tree, Psalm 78:47.
And the things that I have given them shall pass away: if this refer to the further punishment, as some, then it is as much as to say, what they have already received from me and laid up, they shall also be deprived of, Hosea 2:8,9; or, though I have given it to them, yet they shall not enjoy it, it shall be taken away by their enemies: if it relate.to the reason of the punishment, as others, then the copulative is put for the causal: q.d. Because the things that I gave them, viz. my laws, pass away, i.e. they have transgressed, Isaiah 24:4,5: either sense lies fair.
Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there: for the LORD our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD.Why do we sit still? the people at length seem to bethink themselves, and thus to bespeak each other. Let us enter into the defenced cities; in the scattered villages there is no safety for us, let us retire into places of greater security, Matthew 24:16-18; possibly they thought they might be secured there, as they had been before in the time of Sennacherib.
Let us be silent there; keep close within our walls, say or do nothing to provoke the enemy; but sit down and bewail the desperateness of our condition, Lamentations 3:28,29, or tremblingly expect the issue of this sad war, for there is no possibility of making head against such an enemy, that bears down all before them.
The Lord our God hath put us to silence: they now begin to perceive that the hand of God is in all this, and that therefore they have not a word to say, as if they were wronged; God hath put them to shame: much less courage to oppose the Babylonians; their heart fails them, they are as men in a great terror and consternation; God hath put us to silence, let us be silent.
Water of gall; or, poison; probably the name of some poisonous herb, with the juice or infusion whereof they were wont to kill persons, as hemlock, nightshade &c. See Hosea 10:4. It notes those bitter destructive judgments that God was bringing upon them, Jeremiah 9:15, which did spring from that bitter root of their sinning against him, as in the next words.
We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!Viz. Upon the persuasion of our prophets, we expected that these troubles would never come, but all would be well; but we find ourselves merely deluded by them; we looked so long, till even our eyes failed us, but we see no remedy for us, Lamentations 4:17. A metaphor. Miseries are often in Scripture compared to diseases, and deliverances to healing, Deu 32:39 Psalm 103:3 Jeremiah 33:6.
The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein.The fury of the Chaldeans’ march is described by the snorting of their horses, which is a noise they make through their nostrils, when they are chafed and fretted.
Was heard from Dan, i.e. even to Jerusalem: q.d. The dreadfulness of the noise shall be heard from far: or rather, Though Jerusalem seem to be secure, yet the farthest coasts of the land are in great consternation, viz. the outmost boundary of Canaan northward, through which the Chaldean army was to march: see Jeremiah 4:15: or it is said to be heard, either the noise itself, or the fame of it, Jeremiah 6:24.
His strong ones; his choice horses or cavalry; or his stout and sturdy ones, as the word signifies, and expressed by their brisk frolicsomeness and courage in the word neighing, properly applied to horses, understanding here the chief of them; and the word for strong ones is applied to any thing that excels, as to man, Job 34:20; to angels, Psalm 78:25, angels’ food, or the bread of the mighty; and for horses, as here, and Judges 5:22 Jeremiah 47:3.
All that is in it, Heb. the fulness of it, the trees, and fruits. and wealth of the land; they are entered upon their spoil, and will leave nothing in the land, Jeremiah 4:20. It is spoken in a prophetical style, who use to express the certainty of what shall be as if it actually were already. The city, viz. Jerusalem; or rather the cities, with all their inhabitants, as well as the country, the singular number being put for the plural, as Isaiah 27:10.
For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.He proceeds in increasing of their terror: q.d. There will be no appeasing or allaying of their fury by any art or method; therefore represented by the cockatrice, called in Latin regulus, or king of serpents, as putting to flight all other serpents; but by apposition to
serpents, showing what kind of serpent they shall be, a sort that cannot be charmed, viz. such an enemy as by no entreaty can be made exorable: see on Isaiah 11:8. LXX. deadly serpents. They shall bite you; they shall afflict you with sore punishments, not only stings in their tails, as scorpions, but in their teeth, whereby they shall devour you, Jeremiah 8:16.
When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me.The language of the people, being long shut up in their cities, and finding no relief, at last faint, Lamentations 4:17. But more probably the prophet now seems to speak his own resentments, how greatly the calamity of his people did affect him; the like Isaiah 22:4: when he would sometimes refresh himself with the comfortable refreshments of nature, the thoughts of his people’s misery do so afflict him, that his heart is ready to faint, to sink within him.
Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the LORD in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities?The voice of the cry, i.e. the, greatness of their cry, the bitter cries, and screeches, and complaints that methinks I hear: the words are abrupt, because the prophet is to represent several persons speaking; himself, the people, and God.
Of the daughter of my people; see Jeremiah 4:11; possibly because Jeremiah loved them, instructed them, admonished them as a daughter.
Them that dwell in afar country, viz. their enemies the Babylonians, that were to come against them from a far country, Jeremiah 6:22; or the voice of them that were captives under those of a far country; now they begin to cry, which would not be persuaded to it before: the first is most to be approved of.
In Zion, viz. in Jerusalem, a metonymy of the subject.
Is not her king in her; or, as King in Zion; or, have we not a king of the seed of David, to whom the kingdom was granted to be perpetual? Either the words of God: q. d. Was not I among you, to provide for you, and protect you, but you must needs repair to idols? The like kind of speech is in 2 Kings 1:3, and the close of the verse seems to favour this. Or, as others, an expostulatory lamentation of the people, that the cruel adversary should prevail over a people that had God so near them, Psalm 48:2,3 76:1,2: Hath God now left us? and is the promise of his continuance here at an end? Psalm 89:36-38.
Why have they provoked me with strange vanities? as if God should seem to reply here, Let them not think it strange, seeing they have turned their backs upon me, and trusted to idols, which are but vanity, Jeremiah 2:11,13; called vanity, not only because idols are as nothing, but because all the confidence that is put them is vain, and because idolaters are vain in their minds, and want understanding. I have not forsaken them, but they me.
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.The harvest is past, and the winter no time for war; the people’s continued complaint, not unlike that Jeremiah 8:15. The year is gone, and we are still frustrated in our expectations, the time that we expected help from Egypt, Isaiah 30:2,3,5.
We are not saved, viz. by the Egyptians, or any other confederates.
For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me.The prophet here shows how deeply he is affected with the people’s misery, he deeply sympathized with them.
The hurt; it signifies breach, I am broken in my spirit; and so it answers to the breach that is made upon the people.
I am black; I am as those that are clad in deep mourning, Psalm 38:6 Jeremiah 14:2.
Astonishment hath taken hold on me; I am amazed to think that my people should sin themselves beyond help, no remedy for them, as the next verse, that no threatenings or counsels should prevail with them.
Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?Gilead was eminent for balm, Genesis 43:11, taken for rosin or turpentine, which is a kind of more liquid rosin, and either flows or drops from certain trees of its own accord, or their juice flows from several holes pierced into them, as from the pine, cedar, cypress, or terebinth tree. Heb. tseri; Gr. rhtinh, from rew, to flow, or run; Lat. resina; Engl. rosin. A near affinity of the words in each language, the nature whereof is to dissolve hardness, to clear and close up wounds.
Physician, or chirurgeon: probably in a country where were such plenty of remedies there could not want artists, whereby their cures might be facilitated, by means of which the Gileadites and Arabians did excel there.
Recovered, Heb. gone up; the like expression 2 Chronicles 24:13, the work was perfected; Heb. the healing went up upon the work; and so Nehemiah 4:7: the prophet expresseth his grievous complaint by way of admiration, by a metaphor, implying the inveteracy and obstinacy of their hearts, that either would not come to the physician, or that they should be thus incurable, where they wanted not for prophets and teachers, or for any spiritual means, flowing down daily upon them; can Jerusalem and Judea be without spiritual physicians? Some understand it by way of sarcasm: q.d. Where are your medicines, your arms, your counsels, your confederates? And where are your physicians, your princes and priests, that promised you relief? Without God you see no help in any means. But the former more natural, and agrees best with the beginning of the next chapter.