Jeremiah 25
Pulpit Commentary
The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon;
Verse 1. - The first year of Nebuchadnezzar (comp. 2 Kings 24:12; 2 Kings 25:8; Jeremiah lit. 12: 32:1).
The which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying,
From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three and twentieth year, the word of the LORD hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened.
Verse 3. - From the thirteenth year; etc.; alluding to the chronological statement in Jeremiah 1:2. The three and twentieth year; counting nineteen years under Josiah and four under Jehoiachin, and including the three months of Jehoahaz. Vers. 4,5. - (Comp. Jeremiah 7:25; Jeremiah 11:7; Jeremiah 35:15.) They said; literally, saying. The prophet mentally resumes the statement of ver. 4. He hath sent his servants the prophets." Turn ye; rather, return ye, conversion being the return of the sinner to his natural home.
And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.
They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever:
And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt.
Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words,
Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.
Verse 9. - The families of the north (comp. Jeremiah 1:15, note). And Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant. This is the rendering of the Targum, the Syriac, and the Vulgate, and corresponds with the reading of a few extant manuscripts. The received text, however, reads, "and unto Nebuchadnezzar," etc. Neither reading is satisfactory. The latter one is intolerably harsh; the former makes Nebuchadnezzar a mere adjunct of the tribes of the north. In the other passages, moreover, where this king is solemnly entitled "my servant," the clause is the most prominent one in the sentence (see Jeremiah 27:6; Jeremiah 43:10). The words in question have a sort of family resemblance to the glosses which meet us occasionally both in the form of the Hebrew text represented by the Massoretic recension, and those by the principal ancient versions. The words are omitted by the Septuagint. My servant. Generally to be a "servant" of Jehovah or of any supposed deity is to be a worshipper. Thus Daniel is called by Darius, "servant of the living God" (Daniel 6:20), and thus Abdallah, "servant of Allah," has become a favorite surname of the followers of Mohammed. In the Book of Jeremiah itself (Jeremiah 30:10; Jeremiah 46:27, 28), and in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:25), "my servant" is the form in which Jehovah addresses his chosen people; and in the second part of Isaiah the suffering Messiah is so styled. Here, however, a foreign king is thus entitled. How is this to be explained? Cyrus, no doubt, in Isaiah 44:28, 45:1, is called "my shepherd" and "my anointed one;" but then Cyrus, in the view of the prophet, was a genuine though unconscious worshipper of the true God (Isaiah 41:25), whereas Nebuchadnezzar was known to be a polytheist and an idolater. We must, therefore, take "servant" to be applied to Nebuchadnezzar in a lower sense than to the other bearers of the title. The Hebrew 'ebbed, in fact, may be either "slave" in something approaching to the terrible modern sense, or in the sense in which Eliezer was one (i.e. little less than a son, and a possible heir, Genesis 24:2; Galatians 4:1), and which is still in full force in Arabia. An astonishment (see on Jeremiah 2:11). An hissing (comp. Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8).
Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle.
Verse 10. - The sound of the millstones. Modern travel enables us (so conservative is the East) to realize the full force of this image. The hand-mill is composed of two stones. As a rule, "two women" (comp. Matthew 24:41) sit at it facing each other; both have hold of the handle by which the upper is turned round on the 'nether' millstone. The one whose right hand is disengaged throws in the grain as occasion requires, through the hole in the upper stone" (Dr. Thomson). "The labor," remarks Dr. Robinson, "is evidently hard; and the grating sound of the mill is heard at a distance, indicating (like our coffee-mills) the presence of a family and of household life" ('Biblical Researches,' 2:181). Add to this the light of the candle (or rather, lamp), and we have two of the most universally characteristic signs of domestic life. No family could dispense with the hand-mill, and, as the sermon on the mount implies, the poorest household had its "lamp" (Matthew 5:15 - the poverty of the family is indicated by the various uses to which the lamp-stand was applied). Comp. this verse with the imitation in Revelation 18:22, 23.
And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
Verse 11. - Shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Widely different opinions are held as to the meaning of this prophecy. The most probable view is that "seventy" is an indefinite or round number (as in Isaiah 23:17), equivalent to "a very long time." This is supported by the analogy of Jeremiah 27:7, where the captivity is announced as lasting through the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, his son, and his grandson - a statement evidently vague and indefinite (see ad loc.), and in any case not answering to a period of seventy years. Besides, we find the "seventy years" again in Jeremiah 29:10, a passage written probably eleven years later. Others think the number is to be taken literally, and it is certainly true that from B.C. 606, the fourth year of Jehoiakim, to the fall of Babylon, B.C. 539, sixty-seven years elapsed. But is it desirable to press this against the internal evidence that Jeremiah himself took the number indefinitely?
And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
Verses 12-29. - The judgment upon Judah and the nations. Verse 12. - Perpetual desolations. Thus, too, we read in Isaiah 13:20, that Babylon "shall never be inhabited." There is a dispute between Dr. Keith and Dr. Kay on the one side, and rationalistic commentators (e.g. Kuenen) on the other, whether these prophecies have received a circumstantial fulfillment. The truth is that authorities are not entirely agreed on the area covered by the site of Babylon. General Chesney remarks that, so far from being uninhabited, "A town of considerable population, villages, date groves, and gardens, are found still on the very site of ancient Babylon" (extracts from a private letter in B. W. Newton's 'Babylon: its Revival and Final Desolation,' pp. 38-42). Similarly M. Menant, a veteran French Assyriologist, remarks that "Hillah, according to M. Oppert, was a quarter of Babylon, probably that which was inhabited by the working population, without the precincts of the royal palaces. Numberless traces of ancient habitations indicate this origin of the modern town" ('Babylone,' p. 177). Mr. George Smith, however, in his 'Assyrian Discoveries,' simply states that, "A little to the south rose the town of Hillah," apparently assuming (what is impossible to prove, as the walls of Babylon have not yet been discovered) that Hillah lay just outside the city enclosure. But even he adds that it was "built with the bricks found in the old capital," which is, strictly speaking, inconsistent with the absolute abandonment of the site of Babylon implied in Isaiah 13:20-22. The dispute is an unfortunate one, as it tacitly implies that circumstantial fulfillments are necessary to the veracity of prophecy. The truth seems to lie in the mean between two opposing views. As a rule, the details of a prophetic description cannot be pressed; they are mainly imaginative elaborations of a great central truth or fact. Occasionally, however, regarding the prophecies in the light of gospel times, it is almost impossible not to observe that "the Spirit of Christ which was in" the prophets (1 Peter 1:11) has overruled their expressions, so that they correspond more closely to facts than could have been reasonably anticipated. Such superabundant favors to believers in inspiration occur repeatedly in the prophecies respecting Christ. They may, of course, occur elsewhere for a sufficient reason, but we have no right to be surprised if we do not meet with them. The general truth of the prophecy is that the empire of Babylon shall fall forever. As Dr. Payne Smith remarks, it was practically the work of one man (Nebuchadnezzar), and after his death it only lasted for a few years, during which its history is a series of murders and usurpations.
And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations.
Verse 13. - And I will bring, etc. Clearly this verse cannot have formed part of the original prophecy, but must have been added whenever the collection of prophecies against foreign nations finally assumed its present form (see introduction on Jeremiah 50, 51.). It should be mentioned that the Septuagint separates the last clause of the verse, "that which Jeremiah prophesied," etc., and makes it the heading of the group of prophecies against the nations, which in the Hebrew Bible stand at the end of Jeremiah's prophecies, but which, beginning with "Elam," the Alexandrian Version inserts at this point.
For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands.
Verse 14. - For many nations... shall serve themselves of them else; i.e. put forced labor upon them also. The same phrase is used of the conduct of the Egyptians to the Israelites (Exodus 1:14). Of them also; and "also" suggests that the calamity of the Chaldeans is a retribution (comp. Isaiah 66:4), as the next clause, in harmony with Jeremiah 50:29, 51:24, emphatically declares.
For thus saith the LORD God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.
Verse 15. - For thus saith, etc. Out of this verse and the following, to the end of the chapter, the Septuagint makes the thirty-second chapter, Jeremiah 25. being completed by the prophecy against Elam (Jeremiah 49:34-39). The symbolic act which the prophet is directed to perform is mentioned in order to explain the word of threatening just uttered. So, at least, we must understand it, if we accept the arrangement of the Hebrew text. But the connection is certainly improved if we follow Graf, and omit vers. 11b-14; ver. 15 thus becomes an explanation of the threat against Judah and the other nations in vers. 9-11a. The wine, up of this fury; or, this wine-cup of fury. The wine with which the cup is filled is the wrath of God. The figure is not an infrequent one with the prophets and the psalmists (comp. Jeremiah 49:12; Jeremiah 51:7; Isaiah 51:17, 22; Ezekiel 23:31-34; Habakkuk 1:16; Psalm 60:3; Psalm 75:8).
And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them.
Verse 16. - And be moved, and be mad; rather, and reel to and fro, and behave themselves madly. The inspired writers do not scruple to ascribe all phenomena, the "bad" as well as the "good," to a Divine operation. "Shall there be evil in a city, and Jehovah hath not done it?" (Amos 3:6). "An evil spirit from Elohim came upon Saul, and he became frenzied" (1 Samuel 18:10; see also Isaiah 19:14; Isaiah 29:10; 1 Kings 22:19-23, and especially the very remarkable prologue of the Book of Job). To understand this form of expression, we must remember the strength of the reaction experienced by the prophets against the polytheism of the surrounding nations. It was not open to them to account for the existence of evil by ascribing it to the activity of various divinities; they knew Jehovah to be the sole cause in the universe. To us, "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," such a doctrine occasions "great searchings of heart," and is sometimes a sore trial of our faith. But the prophets were not logicians, and their faith, compared to ours, was as an oak tree to a sapling; hence they can generally (see, however, Isaiah 63:17) express the truth of the universal causation of Jehovah with perfect tranquility. Because of the sword. Here Jeremiah deserts the figure of the Cup, and, as most commentators think, uses the language of fact. It is not, however, certain that "the sword" means that of God's human instruments; Jehovah himself has a sword (Jeremiah 46:10; Jeremiah 47:6; Jeremiah 50:35-38; Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 34:5; and elsewhere), just as he has a hand (Isaiah 8:11; Isaiah 59:1) and an arm (Isaiah 40:10; Isaiah 53:1). All these belong to a group of childlike symbolic expressions for the manifestation of the Deity. Jehovah's "sword" is described more fully in Genesis 3:24; it "turns hither and thither," like the lightning - a striking figure of the completeness with which God performs his work of vengeance (see also on ver. 27).
Then took I the cup at the LORD'S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me:
Verse 17. - Then took I the cup... and made all the nations to drink. It is too pro-sale to suppose either that Jeremiah made a journey to "all the nations," or that he actually went through the form of presenting the cup to the ambassadors who (it is conjectured, comp. Jeremiah 27:3b) had come to Jerusalem to take measures against the common foe (so J. D. Michaelis). But the supposition arises (as Keil has well observed) out of an imperfect comprehension of the figure. It is not a cup with wine which the prophet receives from Jehovah, but a wine-cup filled with the wine of God's fury, which wine (one may add) is no more a literal wine than the "sword of Jehovah" is a literal sword. The "making all the nations to drink" is simply a way of expressing the prophet's firm faith that the word of Jehovah will not "return unto him void " - that a prophecy once uttered must fulfill itself; and "sent me," in the last clause, merely means "entrusted me with a message" (comp. Proverbs 26:6). For the fulfillment of this detailed prediction, see on Jeremiah 46-51.
To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse; as it is this day;
Verse 18. - The kings thereof (see on Jeremiah 19:3). As it is this day. As to the meaning of this phrase, see on Jeremiah 11:5. The words evidently presuppose that the prediction has already been fulfilled (comp. Jeremiah 44:6, 23); consequently, they cannot have stood here in the original draft of the prophecy. An early editor, or even Jeremiah himself, must have inserted them. They are omitted in the Septuagint.
Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants, and his princes, and all his people;
Verse 19. - Pharaoh king of Egypt. After leaving Judah and Jerusalem, the prophet turns to the far south - to Egypt; then he ascends to the south-east (Uz), and the south-west (the Philistines); thence he passes to the east (Edom, Moab, Ammon); and thence to the west of the Holy Land (Phoenicia). This suggests the maritime lands "beyond the sea" (including especially Cyprus); a sudden transition brings the prophet to the Arabian tribes (Dedan, etc.), from whence he passes by the road of the northeast (Elam, Media) to the indefinitely distant north. Last of all, in solitary grandeur or infamy, Babylon is mentioned.
And all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines, and Ashkelon, and Azzah, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod,
Verse 20. - The mingled people; Septuagint, καὶ πάντας τοὺς συμμίκτους: Vulgate, et universes generaliter. The Hebrew 'erebh probably means, not "mingled [i.e. 'motley'] people," as the Authorized Version, but "foreign people," i.e. a body of men belonging to some particular nation intermixed or interspersed among those belonging to another. This explanation will account for the use of the word in all the passages in which it occurs (here and in ver. 24; also Exodus 12:38; Nehemiah 13:3; 1 Kings 10:15; Jeremiah 1:37; Ezekiel 30:5; and perhaps 2 Chronicles 9:14). The context here and in 1 Kings 10:15 seems to imply that the name was given especially to the tribes (probably Bedawin tribes) on the frontier of Judah towards the desert, though in Ezekiel 30:5 it is evidently applied to a people which in some sense belonged to Egypt. In Exodus 12:38 it may be doubted whether the phrase is used from the point of view of Egypt or of the Israelites; in Jeremiah 50:37 it is used of the foreigners in Babylon in 2 Chronicles 9:14 the Massoretic critics have pointed the consonants of the text wrongly ('arabh, Arabia, instead of 'erebh), but without injury to the sense; the Vulgate and Syriac have done the same in 1 Kings 10:15. The notion that the word means ' auxiliary troops" arises (as Thenius on 1 Kings 10:15 remarks) from the free rendering of the Targum at 1 Kings 10:15 and Jeremiah 50:37. Uz. The land associated with the name of Job, and probably east or south-east of Palestine, and adjacent to the Edomites of Mount Seir (Lamentations 4:21). Of the Philistines. Observe, Gath is alone omitted of the five Philistine towns (Joshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 6:17). It had been reduced to complete insignificance (Amos 6:2), through Uzziah's having "broken down" its walls (2 Chronicles 26:6), and is equally passed over in Amos (Amos 1:6-8), Zephaniah (Zephaniah 2:4), and Zechariah (Zechariah 9:5, 6). Azzah; i.e. Gaza, the Septuagint form (the G representing the initial ayin), which is everywhere else adopted by the Authorized Version. The remnant of Ashdod. A significant phrase, which can be explained from Herodotus (2:157): For twenty-nine years Psamnutichus "pressed the siege of Azotus without intermission." We can imagine that he would not be disposed to lenient dealings with the town upon its capture. (An earlier and shorter siege of Ashdod is mentioned in Isaiah 20.)
Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon,
And all the kings of Tyrus, and all the kings of Zidon, and the kings of the isles which are beyond the sea,
Verse 22. - Kings of Tyrus, kings of Zidon. Under the names of the two leading cities, the prophet includes the various dependent Phoenician commonwealths. Hence the plural "kings." The isles. The Hebrew has the singular, "the isle," or rather, "the coast-laud" (more strictly, the region), i.e. perhaps either Tartessus in Spain, or Cyprus (which Esarhaddon describes as "lying in the midst of the sea," and as having two kings, 'Records of the Past,' 3:108).
Dedan, and Tema, and Buz, and all that are in the utmost corners,
Verse 23. - Dedan, and Tema, and Buz. Three tribes of North Arabia, bordering on Edom. The two former are mentioned as commercial peoples in Isaiah 21:13, 14; Ezekiel 27:15, 20; Ezekiel 38:13; Job 6:19. Elihu, Job's youngest friend, was of Bus (Job 32:2). All that are in the utmost corners; rather, all the corner-clipped (see on Jeremiah 9:26).
And all the kings of Arabia, and all the kings of the mingled people that dwell in the desert,
Verse 24. - All the kings of Arabia. Not "Arabia" in our sense (which is never found in the Old Testament), but the desert region to the east and south-east of Palestine, occupied by nomad or "Ishmaelitish" tribes. The mingled people; rather, the intermingled people (see on ver. 20); i.e. probably in this passage populations of a different race interspersed among the Aramaic tribes to which most of the inhabitants of the desert belonged.
And all the kings of Zimri, and all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of the Medes,
Verse 25. - Zimri. The Zimri were a people to the northeast of Assyria, against whom various Assyrian kings waged war (Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 1878, pp. 13, 15, 34; 'Records of the Past,' 5:41). Whether they axe to be connected with the Zimran of Genesis 25:2 seems doubtful; their locality hardly suits. Elam. Elam, one of the most ancient monarchies in the world (comp. Genesis 14.), is again coupled with Media in Isaiah 21:2. It was a region on the east of the lower Tigris, bounded westward by Babylonia, northward by Assyria and Media, southward by the Persian Gulf. To say that it is put either here or anywhere else in the Old Testament for the whole of Persia seems a mistake, as the Persians were hardly known before the time of Cyrus.
And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth: and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.
Verse 26. - The kings of the north. The distant, mysterious north. Far and near, one with another. The Hebrew has, "the near and the far, the one to the other;" i.e. whether near or far in relation to each other, for of course with regard to Judah they were all "the far north." All the kingdoms of the world, etc. This is far from being the only instance in which a special judgment upon a nation or nations is apparently identified with a great final judgment upon the world (see Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 3:13; Isaiah 13:9; Isaiah 24:1-12). The truth is that every great serf-manifestation of the Divine Governor of the world is a fresh act in that great drama of which the universal judgment will be the close. Hence the prophets, whose perspective was necessarily limited, seeing the cud but not all that was to precede it, speak as if the end were nearer at hand than it really was. The king of Sheshach, etc. This clause, however, is omitted in the Septuagint, and is too manifestly the insertion of an unwise copyist or editor. For, though perfectly true that Babylon was to suffer punishment afterwards, it is most inappropriate to mention it here at the end of a list of the nations which Babylon itself was to punish. "Sheshach," it should be explained, is the form assumed by the word "Babylon" in the cypher called Athbash (A = T, B = SH, etc.). It happens to convey a very appropriate meaning, viz. "humiliation" (comp. Isaiah 47:1). A similar instance of cypher allegory occurs in Jeremiah 51:1. "Sheshach" occurs again in Jeremiah 51:41, where, however, it is omitted by the Septuagint. [Dr. Lauth, of Munich, thinks that Sheshach is equivalent to Sisku, the name of a district in Babylonia; but the reading Sisku is uncertain. (See Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 1881, p. 48.)]
Therefore thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you.
Verse 27. - Therefore thou shalt say, etc.; rather, And thou shalt say, etc. This verse is probably a continuation of vers. 16,17, vers. 18-26 being apparently inserted by an afterthought. The message given to Jeremiah to deliver is that the judgment is both overpoweringly complete and irreversible. If God's own people has not been spared, how should any other escape (comp. Jeremiah 49:12)?
And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup at thine hand to drink, then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ye shall certainly drink.
For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the LORD of hosts.
Verse 29. - I will call for a sword. It is probably that awful sword referred to in ver. 16 (see note).
Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth.
Verses 30-38. - The judgment upon the world. Verse 30. - Therefore prophesy thou, etc. Babylon, like the smaller kingdoms which it absorbed, has fallen, and nothing remains (for nothing had been revealed to the prophet concerning an interval to elapse previously) but to picture the great assize from which no flesh should be exempt. As the lion suddenly bursts, roaring, from his lair, so Jehovah, no longer the "good Shepherd," shall roar from on high (comp. Amos 1:2; Joel 3:16) even upon his habitation, or rather, against his pasture, where his flock (Jeremiah 23:1) has been feeding so securely. He shall give a shout. It is the technical term used at once for the vintage-shout and for the battle-cry. In Isaiah 16:9, 10, there is a beautiful allusion to this double meaning, and so perhaps there is here (comp. Jeremiah 51:14).
A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD.
Verse 31. - A noise. The word is used elsewhere for the tumultuous sound of a marching army (see Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 17:12). He will plead; rather, he will hold judgment. Jehovah's "contending" sometimes involves the notion of punishing, e.g. Ezekiel 38:22; Isaiah 66:16. In 2 Chronicles 22:8, the same verb in the same conjugation is forcibly rendered in the Authorized Version, "to execute judgment."
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
Verse 32. - A great whirlwind; rather, a great storm (as Jeremiah 23:19). The coasts of the earth; rather, the furthest parts of the earth. The storm, as it appears on the horizon, comes as it were from the ends of the earth; perhaps, too, there is an allusion to the distant abode of the foe (comp. Jeremiah 6:22).
And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.
Verse 33. - The slain of the Lord; i.e. those slain by the Lord, as Isaiah 66:16, where his sword is further spoken of as the agent (see on ver. 16). They shall not be lamented, etc.; parallel to Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 16:4.
Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock: for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are accomplished; and ye shall fall like a pleasant vessel.
Verse 34. - Wallow yourselves in the ashes. Supply rather, in the dust (comp. Micah 1:10), as more suitable to the figure (see on Jeremiah 6:26). The shepherds, and the principal (or, noble ones) of the flock, are, of course, merely different forms of expression for the rulers. The days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are accomplished; rather, your days for being slaughtered are fulfilled; and I will scatter you (or, dash you in pieces). This is the reading of an old and valuable manuscript at St. Petersburg, and is partly favored by the pointing; it is adopted by most modern critics, the form in the text being ungrammatical. Pleasant; or, precious (comp. Daniel 11:8, Authorized Version). Compare the figure in Jeremiah 22:28.
And the shepherds shall have no way to flee, nor the principal of the flock to escape.
A voice of the cry of the shepherds, and an howling of the principal of the flock, shall be heard: for the LORD hath spoiled their pasture.
Verses 36, 37. - The prophet seems in his spirit to hear the lamentation to which in ver. 34 he summoned the "shepherds." A voice of the cry should be, Hark I the cry (omitting "shall be heard"); the clause is an exclamation. Hath spoiled; rather, is spoiling (or, laying waste). The peaceable habitations; rather, the peaceful fields (or, pastures). Are cut down; rather, are destroyed; literally, are brought to silence (comp. Jeremiah 9:10).
And the peaceable habitations are cut down because of the fierce anger of the LORD.
He hath forsaken his covert, as the lion: for their land is desolate because of the fierceness of the oppressor, and because of his fierce anger.
Verse 38. - Close of the prophecy with a fuller enunciation of the thought with which the paragraph was introduced. He hath forsaken; comp. ver. 30, and notice the impressive non-mention of the subject (as Jeremiah 4:13, etc.). Their land; i.e. that of the shepherds. The fierceness of the oppressor. A various reading, supported by some manuscripts, the Septuagint and the Targum, and accepted by Ewald, Hitzig, and Graf, and is the oppressing sword (so Jeremiah 46:16; Jeremiah 50:16). The text reading is very difficult to defend, and the punctuation itself is really more in favor of the variant than of the received text.

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