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A message came to Jeremiah from Yahweh concerning some droughts (Heb. plural) that overtook Judah. Droughts were a punishment for covenant violation in Israel (cf. Leviticus 26:18-19; Deuteronomy 28:23-24). This pericope begins with an unusual introductory statement, which occurs again in Jeremiah 46:1; Jeremiah 47:1; and Jeremiah 49:34.
A lament during drought 14:1-16
Judah was in mourning. Her cities were languishing, as when their gates sagged on their hinges. The people sat on the ground as an expression of their humbled condition. The people of Jerusalem were crying out for relief.
The servants who had gone to draw water returned to their masters empty-handed. The cisterns, which collected rainwater in the cities, were dry. Even the wealthy nobles could find no water, and their servants covered their heads as though to protect themselves from heaven-sent calamity.
"Covering the head is a token of deep grief turned inwards upon itself; cf. 2 Sam. xv. 30; xix. 5." [Note: Keil, 1:245.]
The farmers, the lowest persons on the social scale, likewise felt humiliated by the lack of rain. The drought had cracked their land open and had made normal farming impossible.
There was so little grass available that even the does, that normally took good care of their newborn fawns, deserted them to find grass to keep themselves alive.
Even the wild donkeys, known for their hardiness, could only stand and sniff the wind on the hills, since they could find nothing to eat. They panted and their eyes grew dim from lack of sustenance as they started to die.
Jeremiah voiced a prayer for his people. He admitted that their iniquities, apostasies, and sins had been great. These terms for sin are all words that indicate breach of covenant. But he pled for Yahweh to do something for the people for His own reputation’s sake, as a God of mercy, if not for theirs. Yet God is a God of justice as well as mercy.
Yahweh had been Israel’s hope (cf. Jeremiah 17:7; Jeremiah 17:13; Jeremiah 50:7; Psalms 71:5; Joel 3:16; Acts 28:20; Colossians 1:27; 1 Timothy 1:1) and her Savior in times of distress (cf. 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 106:21; Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 43:11; Isaiah 45:15; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 60:16; Hosea 13:4). But now He was acting like a stranger or a passing traveler. Such people normally have little real concern for the land through which they travel and the locals around them.
The prophet wondered why God was behaving like someone who, upon witnessing a catastrophe, was so dismayed that he just stood there with his mouth open and did nothing to help. God’s lack of aid was especially surprising since He dwelt among His people and they were His chosen people. Jeremiah besought Yahweh not to forsake them.
"There could hardly be a stronger set of pleas than those that the prophet pours out here: not only the reproaches of Jeremiah 14:8-9 a but the positive considerations that surround them, which are a model for any prayer of penitence." [Note: Kidner, p. 66.]
The Lord sent a message to His people. They had loved to wander from the path that He had prescribed for them to walk (cf. Jeremiah 14:8; Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:9). They had departed from His will by seeking out the many idolatrous sanctuaries in the land and the foreign nations with which they could make alliances. This was unacceptable behavior, and He would punish them for their sins.
The Lord further instructed Jeremiah not to pray for Him to turn back from punishing them (cf. Jeremiah 7:15; Jeremiah 11:14). Fasting and presenting sacrifices would not move Him to change, either (cf. Jeremiah 5:12; Jeremiah 14:15; Jeremiah 27:8; Jeremiah 29:18; 2 Samuel 24:22-25; Isaiah 51:19). He had determined to destroy them with the sword, famine, and disease, the classic trio of war accompaniments. This is "tough love."
"A theological question is raised as to whether it is ever proper to give up praying for anyone. Perhaps one may pray for them to come to repentance by way of divine judgment, but breach of covenant leads unerringly to divine judgment." [Note: Thompson, p. 382.]
Jeremiah suggested that the people were not totally responsible for their behavior. The false prophets had misled them by promising them lasting peace and prosperity. He hinted that perhaps the Lord Himself was partially responsible since His prophets were misleading the people. Jeremiah penned more about the false prophets than any other writing prophet.
The Lord replied that He had not sent those prophets. Their prophecies were their own concoctions, not messages from Him. They had misread the covenant badly if they had concluded that disobedience would not bring inevitable punishment.
Because the false prophets had denied the coming warfare and accompanying famine, they would die in it. This would be the proof that the Lord had not sent them and that they had been false to Him.
The people to whom the false prophets had given their placebo promises would also die in the same ways. So many of them would die that there would not be enough people left alive to bury all the dead. This would be God’s judgment on the people for their wickedness: many unburied corpses.
A lament during a national defeat 14:17-15:4
The national defeat pictured in this lament was a serious one. It may have been the first Babylonian invasion of Judah in 597 B.C., which resulted in severe destruction and exile for some Judeans.
Jeremiah was to tell the people that he had asked God to let him weep constantly because Judah, like a virgin daughter, had experienced a major tragedy. She had suffered a devastating assault and had incurred a severe injury.
Wherever Jeremiah went he saw dead corpses and people about to die from famine and its related diseases. Even the prophets and priests, who knew the land well, were wandering around in it as though they were in a foreign country.
Jeremiah asked the Lord if He had completely rejected Judah and had come to loathe Zion, the place of His dwelling among His people. Why had he dealt Judah a fatal blow? When the people called on Him to send peace and healing, all He sent was silence and terror.
The prophet acknowledged that he and his people had sinned like their forefathers (cf. Psalms 51:1-4); they were not saying that they were sinless. He implied that this confession merited some mercy.
Jeremiah begged God for the sake of His reputation and honor not to abandon His people, not to break His covenant with them. He probably meant that God should not forsake the people with whom He had made a covenant at Mount Sinai. Of course, God never breaks His covenants even though people do.
"The nations knew him to be Judah’s God, and any withdrawal of his help now would not be to his credit. Moreover, the destruction of Jerusalem would involve the destruction of the temple, his glorious throne (cf. Jeremiah 3:17; Jeremiah 17:12). . . . If he allowed calamity to touch his people or Jerusalem and its temple, this would cast a reflection on his power. Besides, he had a covenant (berith) with the people which must surely have involved him in the most profound of obligations to deliver them from their enemies." [Note: Ibid., p. 386.]
Yahweh was the only source of rain, not the idols or the astral deities, so Jeremiah’s hope was in Him. He had brought calamity, and He alone could bring blessing.
"His [Jeremiah’s] appeals were directed to: (1) a tender physician-’Hath thy soul loathed Zion? Why . . . is no healing for us?’ (Jeremiah 14:19); (2) a forgiving God-’We have sinned against thee’ (Jeremiah 14:20); (3) an honor-preserving throne-’Do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us’ (Jeremiah 14:21); (4) an omnipotent Creator-’We will wait for thee’ to bring rain and showers, ’for thou hast made all these things’ (Jeremiah 14:22)." [Note: Jensen, p. 52.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 14". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19