Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, April 17th, 2024
the Third Week after Easter
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 4

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

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.

If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me - play on words. "If thou wouldest return to thy land, (thou must first) return thy (by conversion and repentance) to me."

Not remove - no longer be an unsettled wanderer in a strange land. So Cain (Genesis 4:12; Genesis 4:14).

Verse 2

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 - rather, And if (carried on from Jeremiah 4:1) thou shalt swear, "Yahweh liveth," in truth, etc. - i:e., if thou shalt worship, Him (for we swear by the God whom we worship, cf. Deuteronomy 6:13, "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve Him, and shalt swear by His name;" Deuteronomy 10:20; Isaiah 19:18; Amos 8:14) in sincerity, etc.

And the nations - rather, this is apodosis to the 'if;' 'then shall the nations bless themselves in (by) Him' (Isaiah 65:16). The conversion of the nations will be the consequence of Israel's conversion (Psalms 102:13; Psalms 102:15; Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15).

Verse 3

For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.

Transition to Judah. Supply mentally. All which (the foregoing declaration as to Israel) applies to Judah.

And Jerusalem - i:e., and especially the men of Jerusalem, as being the most prominent in Judea.

Break ... fallow ground - i:e., Repent of your idolatry and so be prepared to serve the Lord in truth (Hosea 10:12; Matthew 13:7; Matthew 13:22). The unhumbled heart is like ground which may be improved, being let out to us for that purpose; but which is as yet fallow, overgrown with weeds, its natural product.

Verse 4

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 to the Lord ... take away the foreskins of your heart - remove your natural corruption of heart. (Alluding to Deuteronomy 10:16, "Circumcise ... the foreskin of your heart;" 30:6; Romans 2:28-29; Colossians 2:11.)

Verse 5

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.

Cry, gather together - rather 'cry, fully,' i:e., loudly [qir'uw mal'uw] - literally, 'cry, fill.' The Jews are warned to take measures against the impending Chaldean invasion (cf. Jeremiah 8:14).

Verse 6

Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.

Zion - the standard toward Zion intimated that the people of the surrounding country were to fly to it, as being the strongest of their fortresses.

Verse 7

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.

Lion - Nebuchadnezzar, and the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 2:15; Jeremiah 5:6; Daniel 7:4, "The first (of the four beasts, namely, the Babylonian king) was like a lion").

His thicket - lair: Babylon.

Destroyer of the Gentiles - rather, 'the nations' (Jeremiah 25:9).

Verse 8

For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us.

Nothing is left to the Jews but to bewail their desperate condition. Anger of the Lord is not turned back - (Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21. "For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still").

Verse 9

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.

Heart of the king shall perish, and ... of the princes - the wisdom of the most leading men will be utterly at a loss to devise means of relief.

Verse 10

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.

Thou hast ... deceived. God, having even the false prophets in His hands, is here said to do that which, for inscrutable purposes, He permits them to do (Exodus 9:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:11: cf. Jeremiah 8:5, "Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they bold fast deceit, they refuse to return;" which passage shows that the dupes of error were self-prepared for it, and that Gods predestination did not destroy their moral freedom, as voluntary agents.) The false prophets foretold "peace," because they knew that the Jews wished to have this foretold to them, though God, by his prophets, foretold the opposite: and the Jews believed them rather than God; God overruled this to His purposes (Jeremiah 5:12; Jeremiah 14:13; Ezekiel 14:9).

Whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul - rather, 'reacheth to the life.'

Verse 11

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,

Dry wind - the simoom, terrific and destructive, blowing from the southeast across the sandy deserts east of Palestine. Image of the invading Babylonian army (Hosea 13:15). Babylon in its turn shall be visited by a similar "destroying wind" (Jeremiah 51:1). Of the high places - i:e., that sweeps over the high places.

Daughter - i:e., the children of my people.

Not to fan - a very different wind from those ordinary winds employed for fanning the grain in the open air.

Verse 12

Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them.

Full ... from those places - rather, 'a wind fuller (i:e., more impetuous) than those winds (which fan the grain)' (Jeremiah 4:11). (Rosenmuller).

Unto me - for me, as my instrument, for executing my purpose.

Will I give sentence - utter (my) judgments against them (Jeremiah 1:16).

Verse 13

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.

Clouds - continuing the metaphor in Jeremiah 4:11-12. Clouds of sand and dust accompany the simoom, and after rapid gyrations ascend like a pillar.

Eagles - (Deuteronomy 28:49; Habakkuk 1:8).

Woe unto us. The people are graphically presented before us, without it being formally so stated, bursting out in these exclamations.

Verse 14

O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? Wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. Only one means of deliverance is left to the Jews-a thorough repentance.

How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? Gesenius translates, 'How long wilt thou harbour vain thoughts?' etc. [But taaliyn (H3885), if it were the second person, would be masculine, whereas "O Jerusalem" is feminine. It must therefore be the third person.]

Vain thoughts - namely, projects for deliverance, such as enlisting the Egyptians on their side.

Verse 15

For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim.

For a voice declareth from Dan. The connection is: There is danger in delay: for the voice of a messenger announces the approach of the Chaldean enemy from Dan, the northern frontier of Palestine (Jeremiah 8:16: cf. Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 1:14).

Affliction from mount Ephraim - which borders closely on Judah; so that the foe is coming nearer and nearer. Dan and Bethel in Ephraim were the two places where Jeroboam set up the idolatrous calves (1 Kings 12:29); so Dan is the quarter from which the foe comes-a just retribution.

Verse 16

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. The neighbouring foreign "nations" are summoned to witness Yahweh's judgments on His rebel people (Jeremiah 6:18-19).

Watchers - i:e., besiegers (cf. 2 Samuel 11:16, "Joab observed (the same Hebrew, watched, i:e., besieged) the city").

Give out their voice - their war-shout.

Verse 17

As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD.

Keepers of a field - metaphor from those who watch a field to frighten away the wild beasts.

Verse 18

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.

(Jeremiah 2:17; Jeremiah 2:19; Psalms 107:17, "Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted").

This is thy wickedness - i:e., the fruit of thy wickedness.

Verse 19

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! The prophet suddenly assumes the language of the Jewish state personified, lamenting its affliction (Jeremiah 10:19-20; Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 9:10; Isaiah 15:5. So the Antitype of all the prophets, Luke 19:41).

At my heart - Hebrew, at the walls of my heart the muscles round the heart. There is a climax, the "bowels," the pericardium, the "heart" itself.

Maketh a noise - moaneth (Henderson).

Alarm of war - the battle-shout.

Verse 20

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 is cried - breach upon breach is announced (Psalms 42:7; Ezekiel 7:26). The war "trumpet" ... the battle-shout ... the "destructions" ... the havoc throughout "the whole land" ... the spoiling of the shepherds' "tents" (or, as in Jeremiah 10:20; "tents" mean cities which should be overthrown as easily as tents, Calvin), form a gradation.

Verse 21

How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?

How long shall I see the standard? - Judah in perplexity asks, 'How long is this state of things to continue?'

Verse 22

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 - Yahweh's reply; they cannot be otherwise than miserable, since they persevere in sin. Sin is foolishness; and root is as He saith, "They have not known ME." The repetition of clauses gives greater force to the sentiment.

They are wise to do evil but to do good they have no knowledge - reversing the rule (Romans 16:19) "wise unto ... good, simple concerning evil."

Verse 23

I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.

Graphic picture of the utter desolation about to visit Palestine. "I beheld, and, lo!" four times solemnly repeated, heightens the awful effect of the scene (cf. Isaiah 24:19; Isaiah 34:11).

Without form and void. The very language used of chaotic matter, before God prepared the each for man [ tohuw (H8414) waabohuw (H922)]: reduced to the primeval chaos (Genesis 1:2).

Verse 24

I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly.

Mountains - (Isaiah 5:25).

Moved lightly - shook vehemently.

Verse 25

I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.

No man ... birds - no vestige of the human, or of the feathered creation, is to be seen (Ezekiel 38:20; Zephaniah 1:3). From the tendency of the Holy Spirit in the prophets to hasten toward the final consummation, language is used of the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon which only finds its full and exhaustive accomplishment in the final conflagration of the earth, previous to a far more glorious creation than that described in Genesis 1:2, etc., when the earth was similarly, as it shall be temporarily again, "without form anal void" (Jeremiah 4:23).

Verse 26

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.

Fruitful place - Hebrew, the Carmel.

A wilderness - Hebrew, 'the wilderness,' in contrast to "the fruitful place;" the great desert; where there was Carmel - i:e., all the fruitfulness such as it had, there is now the desert of Arabia, waste barrenness, such as is in the great desert of Arabia (Maurer).

Cities - in contradistinction to the fruitful place or field.

Verse 27

For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.

Yet will I not make a full end - utter destruction: I will leave some hope of restoration to Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 5:10; Jeremiah 5:18; Jeremiah 30:11; Jeremiah 46:28: cf. Leviticus 26:44). God's unchangeable character and covenant are the ground of mercy being in store for Israel at last.

Verse 28

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 - on account of the desolations just described.

Earth mourn ... heavens above be black - (Isaiah 5:30; Hosea 4:3).

Not repent - (Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent").

Verse 29

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.

Whole city - all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: to it the inhabitants of the country had fled for refuge; but when it, too, is likely to fall, they flee out of it to hide in the "thickets." Henderson translates 'every city.'

Noise - the mere noise of the hostile horsemen shall put you, to flight.

Verse 30

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 - rather, 'thou, O destroyed one:' O ruined people and city (Maurer).

Rentest thy face with painting. Oriental females paint their eyes with stibium, or antimony, to make them look full and sparkling, the black margin causing the white of the eyes to appear the brighter by contrast, (2 Kings 3:0, margin) He uses the term rentest, i:e., distendest, in derision of their effort to make their eyes look large (Maurer): or else, rentest, i:e., dost lacerate by puncturing the eyelid, in order to make the antimony adhere (Rosenmuller). So the Jews use every artifice to secure the aid of Egypt against Babylon.

Face - rather, thy eyes (Ezekiel 23:40).

Verse 31

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.

Anguish - namely, occasioned by the attack of the enemy.

Daughter of Zion. There is special beauty in suppressing the name of the person trouble, until that trouble had been fully described (Henderson).

Bewaileth herself - rather, 'draweth her breath short' (Horsley); panteth.

Spreadeth her hands - (Lamentations 1:17).


(1) If we would have a "return" to blessing from the Lord we must "return" to reconciliation with the Lord (Jeremiah 4:1). Until a man is converted truly to Christ, he is like a restless wanderer, "removing" from place to place,-an outcast from his true home (Jeremiah 4:2). Such are the Jews now, in their state of unbelief: but once that they turn to Messiah "in truth." they shall not only regain their appointed rest, the land of their inheritance, but be the instrument of spiritual and temporal blessing to all nations.

(2) It is useless to receive the good seed of the word on a heart hard as the unbroken fallow ground. The thorns of worldly care, covetousness, and pleasure, choke the word, and the stones of natural indifference to spiritual things, pride, and self-love, prevent its sinking below the surface. If the sinner would be saved, the Holy Spirit must be earnestly sought for, in order that He may "break up the fallow ground:" for "the preparation of the heart in man ... is from the Lord." Still, we are addressed as responsible beings; and are told to do that which God alone can do for us-that is, "Circumcise yourselves to the, Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart." Let us pray that God, will give us the true "circumcision of the heart" and "the repentance not to be repented of," for the sake of the Lord Jesus, whom "God hath exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance ... and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31). (3) God will not spare even His own elect people when they harden themselves in impenitence; and they who reject invitations of mercy shall feel the stroke of judgment: nor will "the fierce anger of the Lord be turned back" (Jeremiah 4:8) from sinners until they turn back from the error of their way.

(4) Whomsoever God means to destroy He first dementates. It is a sure sign that the culprit's execution is nigh when his eyes are covered. So God sends a deceived mind on them who "hold fast deceit," and "strong delusion" on them who "receive not the love of the truth that they may be saved" (Jeremiah 4:9-10; Jeremiah 8:5).

(5) The only means of escape from the deceived heart, which precedes utter destruction, is, "Wash thine, heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved" (Jeremiah 4:14): let not "vain thoughts" any longer "lodge within thee." Too "long" have we done the will of the world; henceforth let our whole soul, Spirit, and body be consecrated to the Lord.

(6) Judgment and sin are as inseparably connected together as the fruit and the flower. Damnation is not the arbitrary penalty of guilt, but its natural and necessary consequence. God's righteous sentence of retribution will ring forever in the ears of the lost, "Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto, thee; this is the bitter fruit of thy wickedness," (Jeremiah 4:18).

(7) How many, in spite of all God's warnings, reverse the right order of things, and "are wise to do evil, but to do good have no knowledge" (Jeremiah 4:22), instead, of being "wise unto good, simple concerning evil" (Romans 16:19). Ignorance of God is the root of all perversity, folly, and sin. Hence, arises utter confusion, the 'sinner's whole course being without form, and void' of all that is true, good, and profitable (Jeremiah 4:23). Necessarily, this darkness of all unbelievers here must end in everlasting darkness hereafter. Though the Lord will make a "full end" of the general mass of unbelievers, He has mercy in store at last for His people. He may correct them severely for their sins, as He did Israel and Judah, but He will not east them off forever. He remembers for them His covenant, and His unchangeable love: for having once for all loved them, He loves them to the end. For this end He pours out on them the Spirit of grace and supplication, that so, renouncing all past confidences and false colouring of a mere outward profession, they may heartily return to the Lord, and find in Him the rest and refuge which they in vain had sought elsewhere.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-4.html. 1871-8.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile