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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 5

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

Verse 1

Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.

Seek if ye can find a man. Since the pious Josiah, Baruch, and Zephaniah lived in Jerusalem at that time, Jeremiah must here mean the mass of the people, the king, his counselors, the false prophets, and the priests, as distinguished from the faithful few whom God had openly separated from the reprobate people; among the latter not even one just person was to be found (Isaiah 9:16) (Calvin); the godly, moreover, were forbidden to intercede for them (Jeremiah 7:16: cf. Genesis 18:23, etc.; Psalms 12:1; Ezekiel 22:30).

See and know - look and ascertain. Executeth judgment - justice, righteousness.

And I will pardon it - rather, her.

Verse 2

And though they say, The LORD liveth; surely they swear falsely.

Though they say, The Lord liveth - (Titus 1:16, "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him").

Swear falsely - not a judicial oath; but their profession of the worship of Yahweh is insincere (Jeremiah 5:7; Jeremiah 4:2). The reformation under Josiah was merely superficial in the case of the majority.

Verse 3

O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.

Eyes upon the truth - (Deuteronomy 32:4, "A God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is He;" 2 Chronicles 16:9). "Truth" is in contrast with "swear falsely" (Jeremiah 5:2). The falsely-professing Jews could expect nothing but judgments from the God of truth.

Stricken ... not grieved - (note, Jeremiah 2:30; Isaiah 1:5; Isaiah 9:13).

Refused ... correction - (Jeremiah 7:28; Zephaniah 3:2).

Verse 4

Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God.

Poor - rather 'the poor.' He supposes for the moment that this utter depravity is confined to the uninstructed poor, and that he would find a different: state of things in the higher ranks; but there he finds unbridled poor, and that he would find a different: state of things in the higher ranks; but there he finds unbridled profligacy.

Verse 5

I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds.

They have known - rather, 'they must know.' The prophet supposes it as probable, considering their position.

But these - I found the very reverse to be the case.

Burst the bonds - set God's law at defiance (Psalms 2:3).

Verse 6

Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased.

A lion ... a wolf ... a leopard - the strongest, the most ravenous, and the swiftest, respectively, of beasts: illustrating the formidable character of the Babylonians.

Of the evenings - others, not so well, translate, of the deserts. The plural means that it goes forth every evening to seek its prey (Psalms 104:20; Habakkuk 1:8, "More fierce than the evening wolves;" Zephaniah 3:3).

A leopard shall watch over their cities - (Hosea 13:7, "As a leopard by the way will I observe (i:e., watch with hostile intent) them"). It shall lie in wait about their cities.

Verse 7

How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses.

It would not be consistent with God's holiness to let such wickedness pass unpunished. It would not be consistent with God's holiness to let such wickedness pass unpunished.

Sworn by - (Jeremiah 5:2; Jeremiah 4:2); i:e., worshipped.

No gods - (Deuteronomy 32:21, "They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; ... and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people:" 'retribution in kind').

Fed ... to the full - so the Qeri' (Hebrew margin) reads. God's bountifulness is contrasted with their apostasy (Deuteronomy 32:15). Prosperity, the gift of God, designed to lead men to Him, often produces the opposite effect. The Hebrew Kethibh, (text) reads: 'I bound them (to me) by oath' [waa'ashibia`, instead of waa'asbia` (H7650)] - namely, in the marriage covenant, sealed at Sinai between God and Israel; in contrast to which stands their "adultery:" this antithesis favours this.

When I fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses - spiritually: idolatry in temples of idols; but literal prostitution is also included, being frequently part of idol worship-e.g., in the worship of the Babylonian Mylitta.

Verse 8

They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour's wife.

In the morning - (Isaiah 5:11). 'Rising early in the morning' is a phrase for unceasing eagerness in any pursuit; such was the Jews' avidity after idol worship [ mashkiym (H7904) for mashkiymiym] (Gesenius). Maurer translates, from a different Hebrew root [ shaakaah (H7904)], 'continually wander to and fro,' inflamed with lust (Jeremiah 2:23). But the English version is simpler (cf. Jeremiah 13:27; Ezekiel 22:11), from [ shaakam (H7925)], to rise in the morning. As God sent all His prophets "rising up early and sending them" (Jeremiah 7:25), so the people, on the contrary rose early "in the morning" in the eagerness of their pursuit after sin.

Verse 9

Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?

(Jeremiah 5:29; Jeremiah 9:9; Jeremiah 44:22, "So that the Lord could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed").

Verse 10

Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the LORD's.

Abrupt apostrophe to the Babylonians, to take Jerusalem, but not to destroy the nation utterly (remark, Jeremiah 4:27, "Make not a full end."

Battlements - [ nªTiyshowteyhaa (H5189)], rather, tendrils (Maurer): the state being compared to a vine (Jeremiah 12:10, "Many pastors (the Babylonian invading princes) have destroyed my vineyard"), the stem of which was to be spared, while the tendrils (the chief men) were to be removed.

Verse 11

For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against me, saith the LORD.

(Jeremiah 3:20.)

Verse 12

They have belied the LORD, and said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine:

Belied - denied.

It is not he - rather, '(Yahweh) is not HE' - i:e., the true and only God (Jeremiah 14:22, "Art not thou HE, O Lord our God;" Deuteronomy 32:39, "I, even I, am HE, and there is no God with me;" Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 43:13). By their idolatry they virtually denied Him. Or, referring to what follows, and to Jeremiah 5:9, '(Yahweh) is not His'-namely, about to be the punisher of our sins (Jeremiah 14:13; Isaiah 28:15).

Verse 13

And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them: thus shall it be done unto them.

And the prophets shall become wind - continuation of the unbelieving language of the Jews. And the prophets shall become wind - continuation of the unbelieving language of the Jews.

The prophets - who prophesy punishment coming on us.

The word - the Holy Spirit, who speaks through true prophets, is not in them (Maurer). Or else, "There is no word (divine communication) in them" (Hosea 1:2, "The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea"). (Rosenmuller.)

Thus shall it be done unto them - as they prophesy shall be done unto us. Their ill-omened prophecies shall fall on themselves.

Verse 14

Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.

Because ye speak this word. He turns away from addressing the people directly, to the prophet: implying that He puts them to a distance from Him and only communicates with them through His prophet (Jeremiah 5:19): He began with saying "Ye," but ends with speaking of them, no longer to them: "this people!" estranged from me.

Behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood - thy denunciations of judgments shall be fulfilled, and shall consume them as fire does wood. In Jeremiah 23:29 it is the penetrating energy of fire which is the point of comparison: here it is its devouring violence.

Verse 15

Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the LORD: it is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say.

(Jeremiah 1:15; Jeremiah 6:22.)

I will bring a nation upon you from far ... whose language thou knowest not. Alluding to Deuteronomy 28:49. The prophets base their predictions on the Pentateuch, recognizing it as the inspired Word of God, and as the ultimate standard of appeal which all acknowledged.

Israel - i:e., Judah.

Mighty - from an Arabic root, enduring. The fourfold repetition of "nation" heightens the force: "a nation ... a mighty nation ... an ancient nation, a nation whose language," etc.

Ancient - the Chaldeans came originally from the Carduchian and Armenian mountains north of Mesopotamia, whence they immigrated into Babylonia; like all mountaineers, they were brave and hardy (note, Isaiah 23:13). G. Rawlinson shows from the Babylonian language and inscriptions that Babylon was originally of Hamitic, not (as was supposed by Bunsen and others, in opposition to Scripture) Shemitic, origin. Genesis 10:8 represents the case rightly, that Nimrod was the son of Cush (Ethiopia), the son of Ham. Home 'Odyssey,' 1: 23, 24, similarly assigns a double position to the Ethiopians-namely, east and west of the Arabian Gulf, separating Asia and Airlea. Nimrod came over in ships to Lower Mesopotamia, and built Ur, on the right bank of the Euphrates, near the mouth. A dynasty of eleven monarchs is mentioned in the inscriptions, of whom one Urkhur, or Orchamar, was the builder of gigantic works. This earlier Babylonian empire fell before invading barbarian hordes, after a change of dynasty answering to the Bible account of Chedorlaomer's short-lived wide empire, reaching through Syria to Palestine. The inhabitants of Ur were called 'Chaldi' - i:e., moon-worshippers. Hur means the moon-god.

Language thou knowest not - (Isaiah 36:11, "Speak ... in the Syrian (Assyrian, Aramaic) language; for so we understand it: and not in the Jews' language," shows that Aramaic was not understood by the multitude, but only by the educated classes (Maurer). Henderson refers it to the original language of the Babylonians, which, he thinks, they brought with them from their native hills, akin to the Persic, not to the Aramaic, or any other Semitic tongue, the parent of the modern Kurd. G. Rawlinson says there are traces in the Babylonian language of all the four great dialects of the world, Hamitic, Semitic, Arian, and Turanian, from which he infers its close connection with the original language, whatever that was, prior to the branching off of the four great classes of language, Hamitic, Semitic, Arian, and Turanian. The Babylonian vocabulary, according to Sir H. Rawlinson, is Cushite or Ethiopian in the inscriptions found in the opened mounds of Chaldea Proper. An Eastern Ethiopia is not the invention of Bi bliolaters, but a reality, proved by Babylonian monuments, the unexpected coincidence of Scripture with which strongly attests Moses' veracity, and therefore inspiration. The primitive Babylonian monarchy was on the borders of the Persian Gulf, as distinguished from the late Babylonian empire, which was further north. For the last 3,000 years the world has been mainly indebted for its progress to the Semitic and Indo-European races. But originally the sons of Ham, now so despised and enslaved, led the way in the arts and sciences, and in political empire-namely, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians, and the Ethiopians. The first steps in astronomy, alphabetical writing, history, sculpture, navigation, agriculture, and weaving, were furnished by them: though these were comparatively rude, yet the first inventors of any art are to be considered as the greatest benefactors of mankind as to that art; for 'c'est le premier pas qui coute.'

Verse 16

Their quiver is as an open sepulchre, they are all mighty men.

Open sepulchre - (cf. Psalms 5:9). Their quiver is all-devouring, as the grave opened to receive the dead: as many as are the arrows, so many are the deaths.

Verse 17

And they shall eat up thine harvest, and thy bread, which thy sons and thy daughters should eat: they shall eat up thy flocks and thine herds: they shall eat up thy vines and thy fig trees: they shall impoverish thy fenced cities, wherein thou trustedst, with the sword.

(Leviticus 26:16.)

Verse 18

Nevertheless in those days, saith the LORD, I will not make a full end with you.

(Jeremiah 5:10; Jeremiah 4:27.)

Nevertheless - not even in those days of judgments, God will not utterly exterminate His people,

Verse 19

And it shall come to pass, when ye shall say, Wherefore doeth the LORD our God all these things unto us? then shalt thou answer them, Like as ye have forsaken me, and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours.

Retribution in kind. As ye have "forsaken me" (Jeremiah 2:13), so shall ye be forsaken by me. "As ye have served strange (foreign) gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers (foreigners) in a land not yours." (Compare the similar retribution in Deuteronomy 28:47-48.)

Verse 20

Declare this in the house of Jacob, and publish it in Judah, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 21

Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:

Which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not - translate, 'Which have eyes, and yet see not; which have ears, and yet hear not.' The Lord alone can give spiritual eyes and ears: on those who will not seek them from Him He sends a judicial blindness and deafness. (Compare Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 6:9.) Having powers of perception, they did not use them; therefore they were responsible for the exercise of them.

Verse 22

Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?

Fear ye not me? ... which have placed the sand - though made up of particles easily shifting about, I render it sufficient to curb the violence of the sea. Such is your monstrous perversity that the raging, senseless sea sooner obeys me than ye do who profess to be intelligent (Calvin). (Job 38:10-11; Revelation 15:4.)

Verse 23

But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone.

This people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart - (Jeremiah 6:28).

Verse 24

Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest.

Rain, both the former and the latter, in his season - the "former" falls from the middle of October to the beginning of December. The "latter," or spring rain in Palestine, falls before harvest in March and April, and is essential for ripening the crops (Deuteronomy 11:14; Joel 2:23.)

The appointed weeks of the harvest - the seven weeks between Passover and Pentecost beginning on the 16th of Nisan (Deuteronomy 16:7). By God's special providence no rain fell in Palestine during the harvest weeks, so that harvest work went on without interruption (see the note on "reserveth unto us the appointed ... harvest;" Genesis 8:22, "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest ... shall not cease").

Verse 25

Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.

Your sins have withholden good things from you - national guilt had caused the suspension of these national mercies mentioned in Jeremiah 5:24 (cf. Jeremiah 3:3).

Verse 26

For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.

They lay wait ... set a trap ... catch men - (Proverbs 1:11; Proverbs 1:17-18; Habakkuk 1:15).

As he that setteth snares - rather, 'as fowlers crouch' [shak] (Buxtorf).

Trap - literally, destruction: the instrument of destruction.

Catch men - not, as Peter, to save alive [zoogrein] (Luke 5:10) but to destroy, men.

Verse 27

As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich.

Full of deceit - full of treasures gotten by deceit.

Rich - (Psalms 73:12; Psalms 73:18-20, "Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches").

Verse 28

They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.

Shine - the effect of fatness on the skin (Deuteronomy 32:15). They live a life of self indulgence.

They overpass the deeds of the wicked - exceed even the Gentiles in wickedness (Jeremiah 2:10-11; Ezekiel 5:6-7, "She hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations").

Judge not the cause ... fatherless - (Isaiah 1:23).

Yet they prosper - (Jeremiah 12:1).

Verse 29

Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?

Shall I not visit for these things? - (Jeremiah 5:9; Malachi 3:5).

Verse 30

A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land;

A ... horrible thing - (Jeremiah 23:14; Hosea 6:10).

Verse 31

The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?

Bear rule by their means - literally, according to their hands - i:e., under their guidance (1 Chronicles 25:3, "The sons of Jeduthun ... under the hands of their father"). As a sample of the priests lending themselves to the deceits of the false prophets, to gain influence over the people, see Jeremiah 29:24-32. Shemaiah the Nehelamite, a false prophet, sent letters to Zephaniah, the priest at Jerusalem, that he should reprove Jeremiah's prophesying falsely.

My people love to have it so - (Micah 2:11, "If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink: he shall even be the prophet of this people").

What will ye do in the end thereof? - what will be the fatal issue of this sinful course when divine judgments shall come?


(1) Where the corruption of a people is universal, it is ripe for judgment. The godly men of a nation are the salt which preserve it from that utter corruption which is sure to be followed by fearful destruction from the Lord. The pious in a country are so many guarantees for its stability, as God is willing, as in the case of Sodom, to spare a guilty people for the sake of the righteous men in it: so that those are the truest patriots who serve God most faithfully, and such constitute the palladium of their country's safety (Jeremiah 5:1).

(2) Hollow professions will not stand the scrutinizing gaze of that God whose eyes are upon the truth. He sees thoroughly at a glance whether the chastisements which He has sent have produced the unfeigned repentance which He looks for as their graciously designed effect (Jeremiah 5:2-3).

(3) How sad it is when not only the poor and ignorant, but "the great men," from whom better might have been expected, "break the yoke and burst the bonds" (Jeremiah 5:5) of God's holy law, setting God Himself at defiance. It would be utterly incompatible with God's righteous character to permit such multiplied and widespread transgressions to go unpunished (Jeremiah 5:6-9).

(4) When men disregard the duty which they owe to God, it is sure to follow that they will disregard their duty toward their neighbour. Ingratitude toward the God who has "fed them to the full" is certain to make men reckless of the relative duties which they owe to their fellowmen. They who being by profession spiritually married to Christ are utterly unfaithful to Him, are but little likely to be faithful in relation to others, wherever lust or self can have its way without fear of detection (Jeremiah 5:7-8).

(5) How many are ruined by persuading themselves that God will not be strict, as His Word says He will! It was thus that the Old Serpent, overcame Eve, saying, "Ye shall not surely die." Sinners are unwilling to own that any message is from God which thwarts their corrupt inclinations, and disturbs them in their sins. When warned by the minister, in the name of Yahweh, of the judgments about to follow on account of their sins, they whisper to themselves, if not openly, "It is not He: neither shall evil come upon us" (Jeremiah 5:12-13). They hereby make themselves as fuel ready for the fire, which the word of God shall kindle to devour them (Jeremiah 5:14). His means of punishing are without limit: He can bring trouble on those who displease Him, from places and causes very remote, as well as from near.

(6) In the midst of judgment He remembers His covenant with His elect, and therefore to His threats He adds His gracious promise, like a gleam of sun-light bursting from the angry-looking cloud, "NEVERTHELESS ... saith the Lord, I will not make a full end with you" (Jeremiah 5:18). His people shall, by His humbling chastizements, be led to inquire, "Wherefore doeth the Lord our God all these things unto us?" Then shall they be taught to perceive the exact righteousness of God's retributive justice, so that they may read their sin in their punishment (Jeremiah 5:19). They forsook God; therefore they have been forsaken by God: they served strange gods when in their own land; therefore they have had to serve strangers in a land not theirs.

(7) How marvelous the perversity of many! They "fear not" God, though they have "eyes to see" (Jeremiah 5:21) the manifestation of God's power exercised with such majesty, and at the same time such love, toward us, in His having set the sandy shore as a bound which the roaring waves, however they toss themselves, cannot pass over (Jeremiah 5:22). They are not even moved to reverent gratitude toward Him by His beneficence in giving us the fertilizing "rains" and "appointed weeks of harvest" (Jeremiah 5:24). Hence, God at times is moved by national guilt to withhold national mercies: for in prosperity men wax so self-satisfied that they have little thought save of self-indulgence, and are mostly indifferent to the claims of mercy and justice: so that adversity is a blessing in disguise, if it in any way draws them out of their selfishness toward God.

(8) When the officers in church and state are corrupt, it is generally accompanied, if not preceded, by a thorough corruption of the people. When unsound doctrine and a low standard of morals are set forth by the leaders of the people, it is generally because the people " love to have it so" (Jeremiah 5:31): [populus vult decipi, et decipiatur.] Let us seek to hear not so much what is palatable to our corrupt hearts, as what is profitable for the salvation of our souls!

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-5.html. 1871-8.
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